A Laughable Promise
Don't Do The MathPastor Jerry Gillis - February 18, 2018
Community Group Study Notes
- What are the promises of God that you are struggling to believe? How does God’s past track record give you faith for the future?
- When we believe that God always keeps his promises (even when they may be laughable), how will that change how we live? What will be different about a person who has this unshakable trust in God?
- What is one action step that you can take based on what you heard in Sunday’s message?
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
A number of a years ago, one of Edie and I's friends that we know got pregnant around the age of 40, and she was a little bit out of sorts because she was like, "Hey, whoa." It was a surprise, right, I think. 40, she's starting to do the math in her head what that means and blah, blah, blah. I did an internet search because I'm thinking 40 still seems pretty young to me, particularly because I'm 48 now. Some of you who are like 25, you're going, "40's old." Let's be honest. 40's old. I got two words for you: Shut up. I say that with a heart of Christian love. I did an internet search for who's the oldest woman to ever have a baby, conceive a baby, and have a baby naturally. I had to work through a bunch of other ones who were a bit older because they had gotten in vitro fertilization at older ages in some other countries. I had to kind of work my way through that and then end up finding in the Guinness Book of World Records, they actually list a woman named Dawn Brooke from the UK who naturally conceived and gave birth at the age of 59. I know, that's what I was doing.
Here's what interesting about that. Every woman, when they hear that, whether you're a mom or whether you're not, whether you've ever given birth or you haven't, every woman is going, "Whoa," and starting to think about that. 59. Some of you are in that age range and you're going, "That's hilarious. I don't even know how it's possible, frankly." That's what all of you women are thinking about. No man in this room or under the sound of my voice on any campus anywhere is actually thinking about the woman. They're thinking about her husband and what it was like when heard the news. As a heads up, he was 64. I just got to tip my hat to the brother. I'm like, my man was 64. She's 59. Wow.
Now, if you're a man getting that information, here's the good news. I actually have some video of him when he initially received the news. This is what his face was right when he initially. I'm sorry, what? Then, when he realized that she was serious, because at first he's trying to process, but then when he realized he was serious, this was his response. No. No. Then, shortly thereafter, when she finally said, "No, this is real. This is actually happening," this was his response. Yeah. I can't imagine, to be quite honest with you, I can't imagine what that would look like because I would start doing the math if I'm the husband. I'm 64. I'm having a kid. When he graduates high school, I'm 82. I'm hoping at that point that they stream to care facilities because that's where I'm going to be, probably, cheering him on, "There's my boy." That's what I'm going to be doing potentially. Then if I'm doing the math, going, yeah, when he gets married, I will have been with Jesus for a decade probably. That's what's going on in my head.
The math just doesn't work when you're 64 and your wife's 59 and you're giving birth. It doesn't work, but that, my friends, is child's play compared to Abraham and Sarah. Abraham was 100, Sarah was 90, and they had a baby. Don't even bother trying to do the math at that point because that is almost ridiculous to think about. Now, what also kind of struck me about that story is that the story's conclusion of, hey, she got pregnant and had a baby, was stated in the Bible in Genesis chapter 21. If you want to find your way there, turn your Bible or on your device or whatever to Genesis 21. What's so interesting about it is when you read the conclusion of the story, it's just so matter-of-fact. I would think give me something more here. This is just so matter-of-fact. In fact, look at it. Genesis 21 verses one and two, "Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age at the very time God had promised it."
That seems just so matter-of-fact. I would think to myself I would need a soundtrack associated with that, like you're reading it and it's like (singing). I'd be thinking to myself dude's 100, she's 90, this deserves its own movie soundtrack and some sparklers and fireworks and stuff. It's just matter-of-fact. Yeah, God said he would do that, and he did. She gave birth. They were old. It's like okay. That's the conclusion of the story. Move on. They're just 100 and 90 giving birth. Move along, but there's backstory. That's why in Genesis, you start reading and there's lots of backstory. Some of the backstory's important for us because you start recognizing that this was pretty extraordinary. You don't just come upon this out of nowhere. You've read some of the backstory.
