It's the realm of our greatest fears. It's the battlefield of God's greatest victories.
As Genesis unfolds, we see a downward spiral of sin and destruction. Creation seems hopeless. Although there are a few glimmers of people who love God and seek to follow Him, mankind continually demonstrates a downward spiral of sin and depravity. One of these bright spots is a man of faith - Abram. In Genesis 12:1-3, God makes Abram an incredible promise. Leave all you've ever known and as you're going, I will show you your destination. I will show you where to go, make you a great nation, bless you, make your name great, and everyone on earth will be blessed through you. Notice all the "I will's" - God is the one responsible for making all of this happen. Abram is simply to obey. He makes the appropriate response and leaves as God told him. And then . . . none of it happens.
What do you do when God promises something and seems to forget?
Abram has launched out into the realm of the unknown and impossible. It's here that we often feel helpless. We find ourselves in God's domain, the realm that requires faith; where He says, "I will . . . and you cannot."
If He doesn't immediately respond, we think He is silent or has forgotten. Our response is often to fix it ourselves. We try and only succeed in making things worse (see Gen. 16). Instead, we have to learn quiet trust in God and . . . wait. We have to learn to trust and depend on Him. We have to be willing to allow Him to work at his pace and on His timetable.
God appears to Abram and gives him guidance in this strange place; the in-between what is and what is to come. He accents the need to depend on Him - Do not be afraid. I will protect you. I am your reward.
Abram's response is the same as ours. He mentions the one thing that is noticeably lacking. God says that He will make Abram a great nation. Abram asks the obvious question, "Don't I at least need a son to become a great nation?" God's answer is to restate His promise; the childless man will have offspring as numerous as the stars on a clear, country night.
His reaction to the restatement of God's promise is incredible - he believes God. Even though it is impossible. Even though it seemed God had forgotten, Abram took God at His word. He believed Him. He had faith - belief, assurance, even in the face of contradictory evidence or even a lack of any evidence at all. It means trusting that God is in control and that He is directing everything according to His plan, no matter how it seems to you.
God assures him in a way that seems really weird to us today. He has Abram cut a heifer, a goat, and a ram in half. He puts them, along with two birds, opposite of one another. In his time, this was symbolic of making a covenant. The parties involved would cut animals in half and walk between them. This act was symbolic of them saying, "May this happen to me if I fail to do what was promised." However, Abram never walks through because he has no part to play in fulfilling the promise. God appears as a smoking firepot and torch and passes through alone because this promise will be fulfilled by Him alone.
In spite of the assurance, Abram is still left to wait. At the age of 99, 24 years after he is first given the promise, God says, "The time is right. Your wife will have a son." The timing seemed all wrong to Abram (whose name God changes to Abraham, meaning "father of many nations") and Sarai (whose name is changed to Sarah, meaning "princess"), but in the realm of the impossible, things operate on God's timetable, not ours.
God was not about to let this promise fail. He was creating a nation of His very own people, the nation of Israel. Remember Eve's offspring, the hope of all the nations and all people? Remember Jesus, the One who would make all things right again and rescue us from ourselves and our sin? Jesus was destined to be born of Abraham's descendants. And if you think a 100-year old, childless woman giving birth to a baby was impossible . . . you ain't seen nothin' yet.