Adopted … Tested
And so, it shall be
But why must I wait
to the bowed horizon
You said you loved me
And so, it is true
But why do you test me
From the evening sky
You said you’d stay
And so, it will be
But why can’t I see you
Beyond the recess of time
In essence ‘adoption’ involves the act of leaving one’s biological family and embracing the identity of another. Which is exactly what happened to Abram.
According to Ancient Near East culture, from the moment someone was adopted–child or adult– they were credited with a new history and a new beginning, starting from the moment of adoption. They were given a new identity.
For Abram, this was symbolised by new name.
- Abram: high exalted father
- Abraham: father of many
Through Abraham’s life, people became aware of Yahweh’s power to both bless and curse. He was God’s faithful son and was blessed with great wealth. But what about children? Abraham’s wealth was meaningless without heirs. Was this God’s curse?
“Father of many” was an ironic title for a childless old man married to one barren old woman. Whilst Abraham immediately donned the cloak “Child of God” when he was adopted, he was made to wait to be fitted with, “Father of nations”.
Was it public knowledge the elderly couple clung to the promise of an heir through Sarah? Abraham could have taken any, or as many wives as he wanted. He didn’t have a problem producing heirs, Abraham fathered many sons after Sarah’s death. Why did he keep Sarah, and Sarah only?
What was he waiting for?
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.Genesis 15:6
For the whole twenty-five years between the promise and the promised, Abraham was tested. Even before Isaac was born and placed on the altar, Abraham was tried every day he clung to the absurdity and assurance of God’s promise.
Why would he do this?
Because he believed Yahweh was who He said He was.
Apart from the giving in to Sarah’s desperation to accept Hagar, there were no signs Abraham wavered in his belief. His faith was not rooted in the promise, but the Promise Maker.
Therefore, after waiting 25 years, Abraham was able to respond to God’s test to sacrifice Isaac in silent obedience.
But how heavy was that silence?
Would Abraham’s response have been different if he had not been journeying with his Father for a quarter of his life? Abraham grew to trust God, not only with the life of his cherished child, but with a distant future fulfillment of all the promises.
How did God see him?
“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children … to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”Genesis 18:19
God did not choose Abraham because he was perfect, but because he believed and trusted his adoptive Father.
But this did not lead to an easy, carefree life. Being loved by God involves being shaped by God. Abraham made a number of mistakes but proved himself worthy of the promises through obedience.
“I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have … not withheld … your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. … [A]ll nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.””Genesis 22:15-18 NIV
We all receive a new identity when we are adopted into the family of God. And some promises take effect immediately, such as forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation.
Yet, like Abraham, we won’t see the fullness of all God’s promises this side of heaven. Abraham saw part of the promise fulfilled in Isaac. But when he died, he was far from being “father of nations”. He did not see his descendants inherit the promised land. But his faith in, and obedience to, the Word of God established a legacy that grew into a people who would.
Within our identity of adopted-cherished child of God, we live under the banner of God’s promises. This does not guarantee an easy life. On the contrary, daily we are confronted with the challenge to wait to see the fulfillment of the fulness of our identity.
But we are also challenged to be a link in the chain; to live a life of faith, demonstrating God’s love and faithfulness, to play our part in the legacy of God’s people-the body of Christ.
Despite the silence, the wilderness, and the apparent barrenness of the promises, will we continue to live by faith?
- What promises are you still waiting to see fulfilled?
- What promises for God’s body, the Church, are yet to be realised?
- How do you keep your faith in the waiting?