In fact, let me show you some of the backstory in Genesis chapter 18. It says, "The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby." Now, don't get too confused. The Lord appeared to him, and it says three men were standing there. It's kind of what scholars call a theophany. It's like an appearance of God through another vehicle, so to speak. These three men were standing nearby. When Abraham saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, "If I found favor in your eyes, my Lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat so you can be refreshed and then go on your way now that you have come to your servant." "Very well," they answered, "Do as you say."
Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. "Quick," he said." Quick, she's almost 90. "Quick," he said, "Get three seahs of the finest flour and kneed it and bake some bread." Then he ran to the heard and selected a choice tender calf and gave it to a servant who hurried to prepare it. Then he brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. "Where's your wife Sarah?" They asked him. "There in the tent," he said. Then one of them said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year and Sarah, your wife, will have a son." Now, Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him.
Abraham and Sarah were already very old. Sarah was past the age of childbearing. She's roughly 89 right here in this part in the text. Would that be fair to say she's past the age of childbearing? That's the understatement of the century. Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out," can I get a witness, ladies? She's 89. She's saying, "After I am worn out and, by the way, Abraham is no spring chicken." That's the original Hebrew. That's what it says right there. "My Lord is old. Will I now have this pleasure?" Then the Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child now that I'm old?' Is anything too hard for the Lord? I'll return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son." Sarah was afraid so she lied and said, "I didn't laugh." Abraham said, "Yes, you did laugh." This is an extraordinary story, isn't it, when you start reading the backstory.
These men show up. It says that the Lord kind of came and spoke and appeared, so to speak, and kind in the form of these three men. It's a unique kind of thing. Abraham sees them and says, "You know what? I'm going to give you some stuff." In the ancient world, what they did is they often under-promised and over-delivered. That was kind of the nature of how they did what they did. Let me get you some water so that you can have something to drink and wash your feet and stay a moment. I'll get you some bread to eat. Then he shows back up. Sarah's in there baking bread. Then he sends one of his servants out and he kills a calf and he prepares him some barbecue. He puts all this out in front of them. He feeds them more than what he said he was going to. He prepared all this stuff.
Here is their question, "Where's Sarah?" Now, if these were just regular people who were traveling through and he was showing some hospitality to them, asking that question would have been very impolite and offensive because functionally it was like what they were saying is, "Why are you the one waiting on us? Where is she?" That was kind of the ancient customary process in the ancient world. "Where is she?" Abraham's answer was very simple, "She's in the tent." Now, you and I when we read that with Western eyes and Western minds, we don't pay any attention, like, "She's in the tent." That'd be like us saying, "Yeah. My wife's in the house," but here's what many scholars believe and I actually do too. I can't necessarily prove it, but there's Biblical and historical information around the idea that when a woman, listen to this, when a woman is ultimately confined to the tent and can't come out, it's during the time of the month for that women. Can I just leave that there?
The reason for that is because she would, in their minds, corrupt or make impure other folks that had engaged with her or whatever. They actually, in that timeframe, and you can actually read this Biblically because there's other stories that kind of confirm this and kind of ancient understanding helps us to see that historically. They stayed in the tent basically through that timeframe so that they were not creating a ceremonially impure kind of setting for anyone else. That was their understanding. I find it interesting that when he says, "She's in the tent," that Sarah must have, at some point, after she was baking bread, because obviously some of the natural processes of what would happen in a woman who is able to bear children would not have been happening in Sarah's life for decades. If they were happening in her life at that moment, at that exact moment, Abraham would have never said, "Help me bake some bread." He wouldn't have said that.
Apparently, when one of these men said, "I'm going to be back in a year. She's going to have a son," and she's in the tent because maybe some of the natural processes that occur with a woman who is able to bear children were now happening in her life, and as a result, she's cracking up, "When I'm old and worn out, we're going to go this now. This is what's going to happen now." She's laughing, "Am I going to get this privilege now?" It's an extraordinary thing, really, when we start to think about exactly what was happening here. I can't help but laugh when I think about it myself because it's so beyond my ability to compute because the math just doesn't work.
