Summary: God makes promises that are too hard to keep. But God keeps them.
Genesis 18:1-15 “IS ANYTHING TOO HARD FOR THE LORD?”
Have you ever heard someone make a promise that seemed unrealistic? Maybe you even laughed to yourself when you heard it. The other day, I saw an advertisement by a construction company that was promising that they would build you a maintenance-free home. I didn’t know they made those! No maintenance, ever – can you imagine? Maybe some of you are living in one of those maintenance-free home right now. Anyway, I laughed when I heard that promise – it didn’t seem realistic to me.
This past week there was a lot of coverage of the Democratic National Convention. That’s a reminder to us that the election is coming – just three months away. And what do candidates that are running for office do? They make lots and lots of promises. And you have to be careful when you’re a politician – you don’t want to make a promise that seems too hard to keep. Can you imagine if a presidential candidate would say, “If you elect me, I promise that I will completely fix the social security system. I will fix all the problems associated with our health care system, I will eliminate all the terrorism in the world, I will eliminate the national debt, and I will cut your taxes in half. I promise to do all these things for year over the next four years.” If a candidate for president made promises like that, would you vote for him? Or would you think, maybe he has lost his mind?
And yet, those are the kinds of promises that God likes to make. Have you ever noticed that, while reading through the Bible? God likes to make promises that seem like they would be impossible to keep, at least, from our human point of view. Today, we’re going to look at a moment in the Bible when God seems to go a little too far in his promise-making. We’re going to see how sometimes that gives us human beings some trouble. As we look at this story, we’re going to gain a clearer picture of God’s grace, and what it means to have faith, in a God who loves to make impossible promises.
Genesis 18 is where we meet God today. Abraham was an old man, 99 years old, and he was sitting in the shade, in front of his tent. It was a hot, middle-eastern afternoon, and Abraham was taking a little siesta. When he looked up, he was surprised to see 3 visitors standing in front of him. He quickly jumped up and began to show them some hospitality, as was common in his culture at the time. As these 3 visitors sat in the shade with Abraham, they asked him where his wife Sarah was.
Then one of them spoke up. He was obviously the leader of the three, and as he spoke, it became very clear to Abraham who this man really was. Verse 10: Then the Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son." This was God himself, speaking to Abraham in human form. And he was making a promise to Abraham, that a year from now, Abraham would be the father of a brand new baby boy. Now remember, Abraham was 99 years old, and his wife Sarah was 89. Back then, it is true than they did live a little longer that we live today, but not much longer. Picture a modern-day couple in their middle 70’s. This was the couple that was going to have a baby? It seemed like a silly promise. Verse 11 tells us: “Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.” Not even our modern-day fertility clinics would be able to help this couple. What God was promising here was scientifically impossible.
But isn’t that how God is? He likes to make promises, not just here, but all over the Bible, that seem to be impossible to keep. This past week, at our Bible information class, we talked about some of God’s outrageous promises. All over the Bible, Jesus promises that someday, he’s going to end the world and return. That seems like a pretty amazing promise. But even more amazing is that Jesus promises that on that day, when he returns, he’s going to physically raise from the dead every single person in this world who has ever died. That’s quite a promise. One person in our class asked, “But what about those people who have been cremated?” Seems like it would be impossible, doesn’t it? And just think of the sheer numbers. How in the world is Jesus going to raise from the dead all those people? But that’s what he promises to do. Another promise in the Bible that seems pretty extreme is when God promises you that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). Have you ever thought about that? In all things! Not just in some things, or a few things. But in every single thing that happens to you in your life, God promises you that he will work it out, whatever it is, for your good and the good of those who love him. Once again, it seems like a pretty extreme promise to me.