I have been considering a phrase this week: “Don’t be afraid, you’re getting good news” and how Abram must have felt about hearing this from God (Genesis 15: 1-18). What was the good news? “I am your shield and your great reward.” Let’s, of course, remember that when God says this to Abram, the man has already rooted up his family and his work, moved them to another country. They have been through famine and then moved to another country where they ended up in trouble because Abram started to live a compromising life by passing his wife off as his sister. He was only half right, for she was his half-sister and she was very beautiful. He did not want to be killed so another man could have her and so there was a compromise. They came back to the Promised Land and there was still no baby. Lot separated from his uncle and went on his own, was captured and then rescued by God. Lot’s wife in the escape, became a pillar of salt outside the community. Still, Abram had no son, no heir. Abram has all that he could need and more but there was no son to pass on things to when it was time. The heir was a slave.
Abram laments the fact that there is no son. No heir. There is no continuation of the family line; no participation on creation. For all that he has, there is one thing that Abram wants that he is not able to get for himself. He needs God to make it happen. He laments his situation and points out to God that he has no seed – no sperm to make it happen. He reminds God that God promised him a son and calls on God to be faithful to his promise. Lamenting or complaining about life puts us in touch with our deepest hurts and our most powerful hopes. In complaining, we are also learning what is important to God and what his will is, that we might align with God’s will. As Scripture might remind us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37.3)
And if you know the story of Abram, you will know that things happen, people made decisions and choices and out of that, Ishmael is born to him: the son of the body. Yet God asks for Abram to be patient. Abram waited decades for God to fulfil his promise of a son. His wife was 90 when she conceived and birthed a son, named Isaac. He became the father of Jacob who had 12 sons who became the heads of 12 tribes of Israel. Ishmael too was blessed and became a nation because of his father.
Where does this leave us? We can also complain or lament our situation to the Father, but I think there are some things that we need to remember when doing so. This is to help us align with what God wants to do in us and through us. First, we need to remember to pray not just gripe. We have desires, wants and even needs that we want God to respond to. God can respond to us and our requests and do so with power. In complaining, there is still a hope within us that God will respond to us and our requests – even if it does not look like it is possible. Abram knew this. Hope expresses the fact that God is present both effectually and faithfully so. Prayer is a way of realigning ourselves with God because we know that God wants to be faithful to us and answer our prayers. More than that, God not only renew his promise of a child but expanded it to become a nation that Abram could not number. And Abram believed what God said to him and called him righteous and friend.
Moreover, we need to see that the Good News that we receive is that the child sent to us, the son is given to us the answer to our need for God dealt with death. IN order to be faithful to Abram and Sarai, and to David and to all those to whom God has made promises over the millennia, God became flesh and dwelt among us. God with the flesh on walked up the hill dragging his cross and gave his life so that we could in turn walk with him into eternity. That eternity for all of us begins in the here and now when we put our trust and begin to participate in Christ. God will get to the goal. God will fulfil his promise, even though there is pain and suffering, through blood and water and even through death itself. God wants to be faithful to you too.