Meditations on “God of Transformation”: 2: Bear Children
Gen 11:29,30 ; 12:1,2 The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai… Now Sarai was barren; she had no children…. The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation
In the beginning of the Bible God says, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28) There are a few women who, perhaps because they fear childbirth or don’t want the bother of looking after a child, or want to put a career first, don’t want children, but most women at some time or other long to have a baby, and failure or inability in this respect is perhaps one of the hardest aspects of living in this Fallen World where things go wrong and sometimes women are barren. There are some notable women of whom it was written, ‘she was barren’ – Sarai (Gen 11:30), Isaac’s wife Rebekah (Gen 25:21), Jacob’s wife Rachel (Gen 29:31), Hannah (1 Sam 1:5) and Elizabeth (Lk 1:7).
Because we have the Bible it is easy for us to see these stories and see that God turned up for each of them and enabled them to conceive, at least two of them miraculously in old age. And this is at the heart of this – God’s ability where our ability falls short. In the first meditation we saw the wonder of God breaking into the material world that He had created and deists would have us believe that once He started it all off He stood back and had nothing more to do with it, but each of these stories of these women tell a different story; they tell us of a God who intervenes in human affairs and brings about a physical change in the most intimate realm possible, that of the process of having children. Not being a woman I flounder here but I suspect that this particular ability is the very thing that goes to the heart of being a woman, the ability to bear children, and if you are a woman of child-bearing age, you are reminded of it every month and it has profound emotional effects on you. There is nothing more wonderful, and therefore when it is denied, nothing so terrible.
In only one of those women do we find the cause stated as, “the LORD had closed her womb,” (1 Sam 1:5) in the case of Hannah. We would assume, rightly I believe, that in all the other cases, it was just a case of this is what happens in the Fallen World we’ve already referred to. But that raises a second matter in respect of God. We have already noted that He steps into the affairs of mankind but now we should add a word: He steps into the affairs of sinful mankind, mankind that often suffers because of the general presence of sin in the world. God does not just sit back in heaven and grumble like a grumpy old man, “Well you brought it on yourselves.” No, he comes into this fallen world and redeems us from the effects of this fallen world. He did it in respect of all the women we mentioned above and He did it in respect of all the crowds of sick and demon possessed people that flocked to Jesus to be healed – and “he healed them all” (Mt 8:16, 12:15, 14:36). Notice the word ‘all’ there. There are many other places in the Gospels where the word is not there but implied by the way healings were reported.
With the ministry of Jesus, what was is incredible was that God incarnate, moving amongst sinful human beings did not seem to run diagnostic clinics whereby he checked to see who had fully repented of their past sins, he simply healed all who came, including the selfish and those who would not bother with him again. This is the incredible grace of this Creator who brought this world into being, knowing that having been given free will, we would use it to turn against Him and yet He carried on and did it, building in a plan to redeem us through the death of His Son, the Son who would first dispense the power of God to whoever wanted it to be healed.
This is not a God who creates the world and then stands aloof at a distance; this is a God who creates His world and then becomes intimately involved with it, interacting with and touching these physical human beings, who may or may not respond positively to Him. He has the power to change things in this physical, material realm, the same power that brought it into being and He uses it to straighten crooked lives, put back together broken lives, mend fragmented lives, and heal sick lives. He prefers our cooperation and looks for our responses of love, but clearly He acts even in the absence of that . How incredible!
In Sarai’s case He would wait until she was well past child-bearing age and was clearly incapable of having a child – and then He enabled her to have one. Having spoken to the couple about it a number of times before He did it, the story clearly shows He was wanting their faith to develop, but more than that, surely He was showing them – and us – His love for them and His power that was not merely ‘spiritual’ but which operated in this material, physical world of which we are now part.
He appears to delight in changing it, bringing change to the defective lives that are the result of the Fall, and putting them back together as they were originally designed to be. How wonderful.