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Waiting For God’s Timing

“So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.”  (Genesis 16:2)

When we think of the testing of Abraham’s faith, the first thing we tend to think of is his offering up of Isaac (Genesis 22). We are captivated by the account of how Abraham was moved by faith to obey God completely, even obeying the seemingly unreasonable command of God to sacrifice his own son; the son that he had waited for so long. While Abraham proved his faith to be mighty in that instance, we have here in Chapter 16 an instance where Abraham’s faith was tested and the results were not as admirable.

“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1:3 KJV)

While Abraham’s obedience to God’s command to offer up Isaac is a truly astounding demonstration of a faith that is wholly and completely invested in God, we know from our own experiences that it is not the immediate and direct commandment of God to act that gives so much trouble as the commandment to be still and wait for His timing. Admittedly, there are surely few of us whose own faith has matured to such a level that we would have followed in Abraham’s footsteps and offered up the life of our own child as he did, but we certainly can relate to the zeal and passion that is felt when we are responding to the Lord’s clear direction. When God issues the command to Go, our devotion to Him and our trust in His Word can cause us to give reckless abandon to all else, even our own safety and well-being, and esteem even our very lives as not so precious as what we have in Him.

But what of the times when our Lord tells us not to Go, but to Wait? It is during these periods that the true fortitude of our faith is most clearly revealed. When we have the promise of God, it is usually our desire to see it come to fruition as soon as possible. As the days turn into weeks, the weeks to months, and the months to years, our tendency is to reconsider what God has told us and wonder whether or not we have missed something in what He told us. Was there something else we were supposed to do?  Is there some way that we can help things along? Time has passed now since Abraham was shown the stars of the sky and the dust of the Earth — being promised by God that his own seed should one day be equal to these in multitude. The fire that burned from the lamp and the smoke that billowed from the pot as the Lord ratified His covenant with Abraham back in Chapter 15 are gone, and all that Abraham sees as he ponders the promise given to him is the age of his own body and the barrenness of Sarah’s, now well beyond the normal age of child-bearing.

As is so often the case, Abraham’s temptation to circumvent the agony of waiting patiently for God to fulfill His promise in His own way comes from a most unlikely source. Sarah herself proposes that Abraham should take her handmaiden, Hagar, to wife — that she might bear for her mistress the child that Sarah could not. While such a practice was customary in the culture of the time, this was in no way the manner in which God intended His promise to be made good. God never meant for Abraham to “take matters into his own hands”, God’s purpose all along was to bring about the son of promise (Isaac) through Abraham’s wife, Sarah.

When we fail to wait patiently for the Lord’s timing in our lives, calamity almost certainly follows. Abraham’s union with Hagar is no exception. Hagar learns that she has conceived a child by Abraham and becomes haughty toward her mistress, Sarah. She feels disdain toward Sarah because she has done what Sarah could not. She did not maintain a submissive attitude toward Sarah but became untoward in her relationship with her. It is likely that she now believed that her own child would stand to inherit the wealth of Abraham and that this would no doubt endear herself more intimately to Abraham than even his own wife. Sarah regrets the decision that she has made in bringing Hagar to her husband and now wishes nothing more than to be rid of this embarrassment altogether. What a warning to be heeded by all who use others in order to accomplish their own ends! Regardless of what authority a person may hold over another, that person is never without feelings, desires, and plans of their own. People can never be treated as mindless automatons at the disposal of another, being used however they please. Sarah’s wish was to simply employ her handmaid as a sort of passionless surrogate to bear for her a child that she could call her own son. Yet when we disregard the feelings and emotions of others and seek to use them only to fulfill our own purposes, repercussions are bound to come back on us.

The lesson for Sarah, Abraham, and indeed for all of us from this unfortunate episode is that we are compelled to do all things in God’s timing and in God’s way. As we considered before, the actual deed that Abraham did was not in and of itself appalling within the context of the culture of the day. Sarah’s suggestion was not invalid by man’s estimation; even Abraham apparently found it quite reasonable. But in carrying it out he exhibited his own impatience rather than his trust for the living God.

