Beckett: Pastor’s Thoughts – Nothing is Too Difficult for God Almighty (Genesis 18:11-14)

Today’s pastoral thought comes directly after God repeats His promise to Abraham that He would give him a son. “Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So, Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?’ The LORD said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son'” (Genesis 18:11-14).

After already repeating His promise in v. 10, because Sarah laughed, God felt the need to repeat His promise again, this time adding the rhetorical, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” The expected answer is, of course, no. Nothing is too difficult for God. The angel whom God sent to tell Mary she would conceive and bear a son as a virgin says much of the same thing. “And behold, your relative Elisabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:36-37).

As a Jew, Mary would’ve recalled the stories of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, and others. Like Sarah, Elisabeth was barren but given life in her womb by God’s power. If God can do this, surely He can give Mary a son in her womb and give birth to Him while remaining a virgin. Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing is too difficult for Him.

Many atheists think they’re clever when they say, “If God is all-powerful, can He create a rock He can’t lift?” Many Christians would stumble over this answer because, much as the Jews tried to trick Jesus, this is a trick question. It’s a trap! The way I always answer this silly question is: “Yes, but then He would lift it anyway because He’s God.” The devil thought he was clever too (Genesis 3:1), but God was even cleverer when He used the death of His only-begotten Son to conquer the devil. God’s wisdom smashes the clever stupidity of wicked unbelief.

Nothing is too difficult for God. Let this sink in for you… Have you ever, in your own eyes, committed a sin “so great” that you thought it was too sinful for God to forgive or that He would be too unwilling to forgive? I’ve been there. But nothing is too difficult for the Lord. Jesus died for you; His blood covers all your sins. No sin is too great that Jesus’ blood can’t cover. As I always like to paraphrase from the great Lutheran novel, The Hammer of God, “You are a great sinner, but Jesus is still a greater Saviour” (Giertz, 23).

This is the God who sent the 10 plagues upon Egypt, who led the people of Israel as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, who split the Red Sea and let His people cross on dry land, who gave the Israelites manna out of nothing, who brought water out from a rock, whose Son atoned for the sins of the whole world by His death on a cross. How dare we think God is not mighty enough to forgive our “greatest” sins. How dare we think Christ’s sacrificial blood was not wide enough to cover our sins.

Because nothing is too hard for God, we ought to pray the Lord’s Prayer with the utmost confidence, for in this prayer God promises to be our heavenly Father and, therefore, provide for us. Therefore, a review of the catechism is necessary:

  • Our Father who art in heaven. What does this mean? With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”
  • Hallowed be Thy name. What does this mean? God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also. How is God’s name kept holy? God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!”
  • Thy kingdom come. What does this mean? The kingdom of God comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also. How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”
  • Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. What does this mean? The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also. How is God’s will done? God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.”
  • Give us this day our daily bread. What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realise this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbours, and the like.”
  • And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. What does this mean? We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.”
  • And lead us not into temptation. What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.”
  • But deliver us from evil. What does this mean? We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.”
  • For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen. What does this mean? This means that I should be certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by Him; for He Himself has commanded us to pray in this way and has promised to hear us. Amen, amen means ‘yes, yes, it shall be so.'”

Bibliography

Giertz, Bo. The Hammer of God. Revised Edition. Minneapolis: Augsburg Books, 1960.

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