A faithful presence of love in the absences of our city.

Signs of Faithfulness Between Already and Not Yet

genesis 12_10-20 (3)

When I was young my fears were many, varied, and generally somewhat irrational.  I lived in a safe neighborhood in the midwest, and I was terrified of jellyfish and bad guys climbing up a ladder to my bedroom to “get” me while I was sleeping, among other things.

Childhood fears are so simple, and simple to resolve, aren’t they?  One conversation with my dad about where the jellyfish live (the ocean) in comparison to where I lived (St. Louis, MO, which was about as far away from an ocean as you can be anywhere in the world), and that fear was, if not gone, then at least much diminished.

As an adult, my fears are much harder even to name, because they often seem so very intangible.  After thinking about Justin’s sermon on Sunday, though, I think that if I had to summarize my fears under one theme, it would be the theme of being found out.  Of people seeing that I really don’t have it all together, that I really don’t know as much as it seems like I do and that I’m actually not even a very interesting person, and that keeping up the facade is exhausting.

The irony of that fear is that, as anyone who has had a conversation with me knows, I have a pretty severe speech impairment.  Which means that as soon as you speak with me, you know that I really don’t have it all together, as much as I might try to pretend otherwise.  

In Genesis, Abram and Sarai were unable to have a child, although God had promised repeatedly to make them into a great nation.  Abram and Sarai’s physical limitations were absolute proof that whatever God was going to do, it was going to be through His strength alone.  My own sometimes-inability to speak is certainly nowhere near this level, but it is a constant and humbling reminder of my own limitations and my inability to answer my fundamental fears on my own merits.

So what does Abram do when he recognizes his own fear and weakness?  He cries out to God, and God answers him. He answers him in several ways - through His works, His words, and His signs.

He takes Abram outside and shows him the stars, which He created from nothing.  I’m reminded of the words of David in Psalm 8 - when I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers, the sun and moon which you have set in place, what is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him?  Yet you made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honor.” How amazing that the same God, who created the whole world, should love Abram deeply enough to care about his fears, and to soothe them!  

He then reiterates His promise to Abram, giving him yet more promises.  More words. Abram has seen pieces of the promises come to fruition, but this passage doesn’t really show Abram receiving any more fulfillment of the promise.  Instead, God gives him more words and more promises. Promises received directly from God, accompanied by a smoking firepot, are powerful, and I have no doubt that Abram felt so much comfort and affirmation, even as he continued to wait for the promise to reach its fulfillment.  Abram believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

In some ways, though, I think that we have it even better today, because we can see the fulfillment of the promise on a much larger scale than Abram ever was able to.  Here I’m reminded of the opening verses of the book of Hebrews - “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things...”  We, living on the “It is Finished” side of the promise, can see God’s sovereignty, goodness, and faithfulness playing out all throughout Biblical history, and we see it coming to fruition in Christ. The ultimate great nation is being made as God’s kingdom is being established, and all the nations of the earth are being blessed as the gospel spreads.  

Though we live on the post-resurrection side of the promise, we do still live in a time when God’s kingdom is not fully established, when we still do live with so much sin and fear in our own lives.  Theologians call this the “Already but Not Yet” where redemption has been accomplished, is being accomplished, and will be fully accomplished in the future. So while I continue to live in fear of being found out, I am reminded that Christ has already fully redeemed me, and that my value comes exclusively from Him.  That value is completely independent of anything I might offer or pretend to offer, and that in fact is says more about His love and his grace if I acknowledge that I really had nothing to offer to begin with.

And I can look forward to the day when God’s kingdom is fully come and His redemption is fully accomplished, and when all fears - whether jellyfish, bad guys, or my own vulnerability and inadequacy - are fully and finally put to rest.

~ Alyson Noell