Abraham’s Three Months of “Faith-Sex” (Genesis 17)

Imagine you’re Abraham. Well, actually, you WERE called Abram until just a little while ago. You’re 99 years old, and your wife Sarah (and she was called Sarai until just that same little while ago) is 89. You and she had been childless your whole life, but God had promised you 24 years ago that you’d have a son, and you thought it was supposed to be by Sarai, and she did too, but you’d both gotten discouraged, so she had talked you into going ahead and trying to have a surrogate baby, using Sarai’s slave/handmaiden Hagar. That had worked when you were about 86—you had named him Ishmael— and NOW—13 years later!—along comes the Almighty God telling you, “Nope, Ishmael’s NOT the one! You, Abraham, and Sarah—newly-named—are going to have a brand new little baby of your own, just between the two of you, by this time next year!”

So, at the glorious old age of 99, you’re a year away from being a new daddy, and Sarah, at age 89, is looking at being a first-time mommy! Whoa! No wonder you laugh in God’s face, and Sarah snickers, hoping God won’t hear!

So, it’s time for you and Sarah to “party-down!” Three months of mad passionate lovemaking? Or maybe half the time you just go through the motions, hoping something will happen, that maybe the hope alone will be enough to make it work this time, after all these decades… I’ll leave you to your own imaginations on that count. (Actually, it must have been longer than 3 months, because it wouldn’t have been obvious at first that Sarah was pregnant. Maybe some morning sickness at 4 or 5 months. So, really, it’s maybe 6 months before you’re able to pinch yourself to see if it’s really real.)

What went through Abraham’s mind in those 3-6 months? How much of a test would it have been? Well, obviously Abraham believed enough to go ahead and do the circumcision gig on himself, Ishmael, and the 318 men (Gen. 15:14). That took some doing—not something you just do on your day off for the fun of it.

I’m 59, and if Abraham felt anything at age 99 like I do at 59, it must have taken some faith work-out, at least some of the time. Scripture says he “grew strong in faith” (Rom. 4:20 NASB). The previous verse says he “contemplated his own body, now as good as dead, since he was about a hundred years old.” THE MESSAGE paraphrases it this way:

Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God. (Romans 4:19-20 THE MESSAGE)

He went ahead and “grew strong in faith.” So what did that look like? Without going into a lot of speculating, how much fun did he and Sarah have over those few months? Or was it fun? Did they intellectualize it and force themselves? Was it a “second honeymoon”?

Maybe we’ll never know, but I have a feeling that those three months weren’t by any means a “forced faith.” I’ve had too much of that kind of faith in my life, where I was trying to make myself believe when deep down when it really wasn’t happening. I think somehow, Abraham and Sarah had a good time.

Obviously Sarah found the results worth laughing over, and it was no problem naming the baby “Laughter” (the meaning of Isaac), even though it was a reminder of her laughing in disbelief when told it would happen.

And there must have settled into both Abraham and Sarah a deep-seated, rooted-and-grounded sort of peace, a certainty in God’s pleasure in them, a fulfillment beyond anything they had ever known. I know I felt different when my first child was born over 36 years ago, and then different again in another kind of way when my first grandchild was born, and that’s been almost 17 years ago. Now that I have 4 grandchildren, there’s an even deeper settledness, a peace of acceptance, a feeling of fruitfulness even if they’re still not where I would want them to be in closeness or in spiritual anchoring. I can identify with Abraham growing “strong in faith” in my own limited way.

Since Abraham lived to be 175, his age of 99 probably equates pretty well with my present age of 59, if I managed to live to be 104. How would I handle it if God told me next year, at age 60, I was going to be a daddy again, maybe of triplets or quintuplets??? I don’t even want to think how my wife would handle it…definitely no partying in that case…

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