God told Abraham at a time when he was way too old to have kids that he was, in fact , going to have a son and, through that son Abraham would be the father of many nations. That was certainly big news! Bodacious news! Ridiculous….and in human terms, impossible. But with God all things are possible.
However, God took His own sweet time fulfilling that promise. He apparently wasn’t in a hurry as we humans tend to be. God took so long (over 10 years) fulfilling the promise that Abraham and Sarah decided to help God out! (Don’t we love to do that?) They leaned on their own wisdom – and at Sarah’s suggestion, Abraham had sex with Sarah’s servant and a baby resulted. But it was not the child of the covenant – the one promised. The child was the product of human wisdom and impatience. (How often have we done much the same? Disappointed by our expectations of how God ought to act on our behalf. Our expectations fit our thinking, not God’s.)
The story is a rich one. This family is the root of both Christianity and Islam.
I am not making a commentary on Islam. That is not my purpose today…
I want to think about God’s promises and our repsonse.
We are told Abraham believed God – it was counted as righteousness for him. (Genesis 15:6) Later in Romans (4:20) we are told Abraham “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” God promised and Abrahma believed. That was the God-pleasing response. So then why did he take Sarah’s suggestion to “fix it”? We could suggest that old Abraham might have wanted sex with a younger woman. Or perhaps he was tired of Sarah’s nagging. We don’t know those details…we can only surmise. And it can be a slippery slope…but these people were humans just like us. They had expectations God would fulfill His promise to them which was right to do – but on their timetable. They put God in a box. When He didn’t fit their expectations they got antsy then they took matters in their own hands. They acted in haste. (Now, I will admit 1o years is a long time.) They didn’t trust God implicitly. (God would put Abraham to the test later.)
I enjoy using my imagination with the biblical characters. Abraham and Sarah were old – too old for kids. They had given up. This promise triggerd long forgotten longings for a child, an heir. Being practical and efficient and careful they had made legal arrangements for another, Eliezer, to be Abraham’s heir. Now God changed the trajectory of their lives. Now the hope and longing for a child was front and center. Can you imagine the joy! But years went by…over 10 years! Had it been a cruel joke? Was God toying with Abraham? (Do we somethimes feel that way?)
We must learn the bottom line is that God is trustworthy. He will do what He says He will do – even if we don’t understand and it looks impossible. Even if we have to wait. Circumstances, time, friends, family can create doubt in us. But God remains true.
Do we even know God’s promises? He has told us He has given us “great and precious promises” (Jeremiah 33:3) Do we know what they are? Do we even talk with God about our longings? Do we think He cares? Do we go about our days not aware of God’s activity in our lives? Have we given up on what we believed was a promise years ago? Has it faded into the distant past because of time or neglect or weariness or questions? Have we lost hope? Is their a tremor in our heart? Do we doubt God is able?
These are good questions to ask oursleves. God has not changed. God cares about our repsonse to His promises. Will we believe? Will we doubt and try to fulfill them our way in our time? Will we rebel and go our own way? Will we refuse to believe?