“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised”
Genesis 21: 1 (NIV)
Last week, I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store with a week’s worth of food for my family all lined up on the conveyor belt. I assured the cashier that I didn’t need my milk in a bag; it seemed like putting her through extra effort just to take the plastic bag home and recycle it. “Not really,” she said, “What is a really big pain is people who bring 15 or more of those reusable bags and make me put cold stuff in one, cleaning stuff in another, bread and eggs separate. Now, that takes forever.”
I nodded my head with understanding and sympathy. Meanwhile, I was praying under my breath that she wouldn’t notice how my groceries were carefully categorized and organized as they headed to her scanner.
- Heavy things first.
- Cold items with meat and poultry separate.
- Non-food items like cleaning supplies and personal care products.
- Bread and eggs.
What can I say? I like my groceries bagged a certain way. But, I don’t leave this to chance or pester the tired Wal-Mart cashier to organize my purchases for me. No, I like to help things along. Truly, I am trying to be considerate of the girl getting paid so little money to incessantly scan and bag during her entire work shift. Organizing all my items saves her some time and effort.
But, there’s also something else. I don’t believe that she would do it correctly if I didn’t categorize the items for her. I don’t trust that she knows not to put my cereal with the yogurt or that my laundry detergent shouldn’t sit next to my chicken.
I don’t believe. I don’t trust.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether I fully trust and believe in the professional skill of the girl checking out my groceries. But, my unbelief and lack of trust seep into other areas of my life that should be in the hands of our thoroughly trustworthy God. It’s a slow drip, drip, drip of anti-faith that I ignore until suddenly I’m drowning in a sea of uncertainty and gasping for air in a flood of my own making.
I pray for things and then make plans and decisions based on God NOT answering my prayers.
I lay at His feet my anxiety and concerns about situations and then snatch them back up later when His answer doesn’t come quickly enough.
I hover over His shoulder and share my opinion on the kind of job He is doing in my life. Are you sure you want to put the pasta in that bag, God? Don’t you think the cheese would be better next to the butter, God? I think you could provide a bit better for me if you changed this about my job. Don’t you think I’ve waited long enough, God? Surely there’s a more efficient way of doing things.
I pester and nag and “help” and act like a know-it-all back seat driver. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, had her moments of grasping for control just like I do. She helped things along a little bit, made “suggestions” (demands), and pressed ahead with plans without considering consequences.
To be fair, Sarah waited years for God to fulfill His promises and patiently trusted that God would give Abraham a “son who is your own flesh and blood” (Genesis 16:16, NIV). It may have even been thrilling and easy to believe at first. A promise from God, a child, the deepest desire of her heart seen by Almighty God and assuredly in her future! Surely she headed to the wilderness version of Babies ‘R Us and set up a registry just days after Abraham came home and told her what God had promised. Faith is easy when the promises are fresh.
But then nothing. No pregnancy. No baby. Promises faded away. Questions arose. Cultural expectations weighed heavy on her. Just about a decade after the original promise, Sarah’s faith finally buckled under the heavy weight of circumstantial evidence mounting up against God. He hadn’t done what He had promised. No baby was coming. Sarah’s biological clock had ticked and tocked out and she clearly needed to step in and help God out a little bit.
And so the trouble begins. A second wife for Abraham. Conflict and abuse between Sarah and Hagar. Runaway maidservant. Ishmael born, son to Abraham, but not the child God had promised.
Thirteen years after Ishmael’s birth and about 24 years after the original promise, none of Sarah’s involvement, ideas, or attempts to help (or control) the situation had yielded results.
Yet, in all this time, God’s plans never changed. His intent from the beginning was to birth an entire nation through Abraham and Sarah and He was willing to let Sarah reach the point of impossibility, of clear human failure, before fulfilling His promises. She was past menopause, now 90 years old. There was simply no possible earthly way for Sarah to bring forth the promised heir.
That’s what unbelief would say. That’s what lack of trust would claim.
God is so gracious to us in our weakness, though. He certainly was with Sarah. He visited with Abraham again and reiterated the promise, this time with an added clarification—I believe it could only have been for Sarah’s benefit. He told Abraham, “I will bless her (Sarah) and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her . . . your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.”
Did you notice that subtle new bit of information in the promise? The first time, God said that Abraham would have a son and heir. This time, He clearly said to Abraham, “You know Sarah, as in your wife Sarah? She will have a son by you. Together. Nobody else needs to be involved in this. Just you and her. Got it?”
And there was a promise for Sarah in this, too, a special notice by God, who called a childless woman in her 90s to be the Mother of Nations. As kids we sang the silly song, “Father Abraham, had many sons, and many sons had father Abraham.” Why don’t we ever sing about Sarah? After all, the poor woman had to give birth to the promised child at 90 years of age with no epidural. I think she deserves her own song!
Abraham and Sarah were nothing without God’s miraculous involvement in their lives. “Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him, he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many” (Isaiah 52:2, NIV). Like Abraham, it is God’s blessing on us that multiples our lives into bounty and fulfillment.
Therefore our testimonies are not that we have accomplished much or attained great things in our own strength and ability. If Sarah had produced the promised heir through surrogate motherhood, fertility treatments or even naturally while her body was still ripe for childbearing, then there would have been no need for God’s personal touch.
As Beth Moore wrote, “If Isaac’s birth says anything at all, surely it says that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.” That’s the question God asked Abraham while Sarah stood laughing in her tent over the promise of pregnancy in her old age. “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14, NIV). Isaac’s birth proves God’s possibilities even in impossible situations.
In Genesis 21:1, it beautifully says, “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised (NIV). And so He will for you. God will do what He has promised. And when He does, when He so graciously delivers you, He will receive all the glory and give you a testimony of miraculous provision so that others may believe and trust in a God for whom nothing is too difficult.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King