Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

In an illustration from Preaching Today called “Fred Rogers Created Rather Than Complained” we read this moving tribute to him by Jonathon Merritt taken from a May 18, 2011 Q Ideas article called "Restoration in the Land of Make-Believe." Here are excerpts from that article.

Jonathon Merritt recounts how Rogers chose to reform society through his gentle and persistent influence on a children's television show. “In 1965, a thin, soft-spoken man sauntered into Pittsburgh's WQED, the nation's first public television station, to pitch a show targeting young children. The concept was simple enough: convey life lessons to young children with the help of puppets, songs and frank conversations. It doesn't sound like much. That is, until you realize that the man was Fred Rogers, and the program was Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. But Rogers was more than a great neighbor or good host; he was a restorer. According to Gabe Lyons in The Next Christians, a "restorer" is someone who views the world as it "ought to be." Faced with the world's brokenness, restorers are "provoked, not offended." They work to make the world a better place by "creating, not criticizing" and by "being countercultural, not relevant." Using this definition, Rogers may be one of the greatest American restorers of the 20th century. Rogers got into television because he "hated" the medium and faced with the decision to either sour on television itself or work to restore the medium, he chose the latter. Fourteen years later, he would create one of the most beloved American television shows of all time, and one that would shape entire generations of children. Rogers was a devout Christian that almost never explicitly talked about his faith on the air, but the way his show infused society with beauty and grace was near-biblical …. "You've made this day a special day by just your being you," he'd famously sign off. "There is no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are." In many ways, the lasting legacy of Fred Rogers will not be the greater emotional stability of generations of children or even a reinvigoration of imagination. It will be his example of how to restore the world through impassioned creativity and craftsmanship. For nearly four decades, Rogers entered our homes and entered our hearts. And each day without fail, he left our collective neighborhoods better and made our days a little bit more beautiful.

We have been studying Abraham, who has been led by God to the Promised Land for the express purpose of taking ownership of it. Along the way he has had many interactions with the people native to that area. Being a neighbor has not been easy for Abraham and I am sure we all have stories of hard times dealing with our neighbors. But God had blessed Abraham in order to be a blessing to his neighbors and we will see that played out this morning. Everyone that Abraham came in contact with were pagan peoples and he was still called by God to be a blessing to them. We can learn a lot from Abraham in how we should interact with those around us that do not know God.

Today we are going to see a second interaction between Abraham and Abimelech which goes a lot smoother than the last one because this time Abraham is treating his neighbor with respect. We can imagine that he is trying to make his neighborhood a better place by creating and restoring friendships instead of criticizing and deceiving. We will see him return to life as a peacemaker as we saw with Lot earlier in Genesis. Worshiping the one true God was countercultural to the way the Canaanites and other peoples in that land would have been living but Abraham wanted to live in peace and harmony with them. The only reason he was able to live in peace with his neighbors was because he had been blessed by God. We see these words in Genesis 12:2-3: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

We’ve talked before about being in the world but not of it. That doesn’t mean we can be disrespectful to those who don’t believe the way we do or criticize them and look down on them. We are called to show the love of Christ to all people and this should especially be true to those who are far away from God. How can we reach the world for Jesus when we are pushing them farther and farther away from Him? We can’t and that is the problem that we have not only individually but also as the church. In Romans 12:14, we are commanded to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” And in Romans 12:17-18 we are commanded to, “Never repay evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all people. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people.” This is what we will see Abraham doing in our scripture this morning and it brings us to our big idea: “When we live at peace with our neighbors God can bless us so we can be a blessing to them.”

Before we look at how God blessed Abraham and how Abraham was a blessing to those around him, let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word given to us to show us how to live on this earth. Give us ears to hear from your Holy Spirit this morning so we can live the way you want us to as we interact with our neighbors especially those who don’t know you as their Lord and Savior. Open our hearts and minds to what you want us to learn that we can share it with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our scripture is found in Genesis 21:22-34. There are four points this morning. The first point is Confrontation which is found in verses 22-24. This is what God’s Word says, “At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.” Abraham said, “I swear it.”

