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Friday, November 5, 2010

Promises, Promises

We have finished up our look at the life of Abraham. Finished isn't technically correct since we could keep looking at this subject for another month without breaking a sweat, but we'll call it a day anyway...
In our last week, we see God finally make good on his promise to Abram. The journey isn't without its pitfalls. The most noticeable bump in the road is the whole Ishmael situation. Sarai suggests that Abraham have a child by her Egyptian servant, Hagar. Usually, we like to sit in judgment at this point. We talk about the lack of faith that this couple shows, but let's be honest. This is a couple that has waited a decade for God to bring about his outlandish promise. They feel that the clock is ticking and they actually don't violate the letter of the promise of God. His promise was "a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir". A child by Hagar would still be his own flesh and blood, so they aren't technically disobeying. This, to some of us, would be a familiar line of thinking and a wait of 10 weeks for a promise to come to pass is inconceivable, let alone 10 years. As we would expect, convincing your husband to father a child with another woman doesn't exactly go as planned. The end result is that a pregnant Hagar runs away across the desert. It is during her flight that she encounters God, who tells her to return and submit to her harsh treatment because he will watch over her. Because God has found her in her desperation and reassured her that his eyes are always on her, she named God "the God who sees me." You may or may not feel specifically that way about God, but you can be sure that He wants to reveal Himself to you in a personal way. What would you name God?
Another decade passes, and God returns. Upon his return, we find that Ishmael is now a teenager and God reaffirms his promise, but with a new wrinkle. A timetable. God tells Abraham that the promise will be fulfilled in one year's time. After years and years of waiting, Abraham can finally see the end. He is so excited that he politely declines. He asks God if perhaps the promise could just be fulfilled using the child that's already there. We can identify with the sentiment behind this, too. After a long wait, Abraham has moved on. He has a son and, although it isn't what God had set aside as best, it's good enough. After the disappointment and worry that comes with waiting has piled up, Abraham isn't necessarily looking for a chance to be let down. His own attempt to fulfil the promise is something he can settle with. This is where Abram truly turns into Abraham - where a man of failure turns into a man of faith. God tells him to send Ishmael (his first born son, by the way) away since the new child will be the child of the promise. This may seem a little harsh to us. After all, could God have used Ishmael to fulfil the promise? He could have, but God had something better in store. But the only way to fully lay hold of the promise was to send away the thing that he was still holding on to. Abraham would never have to fully trust God to keep this promise as long as plan B was sitting at his dinner table. The call to us is the same...when God speaks, will we respond and walk in his best or simply stay put with the good enough that we've crafted for ourselves.

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