Points to Ponder: Called, But Jumping the Gun
Points to Ponder
Called, But Jumping the Gun
Having patience with God is sometimes more difficult than having patience with people. His timing rarely matches ours; His pace seems so slow and yet in the end He's always on time. In frustration or in the mistaken belief that God needs our help, we will often jump the gun. We presume upon God that we know what's best for the moment at hand and (in Jesus' name of course) we press on and "go with our gut." How many times with the things of God has your gut proven to be mistaken? Even if you're sure God is calling you to do something, make a change, step out, etc., He may have you on the right road, but there's a red light. Calling and timing can come separately. Part of the call means waiting on the Lord. Literally waiting.
Consider Abram. God called him at age 75 to leave everything he knew and go "to a land that I will show you." God promised him a land, numerous descendants, and to make him a blessing that would bless the nations of the world. (Genesis 12:1-3).
He roamed the land, which would be his and his descendants, but he had no heir. God promised to make him a nation - but how? Sarai was well past child-bearing age. Yet Abram believed the call; so much so that God accounted his pure faith as righteousness (Genesis 15).
But ten years went by as they lived in Canaan and grew in wealth - and also in age. So Sarai did what was customary and lawful in a situation like theirs; she gave her maid Hagar to Abram for the purpose of producing an heir (Genesis 16).
Now, lets think it through. Sarai was about 76 and Abram about 86 years old. Eleven years earlier, they had left the family home place and had been living in the land, which God said would one day be the possession of their descendants. To say to this couple, "you're not getting any younger," would be an understatement. What are their options? It was neither immoral nor illegal to offer one of the female slaves as a sort of surrogate mother. The child born to her would become the son/daughter of the wife. So was it fear of lost opportunity (Hagar was there and of child bearing age)? Was it fear of losing the promise of God (numerous descendants)? Was it fear of death (without an heir, the man's name is cut off from the earth)? In their human understanding, God's grand promise was great and wonderful - and they did believe Him; however, time seemed to be against its fulfillment.
Abram was 86 when Ismael was born (Genesis 16:16). From the time Hagar conceived him, conflict arose in the home. Today, many theologians will directly or indirectly trace much of the hatred and violence between Arabs and Israelis to this "jump the gun" decision of Sarai and Abram. It did not deter God's promise to them, but it added an unnecessary element of conflict that is with us even today.
In Genesis chapters 17 & 18, we read of God appearing to Abram to fulfill the promise of making Abram a father of many descendants. He's 99 years old; that's 13 years after Ismael's birth and 25 years after the original promise was given. That's a TWENTY-FIVE YEAR WAIT.
God initiates a covenant with Abram. Two additional steps are taken to bring about the promised heir; two steps which cannot be initiated by man, but by God. Timing.
First, God changes their names to give them a new identity. That's an essential lesson! God has changed you so that you can handle the promise and calling He has given you. Abram ("exalted Father") was changed to Abraham ("Father of a multitude"), Sarai became Sarah, reflecting her new role as mother of the multitude God had promised. In Genesis 17:17-18, Abraham could not get his mind around the idea that God would make Sarah a mother at age 90! You can have faith and trust in God even when you cannot understand how He's going to do what He's promised. That's how faith deepens, by trusting God's perspective even though you can't grasp it or control it yourself.
The second step God took with Abraham and Sarah was to promise to use them to fulfill His word in a way that only He could fulfill it.
And the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?' Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son." But Sarah denied it, saying, "I did not laugh," for she was afraid. And He said, "No, but you did laugh!" (Genesis 18:13-15 NKJV)
The child of promise would be named Isaac ("Laughter") a constant reminder to them how God works among His faithful ones in ways which are "outside the box" of what our limited understanding can grasp. Abraham and Sarah believed God despite the risks of the unknown and the seemingly impossible. Even though culturally they were within their rights and acting with the common sense of their time, they jumped the gun on God. Abraham had a clear calling, but he couldn't wait for God's timing to bring it to fulfillment.
It is a common human reaction. It runs our economy in fact; it's the fear of loss. "Act now;" "For a limited time only..." etc. are splashed across the sales ads. In daily life, it's often tempting to have it now, do it before you lose it, etc. But God does not command us through a fear of losing. In obedience to God we can't really lose. If we could just remember that waiting is just as much a call as is doing. Usually waiting is harder. But we have to trust our limited perceptions and fears to the Lord who sees all and is Peace. During those long silences we are doing the growing that must take place so that we can handle the promise when the time comes.
Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD! (Psalm 27:14 NKJV)
This column can be found on the web at: www.fumcl.org. Pastor Whitmore is not affiliated with Picket News, nor does he submit material directly to our publication. We regularly reprint interesting articles found at his public web site and encourage all readers to visit for similar material.