God’s delay in keeping His covenant was a crisis of faith for Abraham.
Genesis 17 opens with the notice that Abraham is ninety-nine years old (Genesis 17:1). Now remember that when God first called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees and established a covenant with him, Abraham was seventy-five years old. Almost twenty-five years had passed since God promised to make him a great nation, and there was still no child born to Abraham and Sarah. This twenty-five-year delay had sown seeds of skepticism and unbelief in Abraham’s heart, and in response to God’s promise of a son, we learn that Abraham laughed and said in his heart,
“Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”
Abraham had interpreted God’s delay as unwillingness or an inability to keep His covenant. The slow passage of days and months and years had eroded the confident faith of the one who, in response to God’s promise, “obediently went forth when the Lord had spoken to him” (Genesis 12:4).
The apostle Peter confronted this same erosion of belief in God’s promises and the consequent lack of faith in his own congregation. Peter challenged them,
“Do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9).
Abraham, like Peter’s congregation, needed to know that God does not work according to our timetables, and sometimes His redemptive plan will stretch us beyond our expectations for a blessing to new vistas of trust and belief in the God who is not slow, but patient.
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