Summary: Believing when all seems lost or hopeless
This year I began trying to memorize two verses of scripture a month. Somehow the word “hope” kept coming to mind so I decided to look up some verses on hope.
Afterall, with a new year we always hope we will be better people and things will get better etc.
But right away the hope I had began to vanish as the stock market plunged lower and lower taking our retirement savings along with it.
I heard of a friend’s infant son hospitalized and put on a heart-lung machine in intensive care.
I heard of a family member’s husband fearing loss of his job.
Everywhere I turned it seemed that “cope” would be the word for the year instead of hope.
But then I remembered the words of an old black preacher, Jessie Winley who used to say, “My God is not in any trouble at all.”
You see, it all depends upon where your hope is placed.
I was really intrigued when I looked at the scripture for this weekend when I realized it was my turn to speak. There was that word “hope” in Romans 4:18 used in a most unusual way.
It says, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…”
There was my answer. God is looking for his children to have a different kind of hope from the world.
Ours is to be a believing hope.
When God first told Abram that he would have a son and he waited 10 years and nothing happened, Sarai began to think she should help the Lord out. She offered her maid, Hagar to conceive the child through Abram.
Now it has been thirteen years and they have heard nothing more from God.
So is that it? Did Abram and Sarai miss out or misunderstand or mess up?
They must have wondered many times why their life seemed muddled and meaningless.
Then when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him.
He said, “I am God Almighty,”
This is the first time God has introduced Himself this way, as El Shaddai…the all-sufficient one.
What he is going to ask Abram to do will require absolute faith in the one who calls him to do it.
So it wouldn’t matter if Abram was nine hundred and ninety nine, because it’s not about him, it’s about God.
“Walk before me and be blameless,” God tells him. (Well, that would be an impossible assignment, wouldn’t it?)
But God says “I will confirm my covenant between me and you” and He goes on to say “I will” 7 times concerning the fruitfulness of Abram and Sarai and the generations to follow.
It is all possible by the name of God, the Almighty.
Abram is bowled over by this news.
God isn’t finished with him or disgusted with him.
He hasn’t missed out on the promise!
He falls flat on his face in awe before God.
Furthermore, God says he will give Abram a new name.
The name Abram means “exalted father.”
This must have proven to be an embarrassment many times over the years to Abram whenever he met someone new, and was forced to introduce himself.
“Oh, your name is Abram, exalted father. Congratulations! How many sons do you have?”
And the answer was so humiliating:…”none.”
How he must have hated the question.
Now he was the father of one and that was by a servant girl. (Still nothing to be exalted over.)
But God is ready to change all of that.
In Hebrew God added one letter to Abram’s name, the letter formed by the “H” sound of breathing out. The word for spirit, which means breath, is ruach in Hebrew, which is pronounced by expelling air.
God was adding His Spirit, His breath, to Abram and this would make all the difference!
The name Abraham means “father of many” and God promised to multiply him greatly so that he would become the father of many nations.
“Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.”
Sarai means “contentious.”
This speaks volumes about the home life of Abram.
He may not have lived up to his name around the house yet, but I’ll bet Sarai had lived up to hers!
She certainly was contentious instead of content when Abram did exactly what she told him to and slept with her maid servant, Hagar. The years after Ishmaels’s birth had been marked by contention in this household indeed.
But by God’s grace Sarai is also given the breath of the Holy Spirit to change her name to Sarah which means, Princess!
What a difference! Now Sarah would be honored in her household and loved by her husband and have a son of her own.
This kind of happy ending happens only in the realm of the Almighty God. The all-sufficient one.