I was awake for a short while in the middle of the night and found myself thinking about these chapters from Genesis. Today’s reading begins, “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.’ And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir’" (15:1-4). It’s important that we catch that note: “But Abram said . . .” God had promised, but Abram said; that is, Abram doubted God and his promise.
Then God spoke (“And behold, the word of the Lord came to him”) and assured Abram that, indeed, he would have his own son of promise just as the Lord had said. Abram was impatient, as we so often are. Abram doubted, as we so often do. Abram came up with his own solution, as we so often do. Oh my, we are so much like Abram and, also, Sarai! Over and over, the Lord reiterated his promise. In God’s face, Sarai laughed at the promise. But hear God: “Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son” (18:14). That fulfillment is reported in chapter 21, a fulfillment that was just as certain, no, even more certain, than that the sun will rise. God said it. He promised it. It will happen even if not on our, or Abraham and Sarah’s, timetable! I know I am cutting off some of the context for the verses, but I remember Peter’s encouragement: “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient” (2 Peter 3:8-9). And so, even if we must wait on the promise of God, we know the One who has promised and, thus, can sing:
All my hope on God is founded;
he doth still my trust renew.
Me through change and chance he guideth,
only good and only true.
calls my heart to be his own. --Joachim Neander (17th century)