You know what's interesting? That's why when we get back to Genesis chapter 21 after we've read some of the backstory, we get back to Genesis 21, it starts to make sense to us because Genesis 21 verses one and two and then verse five, listen, it's concentrated on God and what God said and what God did because it's so beyond our ability to grasp it. Look again in verses one and two of Genesis 21, "Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age at the very time God had promised him." Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born to him. You see, the concentration here is actually on what God did, what God said, what God promised. This was much bigger than just Sarah and Abraham. This was about what God was up to.
Now, the simple truth that we can take from Genesis 21 in this story is this: God keeps his promises even when they're laughable. This is kind of the fundamental truth we see in Genesis chapter 21. If any promise is laughable, let's see if this one qualifies. You, sir, are 100. You, mam, are 90 and you're about to naturally conceive a child. Does that constitute a promise that is laughable? I would say yes because if that was said to me, I would have cracked up as well. I would have started laughing myself. God keeps his promises even when the math doesn't work. God keeps his promises even when it's laughable. Now, here's the thing. What I want us to see is I want us to see a couple of things about what this teaches us about God because when we start to understand God rightly, we start to have a view of the world that is right. When we understand God in kind of a broken way, then we don't understand the world the right way. What this teaches us is it teaches us a couple things. There are some lessons we can learn about our promise-keeping God, the one who keeps his promises even when they're laughable.
The first lesson that I think we can pick up is this. God's goodness is the foundation for his promise. Now, I want us to look again in Genesis 21. Look in verse one again. It says this, "Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said." Now, in some of your translations, you may be looking at an alternate translation than what I'm looking at here. If you're reading in the ESV or some other translations, it might say, "Now the Lord visited Sarah just as he had said." Now, the idea here is this. Those translations aren't in conflict at all. The idea is this. God did for Sarah what he said he was going to do. He visited Sarah through his grace and his goodness and they were now able, when she was barren for her whole life, for basically 90 years, God created a way in which she was able to now have a child. Even though it was through natural means, Abraham was a part of the process.
God gifted that to them. Why? Because he's good and because he promised something, listen to this, that wasn't contingent upon them. It was contingent upon him. God's promise was based in his character. It was based in his own goodness. He's the one who made the promise and they weren't going to be able to mess it up because God made the promise based in his goodness and based in his character. You see, when you open the Book of Genesis to chapter one, we're in chapter 21 right now, but when you open it in chapter one and chapter two, we see God is good right away. You say, "Wait a minute. Isn't that where he created everything? Don't we see how he's powerful?" Yep, we see how he's powerful, how he's creator, but do you remember after everything he created, he said, "This is good." Who's able to say that when no one else is around? Only the one who knows what good is because he is good can proclaim something is good when no one and nothing else exists. The good God is revealed to us in Genesis chapter one.
As we unfold the pages of Genesis, we have seen that God is good. In fact, when he calls Abraham, back in Genesis chapter 12, when he calls Abraham, we see God actually doing something unique out of his own goodness there when he's making a promise to Abraham. Look what it says, "The Lord had said to Abram, 'Go from your country, your people, and your father's household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you. Whoever curses you, will curse.'" Listen to this, "'And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.'" What a promise to a man who didn't have any kids and who was already pretty old at this time. So Abram went as the Lord had told him and Lot went with him. Abraham was 75 years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions they had accumulated and the people that they had acquired in Harran. They set out for the land of Canaan. They arrived there.
It's a startling thing when God makes a promise to Abraham, listen to this, that doesn't have anything to do with Abraham. I'm not saying Abraham's not involved. He's involved, but it's not about him. It's actually about what God is going to do through Abraham because he says, "Through you, I know you don't have any kids, but through you I'm going to bless the entire world. Your offspring is going to be like the stars of the sky, like the sand of the seashore. I know you don't have any kids yet, but I'm making a promise. I'm making a covenant with you that has everything to do with my goodness and with my character, not yours." That's a startling thing. You see, listen, God's goodness is the foundation for the promise that he ultimately is going to make. This promise was actually headed somewhere. It was headed somewhere.
