Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Keeping a promise through a miracle (Genesis 21:1-8)

In what ways does God fulfil his promises? The answers to that question are many, and the author of Genesis details three divine methods in Genesis 21. The first is that the Lord sometimes fulfils his promises by a miraculous action, as he did in the case of the birth of Isaac.

Readers of Genesis have read about many events that occurred between the first promise given to Abraham concerning the birth of a son and the divine fulfilment of that promise. Of course, they do not have to wait as long as Abraham and Sarah did – thirty years. Yet eventually God did keep this particular promise and he gave a son to them. 

The obvious lesson from the prolonged period of three decades is that God’s people usually have to exercise patience. There are several reasons why God sometimes works in this way: one is to remind us that he is sovereign, another is to teach us that he knows the best time to work; a further reason is that often he delays his action until circumstances make it very clear that the action is a divine activity which could not be brought about by our own resources.

So how should we respond when we are the beneficiaries of a divine action? The response of Abraham and Sarah to the birth of Isaac shows us what we should do. 

First, the reception of such a blessing stimulated their obedience, and this obedience is seen in two ways – the name that Abraham gave to his son and the act of circumcision that he performed on his son. God had previously instructed Abraham that he should call his son Isaac (Gen. 17:19), which means laughter. No doubt Abraham rejoiced when he gave this name to his son. God had also instructed him regarding the necessity of his male descendants being circumcised (Gen. 17:12). The obvious deduction from the obedience of Abraham is that the reception of a divine miracle does not allow us to ignore or disobey God’s commandments.

A church gathering is full of miracles because they are the individuals who have undergone a greater miraculous birth than the birth of Isaac. Regeneration, or the giving of spiritual life, is superior to the experience of childbirth that Sarah went through. Our response to the wonderful miracle of regeneration should be similar to the two features displayed by the parents of Isaac – grateful rejoicing and eager obedience of God’s commandments.

Second, the reception of a divine action increased their sense of wonder. Their amazement is clearly expressed in the words of Sarah in verses 6 and 7: ‘ God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me…. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’ 

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