This is the second time we have seen Abimelech. In Genesis 20:1 we saw that Abraham and Sarah were living in Gerar where Abimelech was the king. Abraham and Sarah deceive the king by telling him that Sarah is his sister and the king takes Sarah into his house probably to be one of his concubines. But God intervenes and Sarah is delivered before Abimelech can touch her. Abimelech is not happy with Abraham’s deception and in the end Abraham prays for God to heal Abimelech and his wives and slave girls so they could have children again. We notice that Abraham was not a very good neighbor in that story. He deceived his neighbors and indirectly caused them to incur God’s wrath. That first encounter sets the stage for this one. ​​ 

“At this time” refers to a time after Isaac has been weaned and Hagar and Ishmael were sent away. Abraham and Sarah have probably been living in the area of Beersheba for a number of years. Abimelech approaches Abraham with the commander of his military forces, Philcol. Bringing his military commander with him could indicate a couple of things. First, Abraham may have been a person of some status. He may have had a political or even military presence in the area. Remember back in Genesis 14, Abraham had defeated the four kings with 318 trained men to get Lot back. Abraham probably has an entourage of substantial size and power at his disposal. Abimelech probably considered him a force to be reckoned with, especially with a powerful God on his side. Also, Beersheba was only twenty-five miles from Gerar so maybe there were tensions in the area and Philcol was there in case hostilities broke out. Later in the story we will see that it was possible there were ongoing problems on the border between Abimelech’s men and Abraham’s men.

Abimelech realizes that Abraham is doing well. His herds and flocks are prospering which dominates a lot of land and he now has a son with Sarah in his old age. He would have been seen as being richly blessed. Abimelech realizes this blessing because he says “God is with you in everything you do.” Abimelech has seen firsthand God’s blessing on Abraham and now has seen his continued blessing in the subsequent years since their last encounter. The sentiment that “God is with you” will also be noticed later in Genesis with Isaac and this same Abimelech, with Jacob and Laban and with Joseph and Potiphar in Egypt. This begs a question of all of us. Do people in your neighborhood or in your sphere of influence see your life and say: “God is with you in everything you do.” If not, we need to examine our lives and our interactions with our neighbors because they should be able to notice God’s work in our daily lives. That brings us to our first next step this morning, which is to “live my life in such a way that my neighbors see God at work in my daily life.”

Abimelech realizes that it is in his best interest for his people to live peacefully with Abraham and his people but is not sure if he can trust Abraham on the basis of their previous encounter. He is hoping that Abraham will treat him now the way he treated Abraham before. Ross states, “It is interesting that the two things that Abimelech knew about Abraham was that God was with him and that he could not altogether be trusted.” We may wonder who the superior party is, Abimelech or Abraham? Abimelech acts like Abraham is as he asks for a favor instead of demanding terms. In the previous encounter Abimelech being the king was the superior party who treated Abraham fairly. But now based on what happened before the roles seem reversed. Even though he is the king and commands an army he knows that a powerful God is at work in Abraham’s life. He is asking Abraham to show him the same “loyalty” in a covenant relationship that he showed previously.

Abimelech’s suggestion of an alliance of friendship with Abraham would not only be binding for the present but for their children and descendants as well. Abimelech is hoping that by brokering peace now it will bring lasting peace for his land in the future. Abraham’s response is short. The meaning is “I give you my word”, literally, “I, I swear.” The use of a second pronoun reinforces the certainty of Abraham’s pledge. Here the emphasis is solely on Abraham’s act of swearing but later on we will see that they both mutually swear an oath to live in peace and harmony with each other for generations to come. There is no confrontation or deception with Abimelech who doesn’t believe the same way Abraham does, there is only acceptance. I like what Hamilton says, “That God is with Abraham does not mean that he has a two to one majority over Abimelech. It means that others’ expectations of Abraham now increase.” This is why God has blessed Abraham. So that Abraham will be a blessing to those in his neighborhood around him. He needs to be more respectful, more helpful, more humble, more of a restorer than those around him. Especially those around him that do not know God and are far away from him. This is what it means to be a neighbor in the places God has put us. (Big Idea).

