An Uncomfortable Covenant


In the book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, Don Piper recounted having been pronounced dead at the scene of a horrific accident and going to heaven. Another pastor felt intensely that he was to pray over Don’s body, and after 90 minutes, God brought Don back to life. In today’s passage, Sarah was well beyond the age when she could have children—she was reproductively dead, so to speak. Yet, God renewed his promise to bring life through her in the form of a child who God would use to accomplish his plan for his people.  

  • Think about a time when you questioned God’s plan in your circumstances. What methods did God use to accomplish his desired result?


15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”

22 When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. 23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. 27 And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. Notice the repetition of the statement “I will” in verses 15-21. What did God say he would do for Sarah? What was Abraham’s response to this, and what did he ask God to do for Ishmael?
  2. What did God say he would do for Isaac (vss. 19 and 21)? What did he say he would do for Ishmael (vs. 20)? What was the difference between what he promised Isaac and what he promised Ishmael?
  3. What was Abraham’s response to all God had told him, and how quick was his response (vss. 23-27)? What does this tell you about his relationship with God?
  4. To what has God has called you that may be difficult or distasteful? How do you need to obey his call?


God proclaimed how he would establish a chosen people through Abraham and Sarah, but Abraham heard it through human ears and a human mind incapable of understanding such an unlikely event; 90-year-old women don’t often give birth! Abraham laughed, thinking, “Really? God must mean this will happen through Ishmael!” But God graciously confirmed that his plan was set, and Abraham believed and immediately circumcised all in his household as a sign of obedience and faith in God’s plan. Just like Abraham, sometimes we question God’s plan. The lesson for us is to follow Abraham’s lead in faith in God and obedience to him. 

  • Thank God that he has a plan concerning your life and that the details are in his hands.
  • Ask God to help you do whatever he may be calling you to do.