THE BIRTH OF ISAAC PROMISED
In 17:15-21 we see the birth of Isaac promised more definitely than ever before. We know that it is more definite because the name Isaac was mentioned and his mother was designated. In the foregoing chapters, God said that He would give Abraham a seed and that Abraham would bring forth the seed, but God did not mention that the seed would be out of Sarah. Neither did He say that the seed would be named Isaac. But in these verses we see that God promised in a definite way that the seed would be Isaac and that Isaac would be born of Sarah.
AFTER ABRAHAM HAD BECOME AS OLD AS DEAD AND SARAH HAD BECOME OUT OF FUNCTION • The promise of the birth of the seed was confirmed definitely at the time when Abraham was as old as dead and Sarah was out of function. Perhaps Abraham said to Sarah, “Sarah, I am a hundred years old and you are ninety. I am dying and you are out of function. We both have become nothing and we can do nothing.” It is wonderful to become nothing, for then the Mighty One with an udder can come in to do everything for us. I would like to be a hundred years of age and become nothing. Becoming nothing would afford the Almighty One, the all-sufficient One, the best opportunity to feed me and to supply me with whatever He likes. Even today there are times when God would like to give me a new portion of milk, and I say, “No, I still have some way, some energy, some strength.” We all need to become a hundred years of age. But do not try to act as if you are already a hundred years of age. After reading this message telling you that you need to be a hundred years of age and become nothing, you may pretend to be a hundred years of age. But you cannot become nothing overnight. The Lord knows how much we still are. Nevertheless, the principle is that we all need to become nothing so that the all-sufficient Mighty One may come in to be our everything with His all-sufficient udder to render us the supply that we need.
NOT BY ABRAHAM’S NATURAL STRENGTH BUT BY GOD’S VISITATION • After Abraham and Sarah had become nothing, God promised that Isaac would be born of Sarah (17:16, 19, 21). This means that the birth of Isaac was not the result of Abraham and Sarah’s energy but that it was absolutely the result of God’s gracious visitation. In 18:10, 14 we see clearly that the birth of Isaac was due to God’s return to Abraham at the time of life. His gracious visitation to Abraham included His feeding and supplying him with all that He was. God had to be the udder supplying the milk that Abraham needed to bring forth Isaac. Isaac was not produced by any element in Abraham’s natural being; he was brought forth by God’s all-sufficient supply out of the divine udder.
ISHMAEL, THE SEED PRODUCED BY THE FLESH, BEING REJECTED BY GOD • Ishmael, the seed produced by the flesh, was rejected by God (17:18; 21:10). Whatever we do by our ability or by our natural self will always be rejected by God. Although you may do good by keeping the law, that will be rejected by God. Whatever we live, do, and work by the natural self and the old man will be altogether rejected. Not many Christians realize that even their natural goodness is rejected by God. Whatever we do by our natural self, natural strength, natural ability, or natural man, regardless of whether it is good or bad, will be rejected by God.
ISAAC, THE SEED BROUGHT FORTH BY GOD’S GRACE, ESTABLISHED FOR THE FULFILLMENT OF GOD’S PURPOSE • Only Isaac, the seed brought forth by God’s grace, by the supply out of the divine udder, was established for the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose (17:19, 21; 21:12; Rom. 9:7-9). God will only honor what is out of Him because only the seed that is produced out of Him by the supply of His grace can fulfill His purpose. This means God will only honor Christ, not anything out of our self, our natural man. Only the Christ whom we experience of the divine udder as our supply of grace can accomplish God’s purpose. Only this Christ will be established as the real seed for the fulfillment of God’s purpose. Our Ishmael was rejected, but our Isaac, Christ, has been and will be established in God’s economy.
Now we can see what grace is. Grace means that God transmits some element out of His being into us to be our supply and that this supply becomes the very element by which we bring forth Isaac for the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose. After Abraham was called, he learned to live by faith in God for his existence. Then, beginning with Genesis 15, God began to train him in the matter of knowing grace for the fulfillment of God’s purpose. We have seen this clearly in chapters fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen. Our self, flesh, natural strength, natural man, and old man must be terminated so that we might take God as our supply and that some of God’s divine being might be wrought into us to be the element to produce Isaac for the fulfillment of God’s promise. This is grace.
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)