Genesis 17:1-7,15,16

There is a series of events which is common in the Bible and in our own experience. The series is: Promise, Principle, Problem, Provision. God promises something, but there are strings attached: there are principles we need to follow - commands to obey, conditions to the promise. As we obey, and expect God to fulfil his promise, we find problems arising. It's only as we keep going n faith, despite the problems, that we see God's provision for our needs, and eventually the promise is fulfilled.

This series of events certainly was Abraham's experience. In this chapter God confirms his promises that Abram and Sarai will have many descendants and will inherit the land, and he even changes their names to mark the coming reality - Abram becomes Abraham, 'Father of many', and Sarai becomes Sarah, for she will be a mother of nations.

God made these promises to Abraham, even though Abraham was by no means perfect - read the stories to see his cowardly treatment of his wife. However, if God has a relationship with anyone, they need to live in an appropriate way - obeying him, trusting him, loving him. These are summed up in his command, 'Walk before me and be blameless' (v.1). That is the principle Abraham has to live by - knowing that he was already accepted and loved by God.

There was a big problem, though: Sarah was childless. The story of Abraham is the story of how he copes with God's promises despite the fact of Sarah's inability to conceive. He tries to bring about fulfilment in his own way, with disastrous results (chapter 16). In the end, he simply has to trust God. That is always the way. We, too, are bound to have problems in our relationship with God, and problems especially in seeing God's promises work out - how many of us have not had problems with unanswered prayer?

Through trust in God, we find fulfilment. God does what he promises, in his own time and in his own way. He provides for us, though testing may come first. We can trust that the testing is never arbitrary or unnecessary. God's purposes are good.

Can you see in your own lives the series: promise, principle, problem and provision? How can you help one another through the problem part?

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