To Good to Be True?
“Is anything too hard for the LORD?”
– Genesis 18:14
Is Anything to Wonderful for the Lord?
God has just informed Abraham and Sarah – both of them nearing one hundred years old – that they will have a son together within a year. Sarah laughs despite herself saying, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure (v.12)?” For Sarah, the joys of motherhood are a hope that she died to long ago. Like work that calluses once soft hands or the sun that hardens clay, the reality of her inability to bear children has relegated her maternal desires to the realm of impossibility. And yet here is God, her Creator, promising that she will be a mother…..and what is His response to her embittered disbelief?
“Is anything too hard for the LORD?”
The word translated “hard” here can also mean (and, indeed, most often means) wonderful or wondrous. It is the word used for the wonders that God performed over Egypt as He brought His people out (Ex.3:20), or for the knowledge of God that is too wonderful to grasp (Job 42:3), or for His saving works toward His people (Ps.96:3). It is often used in conjunction with the stunning and miraculous, the “game-changing” actions of God, things that are completely unanticipated and – for those who love the Lord – glorious.
So, yes, the word does mean “hard,” but it also carries with it the sense of something “wonderful,” something “marvelous,” something utterly unanticipated and yet deeply fitting and welcome. In other words, it implies something that – were we told about it before we experienced it – would sound “too good to be true.”
And this is exactly Sarah’s response. The idea of having a child at her age is simply “too good to be true.” Her curse-scarred heart will not allow her to believe, she’s been disappointed so many times before. And yet there God’s response stands: “is anything too wonderful for me?” The point here is not God trying to communicate merely His power to Sarah and Abraham and us (i.e., “I can do anything because I am so powerful), rather He is communicating Himself (i.e., “I can do anything because I am so good“). He is the one who straightens out the bend caused by the fall, He is the music that harmonizes the cacophony of our disappointment, He is the one whose goodness answers and outlasts life’s sorrows…and yet it is hard for Sarah (and us) to believe this.
When a dog has been beaten as a puppy, it will often flinch and run from anyone who comes toward it. The animal has been wounded by past experience and so doubts present experience….and the human heart is like this. Tough ones hearts may not want to admit it, and soft ones may wallow in it too much, but the reality is that the cursed world in which we live has conditioned all of us to believe that some things are simply “too good to be true.” Some things are just “too wonderful” to hope for. Like beaten dogs, our hearts often expect life to hit us one more time…and often it does.
But over it all, under it all, through it all stands the Lord God, YHWH, Creator and sustainer of all things, and He says to His people, “Is anything, anything, too wonderful for me? Is anything too good for me to do? Do you think that your own imagination can conceive of something sweeter and more glorious than mine?” This is the one who authors our lives and this is the one in whom we hope. And we know that He is good because we see it at the cross.
The Cross Secures Everything Wonderful
“I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder…”
– Isaiah 29:14
In 1 Corinthians 1:18-19, Paul teaches us to read Isaiah 29:14 in light of the cross. What this means is that, from God’s perspective, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is thrice wonderful, the climactic wonder that makes all other wonders wonderful. When Jesus died, He took away our sins………consider it….the only thing wrong with us is sin….and Jesus took away our sins, died in our place. And then, when He split Death’s jaws and reclaimed His incarnate life, this same one who died secured post heart-beat joy for all who would love Him.
This is the great Wonder of God….that His Son has died to save us from death and lives to bring us to life. Friends, for the Christian, our greatest gladness is always before us. And what’s more, every event of this life – from the birth of a child to the death of a sibling, from the diagnosis of cancer to the vacation on the seashore, from bankruptcy to wealth, from Sunday afternoon lunches to Sunday morning suicide bombers – everything that the Christian faces becomes a servant for their good because of the cross.
Does that sound too wonderful to be true? Does it sound like wishful thinking to believe that the death of the one I so dearly loved might somehow turn to beauty? Does it sound like false hope to imagine that we will one day weep tears of joy over the sorrows that cut us so deeply in this life? Does it sound like a fairy tale to say that those who now sleep in the dust will one day wake and sing for joy? It would be only a fairy tale if our God had not died and rose again to make it so….But there is a King enthroned in Heaven and He rules every molecule and ordains every raindrop, and even now His hands bear the wounds torn by His love for us, wounds that declare to heaven and earth and hell itself: “nothing is too wonderful for the LORD!”
“That’s too good to be true,” said she.
“There are very few things good enough to be true,” said he,
“But too good to be true it can’t be…”
– George MacDonald, At the Back of the North Wind