When promises are a long time coming
The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
Genesis 21:1-7 ESV
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who waited longer on a godly promise than Sarah and Abraham. God’s promise to them that they would have a son, that Abraham would father nations, was many decades and much drama in the making. Throughout this time Sarah and Abraham were constantly reminded of the seemingly impossible nature of God’s promise to them. We read in Genesis how they tried to take things into their own hands, with painful and deleterious consequences (Genesis 16:1-6, 21:8-21). But I don’t blame them: the promise they had from God and the nature of what they understood of life made the gap between “promise” and “reality” appear very wide – even insurmountable.
That’s a gap I understand very well. A few years ago, as I followed God’s calling on my life head over butt, he made me a promise, one that I clung to. But as time went on and my faith life went through the ringer – including a stint in a spiritually abusive church – my certainty began to wane. Maybe, I thought – probably echoing Sarai as she watched her young maidservant Hagar from a distance, wondering – maybe I misunderstood this promise. Maybe I got it wrong.
As people primarily concerned with faith, we sure do have a lot of “but’s” attached to God’s promises. But did we run it past a “spiritually responsible” elder board first? But did we dream the relevant Scripture verses? But did a burning bush tell us so? The more I doubted, the more I sought reassurance from exactly the wrong place – people. I made the crucial mistake of using people and life as my starting point, rather than starting with God and working from there.
But what was it that Paul said? “Now we see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). When we use our current situation, our current grasp of things as the foundation of trust in God, we will always be disappointed. We see three words on a page and think we understand the whole story. Meanwhile God is holding the book, and he’s telling us that we need to wait a paragraph, or a page, or maybe two – but he will be faithful to uphold his promises. Unlike us, he doesn’t make promises he doesn’t intend to keep, nor are his promises effable only to a select few. His promises echo his nature; his nature is his greatest promise.
Almighty Lord, You Are – surely that is the greatest promise of all! In You we have the promise of a good Father, a Saviour who died for us, a Spirit that dwells within us. You are faithful to Your promises, and as I wait for You to fulfil your promise to me, I remain faithful to You. Your will be done. Amen.