THE STORY OF ABRAHAM – Genesis 17:1, 4–7 – When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, … “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”
There’s a little rhyme my (Chris) three-year-old son loves. I make my hand into a “snail” by balling it up into a fist and having my thumb act as the snail’s head. With excruciating slowness, this “snail” crawls from his toes up to his head: “Slowly, slowly, very slowly creeps the garden snail. Slowly, slowly, very slowly up the garden rail.”
The second part is what he’s waiting for, though. Suddenly the “snail” turns into a “mouse” and it scurries all over him: “Quickly, quickly, very quickly runs the little mouse. Quickly, quickly, very quickly all around the house!” Tickles and giggles abound.
What makes the rhyme fun for my son is just how long it takes to get to “the good part.” The whole time that snail is crawling—slowly, slowly, very slowly—his eyes widen because he knows it’s headed somewhere. At no other moment in his little life is he able to sit and wait so well.
Waiting is tough work, whether you’re three or thirty-three. Or, like Abraham and Sarah, almost 103.
God made a radical promise to Abraham and Sarah. As they approached one hundred and ninety, respectively, God said he would give this barren couple a son. Abraham and Sarah knew enough about human reproduction for this to be an unbelievable promise. And it took them a good while to really believe it. But in the end, they did.
And in the end, God did, too. He fulfilled his promise, miraculously giving Abraham and Sarah a son, Isaac. Abraham and Sarah had wanted a son for decades. God had promised a son for years. And slowly, slowly, very slowly, God delivered on his promise.
Isaac was not just a joy for Abraham and Sarah. He was an integral part of God’s plan, too. Through this son, God would start a family line that would overturn the curse brought on by Adam and Eve. Through this son, God would provide a way to bring renewed blessing to the earth. And generations later, through another miraculous son in this line, God would keep another promise. That child, Jesus Christ, would forever and finally prove that however slow God seems, his “slowness” is not a sign of his absence.
The Apostle Peter reminds us, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). In other words, God is not slow. He is patient. That distinction gives us the ability to be patient, too, waiting on him to fulfill his promises.
For some of us, God will act sooner than we imagine— healing an illness, reconciling a broken relationship, ending an addiction. For others of us, God will ask us to wait until he returns. For all of us, God’s promise of restoration in Jesus is certain. Though it seems slow, it will come.
Surely, surely, very surely.
Where in your life do you think God is moving too slowly—or not moving at all? What would it look like for you to choose to trust that God’s slowness is not a sign of his absence?