Now, what do I mean when I talk about his promise heading somewhere? Listen to this. Jot this down. God's promise is for God's purpose. God's just not making random promises to just go, "I'm just throwing some promises out." God has a purpose in the promises that he's making. For every promise that God makes, he has a destination that he's trying to reach. Think about this. This promise that he was making to Abraham and Sarah, it involved Abraham and Sarah but it wasn't just about Abraham and Sarah. When you get to Genesis 21 and it says, "Hey, God told Sarah this. Just like he said, God did what he promised for Sarah." This promise wasn't just about Sarah. It wasn't just about, "Hey, I know you haven't had a child and it's been a really long time and I know you want one and so I'm going to give you one." It was that. It wasn't, "Hey, I'm having compassion on you and I'm going to open up your womb so you're able to conceive a child," and all that kind of stuff. It was way more than that but it was that but it was way more than that.
You see, he had a purpose in this promise and that purpose was he was going to transform the world. He was going to bless the world through your seed, Abraham. That's how he's going to bless the world. He said "your seed," not "seeds," plural. You see, that promise was actually headed somewhere. Where was that? Paul tells us in the Book of Galatians very clearly, doesn't he? He says, "Understand then that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announce the gospel in advance to Abraham, 'That all nations will be blessed through you.' Those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith." The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his what? Seed. Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person who is Christ. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise. You see, listen to this, God's promise is for God's purpose. It's actually headed somewhere. Whatever the promise is that God makes to us, it has to do with us but it's not all about us because God's doing something bigger and deeper and richer and further and, in this case, God was doing something that had much more to do with the blessing of the world than it did with just Abraham and Sarah even though it involved them.
It was a number of years ago, 15-ish. This August will be 16 years that I've been at The Chapel. Some of you are going, "What? Feels like it's been two." Some of you are going, "What? Feels like it's been 80. Thought you were ready to move on. Get out of here." 16 years this August. When I got here, I knew I was walking into a congregation that was thinking about what the future looked like and all those kind of things. That's partly why God called me here, is because the people of this church were thinking about the future. Pastor Al who was here kind of transitioning the church was thinking about the future. In coming, I realized, you know what, I've got a responsibility kind of figure out. These are my people, man. I don't mean mine as in I'm the pastor of. I mean these are my people. This bubble, these are my people now. I'm coming and these are my people and this is my church.
They had already been engaged in something prior to my arrival because they were trying to think about what it meant to expand and grow a little bit on the campus that they were on of North Forest. Of course, when I came, we were still at the North Forest property there. They had planned a thing called Chapter Two, where they had begun to take up some money to think about what expansion would look like on that campus. We soon realized, they soon realized that kind of the idea of moving into the future that Pastor Al was like, "You know what? I don't want to do that until really we found the pastor who's going to be here leading into the future. I don't want to commit him to some plans or whatever." We talked to the church about that, he did. There was some money that was set aside.
Edie and I got here and we realized we didn't get to participate in that and we were kind of beyond that. We just kind of prayed about, "Lord, how would you help us? We want to actually give backwards. We want to actually give to Chapter Two even though it's kind of not doing anything right now, but we want to be a part. These are our people. This is our town. This is what we want to be a part of." God led us to do that and we had the opportunity to do that. God specifically told us to pray about and think about giving a month's salary and just saying no to getting a paycheck for a month and just giving it. We prayed about that. Then Edie said, "You better do it." We did. The math didn't work and all those kind of things, but God supplied because we wanted to lead with integrity and we wanted to be a part of what God was calling us to do and all those kind of things even though it was before us, it had happened before us.
As the church began to grow a little bit, we began thinking to ourselves, "What do we need to do?" We realized that the answer wasn't on our own campus. As a church, we began to pray and we just called our folks to pray. Those that were here remember this. We just began to pray, "God, what would you have for us? We know that this isn't going to work because of the size of the campus." We were in two services when I came. We went to three shortly thereafter. Then, in just a short period of time, we were in four services on a Sunday. I was probably, at that point, probably 33, 34 going on 180 preaching four times every week. It was exhausting and all those kinds of things. Volunteers were being stretched. We were like, "This isn't going to work here." We started saying, "Okay. We're going to investigate and we're going to take a look around."
