“God Will Provide” (Even When We Don't Know How) 

By Jon W. Quinn

When Abraham was 75 years old, he left the city of Haran and traveled to the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:4-7). While in Canaan, God promised Abraham that his descendents would inherit the land. Although he believed God, Abraham did not understand how the promise would be fulfilled. He considered one of his servants named Eliezer as the heir of his house (Genesis 15:2), possibly because he did not expect to father a child since Sarah was barren (Genesis 11:30). Later, God told Abraham that he would have a child, and repeated the land promise (Genesis 15:1-7).

Abraham always believed that he would have many descendants, but did not know how God would do it. After being assured that it would be through his own biological offspring and not through an adopted servant , Abraham had an idea about how God was going to do it. Upon the insistence of Sarah, Abraham attempted to father a child with Hagar, the Egyptian handmaid (16:1-2). When Hagar conceived, Sarah despised her (16:4), complained to Abraham, and eventually received permission to deal with Hagar as she saw fit. Sarah treated her so harshly that Hagar fled (16:6). An angel of the Lord found Hagar in the wilderness and instructed her to return (16:10-12). The angel promised to multiply the descendents of her son, whose name would be "Ishmael" (God hears). Hagar had given birth to Ishmael when Abraham was 86 years old (16:16). Thirteen years later, God established the covenant with Abraham (17:7-10). The sign of the covenant was circumcision. God changed Abram's name to Abraham (Father of a multitude) and Sarai's name to Sarah (Princess) (17:5, 15). God revealed that Sarah would be given a son, Isaac (he laughs), as the son of promise (17:15-21).

It is interesting to see how Abraham thought that his heir would be Eliezer, then later, he was sure that his heir would be Ishmael (Genesis 17:17, 18). He obviously believed God even though he could not really understand how God was going to fulfill his promise. One thing this teaches us is to always trust in God and His promises, even when it appears to us the promise is unlikely to be fulfilled.

God Sometimes Tells Us What He Will Do, But Now How He Will Do It
God tells us that He will do many things, but does not always tell us how. In fact, many times His workings are unknowable to us. Isaiah records,
8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD.
9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
10 "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
(Isaiah 55:8-11).

For this reason, it is best to make our requests to Him accordingly. God will do as He has said in His way, by His own will and in His own appointed time. This is demonstrated very well by Eli's words “So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, "It is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him." (1 Samuel 3:18). James reminds us “Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." (James 4:15). The early church, after Peter and John had been threatened, without telling the Lord how to do His job simply prayed “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence,” (Acts 4:29). I really think sometimes our prayers today get a little too pushy by telling God what we desire and then telling Him how to do it. When we pray for the sick we might ask God to heal them and then tell Him how: “Please be with the doctors” or “Help the medicine to work” when maybe we should just leave the “how” up to Him. Understand, God fulfills promises and works in ways we cannot always predict (Genesis 18:12-14). Abraham was a great man of faith, and Sarah a great woman of faith, but though they believed God, he did not do a very good job at figuring out how God would fulfill the promise! In fact, Sarah's first reaction when she found out how God would do so was to laugh!

Abraham's Sacrifice Of Isaac
“Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you." (Genesis 22:1-2).

What a difficult task! Is it even possible for Abraham or any father to do such a thing? Abraham gathered wood and fire, then traveled 3 days to Mt. Moriah (22:3-5). He had Isaac carry the wood, while he carried the fire and the knife up the mountain. As they walked, Isaac asked, "Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham replied, "God will provide" (22:6-8). That is so, but again, Abraham had no idea how.

Abraham bound Isaac, laid him on the altar, and drew the knife. He intended to kill his son, but since he knew that God had made certain promises about Isaac's future he had determined that God would raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). It is true that God could have done what Abraham thought He would, but He didn't. Instead, an angel of the Lord stopped the sacrifice when Abraham's faith had been proven (Genesis 22:12).

Again, we can trust in God's providence without knowing His methods. “God will provide” whatever is necessary, whatever it takes, in His own appointed way and time, but we must respond by faith (Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 2:12,13; 1 Corinthians 3:21-23). And like Abraham, we must be willing to give everything to God (Philippians 3:7,8; Matthew 10:38,39; Daniel 3:16-18). The rich young ruler and Abraham were both nice men, but only Abraham's faith was without limitation; (Matthew 19:16-22).

Men and women who have the faith Abraham had are amazingly free. Though such a one is a servant of God, such brings relief. Though some tasks may be difficult, they make us stronger. We know that God will bring our lives to their very best possible conclusions in spite of present distress and/or confusion on our parts. And all the while, through every day, there is confidence and peace in being “friends of God”.

From The Bradley Banner 10/6/2004
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway
Bradley, IL 60915


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