For Those Who Wait: Abraham

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Many of us have experienced what it feels like to wait and to remain patient this year. This Advent, we are reminded of how the saints before us experienced similar feelings of uncertainty, need, and hopeful expectation as they awaited - both faithfully and unfaithfully - for God to fulfill his promises.

“Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan” (Gen 12:1-5 ESV).

Seventy-five years is a long time. By any standard, ancient or modern, Abram, the son of Terah, had been around for a while. But compared to his father, at age 75, Abram had lived just over one-third of Terah’s lifespan. In terms of today’s average lifespan, this was equivalent to 26.18 years. Still, that is a lot of years. Besides, if you look at Genesis 11, where we read about Shem’s descendants after the flood, the typical age when someone starts having children seems to be between 30 and 35 years.

Abram’s age was significant, then, when it comes to the one thing by which one could get a picture of their relationship with God: do you have children or are you barren? This is important, and we are told in the text quite plainly that Abram’s wife, Sarai, was “barren.”

All this information is part of the set-up for God’s call to Abram in Genesis 15. He is leaving his family, he has no heir, and he is going somewhere but to an undisclosed location. God only promises that “I will show you.”

Would that work for you? Does that work for you?

God visits Abram, but according to Joshua 24:2, his people “served other gods” when YHWH appeared to him. So a previously unknown God calls Abram and bids him to leave everything familiar for a vague promise (“I will make you a great nation”).

Maybe the first part is outside of your personal experience (you know, the part where God shows up and has a conversation with you). But you don’t know anyone who went to either Heaven or Hell and came back, so the second part - going to a place which God will show you - is something you can relate to. This is because we are told to think of Heaven the way Abram thought of the land to which he and his family were headed. As the Promised Land was to be Abraham’s inheritance for trusting God’s promise, so Heaven, along with a renewed earth (2 Peter 3:13), is part of the inheritance of God’s redeemed “Israel of God,” the Church.

How do you handle the combination of waiting for things you want and trusting in promises for something with which you have no experience? As Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Then Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “without faith it is impossible to please God,” so we desire to trust God concerning his promises, both those that are clear and those concerning which we need further teaching. Ultimately, we have no control over the things for which we have to wait, but I think that God can be trusted based upon his track record. When I read of how things turned out for Abram/Abraham and other “heroes of faith,” I see there is no record of God failing to keep his promises, the most important of which is his promise to forgive our sins and keep us from falling.

As far as this life goes, I’m not trying to bust Heaven wide open just yet; as Dr. Martin Luther King said, “longevity has its place,” especially when you have kids that are under 10 years of age to raise. I tell the Lord every day, “Since you blessed me with them, please bless them with me until they are grown and on their own, Amen.” Enlarged borders, while that might have made Jabez’s day, sounds to me like extra grass to cut and more weeds to kill. More children than the sands of the sea? I am quite happy with my three. How about the wealth of the wicked? As the late Notorious B.I.G. said, “Mo Money - Mo Problems.” As long as my paycheck and my expenses are at a happy medium and my wife can get her occasional goodies, I’m content.

It’s eternity that has my focus because whatever happens with regard to that realm is forever. I don’t want to spend forever in torment. I don’t want to spend forever without my loved ones. Most importantly, I don’t want to spend forever without God. I already miss him so much down here in this life. To come out of a life without him would be too much to bear, and then there would be no way to escape our separation. Thanks be to God that is not a burden that you or I have to carry; instead, Jesus carried it in his everlasting arms, his bruised and battered arms, and his wounded arms. I hear his promise to keep me, forgive me, love me, and enable me, and I feel comforted and encouraged because I know that he knows how to do this, even as he knows all things.

So with patience, I will be of good courage, and wait on the Lord.