Genesis 12 tells us that the age of 75, God appeared to a man named Abram and told him to leave his homeland and move to a place that would one day be the land of Israel, and in that place, God would give him a son and make of his descendants a great nation that would be a blessing to the entire earth.
Abram obeyed. A most remarkable obedience when you think about it because in leaving his homeland and his kin, he was leaving them for good. No Internet to keep him connected. No jet travel to hurry home in an emergency. This was a clean break with everything he knew and loved.
Years pass by. Abram is wandering about this Promised Land, living in tents with his wife Sarai. He has servants and great wealth, but still no promised son. And after what was apparently an extended period of silence from heaven, God speaks to Abram once again at the beginning of Genesis 15. “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your very great reward.”
Abram replies, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless.”
How do you think Abram feels at this particular moment? From what Abram says back to God, I think he must be feeling a bit like a woman who’s just been handed a present from her boyfriend, and expecting it to be an engagement ring, she finds that instead it’s tickets to the auto show.
Abram is flattered, no doubt, that God has taken the time out of his busy schedule to appear before him, and it’s nice to know that God is his shield and reward, but…well, you know, what about the child that you promised I’d have!?
Abram, whose name God soon changes to Abraham, is held up in Scripture as a model of how to walk by faith (cf. Romans 4, Galatians 3, Hebrews 11). This particular story, and its aftermath, serves as a template for every believer who has ever struggled to make sense of life’s twists and turns, and yet remain at peace in God.
The first thing to take note of is that Abram did in fact struggle. Abram is at this moment discouraged by the circumstances of his life. He feels inside that God has forgotten him. And even if God does remember his promise to him, well, it’s already too late. When Abram looked at his outward circumstances, he saw an old-getting-older man, and a wife who was no spring chicken either. Maybe God didn’t mean what he said earlier. Maybe I misunderstood him. Maybe I just made all this up. What a crazy old loot I am.
Why take note of this? Some of you reading this are thinking to yourself, “God has hung me out to dry.” So one of the reasons to study Abram’s story is to remind yourself that you’re not alone. What you’re going through is by no means unusual, nor does it prove that God’s left you. Suffering in life proves none of that.
But there’s another reason to walk with Abram. To remind ourselves that God has an answer for all the pain and perplexity that we face. It’s called faith. And when we learn how to walk by faith, we discover that it is a key which opens the door of life to a sunswept pastureland of joy and peace. “And this is the victory that overcomes the world – our faith,” wrote John the apostle (1 John 5:4).
Jesus said that one of the reasons he came was that his followers would have “abundant life” (John 10:10). There should be confidence in the heart of a Christian. A bit of a swagger in our step.
So if this is God’s expectation for us, how do we get there? What lifted Abram out of his doubt and despondency? This wouldn’t be Hollywood if I didn’t leave you with a cliff-hanger. Check in next time as we continue Abram’s story. But know this very minute that with God, every day is like a spring day. With God, there is always hope.