It is amazing when we can gain perspective on some things in our lives when we allow ourselves to be humbled and process what God is doing. Recently, I have had the story of Abraham and Sarah on my heart and it continues to come back up time and again. When the same Biblical stories and themes keep repeating in my life whether through sermons at church, conversations, or even posts I see online, I choose to believe that God is speaking and trying to tell me something. Maybe even confirm something I’ve already considered.
In case you aren’t sure, I want to summarize the story. Abraham and Sarah were a couple, essentially the founders of the Jewish and Christian faiths, their story found in Genesis. Abraham was a man of faith, a man obedient to God and his leading. Abraham was also an old man and Sarah was an old woman. They lived in a world where your legacy was absolutely contingent on leaving children to continue the family line. Yet they were barren. That’s what makes the story so powerful. One evening, Abraham was praying and God told him to step outside and view the stars. If you have ever seen a perfectly clear night full of stars with no clouds, pollution, or lights from elsewhere, then you know how breathtaking it can be. Abraham was told by God to count the stars for they would number his children. God told him that he and Sarah would conceive a child and he’d father the nations. Can you imagine Abraham hearing such a promise, that he’d be a father at his age? His wife even laughed. But because they were faithful and truly believed God and his words and leading, they trusted and believed that promise.
But the promise didn’t come immediately.
They had to wait, and wait, and wait for the promise of God to come to fruition. They had to be patient. They probably had to fight the worries or fears of having misheard God, or the doubts of the promise being real, or the desire to just give up. At one point they did actually waver. Though Abraham, was deemed a man of tremendous faith all throughout the New Testament, he did waver in trusting God’s timing of the promise of a son. He didn’t waver on the promise itself. He believed God was true. But after years of waiting for the promise, he decided to try to help God out, so it seems. Sarah, had a maidservant named Hagar, and decided that since she was so old and barren, that Abraham could use Hagar instead to create an heir. I have to believe that there was a sense of desperation and impatience and even failure on Sarah’s side. I don’t know any women that would want to share their husband with someone else. I think she was desperate for the promise to be fulfilled that she, and Abraham, looked for the promise their own way. That was what Hagar was…a substitute to the promise God gave. Abraham slept with Hagar and had a son named Ishmael. Though God still used the story of Hagar and Ishmael for other things, it was not the promise God gave to Abraham and Sarah when he told them his descendants would be as the stars. Their compromise of the promise caused some major issues. But eventually they were back on track and trusted God’s true timing for their son, who would eventually be born and named Isaac. It was through that genetic line that we have the stories of David, Mary, Jesus…the promise that brought far beyond what they could have imagined.
And that’s the part of the story that has stuck with me for months. How often do we feel like God has promised something to us? I’m not talking something shallow or cheap. It could mean that you believe God has promised you reconciliation in your marriage, a job, a child, physical healing, or whatever else. I can speak from experience, especially in recent years, what it feels like to compromise the promise of Isaac by choosing Ishmael. When we try to force God’s timing on things, when try to make things happen that are outside of God’s leading and direction, we are doing exactly what Abraham and Sarah did with Hagar and Ishmael. We thus choose to believe that our ways are better than God’s and our forced timing is better than his purpose. When we choose to compromise things, especially if it is a compromise counter to God’s heart and direction, not only are we disobedient, we are arrogant in thinking we know better than God. And I can absolutely attest from my own experience, that that sort of pride is one that is very dangerous. It doesn’t mean you don’t love God, but it means you aren’t obedient. Abraham and Sarah were humbled and brought back to a place of obedience to God and his direction and leading in their lives. They chose to be redeemed from their poor choices, and live, once again, in obedience and trust and faithfulness to God who knew far better than they did and whose plans ultimately were far better than they could have imagined.
Friend, stranger, whoever you are reading this. I know what its like to hold onto something dearly and truly believe that God has given you that promise. Don’t give up. But even more, don’t try to make it happen in your own way. Don’t try to get a substitute for God’s plan and promise for you. Waiting sucks, there is no way around that. But the pain of going after something not of God is far worse and can lead you down ways you’d never want to go. Trust God’s leading. Trust God’s timing. And trust that God, who tremendously loves you, has far more for you than you can imagine. Be faithful, be patient, be obedient to God. When God shows up and does what he has promised, it will be far greater than you can imagine, and it will be so good that only he can get the credit.
Waiting for the promise of Isaac is worth it.