The first place we looked, first property we looked at was at CrossPoint business park, first place we looked. We met with the owners of the business park and we said, "Hey, what would be the possibility of us kind of coming in there or whatever?" They immediately said, and they were kind, very wonderful people, but they said, "Hey, we're not selling any of this. This is a business park. We own all of this. We build the buildings. People lease from us. That's kind of how we do what we do. That's our business." We're like, "Okay. Understood." We left that alone. We ended up going to, listen carefully, 50, 5-0, 50 places we investigated, 5-0. We were taking a look at all kinds of different places, some in a lot of depth, some in not as much of depth. We were thinking about retrofitting certain buildings in our region. We were just trying to figure it out. We were like, "Lord, we don't know what's happening."
We knew we had a little bit of money in the bank and we were hoping that that would give us an ability to buy property, but we started learning very quickly that commercial property, just as a heads up, commercial property, expensive. Just a heads up, very expensive. We had a little bit of money in the bank that was going to help us maybe with some of that, but, you know. Then we had decided we needed a certain amount of space because, for the future, we didn't want to do the same thing to ourselves like move to a space that had the same amount of space as where we just left. That wouldn't make sense from an acreage stand point. We were like, "Okay, we need at least this." We started looking, looking, looking. Our church is praying, praying, praying. We're looking, looking, looking. We're doing this for months, 50 places. We're basically at nowheresville by the time that we're done. Nowhere where we feel good, nowhere where we feel confident, whatever.
We get a phone call. It was a phone call from the owners of the business developers of this business park, called and said, "Hey, would you get together with us for breakfast?" Um, okay. We go to breakfast. I don't remember where we were. I do remember what it looks like. I was actually fasting at the time because I'm thinking, "Bummer. Going to breakfast." I like breakfast. I do. I like breakfast, particularly somebody else invited me. It's even better. It's like free breakfast. There's just me. It was myself, Pastor Al, and David Campbell who was our executive pastor at the time, who's still a member here, and maybe Skip Hartman was with us. I'm trying to remember. I can't remember everybody who was there. Anyway, we went and they were there. They had this like flipboard. What? Got a flipboard at breakfast? What kind of conversation is this? I'm going to have a little more orange juice. Just drinking my orange juice.
They said, "Hey, here's the deal. We know you guys have been looking around. Have you found anything?" "No, we haven't found anything yet." "How many places you looked?" "You don't want to know." "Well, I know you talked to us originally but let me tell you what we're willing to do." I think this is how this went. I can't remember exactly. It was a long time ago. I think he said, "We have a parcel outside of the business park right across Hopkins that, if you'd like to buy, that you could buy." We were like, "Wow. That's super gracious of you." That wasn't even on the table before. We're like, "Wow. That's gracious. How big is it?" They were like, "It's 18 acres." We were like because in our minds, we wanted to have 30 is what we were asking the Lord for. I kind of just said, "Thank you so much. That is so gracious, very much appreciated, but it's not enough space."
They said, "Okay, how about this?" We also talked about the ease of access and kind of getting variance and traffic patterns and all that kind of stuff is probably not going to work. They said, "Okay. We'd thought you'd say that." He flips the flipboard and I'm like, "Might need another one of these, a little OJ." Flips the flipboard and says, "Okay. Well, here's the deal. We'd actually be willing to sell you a parcel in the business park." I'm kind of starting to go, "In the business park, like where there's access and all that kind of stuff?" He said, "Yep. It's the parcel we're on right now." He said, "We'd be willing to sell you that." I was like, "Okay. How big is it?" "15 acres," he said, "but it's in the business park. I think it will meet your needs," blah, blah, blah. I'm going, "Well, thank you so much." We just basically said, "Thank you so much. You've been so kind. We really appreciate that but we don't feel like it's going to be big enough for what our needs are, but you've been so gracious. Thank you very much."
