This is Why Promise > Possibility

This is Why Promise > Possibility May 12, 2023

God’s promise to Abram

God’s plan for our redemption didn’t begin with Jesus’ birth.  It started with a promise made to his great37-grandfather, a guy by the name of Abraham.

Back when he was still called “Abram,” God promised him things that would have been impossible for Abram to do own his own, and Abram knew it:

After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
    I am your shield,
    your very great reward.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?”  And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

(Genesis 15:1-7 NIV)


So, God has promised an old man with an infertile wife that they will not only have a child, but that their offspring will possess the land that will eventually be named after his grandson.

The thing about God’s promises, though, is that they don’t always come to pass right away.  About 10 years later—still no baby.

At this point, Abram is about eighty-five, and his barren wife Sarai is seventy-five.  She believed God’s promise up to the point of Abram fathering a child, but not as far as her being the mother.  So, she made a suggestion to her husband:

And so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Why don’t you sleep with my slave? Perhaps she can have a child for me.” Abram agreed with what Sarai said. So she gave Hagar to him to be his concubine. (This happened after Abram had lived in Canaan for ten years.) Abram had intercourse with Hagar, and she became pregnant. 

(Genesis 16:2-4a GNT)


Abram and Hagar were the parents of Ishmael, so God’s promise was fulfilled, right?

Wrong, actually.  God had promised a miracle.  Ishmael was not a miracle, because he was the result of Abram and Sarai taking matters into their own hands.

In other words, Ishmael was possible.

God’s plan all along, however, was to establish his covenant with Isaac, the child Abram (now Abraham) had with Sarai (now Sarah) at the appointed time.  The Bible says that even though Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn, Sarah cursed him, saying:

“Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

(Genesis 21:10b NIV)

So, what’s the big deal about this promised inheritance?  Well, Isaac was the father of Jacob, later renamed Israel.  He was the heir of the covenant promise made to Abraham, which was to inherit the land of Canaan, known today by his own name of Israel.
And Ishmael?  He became the father of many Arab tribes, including one who had a descendant named Muhammad.  Maybe you’ve heard of him.  He started a religion called Islam.  A lot of people that practice it think they ought to be living in the land of Canaan.  So, thousands of years later, there’s still war and stuff over this same strip of land.

And all because Abraham, the father of our faith, didn’t even have enough faith himself to go all in on God’s promise.


Hebrews 10:23 (NLT) on a blue sky with mountains in the background and a tree in the foreground on the left
God can be trusted to keep His promise. (Tito & Eva Marie Balangue/flickr)

God’s promise to us

So, what does this mean to us, the people halfway around the world who only read about the Middle East in our newspapers (or whatever it is that people read today that isn’t a newspaper)?

Well, thirty-seven generations after Isaac, the child of the promise, a boy named Joseph was born.  He had a wife named Mary who had a child named Jesus.  He made a few promises of His own, not the least of which was:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

(John 3:14-16 NIV)

Now here’s the interesting bit about that.  In saying this, Jesus extends the promise made to Abraham to “whoever believes” that he is the son of God.

“Whoever” can even include the children of Ishmael because the inheritance is now for any individual who believes, regardless of their bloodline.

In other words, Jesus is where the promise meets the possible.  He didn’t come just to save white, middle-class Americans like me.  He came to save the Arabs and the Jews too.  As John wrote in his vision of the throne room of heaven:

. . . with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.  (Revelation 5: 9b-10 NIV)

Some believe that peace in the Middle East is possible.  I wonder how a lasting peace could be possible when “possible” was what created their situation in the first place.

God’s promise seems like a better deal to me—a kingdom and royal priesthood made up of ALL who believe.  In heaven, there will be no white, black, Arab, Jew, male or female.  All people will have found their ultimate common ground in the person of Jesus Christ.

Until that day, seek the Truth of God’s promise in your life.  Don’t settle for what is possible by your own efforts.

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