Abraham has two sons. One is by the slave girl of his wife, the human solution to the lack of a legitimate heir. The other is the miracle child Isaac, born to Sarah, Abraham’s wife in the latter days of their lives. Isaac is a child of the promise that God had given to Abraham many years earlier. It is Isaac whom God will bless with the promises He has already made to Abraham. Ishmael, the other son, will also multiply, but the blessing of the promises of God will not be with him. Ishmael represents the unruly and wild element at loose in human history.

Abraham’s faith is imperfect. The human solution of sleeping with a servant girl to gain an heir demonstrates this. However, God does not abandon him, He proves His promise true by bringing Isaac to birth from the barren womb of Sarah. (Gen. 17) Just as God has created the world out of nothing some 16 chapters earlier, here again he brings life out of a womb that was dead! Once again, something has been brought out of nothing. It seems that nothing is impossible for God!

There are a number of things we can learn from this episode in Abraham’s life. Firstly, even when we lose faith in God, He does not give up on us. God will remain faithful to His promises forever! Secondly, the human solution to a problem is not always the only answer; nothing is impossible for God. He can even bring life out of death! Thirdly, God does not always condemn our lack of faith. Ishmael, the result of the human solution, will also receive certain blessings, though not those that will be part of God’s specific salvific plan. (See Gen. 17:1-22).

Our human experience of promises that are sometimes kept and often broken tends to lead us to doubt in God’s promises as well. This doubt does not have good foundation. God has always been, is and always will be faithful to ALL His promises.

How faithful am I to my word? How can I expect others to be faithful to what they say and promise if I am not willing to keep my end of a bargain also?

Jesus, faithful one, teach me the ultimate value of truth and thus help me to always grow as a person of honor who can always be trusted to keep my word.