Probably the most frustrating of all of men's relationships with God had to be exemplified in the life of Abraham, at least in terms of what we are often seeking and longing to know and how our faithfulness brings us face-to-face with His.
We know Abraham for his faith; it's legendary. When we talk about what it means to be a faithful man, Abraham is it. Even the author of Hebrews says that Abraham was rewarded on the basis of his faith. And when we read his story in Genesis, we see that again and again, the Lord gave His promise to the faithful man, signs from God in response to man's faith.
But it's always the same promise.
The first promise the Lord makes to Abraham is that he will be made into a great nation, having countless children in the land that God would give him. (Genesis 12:1-3) The second promise the Lord makes to Abraham, in response to Abraham's having left his home land and gone where the Lord had shown him, is that the Lord would give his descendants this land. (Genesis 12:7) The third promise the Lord makes to Abraham, after Abraham agrees to separate from his nephew and take possession of a certain section of the land, is that the Lord would give Abraham countless descendants, who would live in this land. (Genesis 13:14-17) The fourth promise the Lord makes to Abraham, after the man had faithfully been waiting for these countless descendants to start coming, was that he would have countless descendants who would take possession of the land that he was living in. (Genesis 15)
The fifth promise that the Lord makes to Abraham (are you starting to see a pattern here?) is that he will have countless descendants who will live in the land that God has given him. (Genesis 17) The sixth promise that the Lord makes to Abraham is that he would have a son, even in his old age, and that this son would be the first of countless descendants and would inherit the land in which Abraham was living. (Genesis 18) Time passes, and the Lord makes a seventh and final promise to Abraham - that he will have countless descendants who will inherit the land in which he is living. (Genesis 22:15-19)
Throughout this series of promises, Abraham continues to demonstrate his faith. It is on the basis of this faith that the Lord says He is making these promises, even right down to the very last one, the time when Abraham nearly sacrificed his only son on the mountain, as God had commanded. Also in there, Abraham faithfully left his home, settled in the region, circumcised his household, etc. etc. And at every step of faithfulness, God's response was the same - I am making a promise to you.
I have to be honest and say, this would be tough for me. Abraham's faithfulness gets tougher and tougher; the things that God asks him to do are not easy things. I would want God's promise also to grow, to deepen, to expand somehow. If faithfulness requires more and more and more from me, I have to admit that there's a part of me that would expecting more and more and more from God. There is a part of me that would feel somehow cheated if I kept doing harder and harder things and God kept promising only one thing to me. Uh, yeah, God. You already said that. I was already counting on that one.
Is that all You've got?
It's tough. I don't know - maybe my expectation would grow. But it kind of feels like a set-up, doesn't it? Like God just keeps asking Abraham to prove himself again and again and again and God has not yet delivered on a single promise He's made. The sixth promise - the sixth time that God makes this promise to Abraham - is the first that specifically results in Abraham having even one descendant, and by the time of the seventh and last promise, that's still all he has. One. Abraham has come through seven times for the Lord, done everything he's been asked, lived a life of faith, and God's "countless" is still easily numbered. It's one.
How frustrating! There must really have been something to Abraham's faith because at this point, most of us would not have any left. There must really have been something special about the way that Abraham believed because at this point, I'm more like Sarah, standing in the doorway of my tent, laughing. One. Seven promises of faithfulness, decades on the move, hundreds of circumcisions, mountains climbed, and...one.