How often are we guilty of committing similar offenses?  Rather than waiting for the Spirit of God to bring His promises to pass in our own lives, we try to “help things along.” In doing so, we make compromises that most assuredly bring us nothing but disaster later on. This is by no means an excuse to sit by idly when God has commanded us to move forward, but if we are doing all that God has instructed us to do, if we have followed the path that He has laid out for us, we are wise to not stray from it. When God tells us to Go, we must do so unhesitatingly. When He tells us to Wait, we must do so patiently.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 4, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

 

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14 responses

  1. Loren,

    Thank you so much for this post….. It seems like we all have things in our lives that God wants us to learn to wait for….. He is such a good teacher and knows how to encourage us in hope….. I also think of the result of Abraham and Hagar’s union….. That changed the history of the world — and maybe was allowed by God for reasons only His wisdom knows….. In all this we need to trust and obey.

    Margaret

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  2. We sure are impatient creatures. Seems like things never change. If something doesn’t happen in our timetable, EVEN though God said something is going to happen, people tend to ‘help’ things along. It never thwarts what God intends to happen but we sure do pay the consequences of our disobedience and lack of trust.

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  3. Amen,amen! Wonderful post Loren,and you are so right when God says go we should go,and when he says wait we should wait without trying to help move things along. After all we are told to lean not to our own understanding,but to trust in God.Father please help us to wait on you in the right attitude.Amen

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  4. We sure do pay the consequences, don’t we.

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  5. That’s exactly what I think Sarah and Abraham were really doing. They were leaning on their own understanding and trying to make the promise of God happen through their own efforts.

    Good point, Pat, thanks.

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  6. Abraham and Hagar’s union definitely changed history by bringing Ishamel into the world, and subsequently the Arab race. It is fascinating that we need look no farther than the current events occurring in the Middle East to see the accuracy of God’s prophetic characterization of that people as a whole: “He will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” (Gen. 16:12)

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  7. […] were nothing more than an ironic joke. They may have tried to bring about the promise of children through their own efforts before, but now they would simply believe that God was able to bring it to pass in His own time and in His […]

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  8. […] Do we try and do things ourselves, try to work it out our way?  Another post I read on God’s timing talks about waiting on God.  Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands.  Instead of […]

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  9. […] for the sacrifice, his response was: “God will provide Himself a Lamb” (Genesis 22:8). Abraham had attempted to use a backup plan to bring about the birth of a promised son, he had used a backup plan to ensure his safety in the […]

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  10. […] and Isaac’s response to Rebekah’s infertility. Back in Genesis 16 we read about Sarah’s scheme to employ her handmaiden, Hagar, as a surrogate through which Abraham could produce offspring for their […]

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  11. At times I am waiting patiently. I have experienced having to wait and saw job opportunites fall away only to receive God’s best during a tight economy. I think the lengthy of time to wait is what is hard and we are only human. These gentle reminders that even the bible heros were human and wanted to do something is comforting to me that we are all one body of Christ. He understands. As long as we keep trying to wait in a deeper way of patience and being in his rest, I think God understands why we don’t understand, the panic rushes in and we feel we will be left empty or experience a loss. My patience is better, but the waiting has been very long for a good man or recovery for my son with autism. I am wanting to wait the way God wants me too.

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  12. If you learn the secret of how to always wait patiently for God’s timing…please tell me what it is! Thank you so much, Jennifer, for reading this and taking the time to share your thoughts about it. I agree, it is comforting to see that even the great men and women of faith in the Bible sometimes got tired of waiting and took matters into their own hands. It reminds us that they were human and grew impatient and impulsive at times, too.

    I relly like what you said about us feeling a sense of panic as time goes by and that we better act quickly or we will be left with a lost opportunity. As I have been going through the Book of Genesis, it seems that so many of the bad decisions that were made were done so for that very reason. Is this not also characteristic of our own experiences? Our flesh and the Devil have a way of convincing us that we had better act now — no time for caution — lest we find our own window of opportunity suddenly slammed shut. But it has been rightfully said that God is never early, nor late, but always right on time. I pray for that reality to be more firmly seated in my own heart the next time I feel compelled to take matters into my own hands.

    May the Lord strengthen you to wait for His best and not accept second best. God bless you!

    In Christ,

    Loren

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  13. […] Do we try and do things ourselves, try to work it out our way?  Another post I read on God’s timing talks about waiting on God.  Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands.  Instead of […]

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  14. Thank you for your post, it has helped me a lot today 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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