Genesis 25:20-21, 24-26
20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
24 When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
One of the weaknesses that we have as we attempt to read through the Scripture is our lack of ability to imagine the passage of time. As we watch the recorded events of the lives of men and women in the Bible, it can appear to us that they were always turning around and seeing God, hearing God’s voice, seeing miracles, or experiencing the supernatural. This, of course, makes us wonder what is wrong with our world. Has God stopped working?
Take a look at the passages above. Isaac had a problem. Isaac’s wife was unable to have children. This, as you undoubtedly know, was a terrible thing for the couple. But, the Bible tells us, Isaac prayed to God, and God allowed Rebekah to conceive. Well, that was easy, wasn’t’ it.
But take just a second to look at the numbers. Isaac and Rebekah were married when Isaac was 40 years old. The twins were born when Isaac was 60. It took a full 20 years of prayer before God answered Isaac’s cries. That’s 20 years of watching everyone they knew have kids. That’s 20 years of watching their neighbors go to kindergarten plays, softball games, high school graduations, and even weddings. That’s 20 years of crying out to God and asking why and wondering what’s wrong with them that they could not have children. That’s 20 years of not understanding how it is that God would keep his promises to Abraham and Isaac when Rebekah was unable to conceive.
It’s too bad, in some ways, that we see a verse like verse 21 above and we fail to understand that 20 years passed from the wedding to the nursery. It’s too bad, because we think that the people of God don’t go through hard times if they are really God’s people. But, in this case at least, we now see that sometimes it takes a very long time before God answers our prayers. Sometimes it takes so long that we want to give up, to quit, to turn and go do something else. But God was there. For all 20 of Isaac and Rebekah’s hard, childless years, God was there. God was doing exactly what needed to be done at exactly the time it needed to be done.
I don’t know what you are begging God to do. I do know, however, that God wants us to continue to trust in him, to come to him, and to seek his blessing. Maybe God will answer your prayer in the way that you want him to today. Maybe it will take 20 years. Maybe you will never get exactly what you want because God has something better in view. At least learn this from Isaac: God is always there, even when it looks and feels like he is not.
And, the next time you find yourself discouraged that the people in the Bible had all the fun, seeing miracle after miracle after miracle, remember that all we are getting are the highlights of their lives. We do not get pictures of the intervening decades of silence. Thank God that you live when you do, in a time when Christians have the Spirit of God and the word of God to keep us in daily fellowship with God.