What does it say?
Sarai grows impatient waiting for the son God promised and encourages Abram to impregnate her servant Hagar, a common cultural response to barrenness (Gen 16). Ishmael is born from this dubious relationship and millennia of war and conflict result.
God appears again to Abram 13 years later (Gen 17), changes his name to Abraham (father of many nations) and Sarai’s to Sarah (princess), renews his promise to Abraham and sets the circumcision of his male descendants as seal of the covenant.
Abraham and Sarah are well beyond natural childbearing years when the Lord and two angels appear to them in a physical way (Gen 18). This physical manifestation is often called “the Angel (appearance or messenger) of the Lord” in the Old Testament. The Son of God was not born in Bethlehem, but rather the Son of God supernaturally was born among us in human form. The purpose of this visit is to announce Sarah’s upcoming miraculous pregnancy and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah due to great sin. Abraham intercedes for Lot, who lived in Sodom.
What does it mean?
Heroes of faith wait patiently for God’s promises instead of taking them into their own hands (Heb 11:13). Failure to wait on God can bring terrible consequences for generations.
God promised to make Abram a great nation (12:2). But, God has a plan for the nations (12:3), and now names him Abraham (17:5) constantly reminding him that he is blessed to be a blessing to the nations (Gal 3).
More than a sign of a literal covenant, the circumcision, or cutting around of the foreskin of Abraham’s now “dead” reproductive organ points to the new birth that we now enjoy in his “seed” Jesus Christ (Gen 3:15; Gal 3:16; Col 2:11).
God always fulfills his promises, whether a supernatural birth (18:14) or eventual judgment for sin (18:20-21).
How will I respond?
What impatient decisions of mine have brought pain to others and me? Is there one particular area of impatience in my life for which I can reaffirm my faith in God today while resolving to be patient?