During February, we’re looking at different characters in the Bible and what we can learn about patience from them. This week, we’re looking at Abraham.
Our verse is Genesis 17:17, and focuses on Abraham’s reaction to God’s promise that he would become the father of nations:
Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”
I think it really helps to look at the context here. At this point, Abraham is 99 years old. 99! There’s no wonder he laughs. Not only that, but his wife, Sarah, is past the age of childbearing and has been so for years.
Moreover, he was given the promise that he would become a father 24 years previously, in Genesis 12. Then God spoke to him again in Genesis 15. So despite God having given him clear promises, and an amazing experience of God, Abraham still doubts.
I can completely understand this. 24 years is an incredibly long time to wait. While they are waiting, Abraham and Sarah take matters into their own hands, and Abraham sleeps with Hagar, Sarah’s handmaiden. She becomes pregnant with a son, Ishmael, who becomes one of the forefathers of Islam.
Then, finally, in Genesis 21, Sarah and Abraham have a son: Isaac. Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” I think Sarah’s laughter here has a real connection to Abraham’s laughter in 17:17.
After thinking about Abraham and Sarah’s story all week, here are the things I think their story can tell us about patience.
God sometimes requires patience
God had promised something truly miraculous to Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation.” That is a huge promise, and when it occurred was an incredible, mind-blowing miracle.
But Abraham had to wait for 24 years. Of course, we don’t know if God was always going to make Abraham wait that long, or if Abraham had certain things to learn before Sarah got pregnant, but God certainly made Abraham learn to be patient.
God encouraged Abraham when he had to wait
One of the things I really liked about reading the whole story is that God doesn’t promise Abraham and then fall silent for 24 years. Instead, God promises Abraham he will have descendants in Genesis 12, Genesis 15, Genesis 17 and Genesis 18. God keeps encouraging Abraham and reminding him of the promises he has made.
I think God understands our human impatience. Although time is immaterial to God, He understands that we too need regular encouragement. So I think it’s ok to ask God for encouragement when you’re facing a time of requiring patience.
Taking matters into our own hands can have disastrous consequences
When Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands, they really displeased God. This is really a case of them pushing forward without praying. This is very different to prayerfully stepping out.
If they had prayed, they would have realised that adultery was not the way to start God’s chosen race. Instead, their decisions caused pain and conflict, and Hagar and Ishmael had to eventually leave.
God forgives our impatience
The verse we have studied comes after that event. Despite Abraham and Sarah’s mistakes, God still blesses them with Isaac. He is faithful and he does keep his promises. We see God’s forgiveness time and time again in the Bible. He really does understand our human weakness.
God rewards our patience
God rewarded Abraham’s patience massively. In Genesis 24, it says, ‘The Lord had blessed him in every way.’ He was wealthy. He had vast and plentiful lands. He was a powerful authority. He was becoming the father of a great nation. He had a close relationship with God. I honestly believe that God acknowledged Abraham’s patience by giving him all these material rewards. It was also a matter of inheritance: a son would inherit Abraham’s wealth, but before his sons were born, his wealth would have gone to a servant. So the reward of Isaac is even more significant.
If we look ahead in the story to where God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham’s obedience becomes even more impressive. We know how long he had waited for Isaac’s birth. But I suppose he had also learned his lesson about obeying God, and he certainly knew of God’s miracles.
Next week, Rachel is focusing on Joseph, and this verse in Genesis 40:14: “But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharoah and get me out of this prison.”
Pop over to Rachel’s blog to catch up with last week’s post on Patience, and to sign up for our Mummy Meditations Community.