He said, "I thought you'd say that." He says, "How about this? We'd be willing to sell you both of them and that would give you 33 acres." I said, "How much are they?" He told us and, in my mind, I was going, "Jesus, that's too much money. We don't have that. The math is not working. Commercial property is stupid expensive. Help me. Help me." Put it down and I said, "You guys have been unbelievable. Just that you've even offered all this to us is incredible, but now you've come all the way to giving us enough property that we can't reasonably afford and we don't want to put ourselves in that position because we'd have to build a facility and all that kind of stuff and raise money to do that. Thank you. So kind of you." Of course, at this point, I'm trying to sneak over, going, "How many more flippies does he have? How many more flippies does the guy have?" He says, "We thought you were going to say that. Here's the deal. If you will buy this parcel, we will give you the other parcel." He was out of flippies, by the way. I was confirming that as I was sucking the orange juice.
I was like, "So how much for the parcel that we have to buy, just so I'm clear again?" It was what we had in the bank. We just had to pay for it and then he was going to donate the other parcel, which was roughly about a $2 million land donation. Here's the thing. God did that for us as a church, but it wasn't just for us because we have folks now in Lockport who are being reached and are worshiping because of that. We have folks in Cheektowaga who are moving into their own place because of that. We have Niagara Falls that we're coming to at some point as God leads and gives us wisdom because of that. We were able to grow and grow and grow so that we had the resource to able to plant other churches outside of ourselves and partner with other plants such that we will by about maybe four or five or six months from now will have planted or partnered to plant, if my math is right and no promises, about 33 churches in our region as a result of that that we have helped to plant or we have planted ourselves. Listen. When God promises, he has a purpose and it involves us but it's not just about us.
Where did it come from? Where does this promise come from? His goodness. His purposes are based in his goodness and what he wants to do in the world. The foundation for his promise is his goodness. Let me give you a second thing. Don't want you to miss this. God's promise is the foundation of our trust as well. Not only is his goodness the foundation of his promise, but his promise is the foundation of our trust. In other words, he can be trusted to do what he said when he's going to do it. Look back with me in Genesis one and two. Here's what it says, "The Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age at the very time God had promised him." You see, here's the thing. We can be confident when God makes a promise that the foundation for our trust is the promise of God. We can rightly put our trust in his promise. Do you know why? Because the collateral backing of his promise is his character, is his nature, is his goodness. That's contingent upon him. That's why we find a secure place when we put our faith and our trust in God and in his promises.
Too often what we do is we put our trust in things that God hasn't promised. We try and make him into our own image. Then we get disappointed with him and blame him because he didn't deliver on things he never promised. That's where things get hairy for us. Sometimes the promise doesn't materialize quickly, does it? It just doesn't. It does not materialize quickly. Ask Abraham and Sarah if it materialized quickly. Remember, if you look at the progress of this and the process of what happened with Abraham and Sarah, sometimes you have to wait in terms of the promise made. Sometimes you have to wait for a little while, but God's good for it because he said, in Genesis 21:2, he said, "He did what he had promised at the very time that he had promised to do it." We don't always know when that is, but when we track the process, we can start to see.
Look backwards with Abraham and Sarah for a moment, Genesis 15. It says, "After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, 'Don't be afraid, Abram. I'm your shield, your very great reward.' But Abram said," remember in Genesis 12, he made this promise, "I'm going to bless the world through you," but Abram's like, "I don't have any kids." Abram said, "Sovereign Lord, what can you give me as I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" Abram said, "You have given me no children, God, so a servant in my household, Eliezer, will be my heir." But 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 he 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 to him as righteousness. That's a startling thing. Abram's like, "I don't have any kids so my heir is going to have to be Eliezer." He's like, "Don't worry about that. I'm actually going to give you a kid that's your own flesh and blood."
