Genesis chapter 18 tells the story of the Lord visiting Abraham and Sarah and telling them that in a year’s time Sarah will have a son. This is the son that the Lord had previously promised Abraham of which He would make into a great nation. Abraham was 99 years old at this time, and Sarah was also very old. Not only was she beyond the age of child-bearing, she was also barren. Because of this, Sarah laughs at, and questions the Lord’s promise to her. The Lord rebukes her laughter and doubt and says “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Sarah, then, fearing the one who called out her sin, lies and says that she did not laugh. The Lord then rebukes her again. I encourage you to read Genesis 18v1-15 where this event takes place to better understand the context of this post.
Without question, Sarah’s response to the Lord’s promise of a child was sinful. It is sin to laugh at God’s promises and it is sin to question God’s Word. However, despite her sin, the New Testament speaks of Sarah’s faith!
Hebrews 11v11-12, “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
The size of faith does not matter. It is only the object of our faith that counts for anything. Though Sarah was doubtful, she had faith. It is not extravagant faith that matters – but real faith. Notice her faith was based on the faithful character of “Him who promised.” After all it is not faith that saves, but the object of that faith.
Is Anything Too Hard for the LORD?
Verse 14 of Genesis chapter 18 brings a certain gravity to this entire passage, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” A rhetorical question with the answer of “No.”
God had said, “by this time next year you will have a son.” So why did Sarah doubt? Because in that moment, she did not take God at His Word. She elevated the physical realities she saw above God’s Word that she heard. God’s Word is more sure, it is more real, than apparent biological difficulties.
This was indeed a miracle. But miracles are not hard for God. He is, after all, a miracle worker.
When the Lord asks this question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” – God is showing that He is not oblivious to our doubts or the circumstances as we see them; they are simply no match for Him.
One lesson we learn here is that no matter what the doctor says, God is ultimately in charge of the womb. What hope this gives a married couple who are told that they are physically unable to have children. If that is true, God can make it untrue, if he so desires to.
When the Lord presents the idea that nothing is too hard for Him, to Sarah, He is of course speaking directly about her situation. But He is also speaking prophetically. Many years later God would send His only begotten Son, to put on human flesh. He would be beaten, mocked, spit upon, and crucified by sinful men. God the Father would then proceed to punish His perfect Son in order to save sinners from their sin. That is the absolute hardest things that has ever been done in the history of the universe, and it is the hardest things that ever will be done. And God did it. He did it for us. How much easier it was for God to put a baby inside of old Sarah. If God did that hardest thing to His own Son, will he now fail to care for us in a thousand lesser ways?
Speaking of things that are not impossible with God, I am reminded of Matthew 19v26, where in response to the question, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus answers by saying, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” If physical life is in God’s hands, how much more is spiritual life? If God can give an elderly woman a child, how much more can He save a hardened sinner? Both are impossible with man; both are possible with God.
God’s Trustworthy Character
Not only is nothing impossible with God, but when you consider His power and His character you find that He is totally worthy of all our trust. God’s promises are a 100% guarantee. Circumstances or perceived impossibilities are not a hindrance to the Creator and Sustainer of all!
God is not weak or lacking in power. He is all-powerful, all-sufficient.
We are in such a great position to be Christians because we have a much longer track record of God’s continued faithfulness through generations and generations of believers that Sarah did not have to look back upon. We can look back and see how God was faithful to Sarah, and how God was faithful to bring about His Son to save sinners despite the sin and rebellion of the Israelites. We have a couple thousand years of Church History since the New Testament to look back upon and see God’s faithfulness to generations of believers. Many of us have much of our own lives to look back upon and see that He is indeed trustworthy.
Is God’s Word sufficient for you? Or do you still long for something else, some sign? Are His promises enough for you? Or do you laugh? Is His Son all-sufficient for you? Or do you doubt?
Many of us have been lied to countless times. Many of us have been the victims of broken promise after broken promise. Many of us have experienced this from the very people who were the most trusted to us, and the closest to us in our lives. After being burned like that, how can we ever trust again? Some of us may feel that way. But God is not a mere man that He should lie, nor a mortal that His promises should fail! His promises are promises to hold onto. They are as sure as He is. You can trust Him, He will not fail you. He has proven Himself to be trustworthy and worthy of all our trust.
In the immediate aftermath of Adam’s sin and rebellion in the Garden, God promised His Son (Gen. 3:15). He had ages to think about it and take it back. But He didn’t. He didn’t take it back. He didn’t go back on His Word. He gave us His all in all. He is not withholding any good thing from you; don’t you dare accuse Him of that! Trust Him.
God is worthy of many things from us, but He is not worthy of our doubts and laughter. He has done nothing to earn or deserve that. But He takes them anyway. Trust Him.
The Graciousness of the Lord
Think of how gracious the Lord was to Sarah. Despite her laughter, He persists in blessing her. It’s as if He knows that it’s hard for us to believe sometimes. Even in our sin the Lord is gracious in His dealings with us. His kindness should lead us to repentance. Which implies that He is kind to us in our sinning. It is while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us.
God didn’t have to be gracious and kind to Sarah. He could’ve said, “Ok, that’s it, no baby.” But He didn’t because He promised to give her a son. And that promise was not predicated on her belief, but it was a promise predicated on the fact that it was a promise! So it is for us. We don’t deserve God’s patience and kindness. But our promise is Christ and Christ is our plea!
As I have mentioned Sarah sinned multiple times in this account. How did God deal with Sarah’s sin? He gave her His Son. He gave her a son that would bring her His Son. This is how God deals with our sin – with the sin of His children. He gives us His Son.
The Biggest Thing
The biggest thing that God is doing: Preserving the line that would bring forth the serpent-crusher promised in Genesis 3:15. God is keeping His promise to Abraham.
We of course should not take God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah as a promise of material blessings for us, or as a promise that God will give all mothers a child. But the promise that we have is better than material possessions or even a child; through God’s promise to give a son to Abraham and Sarah, God is promising to give us Jesus – His Son. This is the beauty of the gospel: You may be barren and without children your entire life, but you can have a perfect son – God’s Son.
This is what God is doing in giving Sarah a son – He is bringing about the eventual birth of His Son, Jesus – who is the Son that all of Abraham’s children can have.
What’s really cool about this is that God preserved the line to Jesus in a manner itself that pictures the gospel – bringing forth life from a lifeless womb. That is how God gives us His Son – He brings forth life from our lifeless hearts. He fills our old, dead, dusty carcasses with flesh, blood, and a heart that beats for Christ!
In the way that God preserved the line to Jesus, God was preaching the gospel!
What God was up to in Genesis 18 is not confined to Genesis 18. It is much bigger. So much, in fact, that Paul writes of this in the dense chapter of Romans 9. Here it is: “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: ‘About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.’ And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one mane, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad – in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls.” (Romans 9v6-11)
How does this apply to you? Isaac had to be born in order for you to be saved. The main point for our purposes from the passage in Romans 9 is that through Isaac and His descendants, God’s purposes of election continued. God’s plan of salvation for you, required Isaac’s birth. So we should look at Genesis 18 and rejoice in our salvation. We should thank God for keeping His promise to Sarah because through her child, we got Jesus. God has given us the Old Testament Scriptures to show us how He brought us Jesus.
As we see with messed up sinners like Abraham and Sarah, it is not our righteousness, our merit, or anything in us that makes God have favor upon us and save us. Sarah had Isaac entirely because God chose to give her Isaac. Only because God promised to do so. We have Jesus, we have grace, we have His righteousness, not because of us, but because of God’s choosing.