Genesis 15: In the Meantime and other ramblings

There is so much important stuff in Genesis 15 that it’s difficult to even express it all. Several years had passed, and yet Abram and Sarai had none of the offspring God had promised. Despite all that God had done for them in the meantime, it was entirely natural for them to question and doubt. Several things hit me in this chapter:

  1. Doubt and faith are not opposites or enemies. In fact, they are partners that go hand-in-hand. If there was no room for doubt, there would also be no need for faith.
  2. God does not respond harshly to questions asked honestly. In fact, although He may not immediately fulfill the promise, He will respond favorably. In Abram’s case, He did not yet provide the child he and Sarai longed for, but He did (a) reiterate the promise that they would have a child and (b) clarify a bit how that child would be received: it would come from Abram’s own body.
  3. In Genesis 15:6, Abram believed God even though God’s promise of children was not yet fulfilled. That is, even though he did not yet have the promised offspring, Abram resolved to act as though he did in the meantime. So much of life is in the meantime! The extraordinary thing about faith, the reason it is so special in this world and essential to God’s plan for the next, is that we have decided to act as though God has already fulfilled His promise even while we wait.
  4. Faith does not preclude doubt. In fact, the two can – and, I would submit, must – exist healthily side by side. Even after he believed, Abram yet questioned how he could know. He wanted certainty, just like us. God understands that, and He doesn’t respond to lingering doubt with wrath. He doesn’t suddenly and miraculously provide Abram with a child, nor is Sarai spontaneously pregnant. In fact, it would still be years before Isaac would be born. But God does give Abram something: a demonstration of His power which Abram could take as a gesture of God’s good faith. When we ask questions honestly, God responds faithfully. The problem arises when we absolutely refuse to be satisfied with anything other than the immediate realization of the promise. When we do that, we’re just like the kid in the grocery check-out who throws a temper tantrum because he doesn’t get the candy he wants.

Ask honest questions. Expect honest answers. Believe that His promises will be fulfilled and act accordingly, even in the meantime. Be willing to be satisfied with a mixture of faith and doubt.

This is such a deeply satisfying – and challenging – chapter!


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