Text: Genesis 12:1-5, 18:10-14, 21:1-3
One of the most difficult things for a woman to do is to move. The place where we live, our home, is our little kingdom. It doesn't matter if the place is big or small, fancy or simple, our home is our haven and dominion. God had many plans for Abram and Sarai, but these required a huge move -- away from friends and family, away from everything they had ever known.
Even though Abram was talking with God, I'm sure Sarai had plenty of questions: Where? How long? Will we find a new place to live? Will we have enough to live on? Will we have friends? Like Sarai, we have so many questions and often don't want to move until everything is perfect, with all our questions answered. In other words, we want a map with all the directions and details needed. But God doesn't operate like this. His thoughts are grander than ours.
And so this couple started the greatest journey they ever imagined. They stepped out in faith and God was faithful. He gave them a new home and protected them from enemies. Yet they lacked one thing -- a child. In those times, a sign of being blessed by God was by the number of children you had. While they were still childless, God changed Abram's name to Abraham, meaning "father of multitudes." I'm sure Sarai thought her wonderful husband was going crazy. Father of multitudes?! They didn't have any children!
Despite all of this -- moving to a new land, being childless to the age of 90, and having a husband named "father of multitudes" -- Sarai continued to hope and submit to God's leading. She was not without her failings -- giving Hagar to Abram, laughing at God's promises -- and yet God in His Word still commends her as a woman full of hope, who made herself beautiful by the way she trusted in God and in her "father of multitudes" husband. And this hope she had in God -- amidst challenging and difficult situations -- did not disappoint or put her to shame. Instead, at the age of 90, she gave birth to a son!
In Genesis18:14, God reminds Sarah -- "Is anything too hard (too wonderful) for The Lord?" How often do we forget this! The reality is that The Lord created the heavens and the earth, covered the earth with waters, split the Red Sea, and gave an elderly woman named Sarah a baby boy. Nothing is impossible for God, and yet we continually limit and restrict him. Like Sarah, we laugh in disbelief and struggle to get our minds around the impossible, fantastic things God has promised us. As Paul reminds us, "No eye has seen, no ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Cor 2:9, based on Isa 64:4)
Faith and hope are inextricably intertwined with the knowledge that nothing is too hard or too wonderful for The Lord to do. We can have faith in difficult situations and hope for the impossible because of the character and nature of God. The Bible tells us that God is all-powerful and also that He is good, just, righteous, and loving. The Bible is full of stories of God giving good gifts to His children and kindly disciplining those whom He loves. And everything He promises, He does -- just as Genesis 21:1 demonstrates.
So why do we, like Sarah, wrestle to believe these things? Why do we lose hope that God will keep His promises to us? Is it fear that we have misheard him and will be disappointed? Is it a lack of knowledge of the promises of God as stated in the Scriptures? Have we forgotten who God is and begun to believe lies about Him? Or maybe like Sarah, we've become skeptical and impatient.
The Bible is replete with skeptics and timid people like you and me -- men and women hesitant to truly hope in God. And this is why we need their stories -- to show us how God still came through for them, how God turned their skeptical laughter into joy and delight. Just as Hebrews 11 reminds us, every person of faith recorded in the Bible eventually received what they were promised. And we will too. We are not promised easy lives, but we are promised God's continual presence. We are not promised earthly wealth, fame, or security, but we are promised an eternal inheritance through Jesus. And as we walk by faith with hope, Jesus promises to give us life in abundance.