Posts Tagged "Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7"

Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord?

December 11, 2019
By Rev. David French

When Abraham was 75 years old, God told him to leave his country and his home and go to the land of Canaan. God promised Abraham that he would make him into a great nation and that all people would be blessed through him and his descendants. Even though Abraham was childless, he followed God’s command. Abraham went with Sarah his wife, a few relatives, and all their possessions to this new land in which they were strangers and foreigners.

The Lord later told Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. It is written that Abraham believed the Lord’s Word, and God accounted it to him as righteousness. Abraham trusted God’s Word, without any evidence, and because of his faith in the Lord’s promises, he was declared righteous before God.

In today’s reading Abraham is ninety-nine years old and Sarah, his wife, still has had no children and is, of course, now past the age of childbearing. Abraham, however, is still clinging to the Lord’s promise despite the fact that, humanly speaking, it seems impossible. You can imagine how their faith must have been tested during those twenty-four years. It appears that Sarah has all but given up on the promise. But in the midst of his weakness, Abraham continues to hold to God’s Word.

Advent is all about that sort of waiting in humble faith. Not only did Abraham wait for the fulfillment of the promise, not only did the people of Israel wait for the coming of the Messiah, but now we wait for fulfillment of the Christ’s salvation on the Last Day at His second coming. As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’s first coming at Christmas, we pause to consider how much of the Christian life is characterized by waiting, looking forward in hope to what is yet to come.

Sometimes the waiting can be discouraging. It can seem so long. The doubts begin to creep in: “Is the promise really real?” Our hearts begin to focus on other things, things that give us more immediate gratification. We push the promises of Christ to the side instead of dwelling on them in faith and eagerly anticipating their fulfillment. Patience doesn’t come easily for sinners. But, we are reminded in the psalms, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage” (Ps 27:14).

We see that steadfastness being demonstrated here in the life of Abraham and Sarah. In His grace, the Lord comes to Abraham to announce that the waiting is just about over. Abraham prepares a special meal for his special guest. And in the context of that meal, the Lord confirms the promise one last time: “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son” (v 10). In the same way, the angel of the Lord also came to Joseph in a dream to announce Mary’s pregnancy by the Holy Spirit: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). The waiting was almost over for the whole people of God; the Christ was coming.

Sarah and Mary’s reactions, however, were a bit different. When Sarah heard what the Lord said, she laughed and said to herself, “After I am worn out, and my lord [husband] is old, shall I have pleasure [of having a child]?” (v 12). Sarah focused entirely on the unlikelihood of the whole idea. Mary also wondered how she, a virgin, could conceive. But when the angel explained that it was by the power of the Holy Spirit, she said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Mary responded in faith, focusing only on the words spoken to her. When confronted, Sarah tried to deny that she had laughed, but then the Lord asked the question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (v 14).

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Certainly not; and that includes not only causing miraculous births, but also saving poor, miserable sinners and giving them new life. At one time Jesus’s disciples were concerned that if even the most admired people on earth are not good enough to get into heaven, who then can be saved? Jesus said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mk 10:27). No one can enter the kingdom of God by their own strength, but God has made the impossible possible through Christ. Even we poor sinners are saved by his holy birth among us. Though we were dead in our trespasses and sins, God made us alive with Christ through his death and resurrection. Nothing is too hard for the Lord, not even saving us. That is the promise that God calls and equips you to believe.

Abraham believed that nothing is impossible with God. He believed, as Romans 4 says, God “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” In hope, he believed that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told. Nothing could make him doubt the promise of God. The truth is, Abraham grew stronger in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

God has done the same thing for us. He has brought life out of our death and has given us joy and laughter through the birth of the Son of God. The long-awaited promise of the Savior has been fulfilled. In Him, we are set free from sin and fear and death. In Him, we have hope in the midst of this fallen and hopeless world. In Him and his cross and his resurrection, we truly are the children of Abraham.

Keep in mind that Abraham was father to Isaac, Isaac was father to Jacob, Jacob became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, and out of Israel came Jesus who is Christ the Lord, and we have been baptized into Him, and so, made one with him by faith. As God reveals through Paul, “It is written, ‘If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring’” (Gal 3:29). And just as Abraham was counted as righteous before God because of his faith, so too are we who believe in God’s promises in Christ counted as righteous in His sight.

You see, God has done for us the same thing he did for Sarah and Mary. He has created in us, by the working of the Holy Spirit, new and eternal life. Out of the barrenness of our sin, He has created a living faith. In the emptiness of our souls, He has caused Christ to dwell, to fill us with his love and his mercy. That is, He makes our hearts his dwelling place. You see, nothing is too hard for the Lord.

In His name, Amen.

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