Listen, he still wasn't sure how that was going to play out. Look what it says when you skip ahead to Genesis chapter 16, "Now, Sarai, Abram's wife, had born him no children." By the way, she didn't know at this time in Genesis 16 that she was included in the promise. She didn't know. She knew Abraham was promised that, that it was going to be his own flesh and blood. Here's what she did. She had an Egyptian slave named Hagar so she said to Abram, "The Lord has kept me from having children. Go sleep with my slave. We got to help out God's promise here. Go sleep with my slave. Perhaps I can build a family through her." Abram agreed to what Sarai said. After Abram had been living in Canaan 10 years, remember, he left Harran at 75 years old. Now he'd been in Canaan for 10 years. He's still old. Sarah, his wife, took her Egyptian slave, Hagar, and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress, Sarah.
Now they've tried to help out God with the promise. Then fast forward to Genesis 17. God also said to Abraham, "As for Sarai, your wife, you're no longer to call her Sarai. Her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations. Kings of people will come from her. Abraham fell face down and he laughed." Is this a recurring theme? He laughed at himself and said, "Will a son be born to a man 100 years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of 90?" Abraham said to God, "If only Ishmael," the child that was born to Hagar, "might live under your blessing." God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I've heard you. I will surely bless him. I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of 12 rulers and I will make him into a great nation, but my covenant I will establish with Isaac whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year." This is startling when you begin to think about what God has promised and how he has promised it.
Here's the thing. Here's what we see when we backtrack it. God is faithful to his promises even when we struggle to believe them, even when the math doesn't work, even when it's laughable. God still is faithful to his promises. We see that in the life of Abraham and Sarah. It had to be humbling for Abraham and Sarah when the child came because they ended up naming him. In Genesis 21 in the next verse, verse three, it says, "Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him." You say, "Why would that be humbling?" Because the name Isaac means he laughs. That's what the name means, he laughs. Who was laughing? Abraham laughed, "I'm 100. She's 90." Sarah laughed when she was in the tent, "I'm old and worn out. You've got to be kidding me." I don't know. Maybe God laughed at the thought that somehow he couldn't fulfill the promise he made because of the character of his goodness.
I don't know how it all played out, but they all laughed and named the child Laughter. You know what God did? He redeemed that even in Sarah's laughing of unbelief and Abraham's laughing of disbelief and astonishment. Listen to what Sarah said in verses six and seven. Sarah said, "God has brought me laughter and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me." She added, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have born him a son in his old age." God redeemed in her life and in her heart. It's a beautiful picture. God keeps his promises even when they're laughable. Why? Because he's good and his promise has everything to do with him more than it has to do with us.
I don't know where you are today. You might be holding to a promise that God never made and, as a result, you've been disappointed with God for the wrong reasons. Maybe you've embraced a dream that you have for yourself that God didn't dream for you and you've been disappointed for the wrong reasons. I want to remind you of a couple of things. I want to remind you that God is good and that he knows better than you and that his ideas are better than your ideas and his dreams are better than your dreams even if you don't fully understand them and even if you don't recognize them. Some of you, maybe you're waiting on a promise that you feel like God has made and you're taking him at his word and God showed you through his word this was a promise from him but you're waiting. It hasn't happened yet.
You need to learn from Abraham and Sarah. It was a quarter century before they saw the fulfillment of the promise. He left at 75 from Harran. God spoke to him in those moments to tell him that he was going to bless the world through his offspring. It wasn't until 100 that he saw that reality. You need to be patient with the one who fulfills his promises when he wants to fulfill them because God's promise is always for God's purpose. The only who knows the timing of God's purpose is God. We have to leave that with him and trust him with that. You have to think about Abraham and Sarah but I would encourage you too, if you're waiting on a promise, think about Israel.
For as far back as we look in the Book of Genesis, we know that the seed has been promised who would bless the world, who would change the world. We know that in tracking that generation after generation after generation after generation, hundreds upon hundreds of those generations, that they also knew that this seed would come through the line of David and be a king who would be a messiah who would rule and reign. After all of these generations, over however many years and centuries that we could think about, finally at just the right time, the New Testament tells us, at just the right time Jesus came because God's promise is always about God's purpose. I imagine when Jesus came, it seemed a bit laughable. A teenage mom who'd never been involved sexually with the man she was engaged to be married with is now pregnant. That has to be somewhat laughable. Mary literally is saying to God, "How can this be?"
