from 11 April 2017
Genesis 17:15-27 MSG
[15-16] God continued speaking to Abraham, "And Sarai your wife: Don't call her Sarai any longer; call her Sarah. I'll bless her---yes! I'll give you a son by her! Oh, how I'll bless her! Nations will come from her; kings of nations will come from her."
 Abraham fell flat on his face. And then he laughed, thinking, "Can a hundred-year-old man father a son? And can Sarah, at ninety years, have a baby?"
 Recovering, Abraham said to God, "Oh, keep Ishmael alive and well before you!"
 But God said, "That's not what I mean. Your wife, Sarah, will have a baby, a son. Name him Isaac (Laughter). I'll establish my covenant with him and his descendants, a covenant that lasts forever.
[20-21] "And Ishmael? Yes, I heard your prayer for him. I'll also bless him; I'll make sure he has plenty of children---a huge family. He'll father twelve princes; I'll make him a great nation. But I'll establish my covenant with Isaac whom Sarah will give you about this time next year."
 God finished speaking with Abraham and left.
 Then Abraham took his son Ishmael and all his servants, whether houseborn or purchased---every male in his household---and circumcised them, cutting off their foreskins that very day, just as God had told him.
[24-27] Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised. His son Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised. Abraham and Ishmael were circumcised the same day together with all the servants of his household, those born there and those purchased from outsiders---all were circumcised with him.
Commentary:Prepare: ‘Lord, it is hard to wait in the silence and the dark. Help me to be sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see, and never to doubt your goodness.’
An improbable promise
Abraham heard from God on many occasions, and each time God spoke about the great nation that he would build from his descendants (12:2; 13:15–17; 15:4–6,18; 17:1; 18:10). Each time, Abraham became a little more sceptical about how God would fulfil his promise.
By the time he was 100, he laughed to himself at the sheer improbability of the idea, even as he fell face down in acknowledgement of God’s holiness (v 17). Would God perhaps like to change the terms of the agreement, and transfer the blessing to the son he has by another woman?
Abraham and Sarah had a long, barren wait. But while they might have questioned whether God would ever deliver (pun intended!), they were faithful and obedient. Today’s reading concludes with Abraham fulfilling his part of the covenant by circumcising all the males in his household (v 23).
We all live awaiting the new age to come, when God will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more suffering or pain (Revelation 21:4). He is faithful to his promises, but in the meantime, how shall we live?
Respond: Are you waiting for God to act in a seemingly impossible situation? Ask him to renew your faith and to comfort you in your pain.