Let us pray: Dear Savior, as You meet us and talk to us via Your Word of truth, instill in us a loving trust. Empower our faith so that we never doubt You or inwardly mock the veracity of Your words, but like Abraham, take them for what they are: the Word of the Almighty God. And when we do, even life’s huge problems will be shrunk down to size. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR HOLY GOD WHO KEEPS HIS WORD!
TEXT: Genesis 18: 1-14
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Do you know where the word: worry, comes from? Its original meaning in old English was to constrict or strangle something with a rope! That’s a powerful image, isn’t it? And so the more you struggle against worry, the tighter and tighter it becomes increasing your struggles all the more. Thus, we have these synonyms for worry: to annoy, harass, plague, pester, tease, or tantalize. Worry is an internal problem we make worse by fostering anxiety within. And so, as one of my old theological professors used to say: “worry is a sin.”—It doubts God’s grace and care for His children and seeks to strangle, to cut off, our trust in Him.
That being said, Christians still give into worry. You do. I do. We toy with it daily, or at least weekly. Conversely, it also toys with us. And your good Christian cheer suffers. The sleepless nights, the inner anxiety and an upset stomach, that aching feeling of dread—these are all symptoms of worry.
If you boil it down, worry is all about a person’s lack, or perhaps loss, of control. As long as we think we have enough money in the bank, or enjoy good health, or are liked by another, worry doesn’t much bother us. But the moment any aspect of our comfort zone is invaded and we lose control in our lives worry surfaces. In a sense, the joke is on us, however. The fact is: none of us are ever really in control. Only God is. And since we know He infinitely loves us in Christ, we really never do have a legitimate reason to worry—about anything or to doubt that He will do the seemingly impossible for us! With that in mind, let’s focus on our lesson under this theme:
IS ANYTHING TOO HARD FOR THE LORD?
Let me refresh your knowledge of Old Testament history. Abraham and Sarah were married about 75 years before this story takes place. They lived in the Babylon area at that time. But under God’s direction through dreams and visions, Abraham took his new family and left that ancestral home for an unknown country that God would show him. Both these Christians obeyed God’s directives. Did they worry along the way? Perhaps, although Genesis really says nothing about it. Finally they arrive in the Holy Land. Eventually it takes on that very name because of all the holy events that occurred there and which surrounded this family. For the next 75 years, Abraham and Sarah become blest and wealthy. Great deeds surrounded his life. They were deeply in love, too. Sarah was also famous for her great beauty—even as she advanced in years other kings were desirous of her. God gave them everything they needed in life, except…. You see, God had promised them a son, an heir, through which a great nation would arise. More importantly, through this line of direct, blood descendents God would also send His Son, Jesus, to save the world including them! But now Abraham is almost 100 years old and Sarah is about 90. They have no son. She has never given birth to a baby and menopause is long past.
Do you think a bit of doubt, a bit of worry about this apparently long-forgotten promise by God to them—do you think it crossed their minds? Well, they were human like you, weren’t they?
Then, one day, the Lord appeared to Abraham in human form accompanied by two angels. Abraham didn’t immediately realize exactly who they were. But, as was the custom, he provided them a wonderful welcome, rest, food, and refreshment. “While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.”
Now comes the amazing news! “Where is your wife Sarah?’ they asked him. ‘There in the tent,’ he said. Then the Lord said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.’” Now, only God could have known the details about this long-promised child to Abraham and Sarah. So, obviously they now knew that God was directing this whole affair and He had appeared in their midst! Abraham apparently accepts this revelation with awe, joy, and total trust. Once more he is given tangible vindication of his faith in the Holy Trinity in the form of this prophecy. In that, I guess Abraham stands for the saint in all of us. The saint who clings to God and doesn’t worry because He’s in charge.
Ah, but as St. Paul tells us, we also have a sinner in us, too. And right here, Sarah personifies that sinner as shown by her response. “Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, ‘After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?’” Sarah is what we would call: a practical woman. She isn’t an idealist at all. She doesn’t express it out loud, but practicality causes her immediate reaction of doubt. Sounds a bit like you and me upon occasion, doesn’t it? Lest we be too hard on her, however, did you catch her last phrase?—“…will I now have this pleasure?” Just think about that. She still possessed a big heart which longed for a child, longed for the love that child would bring, and that baby would bring great pleasure to her. At this instant, she wasn’t thinking about how difficult it would be, how painful, or worrying about how an aged woman would raise a baby. No, a baby would be a huge delight. Right here we’re given an insight into her heart of hearts and it’s quite beautiful to behold, isn’t it?
Again, our all-knowing God was reading her heart, and He especially wanted Sarah to grow in her faith and trust in Him. So, Christ then said to Abraham, but really to Sarah: “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.’” Leaving the tent, Christ turned and looked at Sarah, who was feeling quite guilty, afraid of losing control over her life, and now worried at having disrespected God. Vs. 15 says: “Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, ‘I did not laugh.’ But he said, ‘Yes, you did laugh.’”
My friends, you probably have never thought about it this way, but worry and doubt are really human avenues for laughing at God. We can deny it, like Sarah, but it is still true. And yet, God is still faithful to us. He returns again and again to us with the forgiveness for all sins, including our “laughter”, the forgiveness that the baby Jesus, Sarah’s eventual grandchild, would win on the cross for her, for Abraham, and for you and me. And as He does so, He reminds us to always look to His cross and empty tomb to displace the worry and doubt in our minds. For the cross and empty tomb are God’s final answer to that ancient question: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” And the answer is a huge cosmic: No! Amen