I’m sure you have heard that old saying, "If we do our best, God will do the rest." As common as that saying is, it is dead wrong when it comes to salvation. Like the Galatians we often lose sight of this fact in the day-to-day realities of life. We get so used to relying on ourselves to get anywhere in this world, sometimes we do the same spiritually. In a final attempt to show the Galatians from Scripture the foolishness of this mentality, Paul reminds them of Abraham’s own lapse of faith in God’s promise.
After waiting ten years for the arrival of their promised child, Abram and Sarai concluded that God must have been waiting for them to do something. Since ancient customs declared a female slave could legally serve as a surrogate mother for a barren mistress, Abram and Sarai decided to father a child through their Egyptian handmaiden, Hagar (Gen 16:1-6). “Their” plan, however, was doomed from the start. Instead of resulting in a blessing, their plan caused nothing more than turmoil and heartache—and while a child was born, the only "miraculous" element in the birth of Ishmael was Sarah's willingness to share her husband with another woman! It was only some 15 years later that Abraham finally realized God’s promise of salvation was something only God could bring about—like the miraculous birth of the child Isaac to his barren wife Sarai.
Looking back it is easy, of course, to see how shortsighted Abraham and Sarah’s attempt was to help bring about God’s promise. Yet how often in our own experience do we do the same thing? Instead of waiting on the Lord to do what He has promised—whether in our own lives, those of our family and friends, or in the world itself—we become impatient and try to do it ourselves, making a mess of things. In reflecting on Abraham’s experience, may we learn to trust less in ourselves and more in God’s promises.
Carl P. Cosaert
Walla Walla University