Summary: Clre Booth Luce once said, "There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them." We’ll examine hope through Abraham’s life as referenced by Paul in Romans 4.
Finding Hope in a Hopeless World
Rev. Brian Bill
Good morning. My name is Abraham. I thought it was time for me to speak to you since the Apostle Paul has been using me as an example in Romans 4 and your pastor dropped the ball by only alluding to me last week. I think he needs to do a better job so that’s why I’m here today. Sometimes he gets so fixated on the Promised Land that he forgets that the promise of a luscious land flowing with milk and cheese (I mean, honey) was given first to me. Another reason I thought you needed to hear from me today is that while am honored by Jews, Muslims and Christians it seems that Christians know less about me than the sons of Isaac and the sons of Ishmael do. Another reason why I wanted to speak to you is because I come from the part of the world that has grabbed headlines today. I grew up in Iraq and eventually settled in what you know as Israel. Finally, I wanted to speak to you because many of you are having a hard time with hope. Some of you feel hopeless in your heart. I’d like to share my story so that you can find hope in a hopeless world.
I should say at the beginning that I’m embarrassed at the thought that the Apostle Paul and other writers hold me up as an example. If you’re going to copy anything about me, please don’t mimic my conduct or follow my compromises. I am simply a simple man who strived to take God at His Word. When God promised something I tried to believe Him, even though I bombed on many occasions. I told some big lies at least twice (that you know about), which put my wife in danger and I tried to make things happen according to my timetable many times. But, by God’s grace, I was always drawn back to believing in the promises and power of God. As you’ve been learning through your study of Romans, I was not justified by my behavior, but by my belief in God. Moses captured it simply and succinctly when he wrote this summary statement in Genesis 15:6: “Abraham believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”
Your pastor didn’t give me much time this morning so if you want to learn more about my life you should read Genesis 12-25. I had been pretty comfortable living in Iraq when God appeared to me, giving me a command and a promise. Incidentally, this is always how God works. When we obey Him, we experience His promises and we end up being blessed, but I’m getting ahead of myself. God called me to leave my country, my people and my family and go to a land that He would show me. I was told that God would make me into a great nation, that He would bless me and through me all peoples on earth would be blessed. I didn’t really understand this, and certainly wondered why God would make that kind of promise to a pagan like me, but I obeyed, taking my wife Sarai and my nephew Lot with me. I was 75 years old at the time. I should say that some of you are getting up in years yourself. Don’t think that God is done with you. If you’ve been on the sidelines, it’s time to get back in the game. I should also mention that while I obeyed and went to the land God directed me to, at the first sign of trouble; I resorted to my own resources. Faced with a famine, instead of going to the Lord for help, I decided to go to Egypt. The very first words from my mouth recorded in Scripture involved deceit, as I told my wife to lie when the Egyptians asked who she was. I was horrified by what happened next and realized how sinister and selfish I can be. I was struck by how quickly I headed south when things got tough – not just geographically, but also spiritually. I suspect the same kind of horrible stuff has taken harbor in your hearts as well.
God’s promise that Sarai and I were going to have a child was both puzzling and maddening. I was way past my prime and my sweet Sarai had never been able to have children. The only thing she had given birth to was hopelessness and despair. In our culture childlessness was considered a curse. When I told my wife that we were going to have a child, she thought I was just playing a cruel joke on her. I remember negotiating with God and asking him if this promise could just be poured out on my servant Eliezer. God patiently redirected me, telling me to look up at the heavens and count the stars, telling me that that I would have a son from my own body and that my offspring would outnumber the stars in the sky. God even entered into a covenant of blood with me to show how serious He was.