Hoping Against Hope (Romans 4:16-25)

OK… at the risk of leaving some people behind on this one, let’s start off by being a kid again in summer Vacation Bible School and sing together – “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you, so let’s all praise the Lord.” The first verse in today’s devotional says that Abraham is the father of us all, and indeed he is the father of all those – Jew or Gentile – who have been saved by God’s grace through faith. Just as God is one who has brought to life that which was dead physically (Christ … and as we’ll see in a moment, something else!), God has brought to life all of us who were spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins.

Not only did the Christian classic song “Father Abraham” come from today’s devotional passage, so also did the English language idiom “to hope against hope.”  The meaning of this occasionally-used phrase is one of continuing to hope for something when the situation appears entirely bleak. For example, Redskins fans might say of the coming season, “We’re hoping against hope that the Skins will at long last win a Super Bowl.” So you see, this is an expression of hope rendered where there is no substantive reality to have such!  (Okay… you know I’m just kidding … I love them deep, deep, down somewhere in my soul … or should I say that I’m hoping against hope that I do?!).

If you want to keep score, there are two reasons why Abraham should have no hope, but only one reason as to why he should hope against hope.

The first reason for Abraham to feel hopeless was the mirror. When he looked into it, he had my common and similar reaction, “What’s a young man like you doing in a body like that?” He was almost 100 years old. And yes, people lived longer then, but, well, let’s just say that the procreation train had already departed the station!

But there was an even worse reason for Abraham to lack faith. If the mirror experience wasn’t bad enough, when he turned around, there stood Sarah! Oh boy. Yes, a babe in her younger years … but, that was a while ago. Now at age 90, when it says that her “womb was dead,” that is not metaphorical speech!

But, Abraham has ONE good reason to have faith:  He had a promise from God about being a father of many. And that promise was ultimately one from which he did not waver. He believed that the God who called things into being – like the created world – could bring life to the dead situation of their bodies; and since God had said it would happen, he believed it would indeed transpire. This faith in God’s promise was credited (imputed) to Abraham’s account as righteous – declaring him justified! It was not works, circumcision, or the Law that did it – it was faith.

You gotta love it when the Scriptures give you the application and don’t just leave you to figure it out on your own. And the passage says that this was not a one-time thing, but rather that it applies to all of us today.  Christ took our imputed sins, and being delivered over to death paid for them and was raised again. As we believe in this work – understanding these cross words – our faith credits Christ’s righteousness to our account, and we have justification. Whoohoo!

Romans 4:16-25

16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.”  He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.