15 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
When I read this passage, I hear Abraham’s struggling heart lament,
“Lord, it’s too late, you’re just too late.” Yet moments later, he completely believes that God will fulfill the promise he had made. What was it about that moment, when he steps outside the tent and turns his face up to the night sky, that adjusted his perspective? I wondered.
I realize that this is the lament of my own heart. It too often echoes this cry,
“Lord, it’s too late, you’re too late. “
How easy it is for me to feel broken hearted, to feel let down by this world and my circumstances. How quickly my internal dialogue is just the quiet repetition of this line, “It’s too late. Too late for healing. Too late for hope. Too late for the waters to be parted”. How fast I am to limit God and put Him in a box. This lament doesn’t actually have as much to do with my belief in God, because I do believe, the struggle seems to be much more about what I believe about Him.
Think about all of the “obstacles” standing in the way of the fulfillment of this great promise. Abram’s age, Sarai’s age, all the biological factors therein and everything else they knew to be “true” in their experience of the lives around them. It might be impossible for us in his position to wholeheartedly believe the promise God made him. We are talking long standing disappointment. In my mind, not a thing easily put to rest. So what did the picture of the starry night change? Wouldn’t that sight have been something so very familiar to Abraham, living as a nomad? Why use that particular imagery as response? I think it is because Abraham would have a full understanding of the countless stars that glittered above him, he probably spent countless hours pondering their unfathomable numbers!
So, what happened in that tiny moment? When God tells him to go out of the tent and to gaze upon those stars, Abraham instantly got it, because this image is not a picture of a few bright dots like my city sky, it was the milky way! It was a glimpse and a reminder of the infinitude of God’s person and ability. It was a striking visual representation of their covenant, a tangible representation of an intangible promise. It was a tiny still voice that spoke with that image and said, I am not finite, I am bigger than you can imagine. It clicked for this man, whose heart may have broken a little bit more each month that Sarah did not become pregnant, whose sonless months turned into empty years, and barren years turned into desolate decades. This great man, for whom time slowly stole his youth and along with it, his chance to be a father. This man, now living in his autumn years, needed the warm voice of promise for his heart that may have started the quiet lament, “It’s too late Lord, you’re too late.”
This moment was clarity for this faithful man who intimately knew waiting and disappointment and struggle. He knew what it felt like to “do the doubt,” giving life long service to a God that gave a promise of inheritance, that each day became more and more unlikely, until at last, became “impossible”.
The moment when he saw the stars, it must have clicked, because he was reminded that he had been keeping God in a box (or in this case, a tent.) I would like to think that in that moment, as he left that tent to gaze up at the heavens, Abraham’s faith was deepened and perhaps even transformed as he felt his belief stretched to the edges of it’s finitude. His heart instantly adjusted as he considered what he believed about the God he served, the one and only True God, God of vast power and unending beauty. His soul must have reverberated inside him with the truth whispered to His heart, “With me, nothing is impossible.”
This gladdens my soul and deepens my faith. I believe God, but often, I need to adjust what I believe about HIm. Is that true for you? I hope that if you ever hear you heart begin the lament, “It’s too late Lord,” that you have something to remind you of what you should believe about the God we serve. Place it in your life, so that as you gaze upon it- you would remember the faithful promiser and in that moment, your mountains of doubt would be moved, the waters of your human understanding parted, and you, like Abraham, would believe.