Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 Psalm 22:22-30
Romans 4:13-25 Mark 8:31-38
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I know of a young couple who tried for years to have a child. All sorts of specialists were engaged in all sorts of ways to ensure conception. Nothing happened. Medical science as advanced as it is, was stuck. After a break from treatments the couple resolved to give medical science one last shot. But the specialist they saw said “I can do nothing for you. You are six weeks pregnant”. Can you imagine the joy for the couple and the soon to be grandparents ? How do you explain that ? What used to be called a barren woman (although a man’s fertility if I recall carries responsibility too, Henry VIII being the most infamous example of misunderstanding genetics) became pregnant. It’s nothing short of a miracle !
Now Abram and Sarai weren’t burdened with gynecologists and in vitro, or petri dish paraphernalia, they just had the equipment God had given them. They too had tried hard for decades – decades – because pregnancy was a matter of pride for the woman, you probably remember how dejected Hannah, Samuel’s mother, was before she became pregnant, and how she suffered taunting from Peninnah, her husband’s fecund other wife. In the same way children were a question of pride, success and succession for the man. Shame accompanied barrenness, for both. And as Abram, the leader of a tribe could not have children, it caused political and social problems as well.
They had taken things into their own hands too before Isaac came along. In desperation, because they didn’t have modern technology, they opted for another method to have a child, one we call surrogacy today, Abram took a concubine and had a son they named Ishmael. Now as you can imagine when Isaac was born all sorts of tensions arose, Sarah wasn’t happy, and ‘when momma’s not happy, nobody’s happy’. God stepped in and solved the problem as God always does. He split the family. God exiled Ishmael and his concubine mother Hagar, but because He is a loving God took care of them and made Ishmael the father of a great nation too. Leave it to God to sort things out ! I think God sometimes sits back to see what his curious creatures will do next, but He is always ready with His Bounty to clean things up, He is more absorbent and stronger than any other god.
Abraham and Sarah learnt a valuable lesson and it’s one we should take heed of “Wait for the LORD” (Psalm 37:34). The full verse is “Wait for the LORD, and keep to his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on the destruction of the wicked”. We live in an impatient society; instant coffee, instant noodles, instant cereal, instant answers, instant lotteries, instant gratification, instant everything. Now Abram and Sarai were the same, they wanted everything right away. God had already told Abram that He would make him a great nation with more descendants than the sand on the shore and stars in the heavens (Genesis 22:17) but just like us twenty-first century souls, he just couldn’t wait. So he thought he would give God a hand. Frankly, God doesn’t need one. ‘Wait on the LORD’. That doesn’t mean we should sit idly by, by no means, because we are called to do certain things, but taking extreme action is not required. I can understand the young couple using everything that modern science can offer but in the end it is God who gives life and our every prayer should be giving thanks for that.
And not to be mistaken about it, God has given us inquisitive minds, if we didn’t have them, we would never bother to seek Him. That inquisitiveness can lead us to triumph, the triumphs of medicine for one, or to disaster, starting with Adam and Eve saying ‘I wonder what that apple, that forbidden fruit tastes like’. ‘Oh Temptation! Get behind me because you make me think about earthly things not heavenly things’. Earthly things satisfy the body, heavenly things satisfy the soul. Which one has the greater benefit ? Here’s a case in point. If I sit down and stuff myself on a delicious turkey dinner, with a good wine to wash it down, all I want to do is to sit down after eating and rest, inevitably that will lead to a satisfying belch, and it’s over. But if I experience something sublime like a favourite aria or the Swan, I am transported to realms unknown. Which one would I prefer over time ? The sublime, of course, because it will stay with me for ever. I want to be with God forever so my path, our path is clear.
Now science can do some wonderful things and that is why God made us inquisitive. He told Adam in elemental terms that he would survive only from the sweat of his brow ploughing the soil (Genesis 3:19). Updating that a bit, the fields of the mind ploughed by our inquisitiveness have brought us to a point where we can provide enough food for everyone alive, where we can cure or prevent many diseases, where we can generate wealth by being resourceful, where we can visit the moon and asteroids, where we can develop philosophy, where we can devise good social systems. God does not want us to live back in the Bronze Age with Abram and Sarai, God wants us to prosper and grow forward, and discover Him. Part of that journey depends upon us seeking God but God is the One with the Plan and all things depend on Him, from childbirth to death we are in God’s hands, so I say ‘Wait on the Lord’ as in “Thy will be done” all will be made right. If we mean that prayer, we must live it too. Amen.