Genesis 18

When God Drags His Feet

They are the only couple in the Bible who laugh at God. Abraham first and later his wife, Sarah. And who could blame them, for the scenario is hilarious. They wait a quarter of a century for God to make good on his promise to give them a child. It seems a comedy in the making, for Abraham is seventy five years old and Sarah sixty five when he first makes the promise. People that old don’t buy Pampers. But there stood God, saying, “Oh, but you will.” So they wait. And they wait. For twenty five years these aging lovebirds do their lovemaking but no babymaking. The final time God assures them that they’ll have a son, Abraham falls on his face and laughs (Gen 17:17) and Sarah, later, giggles like a schoolgirl (18:12). Quite fittingly, therefore, when their baby boy is born the next year, they name him, “Laughter.” Or as we know him, Isaac. I’m glad Abraham and Sarah could laugh. I think most of us wouldn’t have found this scenario all that funny. In fact, when we wait on God to make good on his promises, even for a few weeks or months, we don’t laugh. We hurt. We murmur. Often we get mad at God for dragging his feet.

It is perhaps no surprise that one of the most common questions in the Psalms is, “O Lord, how long….?” Now there’s a prayer we can say Amen to.

O Lord, how long until you take away the cancer that’s attacking my body? O Lord, how long will I get turned away from every company I apply to? O Lord, how long will my child be in and out of rehab? O Lord, how long will my husband and I languish in this dying marriage? O Lord, how long will your drag your feet while our souls are sinking in despair?

For most of us, waiting on God is not funny at all. It makes us wonder if he cares. If he has forgotten us. In our darkest hours, many even wonder if the atheists are right, if our prayers are nothing more than sick words vomited into an empty heaven.

Here is the truth: God is there. God does care. Heaven is not empty but full of a God who thinks of nothing but you night and day. As Isaiah says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you,” (49:15). God does indeed remember, but his remembering is unique. It has one ultimate goal: to join you, body and soul, to the body and soul of Jesus Christ.

Every time we pray, “O Lord, how long?” the answer is always the same: “You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God,” (Col 3:3). You may object, “But that’s no answer!” Oh, but it is. It is a true answer, and it is the best answer.

God doesn’t give us a timetable; he gives us his Son. And for him we don’t have to wait a single second. You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. It’s already accomplished. The Father plunged you into the water wet with Jesus. In that water you joined Christ on the cross. There your old life bled away. And there your new life began as Jesus carried you in his body out of the grave on Easter. Your life is hidden the way a heart and lungs and bones and blood are hidden inside a person, for you are the body of Christ. You are hidden in him and hidden with him in the Father. And if you’re that far into God, there’s no getting you out.

So will the Father answer your specific “How long?” prayers? Of course he will. He who asks, receives; he who seeks, finds; she who knocks, the door will be opened to her. The God who goes so far as to count your tears and keep them in a bottle (Ps 56:8) is certainly not going to ignore your pleas for mercy. But as you await the answer to those prayers, know that your prayers have already have been answered in Christ. Your life, your heartaches, your tears and disappointments—they are all hidden with Christ in God, too. He takes them all in when he takes you into himself.

The ways of God are hilarious. So outlandish, so crazy, so foolish that sometimes the only thing we can do is laugh. There we were, dead, and now in Christ we live. There we were, thinking there’s no way we’ll ever conceive hope again, and now hope grows within us like Isaac in Sarah’s womb. It’s funny, the weird ways of God. He’s always full of surprises, for there’s nothing more surprising in this world than a love that knows no bounds, no timetables, but that knows you and holds you tight.

Sometimes the best Amen sounds like laughter.

Sodom and Gomorrah and St. Louis

The Lord looked at me and said, “Shall I hide from you what I am about to do?”And I said, “What are you about to do?” He said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah, London and St. Louis, Moscow and Sydney, and all cities of the world, is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me.”

And he did. And he saw that the outcry was true. And he decreed punishment.

And I drew near to the Lord and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous who are in the world. Will you then sweep away the world and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put to death the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous in the world, I will spare it for their sake.”

I answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I am who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty are lacking. Will you destroy the whole world for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.”

Again I spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.”

Then I said, “Oh let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.”

I said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.”

Then I said, “Oh let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak again this but once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”

But ten righteous people were not found in the world.

And I too was found among the unrighteous. So I took my place among them to await the fire and brimstone.

And suddenly I heard a new voice above me. It was saying to the Lord, “If you find one righteous man in the world, will you spare it?” And the Lord answered, “If I find one righteous man in the world, and that man is willing to stand in the place of all the unrighteous men in the world, and suffer the penalty all the unrighteous deserve, then I will spare it.”

And the voice said, “Behold, here am I.”

And there was silence in heaven. And the sun stood still in the sky. And the world ceased its spinning. And all creation ground to a halt.

And there was felt, all around the world, the heat from falling fire. And there was smelled, all around the world, the burning of brimstone. And there was heard, all round the world, the boom of a pounding hammer. And there resounded, all around the world, the cry of a righteous man who prayed for an unrighteous world. And, finally, three words from that voice echoed down the streets of Sodom and the alleys of Gomorrah and the skyscrapers of New York City and the fields of Iowa.

The voice said, “It is finished.”

And the Lord looked down from heaven and said, “I have laid on the one righteous man the iniquity of the world. I made him who knew no sin to be sin so that in him you might become my righteousness.

I spare you. I forgive you. I love you.”

Romans 3:10, “None is righteous; no, not one.” Romans 5:18, “One act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”