Todays reading Genesis 16, 17, Matthew 5:27-48
“This time next year!” These words from Genesis jump out at me like an unleashed floodgate of hope: “My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” Joy is best understood by those who have been through a long drought of hope. From Genesis 12 on, there is a recurring theme about Abraham being the father of many nations. There is only one problem. He has no kids! For awhile Abraham and Sarah must have held on to this word, but then Sarah got old. She matured into her 70’s-doubful. And then into her 90’s-impossible. But in Genesis 15, God promises again. What do you do when God promises you the seemingly impossible? I do one of two things; I spiritualize the promise, or I try to help God out. Some of you my be hoping your children will come back to the Lord but your faith is waning. Others of you are dreaming that your dead marriage can come back to life. Some of you may have a dream for your life that now seems unrealistic after years of it not coming to pass. Your dreams may seem as unlikely as a baby being born to these two Biblical characters who are candidates for the nursing home.
Abraham spiritualized the answer. He starts to wonder if maybe his head servant was to be his heir. After all, he was like a son. How many promises has God made to us that after time we explain away when they don’t come to pass within a reasonable time.
I have not yet received every promise God has made to me. I believe that God has promised to increase my effectiveness far beyond the present. During seasons of decrease, I wonder if these promises will ever come to pass or if I really even heard from God. I’m good at spiritualizing lean times.
Sarah takes another approach. She tries to help God out. She gives Abraham her concubine Hagar who gives birth to Ishmael. How many times have we all tried to fulfill God’s promises through human effort? The mercy of God, however, is extended to Hagar and Ishmael demonstrating that our merciful God even blesses our flops.
The road from doubtful to impossible is a long descent into hopelessness. Hopelessness doesn’t happen over night but is born out of a long string of disappointments, false hopes, and false alarms. Hope, on the other hand can be born in one moment. God says to Abraham that he will have a son and gives him the name Isaac and says that by this time next year he will be born. The promise went from general to specific. Suddenly God put a ring and a date on his promise. Not just a child, but Isaac, not sometime in the future, but next year. It’s enough to make Sarah laugh.
Today this passage breathes life back into my unrealized dreams. I have been saying to my congregation for the last several weeks that a year from now our church could be unrecognizable because of what God has done. Let’s put a ring and a date on our dreams. I challenge you to respond with words of faith to this blog by filling in this blank with statements of faith. By this time next year, I am believing __________________________.