Monday, January 26, 2009

Stumbling through faith.

15    And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.
16    Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
Genesis 16:15-16

hagar God's patience never seems to amaze me. When I read Genesis 16, I am struck at how quickly Abram could reason away God's promise, or at best re-negotiate the terms of it unilaterally, which is what happened here. Sarai had not born him a son. And the longer he waited, the more improbable it seemed to be that it would happen. I don't think Abram and Sarai were thinking some sort of biological miracle could happen. They were evidently TRYING to have a baby (and the thought of a couple in their eighties planning for the nursery is really a bit ridiculous!), and Sarai decided to appeal to custom over faith.

It was customary for wealthy people to name an heir. And it was also customary for those without a son to name to attempt to surrogate an heir through a household servant or concubine. It was socially acceptable. it was not, however, part of God's decree. And the "logical move" on the part of Abram added to the difficulty he would face, almost immediately. As soon as Hagar got pregnant by him, the fireworks started at home.

But God graciously chose to honor some of Abram's promise even with a child who was not the child of promise. Hagar's son, Ishmael, would himself be the father of an innumerable nation. We know them as Arabs today. And they proudly trace their lineage to this moment. But even this lack of  faith would be used by God.

For Abram, God would clarify that Ishmael would not be the son to inherit all the benefits of the covenant. Sarai would bear a son to Abram and the waiting, even after this attempt of their own, would make the prospect even more outlandish, pointing clearly to the power and promise of God and not the planning and cunning of a human answer. Through it all, God does not give up on Abram, even as he stumbles through the content of what he truly believed.

And, God help me, I am the same. I stumble through what I believe, not always responding as I should and hoping I can plan my way to something that I must trust God to bring about. That is why I need to read more of this story. It helps me know how to trust the God Who is wisely working His will in my life as well.

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