Have you ever been hurting inside? It doesn’t have to be a tragedy of some sort; it could just be a spiritual desert, where you feel like you need a lift from the Lord but you aren’t getting one? You try to be faithful to God, and you try to believe things will get better. But each day passes by and nothing changes.
I feel that way sometimes. My job doesn’t value me the way I feel it should. Maybe for you, you don’t even have a job and it’s been a long time since you’ve even gotten an interview. Or maybe you and your spouse feel distant, or maybe your spouse left you altogether.
Abraham feels your pain. And then some.
God promised Abraham something, but for 25 years, nothing happened. Twenty-five years! Let’s see what happened during that time.
In Gen 12, the Lord tells Abram for the first time (vv.1-3) about the Lord’s plan to make Abram a great nation. Sounds amazing. Just one problem. Abram doesn’t have any children and he is 75 years old. Abram’s reaction? He believed the Lord’s promise and did as he was told (vv.4-5). As 80s pop icon George Michael once crooned, “you got to have faith, faith, faith.”
After traveling a bit (remember this was before the time of BMWs, so travel was not exactly easy nor quick) into the land of Canaan (v.5b-6), the Lord appears to Abram again and reiterates His promise (v.7). Abram’s reaction? He built an altar there. In other words, Abram worshipped the Lord.
After Abram and Lot decide who gets what land, the Lord appears to Abram again (Gen 13:14-17) and reiterates His promise. Abram’s reaction? He built another altar. So again, full of faith, Abram worshipped the Lord.
In Gen 15, the Lord appears to Abram for the fourth time and reiterates His promise (v.1). Abram’s reaction? For the first time, Abram shows a crack in the armor of his faith, expressing doubt (vv.2-3) because he has no heir. The Lord replies with a specific answer: you will have a son (v.4). Abram’s reaction? He believed the Lord, and the Lord counted Abram’s faith as righteousness.
Maybe you can relate. Perhaps you’ve had your faith stretched to the point where maybe, just maybe, you think the Lord is ignoring you and your plight. But then something happens where your faith is temporarily restored, even though your plight still isn’t resolved. Abraham would tell you, you’re not alone…he’s been there.
In Gen 17, the Lord appears to Abram for a fifth time to reiterate the promise (vv.1-16). The Lord is even more detailed this time, explaining the rite of circumcision that all future male boys will have to go through, including Sarai in the promise, and changing Abram and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah, respectively. It has now been 24 years since the Lord first promised this to Abram. Abram’s reaction?
Abraham laughs (v.17)! It’s been at least 13 years (over a decade) since Abram believed the Lord and it was credited to Abram as righteousness. Abraham has gone the other direction now, into disbelief (though not full-blown disbelief since he prays to the Lord in v.18 for Ishmael).
We can certainly understand why Abraham would have doubt. For a God who spoke the world into existence, why would Abraham have to wait about a quarter of a century for God to do something? Why keep me in the dark for so long, Lord? Can’t you see I’m struggling?
The Lord answers Abraham that it won’t be Ishmael but a son from Sarah to be named Isaac (v.19). Abram’s response? He obeys again, circumcising all the males in his house as directed.
As we know, Abraham and Sarah do have a son, despite the fact that they were “advanced in years” and that “the way of women had ceased to be with Sarah”. But why did the Lord wait so long before fulfilling His promise? I believe God wanted to make sure it was an impossible situation for Sarah to conceive and bear a child so that such an event would give God the greatest glory. If Abraham and Sarah conceived when they were much younger, surely they might have thought that they had a lot to do with it. But at this point, it was obvious to all that they had nothing to do with it and God had everything to do with it.
Whatever spiritual desert you’re going through, continue to keep the faith, be obedient to the Lord and worship Him, as Abram did. The Lord cares for you (Mt 6:26) but sometimes help will wait to come until a time that demonstrates you have nothing to do with it and God has everything to do with it.