Genesis 17:17 - 27
ESV - 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!
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Abraham had already shown his faith by leaving his home in Ur solely on the basis of his trust in God's promise (Genesis 12:1-3), without knowing where he might be going. However, he was still human (and thus imperfect), as well as aware of the normal "laws of nature". That was why he had yielded (thirteen years prior to the passage cited in the question, and at the age of 86) to the suggestion of Sarah, his wife, to father a child with her maid Hagar as a means of fulfilling God's promise to make him the father of many nations. It was also why (thirteen years later, when he was 99 and Sarah was 90) the possibility of fathering a natural child with Sarah must have seemed even more remote. Just as God did not forsake Abraham or punish him for fathering Ishmael, He also did not take punitive action against him when he reacted as he did to God's pronouncement in Genesis 17:15-16. (It might also be noted that Abraham was still respectful enough of God to laugh to himself while his face was to the ground (Genesis 17:17), rather than questioning or defying God to His face.) Abraham was even humble enough to name his son with Sarah "Isaac" (meaning "he laughs") as a continual reminder not only of the joy associated with his birth, but also of his own fallibility. As the Bible says in passages such as Psalm 103:14, God is ever mindful of the weakness and frailty of human existence. He showed Abraham the same mercy that He showed to humanity in the redemption won by Christ.
My 2 cents worth: It seems apparent to me that Paul's reference to Abraham's not staggering was in regard to God's promise given in Genesis 15:6, NOT in regards to God reiterating his promise to Abraham and his apparent little faith crisis in chapter 17. The fact that Paul references Genesis 15:6 is evidence, in my view, that this is the point of reference in regards to Abraham not staggering at his age or the age of Sarah, NOT Gen. 17, where he certainly did show issue with God's promise. Many commentators attempt to dismiss chapter 17:17-18 with notions that Abraham laughed with delight and wonder. That is not consistent with the content, nor intellectually prudent in my view. It is not true that our faith can be strong at one point, and weak at another? This is what I believe we see here with Abraham. He was human as are we. Like Abraham, we can be strong in faith at one point and weak at another. I am glad that my 'Trust in Christ as Saviour', through which he saved me, is not negated, nor nullified by the many times after I have struggled with faith living since my salvation. Abraham was strong initially in Genesis 15:6, and did not waver considering his age and Sarah's - and it was counted to him for righteouness. As time passed, and having not received the promise, plus the Ishmael incident, Abraham showed doubt when God reiterated the promise in Genesis 17:17-18. Abrahams's lapse of faith in Gen 17 did not discount his strong faith exercised in Gen 15:6. Note, however, Abraham was quick to find his faith's feet again, giving immediate obedience to implementing the seal of circumcision. Praise God for his grace and mercy to us as human beings strive to live for him by faith even when we struggle at times.
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