October 18, 2017
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.”
Hope Against Hope
Gen 17:5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but they name shall be Abraham. For the father of a multitude of nations have I made thee. (ASV)
Abraham has just gotten his new name, which is probably wild enough. But at age 99 he is promised by God that he will be the father of many nations. The promise is given in the past tense as well. From the timeless perspective of God, this was an accomplished fact. Abraham’s wife is about the same age, and they have no children of their own. They have a son fathered by Abram (Abraham’s former name) and Sarah’s servant, Hagar. While this was not an uncommon practice, it was not what God had planned. When Sarah had given up hope because ‘her womb was dead’, or she was well past child-bearing years, she suggested that Hagar carry a child for them as the promised heir and line of their family. Logically, from a human standpoint, it would have seemed to be the only way.
But now, when there is nothing that either they or anyone could claim as their own contribution, God moves His mighty hand and time turns back for Abraham and Sarah. Strength is restored to their bodies to conceive and bear a child, who would be called Isaac, or literally Laughter. The hope of having the joy of a child of her own was so far removed from Sarah, that when she over heard God speaking the promise to Abraham, she laughed in disbelief. But the promise, again, was given to them after Ishmael, 50 years after Sarah should have been able to have a child, given to them in the past tense. In God’s eyes, it was fact, not promise.
Rom 4:18-19 In hope against hope he believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; (NAS)
Abraham might not have understood how it would happen, but he had never given up hope that it would happen from the day he first was promised a son. When the time was right, when no one could glory by God, the promise was fulfilled just as it had been given. It is an honor to be used by God. To be used in such a way, to begin the line that would fan out into nations, would be humbling indeed. Once again, against human logic, God uses two people who are well stricken in years. Never believe that you are too old, or too small, or too slow or too weak to be used by God. Moses was lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. This man who had to command the respect of 2.5 million people as their leader, appointed by God, had a speech impediment. Paul of Tarsus had been beaten and left for dead, shipwrecked, spent a night floating in the sea, stoned, whipped and jailed numerous times. It is believed that the muscles in his neck had been so damaged that he could no longer hold his head upright. Yet, he spoke to Kings, Governors and Princes about the Lord who meant everything to him.
Rom 4:20-21 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. (NAS)
Hope against hope means following God when there is no visible way to accomplish the task before you, somehow knowing that God will make a way. If Jesus Christ accomplished our salvation by dying a cruel death on a cross, then He is trustworthy in any other promise He may make. It was a seemingly total defeat from the world’s perspective, and still it was the greatest victory in history. When the disciples had given up all hope, God moved and broke the power of sin and death in this world … just as he had promised.
Rom 4:22 Therefore also it was reckoned to him as righteousness. (NAS)