In last week’s lesson on faith, looking at Hebrews 11:7, we learned from Abraham that faith in God means we are willing to fulfill our eternal role, even if we have no idea what the big picture might be. Now let’s go to Heb. 11:11-12 for the next lesson in faith, this time from Abraham and his wife, Sara:
“Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.” (Hebrews 11:11-12 HCSB)
The promise is given as early as Gen. 12:2. We know that Abraham was 75 years old at this time, and we also know that he had no child. Despite this, God says: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”
We’re don’t know Abraham’s exact response to this promise, but several years later he again receives a word from the Lord: “After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’ . . . But Abram said, ‘O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.'” (Gen 14:1, 15:2,3 NIV)
In other words, “Okay God! You expect me to believe THAT? You promised me a child, and look! All these years later, my wife and I are getting nothing but older. The writing is on the wall! My estate goes to Eliezer of Damascus!”
God’s response? “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.’ (Gen 15:4)
Still nothing happens. Abraham has an affair with Hagar, Ishmael is produced (see Gen. 16, LESSONS IN FAITH, Lesson 12). Abraham probably believes that Ishmael is to be the promised child, but he’s not. 14 years later God again appears to Abraham and repeats the original promise to make him the father of many nations. But this time the prophecy specifically mentions Sarah: “I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” (Gen 17:16)
Poor Abraham. He is really trying to believe in the promise, but come on, God! “Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!'” (Gen 17:17-18)
This time, after 25 years of promising, God finally gives all the details: “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him . . . But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.'” (Gen 17:19-22)
Despite this third, very specific promise, the promised child was again prophesied, probably just a few weeks later: “Then the LORD said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.'” (Gen 18:10) This time it was Sarah who laughed: “So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, ‘After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?'” (Gen 18:12)
None of this doubt and laughter changed the facts, however. Isaac WAS born: “Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.” (Gen 21:1-3)
Isn’t it ironic that despite the fact that the responses of Abraham and Sarah was to laugh (Gen. 17:17, 18:12), the promise still came to be? And isn’t it ironic that despite all the doubt and shame, the book of Hebrews still records, “Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.” (Hebrews 11:11-12 HCSB)?
Enough to ponder, friends. But do ponder this: When God promises something, it is for real. We may not really believe at first, we may try to take things into our own hands, we may even laugh at God, but in the end, if we believe, God will still be able to say, “By faith ______”!
Join us next week for the last lesson in Faith to be learned from Abraham!
God bless you!
(To access tne entire “Faith” mini-series, please click here.)