• The Explore the Bible lesson for Nov. 15 focuses on Genesis 21:1-8.
Matthew’s Gospel begins in a way peculiar to most Americans, unless you subscribe to www.ancestry.com. Genealogy was very important to ancient Israel, hence we find genealogies scattered across the Bible. Matthew begins his genealogy by saying, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).
So great is God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah that Matthew makes reference to Jesus being a direct descendent. Of course, this was the essence of the promise to Abraham all along—that he would father a great nation. That promise found the ultimate fulfillment, not in Israel becoming a nation, not in their conquering nations, but in Jesus, the Son of God.
Imperfect people experience God’s perfect timing
Twenty-five years after the original promise was made to Abraham, Genesis 21:1 proclaims a beautiful thing about our God: “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised.” Yes indeed, the Lord was gracious. His graciousness was shown many times over those 25 years, in many different ways, but the specific promise of a child was what Abraham and Sarah were waiting for, and not always patiently.
Even while Abraham and Sarah tried to scheme their way into having a child, God still poured out his graciousness in keeping his promise. That is the nature of our God. Even in our own sinfulness, even when we don’t understand, even when we run from him, his faithfulness and graciousness come breaking through. And the author of Genesis takes it one step further: “Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised” (Genesis 21:2). In God’s perfect timing, he kept his promise.
God’s promises are rarely on our timetable. However, God’s timetable is never wrong. That must mean our timetables are wrong. According to the book When Helping Hurts, Americans have the most extreme view of time on the world stage. Specifically, we believe “time is money.” Well, time is not money. Time is time, and money is money. Americans view time as a commodity to be spent rather than enjoyed. Therefore, we move so fast we rarely take the time to relax, enjoy, be in relationship with others, or even “smell the roses.” As a musical I recall proclaimed, “We wants what we wants when we wants it, and we wants what we wants right now!”
In our hustle-and-bustle lifestyle, we quickly lose sight of God’s perfect timing. We especially are impatient with God. It appears Abraham and Sarah grew impatient as well, so perhaps we are in good company. Let’s not forget Isaiah’s words: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). God’s timing is perfect. We can trust him even when we are feeling impatient.
A hilarious image
After Isaac’s birth and circumcision, while Sarah is nursing Isaac, she says, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me” (Genesis 21:6). And why wouldn’t she laugh? Abraham and Sarah were 191 combined years of age when Isaac was born. I suspect she probably laughed many times as she nursed Isaac or simply enjoyed looking at him. Can you even imagine? She was 91 years old and nursing her first child. God had been faithful. And when you think about it, this story truly is hilarious.
God get’s the last laugh
The congregation I pastor has a strategic partnership with a church in Germany. My wife and I have very close German friends named Jens and Tamara Kunze. Jens is like a brother to me. We’ve walked through some difficult things together. I can trust him—a precious gift to any pastor.
Unable to have children for almost a decade, Jens and Tamara became foster parents to two girls. Because their mother is not from Germany and was living there illegally, the family always feared the girls would be deported with their birth mother, even after living with the Kunzes for several years. Many times, we would receive a message from our friends asking us to pray these precious girls would not be deported, even though their mother was in trouble with the law. Every knock on the door brought fear an official would be there to remove the girls along with their birth mother.
Even in the midst of all of that turmoil, the Kunzes agreed to foster a little German baby boy. His mother was only 14 when he was born, and she decided he needed adult parents. They quickly learned how different it is to raise a son compared to a daughter. They also got to experience “baby life” as they started fostering him when he was 6 months old.
And then God got really funny. After a decade of trying to have children, then after five years of fostering children, Tamara got pregnant. They were shocked. Doctor after doctor had told them there was absolutely no way for her to get pregnant. Well, the doctors were wrong. And so our goddaughter was born—a little miracle baby girl, and a true beauty.
Great news came to the Kunze family when the law changed in Germany. No longer did they have to fear their foster daughters would be deported, because they were given the opportunity to adopt them. So with three adopted children and one biological child, their family had grown from two to six in just a few years. The quiver was full.
But God’s humor was not quite finished! Only two year later, now very astute at raising kids, Tamara became pregnant again. In September 2015, another daughter was born. Another shocker. There is a lot of laughter and a lot of crying with three children under the age of 5. Their dream of a family now is complete.
Now, why do you suppose God didn’t just give them biological children from the beginning? It’s hard to know for sure. It would seem God wanted the Kunzes to adopt three beautiful children before they had two biological ones.
Now I laugh at my buddy Jens and tell him they should try to have just one more. Needless to say, he doesn’t laugh at that joke. But oh my, how God’s faithfulness and comedic timing have been displayed in their lives.
And you can be certain, when God makes a promise, even if not fulfilled in our timing, he will fulfill it in his perfect timing, even when it seems odd to us. Perhaps one of his names should also be The Great Comedian.
Application ideas for your Bible study group:
1. Why do you think God wanted Abraham and Sarah to have children at such a late age in life? Describe a time when you have waited on the Lord.
2. What God ordained moment in your life makes you laugh in retrospect? Name a time you laughed, maybe even for a season of life, when you discovered God’s perfect timing.