And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. — Genesis 21:1-2
It is considered honorable to keep a promise, and it is often thought especially remarkable when a person goes to great effort to fulfill one. In his book Up from Slavery, Booker T. Washington gave an example of such a situation in his account of a conversation he had with an ex-slave from Virginia.
Mr. Washington related, “I found that this man had made a contract with his master, two or three years previous to the Emancipation Proclamation, to the effect that the slave was to be permitted to buy himself, by paying so much per year for his body; and while he was paying for himself, he was to be permitted to labour where and for whom he pleased. Finding that he could secure better wages in Ohio, he went there. When freedom came, he was still in debt to his master some three hundred dollars. Notwithstanding that the Emancipation Proclamation freed him from any obligation to his master, this man walked the greater portion of the distance back to where his old master lived in Virginia, and placed the last dollar, with interest, in his hands. In talking to me about this, the man told me that he knew that he did not have to pay the debt, but that he had given his word to the master, and his word he had never broken. He felt that he could not enjoy his freedom till he had fulfilled his promise.”(1)
If a person can be this exemplary in keeping his word, how much more God will do what He has said! Today’s focus verses state that “the Lord visited Sarah as he had said.” After years of waiting, countless prayers, and a multitude of events and accompanying emotions, Abraham and Sarah received the son who had been promised twenty-five years before. Once again the Lord proved Himself faithful to His Word. What a day that must have been for the aged couple!
We may face situations or trials in our lives when it seems that God is taking a very long time to fulfill His promises. The enemy of our souls would tempt us to despair, to think that the promises are not for us, or to lose hope. However, we can encourage ourselves with the knowledge that God will not fail. If men can go to laudable measures to keep a promise, God most certainly will keep His Word. He did it for Abraham, and He will do so for us also.
Today’s text covers two important events in Abraham’s life. Chapter 20 tells of Abraham’s sojourn in Gerar and his deception of Abimelech regarding Sarah. Chapter 21 begins with the birth of their promised son, Isaac.
Abraham had been living in Mamre, but at this time traveled south to Gerar, an area controlled by the Philistines. Abimelech was a title rather than a name. It meant “My father, the king,” and indicated respect and reverence.
In Abraham’s native culture, marriage to a half-sister was not wrong. However, fear motivated Abraham to be deceptive regarding his relationship to Sarah. He was afraid those who were strong politically would kill him so they could have Sarah as a part of their harem. When he came to Gerar, Abimelech did take Sarah into his household, but the text is clear that he did not “come near her.” God stepped in and spoke to Abimelech by a dream, and Abimelech took immediate action to obey the warning, demonstrating that he and his people respected and honored God.
Abimelech addressed Abraham directly on the matter and reprimanded him. Abraham confessed his fear and explained the marriage practices of his country. Abimelech also reproved Sarah. At God’s direction, Abraham prayed for Abimelech, and the barrenness that God had brought upon the women of Abimelech’s household was reversed.
The first verses of chapter 21 recount the fulfillment of the long-anticipated promised son for Abraham and Sarah. Abraham was one hundred years old, and Sarah was ninety. They followed God’s previously established commandment and circumcised Isaac when he was eight days old.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The early history of the chosen race
11. The deception of Abimelech (20:1-18)
1. The birth of Isaac (21:1-7)
We can trust God to keep His promises. He always has and always will!
1. Washington, Booker T., “Up From Slavery,” Chapter 1, www.thefreelibrary.com, accessed 7 Jan. 2013