The LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did to Sarah what he had promised. Genesis 21:1
A Seemingly Simple Promise
I am struck this morning by the simplicity of this statement. The LORD did what He said. Given the circumstances, however simple the statement, it was no small thing–the promise that He kept.
I am not always careful about what I promise to do. Daily, I find myself in situations where it is easy enough to promise to get something done before the end of the day. I may think, “Hey, this is easy enough to do,” or, “Surely I can do that,” only to be faced with a considerable roadblock to what earlier seemed a no-brainer.
A Humanly Impossible Promise
In contrast, in this set of accounts about the impending birth of a promised son, we see God making a promise to Abraham. His promise seems impossible. It’s just like God to start with the impossible. He doesn’t start with the doable, like me, only to find Himself, scratching His head at the end of the day, wondering what to do next. He further accepts, and, by the way, needs no help from Abraham or Sarah.
Does the Keeper of All Promises Need MY Help?
Nevertheless, in surveying the odds of this promise coming to fruition, Abraham and Sarah make their own plans, their own adjustments, trying to figure out God’s ways, doing all they can to submit to His will–as they see it–their own finite solution to the problem of impossible. Oh, how I do the same thing! I know that God is good…and so I plan, I figure, I scheme! I imagine how He could “complete His good work” in me, and try to perform it on my own (Philippians 1:6). This is, of course, not what God intends! He does not need my help to fulfill His perfect plan. I am reminded of God’s answer to Job in Job 40:1-2.
And the Lord said to Job:
“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
He who argues with God, let him answer it.”
Perhaps I am not a faultfinder in the strictest definition of the word, however, aren’t I finding fault with the Almighty, when I doubt his ability to do the impossible and witlessly undermine His plans? Oh no, it’s not intentional, but there is an unintentional demonstration of doubt that can not be hidden when I come up with a quicker, easier, better plan.
Let’s go back in time, to the year prior to this promise. Observe Sarah eavesdropping on Abraham and his guests, one of which is the incarnate Christ (Genesis 18, especially verse 10). She is old now, too old to have children. She is familiar with the promise that God would bless Abraham with an heir, that Abraham would be the father of many nations, that his descendants would be too numerous to count–like the stars, like the sand.
Abraham, himself, had made adjustments to try to fit his life into the impossibility of an outrageous, outlandish, preposterous promise. Maybe he was trying to “help” God along, making concessions for the roadblock of Sarah’s sterility.
First, he chose someone in his own house, a faithful servant, who could pass on his name (Genesis 15:2-4). This was a reasonable solution. But God said, “No,” narrowing the scope of the promise to, “Abraham, the child will come from your [emphasis added] loins. (Genesis 15:5)”
So, Abraham and Sarah, again, “helping” God, pooled their best ideas and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to bear him a son from his own body (Genesis 16:1-3). While this backfired, with bitterness and anger pouring forth from both women, God patiently offered two more clues to the mysterious conception of the doubtful birth of this child. “I will come back to you next year and your wife Sarah will have a son. (Genesis 18:10)”
This was too much for Sarah. All this time had passed. She and Abraham had believed God would keep His promise, but not able to see past infertility, had tried to ease the burden. It was too much–Sarah could not help but laugh because there was no earthly way this could happen. God, again, ever patient with their measure of unbelief, confronts the laughing, but says, “Is anything impossible for the LORD?” During the year preceding this amazing birth, Abraham had believed and it had been counted to him as righteousness. His faith was not perfect, however, but his wavering faith merely pointed to God’s own faithfulness and longsuffering.
When I survey the landscape of my own impossible, I can’t help but doubt. NOT God’s ability, but … I want to help Him along…I have heard the word “impossible” a time or two, but those words don’t come from my God. Instead, my God gently says, “Is anything impossible for the LORD?”
Nothing is Impossible
Well, friends, the resounding answer to that question is, “No, nothing is impossible for the LORD!”
A year later, Sarah gave birth to Isaac, just as the LORD promised. Sarah’s testimony of this event is lovely. She testifies to the impossibility of the promise as well as the fulfillment of the promise. She looks back and recognizes what God has done with awe.
“And Sarah said, ‘God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with 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 21:6-7
Nowadays, God doesn’t verbalize promises like, “You will have a child next year.” But we have His own Word, written and recorded. Some promises God has made that are exciting to watch Him honor include:
- “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
- “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)
- “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
- “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
- “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Do you have a present impossibility? Are you trying to help God along, as Abraham and Sarah did? As I, myself, have? Rest assured, when God makes a promise, He will keep it. A prayer I often catch hold of in these times when doubts loom is borrowed from the father of a demon-possessed son in Mark 9:16-29. We see his faltering faith in his dialogue with Jesus. “‘…But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.'” Christ replies, “‘If you can!’ All things are possible for one who believes.'” To which this father humbly replies, “‘I believe; help my unbelief!'” At this, Jesus healed the boy.
Be encouraged! God is the God of the impossible. Look with expectation to what He will do in His timing and in His own way!