PMT 2014-069b by Don Strickland
When Abraham was first told that he and his wife, Sarah, would have a son in their old age, he believed what God promised to do through him (Gen 15.2-6). Years later when God repeated the promise to him, Abraham laughed and questioned how that could happen at his and Sarah’s age (Gen 17.17-18). It is interesting that God did not rebuke him. It is interesting because years later, when God again visited Abraham and again promised him a son through Sarah, Sarah laughed and wondered how it could happen. Only this time God rebuked Sarah (Gen 18.9-15). Was God being inconsistent? Playing favorites? Or even being chauvinistic?
No. Abraham and Sarah may have had similar reactions outwardly, but God knew the motive behind the reactions. We already know from Genesis 15 (and Rm 4.9-10 and Galatians 3.7) that Abraham believed God’s promise to him. Thus, since he was not rebuked, we can easily deduce that his laughter and words were from a heart overflowing with joy and trust in God’s promises. However, since God rebuked Sarah, and we know that God is completely consistent (2Chr 19.7), there must have been something fundamentally different about her reaction. Her questions came from a doubting heart that did not believe the promise (and thus, the mocking laughter). Therefore, she was called out concerning her lack of trust.
A similar incident is recorded in the New Testament. Zacharias is told he will have a son who would be the forerunner of the Messiah. He asks the “How can this be. . . ?” question, and he is rebuked and punished for his unbelief (Lk 1.11-20). However when Mary is told that she will bear the Messiah in her virgin womb, she asks “How will this be. . . ?” And her question is given an answer without a rebuke (Lk 1.26-37). Zacharias asked a question stemming from his disbelief in the promise of God. But, from what follows, we see that Mary asked a question from a heart of faith. For as soon as her question was answered, she entrusted herself to God’s will (Lk 1.38).
As an aside, one wonders whether Elizabeth, Zacharias’ wife, had either her then mute husband or Sarah in mind when she spoke to Mary, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:45)
We can learn at least two lessons from the above accounts. First, God is not offended or angered by our questions. He knows we are finite creatures with limited knowledge. An offense on our part occurs when we ask from a heart of unbelief. As we have seen above, one can ask the same question from a heart of belief or unbelief. So it is not the question, but one’s heart attitude that is crucial in this equation. Be sure, when you ask a question of God, that your heart is right. Have the attitude of Abraham and Mary.
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Second, the key to the first point is the second, believe God’s Word. He has made many promises to His
people. He will keep them. How does one know if he reads God’s Word with a heart of belief or of doubt? How is our innermost being responding? With mocking (“Yeah, right!”)? Or with joy and encouragement? Or could it be that our reaction is more subtle? God’s promises are at times associated with obedience on our part (for instance, Phil 4.6-7). Do we follow through on the obedience? And if we do not, what might that say about our belief in the corresponding promise?
Take God’s promises seriously with a strong belief that He is faithful to keep every one of them.