There are times when the choices we make outright derail us and either set us back in God’s plans for our lives, or result in God having to find someone else to complete those plans instead while He directs us down plan B. Other times, the choices we make in life don’t derail God’s plans for us at all, they merely complicate them.
We’ve come to Genesis 17 where God reiterates His covenant with Abram, changing his name to Abraham. Now it is Abraham’s time to “pass through the pieces” of the blood covenant, only this time, those pieces are not of animals, they are of his own foreskin. The foreskin is a flap over the male phallus, and medical debates circle every now and then as to the benefits of circumcision. This area of skin can be known to collect bacteria and get infected, so some say there are health benefits to this practice. But this would be the mark of God’s covenant with Abraham’s descendents, and circumcision is practiced to this day among the Jewish people world-wide.
In the middle of God’s conversation with Abraham, Abraham seeks a blessing for Ishmael. At this point, he figures it’s impossible for he and Sarah to have a child, and asks that God bless Ishmael instead. Even this request does not derail God’s intentions for Abraham! Amazingly enough, with Ishmael having been born of Abraham and Sarah’s impatience and interference with God’s plans, God chooses to honour Abraham’s request!
How many of us have heard God’s call on our lives? How many of us have figured that God needed a little help bringing that calling to fruition? And then. . . how many of us have actually asked God to bless our efforts on His behalf?!! I have seen people do this and wondered to myself, “Well, that’s highly presumptuous of them, to think that God would bless their efforts at speeding up His plan for their lives. . . ” I’ve seen people stand behind pulpits, announcing to the audience and to God that they have these big plans and they want God to bless those plans! Some of those plans have seriously left question marks in my mind as I wonder to what extent they actually spent time praying, asking God if they should even engage in those plans! Abraham had heard God’s plans for his descendents, saw the time passing quickly and decided God needed help. Ishmael results from that effort and here Abraham is, asking God to bless his presumptuous behaviour.
The difference between many of the publicly announced crazy plans some evangelists and pastors have engaged in, and Ishmael’s advent into the world, is that Ishmael is a person. He didn’t plan his own entrance into the world, but he is still a member of God’s prize creation. His advent on the world stage may not have been God’s first choice, but the fact God allowed him into existence meant that God had long-range plans for he and his descendents too. Therefore, it wasn’t a stretch for God to honour Abraham’s request, and not only to bless Ishmael, but inform Abraham of the number of nations that would be spawned from his line.
God has a plan and a purpose for every single person ever brought into existence on this planet! Was God happy that Abraham had tried to speed up His promise? Most likely not, but God would extend that promise anyway. Doing so would complicate Israel’s history right down to the present time. God’s covenant with Abraham still stands to this day, as does His promises to Isaac and Ishmael.
The lesson here for us looking back on what happened to the beginnings of God’s Chosen People, is that it is better to be patient and wait for God’s timing, than to risk complicating or outright derailing what God had originally planned for us.