There was once a man named Abram, who had a visit from God, Who told him to get up and leave where he was, and go where He would tell him to go.
God made many promises to Abraham, some involving land, some involving offspring, some involving other things.
Years went by, and a few more times God visited him, and reminded him of HIs promises. Abraham believed, though maybe not without his doubts, too.
"I have no child" he says. For how can a man be made into a great nation, if he can't even have a son.
God reminds him of His promises. Abraham has his doubts, he slips once, but in the end he has enough faith, and Isaac is born, and the great nation has it's continuation.
Abraham has other children, Ishmael of course but others too by his second wife, but only one is the child of promise, the line of the great nation, Isaac.
Isaac ages and matures, and marries, and in times he and Rebecca have twin sons. But again, only one of them is one through whom the line of the great nation will pass through, Jacob. Hardly a model character, one might add, but that is neither here nor there for now.
Three generations. Over a hundred years between when Abram first gets the promise and Jacob finally marries. All that time, and the line of the great nation is in essence a stick.
I can't remember the exact number of sons Abraham had, but I think it was maybe eight. If we assume that each of those may have married at least one woman and had overall five children each, there are forty people not counting wives, so maybe over fifty in all, quite a decent tribe. If each of those five grandsons have five sons who eventually marry and have five sons, the number could be reaching close to two hundred in only two or three generations.
Quite an impressive number, and I dare say I may be being conservative in those numbers. Instead, in real life, we are left with a footloose grandson on the run from his enraged twin brother about to spend a lot of time with an uncle even more conniving then he was.
Over one hundred years. Three generations. Numerous sons and grandsons. Only one was of the promise.
When did Abraham die in relation to the life of Jacob? I don't know. It seems that Isaac was pretty old when Jacob tricked him, though he still lived when roughly 20 years later Jacob returned, and when he returned he brought along quite the large family (though they were rather scalliwags in their own right at that time). Finally, the promise of a great nation looks like it's going to come to pass, and even if Isaac is blind and cannot see it in that way, he now knows it.
Patience. How slow God sometimes seems in the keeping of His promises. How strange. Shouldn't a man having been promised to be made into a great nation be having kids right and left? Shouldn't the most significant nation in the world have the largest cities, the greatest thinkers, the largest armies? Should the greatest king of that nation be someone other then a boy born in a small town and given to job of taking care of sheep? Shouldn't the man whom God called "a man after my own heart" be someone other then an adulterer and murderer, not to mention (in the modern (or dare I say, postmodern) category of sins) a man of war and violence?
Shouldn't the Savior of the world have been born somewhere other then an animal barn in some backwater town in some backwater conquered country in a great empire? Shouldn't that same Savior have done more then had some mostly religious controversies and died ignominously in a cruel and humiliating manner? Shouldn't His followers have been other then some rough-round-the-edges guys (though that assumes that all were like that, and I simply can't say for certain)?
Such is how God is, sometimes. Not always, but often enough. A promise He makes may take years, generations, even thousands of years to be fulfilled. People will doubt, try to use His words against Him, misunderstand and lose patience, but He has not forgotten, has not failed, will fulfilled the promises when the time is right.
Let us have patience, and hope, and not waver or let doubts become too strong. Ask why and when if we must, but don't let doubts become the end virtue, but let them lead to more faith in the God who cannot lie.