(originally published December 3, 2012)
For our final look at Romans 4, we will be breaking down verses 17-21.
"We call Abraham 'father' not because he got God's attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn't that what we've always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, 'I set you up as father of many peoples?' Abraham was first named 'father' and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, 'You're going to have a big family, Abraham!'
Abraham didn't focus on his own impotence and say, 'It's hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.' Nor did he survey Sarah's decades of infertility and give up. He didn't tiptoe around God's promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That's why it is said, 'Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.' But it's not just Abraham; it's also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God."
Take this to thought for a moment. Abraham and his household lived in an area with quite a bit of traffic and met many travelers each day. We can assume that as the travelers passed through and Abraham met them, they would exchange the customary greetings. He would instinctively tell these travelers his name (which means "father of many"), and since a name meant something in those times, people would no doubt respond with, "Oh, wonderful! How many children do you have?!" Of course, Abraham would have responded with, "None." We can imagine that Abraham would hear the confusion in the voice of these travelers response. Another likely scenario would be that of Abraham walking by the tents at night, at times hearing his servants whisper about how a man named "father of many" had no children.
Abraham had every reason from human perspective to give up. Yet Abraham believed God when he said that Abraham would have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. Why? Because his faith sprang from the promises of God. It was not irrational or baseless, but an assurance from evidence in the security of God's Word and promises. He concluded that the certainty of the divine promise outweighed every natural improbability.
Where in your life are you focusing on the natural improbability instead of believing in God's promise(s) for your life?
Abraham was first named father and then became a father. He dared to trust God to do only what God could do. Yes, Abraham was 100 years old and certainly beyond the ability to have children. And yes, Sarah had been infertile for decades. But he didn't focus on that. V. 22 says that he "plunged into the promise."
Plunged: To immerse, to enter with sudden decision upon an unfamiliar course of action. (dictionary.com)
I get this picture in my mind of running full on and doing a cannonball into the water. Just going for it, without looking back and becoming completely immersed.
As much as Abraham plunged in, neither did he shut his eyes to the unfavorable circumstances. I believe this is a trap for many, including myself. You try to convince yourself that if you ignore the problem or pretend it doesn't exist, it will go away. That's not biblical and certainly not what Abraham did. He carefully considered his age and Sarah's infertility...and realized that God's ability outweighed their inabilities.
Are you closing your eyes to an unfavorable circumstances instead of looking to God, the One for who nothing is impossible?
Abraham's faith did not become weak or doubt, nor did it become discouraged by natural weakness. His faith was fully assured that God would do what He promised.
The word "faith" is used 5 times in this passage. This word has an emphasis that it was faith that secured what God has promised. We must be people of faith! In Hebrews 11, it says that faith is a conviction of things not seen. Does that not represent Abraham completely?!
What promise(s) have you received from the Lord that will require your faith?