Genesis 17-18, Matthew 9

God of the Impossible.

Genesis 17-18, Matthew 9

Is anything too hardfor the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son. – Genesis 18:14 ESV

God had made a covenant with Abram. He had promised to give him many offspring and produce from his line a great nation, more numerous than the stars in the sky. The only problem was that Abram and Sarai were both old and, on top of that, she was barren. From Abram and Sarai’s perspective this wonderful promise from God sounded great, but appeared impossible. Unless Sarai could get pregnant, the whole thing would be a pipe dream. But over and over again, we read of God restating His covenant promise to Abram. He keeps on confirming His original vow to Abram. “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” (Genesis 17:6-7 ESV).

God even commands Abram to seal their agreement with the sign of circumcision. Every male in Abram’s family would be required to undergo circumcision, as a continuing sign of the Abrahamic Covenant to all of Abram’s descendants. This rite would physically set them apart and visually remind them that they had been spiritually set apart by God for His purposes.

And yet, Abram would continue to focus on the seeming roadblocks standing in the way of God’s promises ever being fulfilled. He and Sarai were old. She was barren. It was all impossible.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But God reminded Abram of something that every child of God must wrestle with as they live their life in this fallen world. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14 ESV). It’s interesting that God put it in the form of a question, because Abram’s mind was full of other similar questions at that time. Earlier, when God had reconfirmed His promise to make of Abram a great nation, He had even changed his name to Abraham, which means “father of a multitude.” God was going out of His way to let this man know that He was serious about His promise. But “Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’” (Genesis 17:17 ESV). It all seemed too impossible to Abraham. The circumstances of his life were stacked against him and the odds were not in his favor. His wife Sarai had a similar response to the promise of God. “So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?'” (Genesis 18:12 ESV). As far as Abraham and Sarah were concerned, the realities of life outweighed the reliability of God’s promise.

They even attempted to help God out by coming up with their own solution to the problem. Sarah gave Abraham her maid servant as a surrogate. He impregnated her and she gave birth to a son. But that boy was not to be the heir to the promises of God. Their solution was not acceptable to God. They were to learn a valuable lesson on the power and faithfulness of God. He always does what He says He will do, because He can do what He says He will do – no matter how impossible it may appear to be from our limited human perspective. Is anything too hard for God? No.

What does this passage reveal about man?

When Jesus appeared on the scene hundreds of years later, He would be the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. He would be the “seed,” the offspring who would bring blessing to all the nations. And He would continue to demonstrate that God was the god of the impossible. His very presence on earth as Immanuel, God with us, was a reminder that God could do the impossible. The birth of Jesus was impossible, with Mary, His mother, having been a virgin at His conception. Jesus’ earthly ministry was all about the impossible. Matthew records miracle after miracle performed by Jesus – impossible events that revealed Jesus’ divine nature and unlimited power. Chapter nine of Matthew reveals Jesus restoring the ability to walk to a paralytic, raising a young girl from the dead, healing a woman suffering from constant blood loss, giving sight to two blind men, and casting a demon out of a mute man, restoring his capacity to speak. All impossible acts that amazed those who witnessed them.

Men and women, suffering from all kinds of diseases and disabilities were restored by Jesus. But as impossible and improbable as each of these things were, there was something even more amazing Jesus did that reveal the limitless power of God in the lives of men. When Jesus healed the paralyzed man, He said to him, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2 ESV). He forgave sin. And the Pharisees were appalled and accused Jesus of blasphemy, because only God could forgive sin. He was claiming to do what only God can do – the impossible. And as great as the healings were that Jesus performed, the greatest miracle was His ability to bring forgiveness of sins to men. Up until that time, all forgiveness had been temporary at best. Even the sacrifices made in the Temple could only forestall God’s judgment, not eliminate it. That’s why they had to offer sacrifices on a regular, ongoing basis.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:3-4 ESV). Jesus came to do the impossible: provide a one-time sacrifice for the sins of men. “But when Christhad offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12 ESV). God is a god of the impossible and improbable. He is always doing what we don’t expect and can’t understand. He is not limited by our doubt and hampered by our circumstances. Nothing is impossible for Him.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

But doubting God comes easy to most of us. I find it easy to look at the circumstances surrounding my life and conclude that they pose too great a barrier for God. They are too big. But I have to constantly remind myself that my God is great. He is the God of the impossible. He is the same God who gave Abraham as son and mankind a Savior. He is the God who made of an old couple a great nation. He gave mankind a Messiah. And He saved me and forgave me of my sins. He provided life when I was facing a death sentence. He restored me a right relationship with Himself – something that would have been utterly impossible for me to do. Nothing is too great for God. Nothing.

Father, what an invaluable lesson for me to learn, and I am faced with it each and every day of my life. I am constantly tempted to doubt You. I am constantly prone to see You as limited in Your power. But nothing is too hard for You. Help me to believe that in my own life. Help me to see You at work in my life, demonstrating Your unlimited power through the impossible circumstances of life. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men