The ability to wait patiently is one of the most difficult disciplines for an individual to develop, much less master. The ancient proverb says, “patience is a virtue,” and we even admire those who demonstrate graceful patience, but it is a character that is foreign to most of us. It seems as though we live in a world that rewards impatience.
In this Sunday’s text, we find Abraham and Sarah being surprised by a visit from God’s representatives. Although God’s promise led to leave Abraham’s father’s home to live as aliens in a foreign land, at 99 and 98 years old, Abraham and Sarah no longer believed in a 24 years-old promise.
When Abram was 75 years old, and Sarai was 74 years old, they set out for Canaan from Haran. As they begin their journey, God promises them that their descendants will be more than the stars in the sky and the grains of sand in the sea. We need to note here that Abram and Sarai’s names are later changed to Abraham and Sarah in conjunction with the fulfillment of the promise.
What we find in the story is that Abraham and Sarah have difficulty waiting. They believed in the promise, so they followed the call of God into a foreign land to live as aliens. They believed that they will be blessed, and they will bless others. They waited for the fulfillment of the promise, but as the promise went unfulfilled for years, they lost their hope in waiting.
It has been 24 years since God’s initial promise, and Sarah is still barren. Abram had been impatient and asked God if King Melchizedek, the King of Salem, could be his heir. In her impatience, Sarai had Abraham sleep with her Egyptian servant, Hagar, and have a baby, so “Sarah will have children through her.” However, neither was God’s plan, as the promise was a child through Abraham and Sarah.
When “angels” come to tell Sarah that she will have a baby the following year, both Sarah and Abraham do not believe the news. Abraham says that Sarah is too old, and Sarah outright laughs at the announcement. At 98, Sarah having a baby seemed impossible.
The problem with promises is that sometimes they take longer to be fulfilled than we have the ability to wait patiently. Promise gives us hope, and hope is a powerful motivation. However, it is a devastating disappointment when they are not fulfilled. Abraham and Sarah did not have the patience to wait for 25 years for a child. To them, God took too long. To them, God had forgotten.
We are people of hope. We live by God’s promises of grace, but the world seems more hateful and violent. We need to continue to work for justice and not lose hope, even when God seems to be taking too long to fulfill God’s promise. We need to remember that God has not forgotten. We just got to be patient.
The work of the community is to be an encouragement for one another in our waiting. We find our hope in the hope of another. Community is about waiting together and encouraging one another as we wait. Let us be patient together so no one loses hope.