March 22, the Twelfth Day of Lent
March 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.
The author here continues to speak of Abraham and the fulfillment of the promise that God originally gave in Genesis 12.1-3. In the second half of the verse, we can see that the author of Hebrews is also using language that would have called to mind God’s promise for his readers. Genesis 15.5 speaks of God affirming his promise to Abraham by saying that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as stars in the sky; God says the same thing to him in Genesis 22.17, immediately after Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac. We’ll look at that story in the coming days. In Genesis 32.12, Jacob invokes this promise when asking God for protection from his brother Esau.
It is interesting to note that in Genesis, Abraham and his descendants are still living in faith that the promise will be fulfilled. The author of Hebrews is speaking from the perspective that the promise has been fulfilled; the Hebrews have grown into a nation. No longer are they a band of wandering foreigners; they have become a numerous people with a homeland, as well as people living abroad.
Yet, Abraham was as good as dead. Not only was Sarah barren, but Abraham himself was past the age of sexual function. In Abraham’s eyes, there was no way for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Bill Gothard in the Institute for Basic Life Principles speaks of a pattern that we can see God use sometimes: First, God will give a vision or a promise to us. In this case, the promise is given to Abraham that his descendants will become a great nation. Second, the vision dies because we cannot see a way that it will be fulfilled. Here, Abraham has to face the facts: he has no legitimate male heir, and no way of getting one. Third, God moves in a miraculous way and fulfills the vision. We see here that even though Abraham and Sarah were “as good as dead,” God still causes the vision to come to completion through them, as he promised.
God has given us his promises, but sometimes they seem impossible. This makes it all the more difficult to live by faith. Yet, it also reminds us who we are: creations that, by ourselves, are unable to accomplish God’s will in the world. At the same time, we are creations that God loves immensely; creations that he values enough to make promises to. Promises that he will keep.
As we journey through Lent together, may we live in the faith that God will keep his promises.
“Dear Lord, I recognize that I am incapable of accomplishing your will on my own. Please forgive me for the times when I have tried. As my life goes on, please give me an awareness that I am resting in your love and your plan. I ask for trust to live by faith. Amen.”