I prayed for nine years, believing that God could save my husband, but without assurance that He would do what I asked. No one could have been more surprised when He did it. Looking back, I didn’t have a specific promise, but I did know the character of God who is not willing that anyone should perish.
Abraham’s faith was based on a specific promise, often repeated and just as often questioned. God promised him that he would be a great nation, but years went by without any children born to him and Sarah.
First they thought God meant their servant would fill this role. Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” But the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” (Genesis 15:3–4)
Then God took him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:5–6)
The years passed, but no children. God renewed His promise, sealing it with a ceremony. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.” (Genesis 15:13–14)
That day, the Lord renewed His covenant adding this: “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:18–21)
Sarai, his wife became doubtful. She hatched a plan and told Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. (Genesis 16:2) As when Adam listened to Eve, the consequences are with us to this day. The child born to Sarai’s servant is the root of the Arab nations that have been at war with Israel for many centuries.
Yet the covenant stands. When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Abram fell on his face. God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 17:1–4)
God changed Abram’s name, then repeated His promise: “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:6–8)
He also changed the name of his wife to Sarah and promised again: “I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”
Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” (Genesis 17:15–17) But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.” (Genesis 17:19)
When I’m at my worst, I don’t usually laugh at God’s promise of full redemption, but to me this promise to me even sounds ridiculously impossible. How can God make pure that which is polluted? Yet He says that one day I will be like Jesus!
I understand the longing and the hope of this elderly couple, but also their doubts about what seemed so impossible. I also understand faith. It is a deep, internal certainty, rooted in my trust of what God has said. Doubts come, but faith persists, helped by repetition of the promise – from God who knows exactly how and exactly when I need to hear it again. Eventually, He lines up the answers to my prayers, and even though I’ve trusted Him all along, I am still amazed and surprised when He does it! :-)