Hebrews 11:12 concludes the focus on Abraham and Sarah. It says, “Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” As many descendants as stars in the sky and as many descendants as grains of sand on the beach were the two promises God gave to Abraham personally in Genesis. These descendants would come through the one and only legitimate son, Isaac! That birth was to be a miraculous one! It had to be that way so no human could claim a part in its fulfillment. It was fully satisfied by what God did alone!

There was nothing that Abraham and Sarah could have done to bring that about. They probably tried everything they could think of to conceive. It seemed that, although they believed God, they still felt they had to do something to help Him fulfill His promise of an heir. In Abraham’s life we see he tried to understand God’s promise of an heir as referring to his servant Eleazar, but God said it wouldn’t be him. Then he tried to assign that role to his nephew Lot and God said “no” again. He then worked with Sarah to bring Ishmael into the world as Abraham’s heir and God corrected that mistake also. It seems as though Abraham and Sarah believed God but still felt they had to help Him. The fulfillment of God’s promise and Isaac’s conception had nothing to do with the obedience or “works” of either of his parents. It had solely to do with the faithfulness of God to keep His promise. It was “by faith” as noted frequently in Hebrews chapter 11 but it wasn’t the quality of their faith that mattered. It was the object of their faith: God, Himself!

It had to be a miraculous birth because the story is about Jesus. You would think that the Jews, as a nation, would have caught that connection since Isaac was the “promised one” and Jesus was the ultimate “promised one.” The KJV Bible Commentators observe, “The whole Jewish nation is the product of a miracle birth. The Messiah, of whom Isaac was a type, would also be the product of a miraculous birth (Isa 7:14; Mt 1:18–25). More than anyone else, a Jew ought to be able to accept the supernatural birth of Jesus; for he himself is the result of Isaac’s miraculous birth.”[1] Several other commentators have observed, “Countless descendants of Abraham formed the nation Israel. And through Abraham all nations on earth were blessed (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:8). But more significantly, Abraham’s descendants ultimately are all believers (Rom. 9:6–8; Gal. 3:7–9, 16, 29; 4:28). All believers in Christ call Abraham their father, for in effect, the promised Son is the Christ, not Isaac.”[2] It’s not unusual for believers today to do the same thing that Abraham and Sarah did. We often feel we need to contribute something for God to be faithful to His promises given us through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone! But it is miraculous and there is nothing we can do to add to it! But God is not looking for a sacrifice from us. He’s looking for us to trust in Him. Hacking says, “Abraham’s supreme test was on a mountain top not far from where Calvary stood (vv. 17–19). There he offered back his son, a moving story where faith and love battled hard. In the event, Isaac was not sacrificed, but a ram took his place, another of those biblical signposts towards the cross.”[3]

[1] Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 2572.

[2] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of Hebrews, vol. 15, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 325.

[3] Philip H Hacking, Opening up Hebrews, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), 74.