Summary: This sermon deals with Abraham's patience in claiming the promise
When Michel Angelo was 72 years old he started work on the monumental dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. When Galileo was 74 he published his dialogue concerning two new sciences. When Stradivarius was in his early 90s he fashioned two of his most famous violins. When P.T Barnum was 71 he joined James Bailey to form the Barnum and Bailey Circus. When Abraham was 75 years old God commanded him to leave his home in Haran and move to the land of Canaan. And because of his obedience, because he believed the promises of God, not only did Abraham get mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11 the scripture that Ruth read this morning but we have the nation of Israel as well. But it wasn’t that simple, it didn’t just happen, as a matter of fact even though Abraham lived a long time after the promise was given, he didn’t see it fulfilled. But that didn’t mean that he stopped believing the promise.
When God spoke to Abraham he told him, “I want you to leave your family, your home, everything you have accumulated because I have big plans for you. I am going to make you the father of a great nation.” I’m sure that Abraham’s response must have been “Cool, when will I see this happen.” And the truth was that he was never told when it would happen only that it would happen. Abraham and Sarah, his wife, were childless, it would appear that even when they were younger they were unable to have children and now that they were getting along in years, probable, which had become possible, now had gone to improbable and finally impossible. Abraham the father of a great nation? Abraham wasn’t even the father of single child.
If we pull up a map we can see that this is where Abraham was from, Way down here was Ur of the Chaldeans, and it was from here that Abraham’s father Terah moved his family to go to Canaan but instead settled here in the village of Heran. We don’t know how long Abraham and his family lived in Heran but it was while they were still there that God told him to leave the home that he had established there. Eventually Abraham and his clan settled here in Shechem but God hadn’t revealed that destination in the beginning, all God had said was “Go to the land that I will show you.” Didn’t give him directions on how to get there, didn’t give him a road map or a Fodor’s travel guide, we don’t know that he was a member of the UCA, that would be the Ur Camel Association. All we know is that God told Abraham to go and Abraham went. The story keeps getting better though. Because once Abraham and his household had arrived at Shechem the Lord appeared to him and said “I am going to give this land to your offspring.” Which must have been a surprise to Abraham seeing he didn’t have any offspring, and yet still he believed.
And if you’ve read the book of Genesis you know that for the next twenty years the story continues, Abraham and his wife Sarah move to Egypt during a famine, then they move back to what would come to be known as the promised land, there’s the entire story of how God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins. But still no offspring, but the promise was still there. And then almost twenty five years after that original conversation Sarah conceives, in Australia they would say that Sarah fell pregnant, and considering she was 90 years old it was lucky she didn’t break a hip.
But having a child, although a pretty spectacular feat when both participants are in their nineties still wasn’t the entire promise. The promise was that Abraham would be the father of a great nation, but when he died he had one legit heir, Isaac who had married Rebekah and they would have two children Jacob and Esau. And Abraham was buried in a cave that he had purchased to bury his wife Sarah. Quite a nation huh? And you start to think that maybe the story is over, and yet, if we go through Jacob and Esau and see how Jacob who would come to be known as Israel had 12 sons we think, you know this might work. But a great famine came upon their land and they had to move to Egypt and you think that maybe the story is over, especially when you see their descendants become slaves of the Egyptians. But 400 years down the road a man name Moses leads the slaves out of Egypt and after another forty years of wandering in the wilderness they find their way back to land that God had promised them. But it’s another four hundred years before this group of nomadic tribes becomes a great nation. In total almost 900 years has passed from the promise to the fulfilment of the promise. 900 years, I find it difficult to be kept waiting an hour. 900 years.