“Waiting” was our spiritual discipline for last week. But we wanted to use another story this week. Rev. Mike Myers, pastor of Heritage Presbyterian Church in Royston, GA, offers us these reminders about “waiting.”
Before you read this, please go look up Genesis 16:17. Seriously.
Now when you realized there is no recorded Genesis 16:17, maybe you did what most smart people do. Having glanced at 16:16, and then hopefully to 17:1, you concluded I’ve lost it. That may be, but I want to write about Genesis 16:17 anyway. You know why? Because that unwritten verse covers 13 years of Abraham’s life. Yes, the same Abraham presented in the New Testament as the father of all those who believe. The man identified as the great example of the life of faith was a professional waiter.
Allow me to explain what actually is written in and around Genesis 16 and 17. Some years prior, Abraham (then Abram) received a call from God to leave his idol worshipping ways down by the river in Ur (Joshua 24:2-3) and to go into a land that God would show him. Abram obeyed and embarked on his “fool’s errand”, leaving behind family, friends, and likely societal standing in the process. With a beauty for a wife, a nephew, and his servants tagging along, he plodded his way into Canaan with the grand promises of God in his heart. The Lord had said that he would make Abram into a great nation, blessing him, and using him so powerfully that all the families of the earth would be blessed because of him (gen 12:1-3)! It was quite a time for the career change for Abram, but the prospects were good, and he certainly believed God was true. There was just one problem. The almost octogenarian had no son.
The Word of God tells us that over the next eleven years Abram would go between being a sniveling coward (Gen 12:11-13) and courageous fighter (Gen 14:14-16). He would choose the promises of God over the fertile valley of Sodom (Gen 13:10-13), but also choose the fertile slave woman over his promised wife (Gen 16:3-4). Before criticizing him, however, remember that Abram was a real man who endured time like we do. Have some sympathy and understanding for his decisions, even his bad ones. Why? Because all these decisions, good and bad, happened while Abram waited.
Reading history can be arduous, hilarious, infuriating, even mesmerizing. It can also be distorting, especially when it comes to time. With the turn of the page we can turn over two centuries! Or in the case of Genesis 16:17, with the glance of the eye we thoughtlessly scan over 13 years of Abram’s life. 13 years. Of waiting. Remember that time moved at the same pace back then as now. The great patriarch probably spent those 4,745 days doing what you or I would do. He slept, shaved, brushed his teeth (hopefully), milked goats, played with Ishmael, looked for water, prayed, worshiped, and waited. For 13 years. Did he struggle? Did he wonder when the Lord would come through? Absolutely. Was it glamourous? Nope. Yet the testimony of the Bible is that Abram, when his body in terms of child-bearing was as good as dead, did not waver at the promise. In fact, “no distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:19-21). Even after Isaac brought joy and laughter into the then renamed Abraham and Sarah’s lives, they still did not see all the things they had been promised. Hebrews 11:13 tells us that the happy couple, along with many other saints, “died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar.”
Some of you are waiting (and I am not talking about waiting for a response to a text). Maybe you want children, but every month brings fresh disappointment. Some of you have a wandering family member, maybe a wandering child, and you are waiting for the dramatic, prodigal return, but the horizon remains empty. Some of you are very sick, or love people who are very sick, and you are waiting for God to heal, but time is slipping away. Maybe you want to be married and you are waiting for that certain someone, but the landscape looks bleak. Let me encourage you. Waiting is costly, difficult, often exasperating, but it is far from passive. Abraham waited by actively looking forward to the day when the True Promise would come, Jesus. And Abraham saw Jesus’ day and was glad (John 8:56)! The waiting did not give Abraham a child, and it will not give you what you seek. In fact, there is no guarantee that your waiting will eventually end with that thing you desire, however noble. But God himself promises to be sufficient. He promises to be what he has always been: faithful. Which means, my friends, that he is a God always worth the wait.