Is Anything too Difficult for God?

In Scripture, God is one who does miracles. I want to take a moment and talk about those miracles. There are many people who get very mystic when they talk about miracles, but I do not believe that the Bible in any way promotes a mystical belief system. Further, there are people who wish to discredit the Bible on the basis of the miraculous things recorded therein; they do not believe miracles occur and therefore do not believe the biblical account. To begin, I want you to know that I believe God’s normative way of doing things is by providence. For instance, I was about to travel on one occasion and prayed that God would fix any problems my truck had so that I would not have to worry about them on my long drive. It was a selfish and silly prayer because I know that God already knows my needs, and I can trust Him. During my drive, the truck overheated and I got stuck on the side of the road. Somehow, it was worked out because I broke down that money was donated not only for me to replace my water pump but, also, get new tires for the vehicle. I paid nothing of my own money. I was provided for just like I asked in my prayer. My prayer was answered, but it was not by miracle. Instead, all things seemed to work together with my circumstance in order that I would be provided for by non-miraculous means. This is called providence. God is always working all things together. A menopausal woman giving birth, however, is a miracle because her body is incapable of becoming pregnant. Not only have I experienced miracles in my life, having been miraculously healed from asthma and lower back issues, but Craig Keener has a wonderful two-volume work that records many medically verifiable miracles in the modern day—even people being raised from the dead. Whether or not we deny them, miracles happen.

In Genesis 18:14, God speaks to Sarah, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Another year has gone, and the Lord visits Sarah:

Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned (Genesis 21:1-8).

The word translated in the NASB as “took note” can also be translated “visit, inspect, look at, see, command, summon, appoint, muster; avenge, afflict; hand over.” פקד is a versatile word. I will generally prefer the translation of the NASB over that of the KJV, but in light of Jesus’s promise to Sarah in Genesis 18:14, I think the proper rendering is “visited.” I don’t think the NASB is mistranslated, here. I simply would have made a different translation decision based on the broad context of the narrative. As Jesus promised in 18:14, He visits Sarah and she conceives and bears a son. This happens at the appointed time that God promised in 18:14. Sarah calls her son, “Isaac.” Abraham circumcises Isaac according to their new tradition (cf. Genesis 17:11). Sarah is happy. There is laughter for her. When Isaac is weaned, Abraham makes a great feast to celebrate the day.

I want to keep this simple because we have a tendency to complicate the Scriptures and read far too much into the biblical narrative. God has done things in such a way that only He receives glory. Sarah could not have a child. Abraham likely did not care about sex, but we don’t know that for sure. Sarah is skeptical at best and possibly cynical about God’s promise. When God does this impossible thing, both Sarah and Abraham are happy and celebrate.

There are many in our time who have submitted themselves to the intellectualist religion of our day. There are many who feel a need to explain away the seemingly miraculous things that happen all around us by attaching it to so-called science (even though science is a discipline, not a system of beliefs). They really keep themselves from experiencing any real or lasting happiness or joy in life. Before we get to the next part of the story, I just want to rest here. When is the last time you enjoyed the good things you have been blessed with in this life? When is the last time you rested from trying to figure out how things were going to happen or work out? When is the last time you rejected worry about the future? When is the last time you looked for the good things in others in your life instead of always being so critical? There is a joy that comes when we learn to enjoy the good things God has given us whether by providence or miracle. Abraham and Sarah still have hardships. There is still drama between Sarah and Hagar. Now they have an older son, Ishmael, who is not going to be treated like the firstborn in their household. He is the forsaken firstborn in the ongoing motif. Yet, they are happy. Yet, the celebrate the goodness of God.

I can attest to this by my own experience as well. I was once overly critical of everything I saw. I was always immediately drawn to all the things I disagreed with and always felt a pressing need to publish a blog post or video about it. While I think there is an appropriate time, place, and way to interact with the ideas of others, a critical lifestyle is tiring and ultimately lacking in the joy we all so desperately need. Critical thinking is important. Critical interactions are not. At one moment, I decided I needed to be more content and loving of others in all my interactions. In one moment, I decided that I wanted to enjoy the good things God is doing instead of try to always be persuading others of my critical assertions, which is, ultimately what they became. Once I started opening my eyes to all the good, because God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28), I actually became a more joyful, happy, and easy-going person.

For Abraham and Sarah, their happiness will last a mere several months before Sarah creates unnecessary drama because of Ishmael. We will see that part of the story next. For each of us, this life presents us with a decision. Scripture gives a formula for us to be blessed, a word that means “happy” in both the Hebrew of the Old Testament and Greek of the New. While I could quote a great number of verses, I think it will be more profitable to look at only one additional chapter, a psalm:

How [happy] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish (Psalm 1).

Let me challenge you to put God’s word to the test. I did, and I found it to be true. We strive to live holy lives, not follow the advice of worldly people. We reject the tendency of the world to scoff at others whether on social media or in church or wherever. Instead, we return to Scripture. We think about the words of God’s law throughout the day. The wicked are like chaff. With all of their scoffing and cynicism and being always critical of others, their words won’t last. Their impact is fleeting. They don’t make much of a difference. They, like everyone else, will die and be forgotten to most. Those who delight in the things of God will live more fulfilled lives, will have lasting happiness, and will thrive no matter their circumstances because Yahweh knows their way. It is how God designed us to live. Since He did not design us to live like scoffers, being overtly critical and condescending of others, that way of living will eventually perish. It will be no more. So, let me ask. Are you living in the Lord’s happy way? Or, are you living in the wicked way that is perishing? Nothing is impossible for God. That is why we trust in Him, not our own perishing ways.

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