The second point is Complaint and we see this in verses 25-27. This is what God’s word says, “Then Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized. But Abimelech said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.” So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a treaty.”

Abraham swears to deal honestly from now on with Abimelech and his people. But before formally ratifying the treaty, Abraham lodges a formal, legal complaint. It seems that Abimelech’s servants had illegally and violently seized one of Abraham’s wells. Wells were important in a desert climate where water was the difference between the life and death of Abraham’s flocks and herds and the life and death of him and his family as well. Abraham’s claim to the water relied on two factors. One, that Abraham had dug the well and, two, that it was Abimelech who invited Abraham to reside anywhere in the land in the first place (20:15) giving Abraham the right to local pasturage and use of the well’s water.

The Hebrew suggests that Abraham had made this complaint several times with nothing being done about it. Here were the makings of a feud between the two men that had the capability to explode and cause irreparable damage to Abraham’s witness and to his relationship with Abimelech and the people in that region. There needed to be respect and restoration and this was a good test of their relationship in whether this vital resource could be negotiated fairly. We see how this negotiation plays out. They both brought their complaints to each other. They both listened respectfully to what the other had to say and were allowed to respond. Abraham was gauging Abimelech’s response to see if he knew anything about the seizure but seems convinced because he gives Abimelech sheep and cattle in order to formalize the treaty.

The gift of sheep and cattle was to cement their relationship. The act of seizing the well will not be allowed to cause potential unrest. We notice a number of things about this encounter. First, it is Abraham who gives Abimelech the animals, meaning that Abraham was the inferior party even though it was Abimelech who proposed the treaty. The gift was also given to cement a peace treaty between the two men. Abraham takes the higher ground in that he wasn’t going to let the dispute over the well cause hostilities to escalate. Second, this is another example of a “cutting of the covenant” that we saw between God and Abraham in chapter 15. “Cutting the covenant” was a ritual of cutting sacrificial animals in two and placing them in rows so that the two parties involved in the treaty could walk between the animal parts. This signified that whoever broke the covenant could be “cut” in two just as the animals were. Thirdly, we also notice that in neighborly fashion the two parties talk about the offense, give their explanations which are accepted and finalize the treaty to the satisfaction of both parties. The covenant ensured that disputes of this kind would not be repeated by their children and their descendants which would keep peace in the land for generations to come. Similar steps when used wisely today can produce harmony in the place of discord and cooperation where previously there was only confrontation. That brings us to our second next step which is to “strive for harmony and cooperation when conflicts arise with my neighbors.”

The third point is Committed and we see this in verses 28-30. This is what God’s Word says, “Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, and Abimelech asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?” He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”

Abraham wanted to show Abimelech that he was committed to the truth and to dealing honestly with his neighbors. Abraham in addition to giving the sheep and cattle also set apart seven ewe lambs for Abimelech. This must have been a strange act to do in that time because Abimelech questions it. He was probably a little wary of Abraham’s motives because he had been deceived before and it may not have been normal for people to be overly generous within a covenant. These were not for sacrifice but a gift to Abimelech. Abraham wanted something from Abimelech but it was only what he deserved and nothing more. Abraham had dug the well that Abimelech’s servants had seized and the proof was the seven ewe lambs. The lambs would have been vital to propagating his herd and the generous number of seven would have reflected how important the well was to Abraham and his descendants. Abimelech knew that this gift would put him under obligation to accept Abraham’s version of events surrounding the seizing of the well. Being able to supply this number of ewe lambs speaks to Abraham’s wealth and strength of bargaining position. ​​ 

