Did you know that God promised Abraham offspring SEVEN times in a 24 year span before Sarah actually conceived? Isaac was born 25 years after the original promise. Seven times. Twenty-five years. That’s a lot of patience; a lot of waiting. A lot of trusting.
The first promise was very wonderful, but very general, and it also had a directive.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen 12:1-3)
God’s promises often come with an imperative: Trust me. Wait on me. Seek me. And sometimes something very radical: Leave your country! Leave your job! Give that money away! I want to bless you; I want to do something radical with your life, but first you have to make a very bold step, leave the comfortable and walk on water
The first prophetic word I ever received came in 1989 via a Jamaican evangelist. (Yes, I’m married to a Jamaican now; coincidence?) It was a very general word promising great blessing, but the imperative was to trust, wait and stay. Stay put. God called Abraham to leave and He called me to stay. That was my water-walk; my soul-stretch; my faith challenge. Have you ever felt like God gives other people words you wish He’d given you? Don’t fret. God gives you exactly the words you need to hear. His blessings are tailor made for you; don’t covet someone else’s; they wouldn’t fit you.
Back to Abraham. The second promise was a bit more specific. Now God is talking about land:
The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land” (12:7).
After Abraham pulled up the tent pegs and moved, God got more specific. Sometimes more clarity comes only when we obey the instructions given thus far. Still, Abraham must have scratched his head and wondered about the “offspring” part. He was old and they had no kids! But perhaps God meant this figuratively…. Anyway, at 75, Abraham didn’t worry about that yet.
And then Abraham gets in the flesh and does something that could have aborted his entire destiny and ruined the family line. He gives his wife away – to save his own hide! Because of fear, Abraham lies and tells Pharaoh that beautiful Sarah is his sister. So Pharaoh takes her into his palace and gives Abraham expensive gifts in return! There is a chance that Abraham would have never seen his wife again, no less have children with her. (I’m sure Pharaohs don’t share their women!). But God. God intervened and saved the mission (12:17-20). He would not let Abraham’s fears and cowardice destroy His plan.
Afterwards, God reaffirms his promise; he talks about the land again, and then says that Abraham’s descendents would be like the dust of the earth – uncountable! It gets better and better – and more and more impossible with each passing year.
Then comes promise number four. This time, Abraham questions God. “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son?” (15:2) And he suggests an alternative: Eliezer the servant will be the heir. He’s trying to figure it out.
But the Lord says to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” (15:4-5)
And Abraham’s flesh gets in the way again. This time, his own reasoning leads him astray. Sarah suggests that the son may come through Hagar and Abraham agrees. Close, well-meaning people suggest Ishmaels. They want to see the promise come to pass almost as much as we do, but they don’t have faith for the supernatural – and so they suggest the natural – and our rational minds grab onto it. At this point, Abraham is 86; eleven years into the wait, almost halfway there, and he decides to take matters into his own hands. Be careful about what you do halfway through! Often our spirits give way, our flesh takes over and it takes years to recover.
But the Lord’s purpose prevails.
Thirteen years later, when Abraham is 99 years old, God comes and make the promise again – and this time, he institutes a sign of the covenant: circumcision (chapter 17). And God makes it clear that Ishmael is not the answer. Sarah herself will have a son and HE will be the heir. This is promise number six. Imagine that. For 13 years, Abraham thinks that Ishmael is the fulfillment, but God speaks and says, “No; it is Isaac, who is not yet born.”
This time God mercifully gives Abraham a specific time: “I will return to you about this time next year and your wife, Sarah, will have a son” (18:10). This is the seventh promise.
A year later, despite human fear, cowardice, unbelief and some major boo boos, God fulfills His promise.
I told you about the first prophetic word over me. Well, over the next 14 years God reaffirmed his promises to me through many different prophets. There was more direction: get your passport ready. Go to the nations. Get busy serving. Reach out to internationals. Go as an ambassador for the Kingdom. Be God’s mouth-piece. And many others … And they slowly started to specify that part of the blessing was the husband I wanted so badly. Finally, in 2003, a prophet clearly said, “Very soon you will meet your husband.” And less than a year later, he walked through the doors of my church. We didn’t seriously date until a year later, but I did meet my husband 10 months after the promise. That’s “soon,” even according to my impatient timetable! And yes, there were Ishmaels before the promise, some suggested by a well-meaning friends.
But God’s purpose prevailed.
If you have received the same promise over and over for 10, 20, 30 years and it still hasn’t materialized, take heart! You’re in good company! I ask only if you have done the directives God gave you, and if you have, then stand and wait to see the fulfillment of the Lord. Beware of Ishmaels. Don’t fret if you’ve made major mistakes. God has fixed worse messes than yours. The promise will come to pass, despite your frailties, mistakes and sins. Stay humble, repentant and open. Though the vision tarries, it will not tarry.
“Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Hab 2:2-3)