Have you ever noticed that the Kingdom of God just doesn’t make sense? In our passage today we see an excellent example of this. God promised an old, barren woman that she would have a child. It is one thing to make a promise to a young, newly wed couple that they would be fruitful and multiply and that a great nation would come out of their offspring. That alone would have been a great promise from God that would be reasonable and make sense. But the way God made this promise to Abraham and Sarah just didn’t make sense. It was so preposterous that Sarah actually burst out laughing when she heard it.
Be honest with yourself. Wouldn’t you have laughed as well? Why would God make such a promise? It just doesn’t make sense. Perhaps that is the entire point. Had God used a natural mating between Abraham and Sarah to bring about the chosen people who would be the eternal bearers of His covenant, then Abraham would have been tempted to undervalue the covenant God had made. Even worse, Abraham may have even been tempted to take credit for the propagation of his nation. Remember, Abraham and Sarah did try to force God’s hand and bring about His promise through natural methods when Sarah offered Hagar to Abraham. The result of this premature attempt at promise fulfillment was Ishmael. God loved Ishmael and God promised to prosper Ishmael, but he was not the vehicle through which God intended to bring about His kingdom. He wasn’t God’s plan, he was Sarah’s plan. Look what happened as a result. To this day the children of Ishmael — the Arab nations — are fighting with the children of Isaac — the Jews. Thanks a lot Sarah.
How many times do we do this to God? We come up with a plan that really makes sense on paper and that will really “make a difference” for God’s Kingdom. We’ve read all the leadership, management, and success books available and have applied sound strategic principles to our plan. We’ve even anticipated all the potholes along the way and come up with plans B, C, and D. Then we hold up our plans to God and say, “Please bless this.” I can imagine God looking at us and saying, “That is a really nice Ishmael. It’s good, but it’s not mine.”
From this story we can learn three important principles:
1. Be patient and wait on God’s timing.
When God has a plan He will bring it about in His way, in His method. Our job is to wait and be receptive to what He is doing, not to strategize how to “get the job done.”
2. When we try to force God’s plan, it always ends up with disastrous results.
God bears the fruit, not us. When we try to produce fruit it ends up being made of wax. Wax fruit looks pretty on the outside but has no value and will hurt you if you try to eat it. 3. When God does work His plan it is always in the least likely way.
For more on this read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Human wisdom is foolishness compared to God’s wisdom. When God’s wisdom operates in the world you can bet that it will always appear as foolishness to the “wise” of the world. As Christians it would do us well to spend less time reading “success” literature from corporate America and spend more time soaking in the “foolishness” of the Kingdom of God. I’d rather be a “fool” for eternity than a “wise man” for a moment.