Admitting Mistakes

is harder than it looks.

Genesis 17:9-21 (ESV)

And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 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?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”

In this latest episode of “Dumb and Dumber” God grants Abraham his heart’s desire and Abraham laughs at God and then argues with Him. Why?

Even though this is great news, and even though it’s God Himself who is delivering it, Abraham just can’t accept it. So, instead of jumping for joy, he argues the details. Is something wrong with Abraham?

Yes, something complicated. Red Barber, the legendary sports writer and announcer, once declined to make a Super Bowl prediction saying, “I don’t make predictions because I’ve learned that you don’t just see with your eyes.” His point was that if he made a prediction, it would distort his vision. He would subconsciously “root for” whatever he had predicted, and thus wouldn’t be able to see without bias.

Abraham’s problem is that he and Sarah sunk everything into their plan to obtain an heir through Hagar. God’s plan to have Sarah bear the heir turns the whole thing on its head and mocks their hare-brained scheme.

Abraham isn’t mature enough to just say, “Gee, I guess we were totally wrong.”


The great thing about Christianity is that we can admit when we’re wrong because we’ve stopped pretending we’re perfect (or even OK). Well, at least that’s the doctrine we’ve been taught.

But old habits die hard and admitting our errors takes some getting used to.

We need help with this. Ask God to make us comfortable with our mistakes, so we can learn from them.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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