Lately I have been reading from Genesis (NLT version). I love this book, a tale of beginnings, promises, hopes and waiting. This book establishes our relationship with God as creator.
The story of Abraham and Sarah (or Abram and Sarai, before the name change) is obviously a story I’m interested in, because its about promises, infertility and legacies.
It starts in Genesis 11:27
This is the account of Terah’s family. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. 28 But Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, the land of his birth, while his father, Terah, was still living. 29 Meanwhile, Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah. (Milcah and her sister Iscah were daughters of Nahor’s brother Haran.) 30 But Sarai was unable to become pregnant and had no children. 31 One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram’s wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. 32 Terah lived for 205 years and died while still in Haran.
Ur of the Chaldeans means ‘reducer’. In other words it means, diminish, recede, ruin, weaken. A great place to live right!
Haran means ‘dry up’ or a better translation may be ‘depression’. It is halfway, in the middle of the journey to where they were intending on going. It was an average place, neither great nor bad and so they settled.
But Abraham refuses to settle like his father. He hears God calling him out of Haran, where they all settled as a family and takes upon the promise land of Canaan, which was originally promised to his father. This makes me wonder, is it possible to take up other peoples promises because they choose to settle? Is it possible that someone else takes my promises because I settle for less than what was intended for me? Abraham packs up his family, lifestock and leaves his country, family, security and goes where God leads, with the promise that he will be the father of a nation. He is 75 years old.
They wander around for a quite a while. They stay at a number of places including:
Moreh – possibly meaning ‘sacred tree’
Negev – meaning ‘dry’
Hebron – meaning ‘unite’ (incidentally this place is where King David becomes anointed and Caleb ends up owning it)
Gerar – meaning ‘lodging place’
During this wandering time God reiterates His promises to Abraham again and again. Both Abraham and God are developing their relationship, Abraham continually gives God the glory for what is going on around him, and God continues to repeat the promises in different ways.
My favourite, and the most well known, has to be the conversation under the stars. God and Abraham are having a conversation about the promises being made and Abraham is having a hard time getting his head around it (who can blame him) and God pretty much says, “get out of the tent and look up.”
So many times I can become enclosed in my little tent, its hard to focus on anything else but the walls surrounding me. Thinking becomes small, narrow and confined. “Get out and look up” is a directive to change position physically, mentally, and emotionally. Its a request to change what I’m looking at and an invitation to be in awe of God. Once you’re in awe of God and His creation you can’t help but change. I like how God draws Abraham out to be in wonder of his creation, when they are talking about creating life. God made Sarah and is well aware of her barrenness. He created her. He is talking about creating a life in her. He is talking about creating a healing within her. He is saying to Abraham that he wants to create a miracle. All the while Abraham is looking at his creation of the night sky. I love how God understands that sometimes we just don’t get it. And that sometimes we need tangible, physical things to help wrap our heads around what He is saying. The stars are an awesome metaphor for the promise He is giving.
But 11 years later, Abraham gets impatient with God and tries to bring about the promise his own way. He sleeps with his wife’s servant and has a son. The first born son has much favour and blessing and Ishmael is indeed blessed, princes come from his lineage and many descendants came from his line, but it’s not how God intended it to happen.
13 years later, God reminds Abraham and Sarah of the promise He has made many times. Again and again He tells them of the great plans He has for them. I think at this point I would be feeling a bit fed up. And I can understand Sarah’s laughter (Genesis 18:13) at being told that she will have a baby. If it was me I would think it was starting to get a bit beyond ridiculous. I like Sarah, I would be feeling just as cynical and impatient as her.
I like the kind of relationship that Abraham and God have established. God reveals some plans that He has for Sodom, that – to me – He really didn’t have too or need too. I think He wanted Abraham to have a say and allowed him to change his plan (Genesis 19:29 But God listened to Abraham’s request and kept Lot safe…). To me this shows trust in Abraham and further develops the relationship they have with each other, as well as revealing more of Gods character to Abraham.
Then, 25 years after the command to leave the place of Haran and the promise was made to Abraham that he would be the father of a nation that would become God’s chosen people, Isaac is born!
Genesis 21:2 She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, Gods timing is perfect. But He’s missed some awesome opportunities to be early. I mean really God, 25 years for a promise? I’m so glad that I can trust that God is working things out for the right time, and I’m continually developing this trust. Although it may seem, to little ol’ me, that God isn’t working at the speed I would like I can trust that He knows best. I’m beginning to understand that His timing is perfect, my understanding is not.
Abraham got impatient with God, and tried to create the promise through his own means, yet Abraham is still listed among the great men of the Bible, a man of great faith and obedience and he has a song, father Abraham had many sons. Had many sons had father Abraham… (Ah. Childhood memories.) But best of all, Abraham wasn’t perfect and God understands that, He created us, He knows our hearts and in His mercy and grace He forgives us.
Abraham did not see the promise of the multitude of nations nor the possession of the land promised to him by God, yet he faithfully believed that despite the odds, the facts, the statistics, the situation that it was possible. He believed in God enough to obey Him, no matter what. Even when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham was obedient to God, and knew God enough to know that he had heard from God in the first place! It’s more than a story, it’s about a man who refused to settle, who had a relationship with God that enabled him to live a life of obedience and faithfulness.
Here I am, on this journey of infertility and finding myself also wandering around, visiting different places. Not physical habitats like Abraham mind, but places of sorrow, pain, hurt, joy, hope, dryness, faith, and doubts. Maybe visiting these places are part of my journey with God and along the way we shall develop a relationship and God will reveal more of His character to me. Maybe, at the end of this journey, God and I will find ourselves occupying a whole new place. Along this journey I, like Abraham, will have to fight for something, I will have some land to claim, some wells to dig and I will have to spend some time out of the tent. By the end of this particular journey, whether it be months or 25 years away, I hope that it can be said that I walked with obedience and faithfulness and have left a legacy worth following.