I used to work in Stoke-on-Trent. It’s a conurbation of several towns, each with its own town centre. Now I’m quite a Jill-of-all-trades, but one thing I’m really not good at is finding my way around places. I have a dire lack of sense of direction, and finding my way around the Potteries (as that area is known) was somewhat challenging. There is however, one main road that runs right through the city, and it is well signposted from pretty much everywhere. My strategy therefore, was to locate this road, and follow it to the junction nearest to where I was going; and it would also lead me home. Sometimes I would be going quite a long way out of my way, but at least I got there!
Abraham had been on a journey too. Well two journeys I suppose. The journey from Ur to Canaan via Haran, and the spiritual journey of following God. He’d got off track from time to time – going into Egypt (Genesis 12 v 10 – 2o), having a child by Hagar (Genesis 16) and the incident with Abimelech in Genesis 20. But each time, God brought him back into fellowship with himself. Sarah too had not been innocent – she had also let Abimelech think she was only Abraham’s sister, and had let him take her into his harem. Their trust in God had been deficient.
I so love Genesis 21 v 1 – “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised.”
It tells me, that even when we get it wrong, and go off track, God is gracious. He is faithful when we are faithless. That is his nature.
Of course, Sarah and Abraham are overjoyed as their promised baby is born, against all the odds: sheer miracle. But there is something else to celebrate here as well. Verse 4 –
“When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him.”
The thing is, Abraham had just obeyed God and circumcised every male in his household as an act of full commitment to the covenant God made with him, when the angels appeared in Genesis 18. And it had gone downhill from there. He probably thought God hadn’t answered his prayer, and gone off on one. But – O the graciousness of God – he is brought right back to circumcision – the very last place he’d been before going off track, and is now back on track, in full covenant relationship with God.
A bit like my road through the Potteries – find the road that leads back to God, and you won’t get lost. Isn’t it good to know there’s always a way home.