I imagine it was laughable to an onlooking world because this supposed king who was going to rule over everything was born in relative poverty and was placed in an animal feeding trough when he came. Yet, God always keeps his promises even when it's laughable. That promise was the seed of Abraham, was a king in the line of David, was the messiah that was promised through Isaiah. He came and he lived sinlessly, went to a cross to die for the sins of the world to satisfy the justice of God, got up from the dead, demonstrated the kingdom that is among us. By faith in him, we can be reconciled to the Father. He ascended back to the Father. He has promised he is going to return. That promise is secure because it was made by a God whose character is good and who wants the world to know him through his Son Jesus. God's promise has a purpose and he will always fulfill his promise even when it's laughable.
Now, here's what you begin to see. God's promise is Jesus. In fact, listen to how Paul said it. It's beautiful. "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are yes in Christ." They are yes, why? Because, listen to this, as I told you earlier, stay with me. We've got some good stuff. Stay with me here. As I told you a few moments ago, God's goodness is the foundation for his promise. Then I told you that his promise is the foundation for our trust, but what we see played out is that Jesus is the promise, which means God's goodness gave us Jesus and Jesus is the foundation for our trust. That's why our promises are always well-foundationally situated in the nature and character of God and that we can put our faith in those promises because they are backed by the collateral of God's own character, of how he's revealed himself in the person of Jesus the Son.
I know I'm giving you a lot to think about, but let me break it down for you for a second. I know where some of you may be today. For some of you, it may feel laughable that one of your friends or family members who you've been praying for and who basically hates God and generally hates people, it's laughable to you that they could change, but you've forgotten the promise that Jesus said, "Whoever comes to me, I will in no way cast out." Even if they who have, up to this point in their life, shown this, just like the apostle Paul did who was killing people in the name of Jesus who then was converted. You want to talk about somebody who everybody must have thought, "That's laughable to think of Saul actually ever coming to faith in Jesus Christ." You might think that's it's laughable potentially as you think about yourself as someone who is weak as you think you are, it's laughable for you to think about making a difference in the world and changing your world in any particular way, but you've forgotten that Jesus promised that for every person that puts their faith in him, he will give us power by the Holy Spirit. You've forgotten his promise.
His promises, he'll always be good to even if they're laughable. It may seem laughable to you that you can even see a future through your job loss and you don't really know what's going to happen, but you've forgotten the promise that Jesus said he will provide every need that we have. "Look at the birds of the field. They neither spin or toil and I take care of them. Don't you think I'm going to do that for you?" Maybe we've forgotten and find it laughable that people would even stick around when we mess up because our whole life, every time we mess up, we get marginalized and pushed to the side and left. You've forgotten that Jesus said, "Never will I leave you. I'll never forsake you and I will be with you to the end of the age." You see, even when the promise seems laughable, he's good for it. Why? Because he's good. You might find it laughable that your heartbreak or your trauma, you might find it laughable to even think about the possibility of a future or a hope, but you've forgotten maybe the promise that Jesus reminds us of through the spirit, that he will work all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.
Maybe you think in this evil crazy world where all kinds of craziness and nonsense happens, it's laughable to ever think that righteousness and truth and peace can rule and reign in the world that we live in, but you have forgotten that Jesus said, "In the same way that you have seen me go from the Mount of Olives, I will come back." He will reign in righteousness and peace and truth and the government will be upon his shoulders. Even if the timing seems delayed, the promise is good. Lock it down because he said it and it is based in his goodness and in his character. Why does he do all these things? Because he's good and we can trust him even when it's laughable. Now, here's what I want you to do. Give me a moment or two. I want you just to bow your heads wherever you are and I want you to reflect right where you are on the goodness and on the promises of God in Christ. Just reflect on it for a moment. Maybe there's some promises that he's working in your heart based upon his word. Maybe you've been waiting forever. Unfortunately, maybe you're disappointed in God because you've made up the promises based on what you want instead of what God said. I want you just to reflect on the goodness of who he is. I want you to reflect on his promise because of where it is.