THE FIRST TEST—THE BIRTH OF ISHMAEL
It is not a simple thing to usher in Isaac. Abraham had to be tested. In order for us to be God’s vessel, bring in Christ, and express His authority, there must be many tests. After Genesis 15, the Bible shows us that Abraham was tested three times concerning his son just as he was tested three times concerning the land of Canaan. Two of these tests occurred before the birth of his son, and one occurred after his birth. All three tests prepared Abraham for the ushering in of Isaac. In other words, the church must be tested and prepared before it can bring back the glorious Christ to the earth.
Chapter fifteen tells us that Abraham said to the Lord, "God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?" God said, "He that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir." Abraham believed in God, and God counted it to him for righteousness. The promise of begetting a son was there, and the faith was there. However, day after day, there was no son. Month after month, there was no son, and year after year, there was no son. This shows us that faith has to be tested. Abraham’s faith grew step by step.
Genesis 16:1 says, "Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bare him no children." He was now eighty-five years old. His wife Sarah could not bare him a son. What should he do? At that juncture, his wife said to him, "Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her" (v. 2). What did Abraham do? "Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. And Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid the Egyptian..and gave her to her husband" (vv. 2-3). The Bible specifically says that "Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan" (v. 3). When Abraham first arrived in Canaan, God promised, "Unto thy seed will I give this land" (12:7). Just before these events God promised him again, "He that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir." By the time he was eighty-five years old, however, he still had no son. He became anxious. In order to have a son, he went in unto Hagar as his concubine. Hagar became pregnant and brought forth Ishmael. The Bible specifically says, "And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram" (16:16).
This is a great matter. God ordained that Abraham would beget a son, but His ordination was for Abraham to beget a son through Sarah and that he would beget him at the age of one hundred. However, Abraham shortened the time by fourteen years with his own effort. Moreover, the son was begotten through Hagar. This was the first test that Abraham faced concerning his son.
He believed in God’s word. He believed that God would give him a son. Yet he did not realize that believing meant to stop his own activities and wait on God’s work! As soon as we believe, we should stop our own work. Hebrews 4:10 says, "For he who has entered into His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His own." When we believe, we should not make haste. Whenever we believe, we should be at rest. Abraham believed in God, yet he did not learn his lesson. He did not see that if he had believed, he should have waited and should not have done anything by himself. He thought that in order to believe, he should help God and do something by himself. Consequently, he accepted his wife’s word, took Hagar to be his concubine, and bore Ishmael. Abraham gave God a hand! He thought that since God had promised a son, he would fulfill God’s will by doing this! He did not do anything else. All he did was act on his own concerning something that God had promised him. But this one act brought about his failure!
(The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)