Summary: We love to take matters into our own hands instead of waiting on God.
Abraham: Getting Ahead of God
Remember when you first got your driver’s license? You studied and got all the knowledge necessary to pass the written test, went to the office, took the written test, aced it, and then you had to take all the knowledge you had attained and put it into practice by taking the driving test. Some of us had no problem taking the theoretical and putting it into practice, but others of us, for one reason or another, just didn’t get it right.
Living life is like taking the driving portion of the license test. We have the knowledge of living a Christian life, or at the least we come to church, and study the bible, and pray, and we gain the written knowledge, but then we have to go out and put all that knowledge into practice, and sometimes we just don’t get it right. The biblical character Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, found this to be incredibly true.
Let me remind you about Abraham. When last we encountered him, he had just returned to the land God had promised him after a sojourn down into Egypt. God redeemed him and God restored him, even though he had faltered in his faith in God. Since that episode, Abraham has settled a family squabble with his nephew, Lot, and he has won a major victory over some invading allied armies, and in the meantime rescued the same nephew from those invading Kings. Three times since Abraham’s exit from his homeland has he received the promise of God, “I will make you a great nation.”
Repeatedly, Abraham has heard the promise and the voice of God. But after ten years of wondering when the promise would be fulfilled, he finally says to God, “What good is it to be a great nation if I don’t even have a son as an heir? I guess Eliezer, my servant, will be my heir” (Genesis 15:2-3).
God said, “No Abraham, I’m going to give you a son.” God said to Abraham, “I tell you what. Go stand outside and look up. See the stars? Can you count them? That’s the way it will be with your descendents” (Gen. 15:4-5). Then, verse 6 of chapter 15 says something very interesting: “And Abraham believed the Lord, and the Lord declared him righteous because of his faith.” There’s Abraham’s knowledge. He knows God’s promise. Now the test of living out the promise comes for Abraham.
After ten years of wondering, are we surprised that Abraham would ask a simple question, “Lord, how can I be sure?” (Gen. 15:8). God answers by making a covenant with Abraham. That was God’s way of saying to Abraham, “I’ll guarantee it, and here’s my guarantee.” God told Abraham what to do—lay out some animal carcasses in half—and when the sun went down, God came and danced as a flame of fire between those carcasses (Gen. 15:9-17). It was God’s handshake, God’s signature, and God’s seal all rolled up into one. So Abraham had the knowledge and the guarantee. But putting that knowledge to practice was another matter completely.
Let’s pick up Abraham’s story here in Genesis 16:1:
But Sarah, Abraham’s wife, had no children.
Despite the knowledge, despite the guarantee, Abraham and Sarah had no children. Bewilderment and discouragement are the words that best describe the problem of barrenness they faced.