Promises of God
Like many of you I have started to read through the Bible again. For some of you this will be a regular discipline and others will be already making excuses in your head as to why that would be totally impossible for you. When I first started reading through the Bible many years ago there weren’t that many resources available, but over the years I’ve done it in different ways. Once or twice I’ve used a Bible that is set out for reading in a year with chunks of Old Testatment, New Testatment, and a Psalm written out under Day 1, so it’s just like reading a normal book without any faff. You can get these ‘bible in a year’ books in all different translations. There are also bookmarks or print-outs of sets of verses that you find in your regular bible, which is slightly more faffy, but you don’t have to buy anything.
Now there are so many resources it is mind boggling. Personally I am using You Version – a Bible app on my phone which sends me a reminder every day to read my Bible plan.
It even has an option to read it to me, so there are no excuses for those who are not big readers. I know everyone doesn’t have an I-phone, but there are loads and loads of online resources now that do the same thing.
If there’s one thing you do this year, get a regular Bible habit. It’s great to read the New Testament, but it is understood far better when you interpret it in light of the Old Testament. There are some incredible passages in the Old Testament, and you can see the promises that God spoke to His people being fulfilled in the New Testament.
God’s Promise to Abraham and Sarah
So I’ve been reading the account of Abraham and Sarah in the Bible this week and just thinking through the process of God giving promises to His people.
In Genesis 15 we read about God’s promise to Abram
The Lord’s Covenant Promise to Abram
15 Some time later, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.”
2 But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. 3 You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.”
4 Then the Lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” 5 Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”
6 And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.
You can feel his despair in verse 2. What’s the point of all this if I don’t even have a son? It was his heart’s desire, and it looked like time was running out for him, and yet God promised, and we know because we can read ahead, that God fulfilled that promise many times over. But Abram couldn’t read ahead and he didn’t have this complete book with countless stories of God’s faithfulness. His life was going to form important narrative in the Word, so that we can be encouraged and have faith, but he didn’t have that.
He had God’s spoken word to him.
10 years later nothing has happened and I’m sure doubts plagued both Abram and Sarai and so they start to try and make it happen themselves:
Genesis 16: 1
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. 3 So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)
God doesn’t need our help to fulfil His word over us. He just needs our obedience.
The way God seems to work is that He speaks a promise but doesn’t tell us how it will happen or how long it will take.
And this is where we start to grow.
We can get discouraged and start to doubt.
Or we can trust God through all the waiting and to keep growing in our character through everything that life throws at us.
About 15-20 years after Ishmael was born, some angels turn up disguised as men to meet with Abraham
10 Then one of them said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!”
Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. 11 Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children. 12 So she laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?”
13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
15 Sarah was afraid, so she denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh.”
But sure enough God’s word comes to pass and Sarah has a child in her old age and he’s called Isaac.
I’m sure when Abraham first heard God say that he and Sarah were going to have millions of descendants, he would have worked out what it looked like, and it would certainly have to start straight away in order to have time to fit all these children in.
Doubts start: “Did God really say?”
“Did I do something to make God change His mind?”
“Am I being punished?”
We work things out based on our finite, human knowledge and information, but God has a different agenda and a different time scale.
Almost certainly God will be preparing our character.
He is more interested in our character than in our comfort, and the most frustrating thing for us, is that our notion of time is soooooo different to God’s.
Each one of us has a mandate on our lives
Each mandate has a different timescale and looks different from someone else’s.
But in every case, God is wanting to develop character in you so that you are ready to take on that mandate fully. He’s not bothered how long it takes as He’s outside of time, but He needs you to be fully ready so that when you are in position, you don’t fall.
It is devastating when a local pastor runs off with a member of their congregation, and its effects are far reaching in terms of the pain and the fall-out in that area, but imagine it’s an Internationally known Christian leader – how much more painful and damaging to the Kingdom?
So what can you can in the waiting?
- Believe that God has spoken just like Abram did right at the beginning
- Don’t forget!
- Keep reminding yourself and keep trusting God
- Let Him illuminate the path one step at a time and not try to rush ahead in our own steam with our own bright ideas. Too fast and we might trip and fall. He will show us the next step when we are ready and not a minute sooner.
- Keep doing the last thing God told you to do, but make sure you listen for the next instruction.
- Remember the account of Abraham and Isaac when God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It was great that he was obedient (although I don’t understand it!), but if he hadn’t kept listening, Isaac would have died that day.
Something I noticed yesterday that I don’t think I have ever clicked before is that when Abraham was a very old man, he married again and had another 6 children!
We are never too old.
The timing has never passed
God will do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine!
If God has spoken promises over your life, believe that He WILL fulfil them.
He hasn’t forgotten you, He hasn’t left you, He hasn’t changed His mind.
God is always faithful and His promises ALWAYS come to pass.