The Time of Life
Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!” Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.” Then He finished talking with him, and God went up from Abraham. (Gen 17:15-22)
According to what is written in the Bible, over the period of 24 years, God appeared to Abraham six times, which is once every four years on average. At each time, God gave more details of His promises. At first, He said, “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore”; then He said, “I will give this land to your descendants”. After that He promised, “I will be their God.” But finally, He promised, “At this time next year you will have a son whom Sarah will bear to you,” and also, “Sarai will no longer be her name but Sarah will be her name. She will be the mistress”. It has the meaning of owner.
Thus, another promise was given, that Sarah was going to bear a son for Abraham and she would become a mother of nations. This is different than the other existing promises. As I mentioned yesterday, the other promises that were given to Abraham appeared to be impossible and couldn’t even be confirmed. Both fulfilment and verification were impossible from man’s perspective. However, this promise was different. Some of you may have already guessed but what’s the difference? It is verifiable. Even though this promise is impossible to fulfil, it can at least be confirmed unlike the others. It would take hundreds and even thousands of years to verify the other promises but with this promise, he doesn’t have to wait that long. As long as he is alive until next year, he would find out whether or not Sarah gives birth to a son.
From this moment on, what Abraham earnestly longed for was for Sarah to have a son. Of course, even prior to that, he had longed to have a son but this time it was a different kind of waiting. Previously, he even attempted to have a son by Hagar and also through Eliezer of Damascus. However, this time was very different. As Abraham waited for a son this time, it wasn’t only to have his own heir, but if a son was really born to him next year, it would be a confirmation that God’s word, which was impossible, will surely be fulfilled. And by that, he would be receiving the proof that God’s words are not lies nor an exaggeration, and that God really is the Almighty who can call things that are not as though they were. Hence from that time, Abraham longed for that day to come. If he does have a son next year, then God’s word which seemed impossible would be proven to be true. Moreover, even though the words and promises which Abraham heard from God over the past 24 years all seemed to be impossible to man, he would then be able to believe that with God, they are all possible.
That is why this son being born was so important and he longed and longed and longed from that time on. Finally, when Sarah gave birth to a son, he was overjoyed. The joy he had was beyond that of only having a son; he had received the sign that every promise of God was going to be fulfilled to him. Hence Isaac was proof for Abraham. He was the testimony of faith and the testimony of God’s promise. As a result of his faith, Abraham received that testimony which was according to God’s promise. Abraham knew and confirmed when his son was born, that his descendants certainly would become as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. It was remarkable that he had a son, however, it is hard to assume just from that his descendants would automatically become as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.
In some cases, a person’s family line can’t be carried on because not many sons are born to him and in the end, his last surviving son dies so that his descendants reduce in number over time. Ultimately that family line can no longer continue but ends there. When we consider that, can Abraham who just had one son assume that his descendants would grow to be so numerous like the stars and the sand on the seashore? Nevertheless, he believed that it would happen. How come? He received the evidence that all those impossible promises can become possible. He was able to believe the promise that God would give his descendants that land, as well as the promise that God would become “their God”. That is why he was overjoyed when he saw the birth of his son.
In John 8, Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day and he saw it and was glad”. He longed to see it and was glad when he did. Here in verse 21, God said, “My covenant I will establish with Isaac whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year”, and then in verse 10 of chapter 18, He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life”. So, God said I will return around this time next year. In a different translation, it is written, “when the season comes around”. Why are there different translations? When God said, “according to the time of life”, he meant spring because in Hebrew, spring time is “time of life”. So, it was spring season at the time, and so God promised to return around the same time, the same season next year, according to the time of life. I will return to you according to the time of life next year. Thus, Abraham waited for that time of life. He waited for the next spring to come, which was the time of life, and finally, the time came. He had a son. Jesus said, “I am the life”, and “Abraham rejoiced to see My day”, that “time of life” actually refers to the time God came to Abraham, that is, the time of Jesus.
As Abraham received confirmation through his son of everything God had promised him, he didn’t need to be anxious. He was at peace. Abraham was sure, regardless of what happened to him from that time on, because he had the testimony. There was no reason for him to think otherwise. He finally obtained a testimony through his faith. He persevered for 25 years and finally obtained the testimony.
In this way, faith is not something you get overnight and then disappears again, nor does it come and go according to your mood. The person who has such testimony will not change. His faith has nothing to do with his emotions. It doesn’t change with how much or little prayer he does. Faith which is the seed from God, is not something you have only when you are filled with the Holy Spirit or disappears when you are not; you don’t have faith by doing dawn prayer or not have if you don’t do dawn prayer; nor does it go away just because you quarreled with somebody. It doesn’t change. Actually, it doesn’t have anything to do with me. It will continue to remain in the person who believes. I hope you will believe audaciously. Just believe no matter what. Thus, all of the requirements and commandments of the Lord are based upon the premise that we have this faith. But when people are told they must do something and they are unable to do it, even their fundamental faith is shaken because their faith is not stable.
When I preach, I tend to emphasize that man is God’s instrument (tool). And some people say that my sermons are quite intense. But please don’t get me wrong. I am able to preach that with confidence because the love of God in me and my faith in His promises are so sure that nothing can shake them. Yet if my faith in God’s promises is shaky, then I probably wouldn’t be able to preach like that. It is because nothing is able to shake my faith that I can say so boldly.
I can sternly discipline my sons, although their mum is too tenderhearted to do the same. I would tell my sons to stand outside with their arms up, and then I forget how long it’s been or where they are, all the while their mum is so anxious about them. And then I remember, “Ah they’re outside with their arms raised”, so I bring them back inside. The reason I can do that is because I know for certain that my love for them doesn’t change. And I have the confidence that they also have no doubts about my love for them. If they were not my children, or I had adopted them, would I be able to do the same? Would I be able to make them stand outside like that for half an hour? I don’t think my conscience would allow me to. And I would probably ask myself all the time. Do I really love them or not? Because I don’t have that confidence, I won’t be able to treat them like that. Actually, I would be nicer and kinder to them. That’s because I am also unsure about my love for them. However, since I have no doubts and am confident that I love my sons, I can send them on errands, tell them to do things for me. I wouldn’t be able to do that if they were adopted children.
When God’s promise is planted within us, it will remain steadfast and unshaken. And it is important for us to acknowledge that and persevere with unchanging faith until we receive the testimony. Abraham knew that everything God promised him was true even though he didn’t see it with his own eyes. And the same applies to us. We have not yet gone into heaven but we are so sure about it. The promise of God continued on until Jesus Christ came and even to us now. Let’s pray that we can be full of the steadfast faith with a testimony.
God our Father, just as you gave testimony to Abraham confirming how all the promises would be fulfilled to him, help us also to be filled with faith to surely believe what we cannot see through the testimonies you have given us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center