Thursday, January 15, 2009 those who wait

Yesterday, Abram was commended by God for his believing faith, but today's scripture passage reveals an impatient man with whom I can identify. Chapters 16-18 of Genesis tell of God's renaming of Abram (he is named Abraham signifying God's promise to make him the father of great nations) and his eventual taking of matters into his own hands because he was quite old and still childless.

I have read through this account on many prior occasions and still, each time, something new about the story gives me pause. Today, my mind drifted to world headlines. Osama Bin Laden has issued a new call for jihad against Israel because of the conflict in Gaza. Oh, if only old Abraham had been able to foresee the serious consequences of his decision all those years ago.

Abraham, the faith-filled man who was promised descendants too numerous to count, waited on God for a long time, but when God hadn't come through according to his expectations, he decided to help Him out.

In truth, Abraham isn't solely responsible for the bad decision. He was urged by his wife Sarai (Sarah) to consider another route to parenthood since things didn't appear to be going as God had promised. I have to remind myself as I read that this was a very different time and culture, and although Sarah's suggestion that Abraham try to conceive with her servant Hagar seems unthinkable to me, it was not an uncommon practice at the time.

After Hagar became pregnant, the bickering started. She and Sarah were at each other's throats and eventually things got so bad that she decided to run away. It was when she was at her lowest that God sent an angel to visit her. Here's what happened next:

Genesis 16:

11 And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. 12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.” 13 Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.”NLT

What a picture of simultaneous beauty and tragedy. God saw Hagar. I believe he also sees me. And you. And every believer who calls to him in times of distress. Not only that, but he cares. He heard her and knew her by name. How beautiful! But hearing that her child would raise his fist against everyone and that everyone would be against him would not be easy.

We'll see later (Genesis 25) that Ishmael had 12 sons who became 12 tribes, all settling in the lands that comprise the Arab nations to this day. Isn't it curious that his (Ishmael's) descendants have been in conflict with the descendants of the child that God soon gave Abraham and Sarah (Isaac) ever since.

The price for self-reliance and impatience was tremendous in this case. It's difficult to imagine or even consider the possibility that a choice to take matters into my own hands rather than waiting on God might affect generations to come, but that is exactly what happened in this situation.

I have been impatient. I have tried to manipulate circumstances for the purpose of hastening a desired outcome. But almost without exception the results have been unpleasant (if not destructive). I so wish that my mistakes could spare you the painful price of impatience. God's plan is always better than anything our best conniving can conjure. He can always be trusted (he is the God who sees and hears). He seldom seems early (waiting tests and teaches). He is never late (his timing is perfect).

So...wait my sweet grandchildren. And when you have waited, wait some more if you have to, because what he has said, he will do, and what he does will be for your best.

1 comment:

  1. i have always said (in my married life) "i don't want to be a sarah and create an ishmael." it isn't easy to sit & wait...but what an incredible example the Lord has given us to help show us the results of our human impatience.