As we grow in knowledge of God’s Word, it is all too easy (if you’re like me) to fall into a drowsy sort of familiarity. Many times, as I read passages I know well, I am numb to the wonder I remember from my earliest readings. Only by God’s grace am I ever shaken awake by His Spirit to see the beauty and radical nature of His Word anew.
I recently had such an experience with the story of Abraham in Genesis 12. Instead of sitting with the weight of God’s promise to Abraham, I often move past the tension as if the fulfillment is a logical rather than miraculous conclusion.
And yet, this week as I read Paul’s retelling of God’s promise to Abraham in Romans 4, I began to hear the song of the gospel in its story. Paul emphasizes the impossibility of conception by describing Abraham’s body to be “as good as dead” and Sarah’s womb as irreversibly barren (Romans 4:19). Yet God spoke a promise to Abraham, and he believed Him to be the One “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17).
Against all odds, Abraham “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21). His faith became sight as God spoke into existence the otherwise impossible birth of a son and the people of Israel. This faith in the surety of God’s promises was counted to Abraham as righteousness, and God justified him (Romans 4:22).
Just as He brought forth life from the nearly dead bodies of Abraham and Sarah, God continued to bring forth life from the dead throughout salvation history, and He continues to do so in our midst. As God promised Abraham that He would be given a son, so too does God promise in Jesus that the Christian will be brought to new life. The impossibility of such “new beginning” in the wake of a world marred by sin and death is undone by the resurrection of Jesus. The Word which spoke all things into being puts an end to sin and death’s endless monologue of condemnation, and in His death and resurrection He promises His grace is sufficient even for the depth of our lowliness.
The story of Abraham and Sarah awakens my hope in the promises of God and brings to life Paul’s refrain:
Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25)