The seven lambs were set aside as a “witness” that Abraham had dug the well and had the rights of ownership to it. It reminds me of someone giving a reward for a lost wallet. When the wallet is returned to the rightful owner the person who returned it might get a reward showing how valuable the returned item is. Just like the well was valuable to Abraham, so is the wallet to the owner. Only the owner of the wallet would be willing to give a reward for its return. The reward would be proof that the wallet really was theirs just like the seven ewes was the proof that Abraham had dug the well and it was his. Only Abraham would be willing to give this valuable gift to get the well back. In accepting this gift, Abimelech was legally acknowledging that Abraham had dug the well, releasing any rights to it and conceding that Abraham was in fact the legitimate owner of the well. This would also hold Abimelech to side with Abraham in any future altercations involving this well. Ross says, “By securing the right to the well Abraham was securing the continued enjoyment of God’s blessing to him, represented by the well. Abimelech gains a pact with Abraham to ensure the future stability between them.”

The last point is Commemoration and we see this in verses 31-34. This is what God’s Word says, “So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there. After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Eternal God. ​​ And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.”

There is commemoration taking place in a couple of different ways here First, calling the place, Beersheba, where the two men swore the oath to each other. The Hebrew word “to swear” means “to bind by seven things” and the words “swear and “seven” are very similar. Beersheba means “Well of the Sevens” or “Well of the Oath” which fits the story of what happened there exactly. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that this event caused the place to be named Beersheba. Most commentators believe the city was already named but this event gave it more significance. Beersheba now becomes a place commemorating the treaty. Abraham has prospered under God’s blessing and has agreed to a peace treaty with Abimelech at Beersheba that will bring a peaceful coexistence allowing Abraham to serve God in the Land of Promise. This commemorative naming also preserved for future generations the record of how the property was secured. Once the treaty had been sworn, Abimelech and Philcol returned to their own land, the land of the Philistines. It seems that Abraham was living on the outskirts of the land ruled by Abimelech, but was close enough that Abimelech felt the need to make a peace treaty with Abraham.

The second way that we see commemoration taking place is Abraham planting a tamarisk tree. In the OT, trees were a symbol of life and blessing from God. Abraham has built altars but this is the first time we see him planting a tree. The tamarisk tree grew in sandy soil and was deciduous. It could grow up to twenty feet high and provide much needed shade in the desert. Also, its branches provided grazing for animals. Its leaves excreted salt, its bark was used for tanning and its wood for building and making charcoal. It was considered a holy tree and had purifying qualities. Planting a tree would have had as much significance as building an altar. This tree was a witness to what God had done for him in showing favor with Abimelech. He had been blessed by God and was showing the fruit of being a blessing to his neighbors as God had promised. Trees played an important part in Abraham’s life in the Promised Land. He stopped by a tree in Shechem (12:6), he built an altar by a tree at Mamre (13:18), he lived near trees (14:13) and entertained Yahweh under a tree (18:1). By planting this tree it reinforced his claim to the land. In some interpretations, the word “tamarisk” means “a strip of ground” meaning Abraham didn’t just plant a tree but actually laid out a plot of land. This would make sense in light of verse 34 that he settled down in the land for a long time. This tree was the proof of Abraham’s faith in God for his prosperity and security and the security of his descendants.

Thirdly, we see Abraham calling on the name of the Lord in worship. He is commemorating the way that God has orchestrated this treaty so that Abraham could be a blessing to those in his neighborhood. Now, Abraham legally owns a well in the land of promise and there will be peace and harmony in this land for his children and his children’s children. When Abraham called on the name of the Lord he called him, “El-Olam” or “the everlasting One.” This name for God is used only here in Genesis. God was revealing himself to Abraham in every event that took place in the Promised Land. Abraham knew that everything else would pass away but God would endure for eternity. He knew that God would never change so could cling to the promise that his descendants would one day possess this land just as he was possessing it now. Wenham states, “that after so many delays the promises of land and descendants at last seem on their way to fulfillment.” But now came the responsibility to use this land for the honor and glory of the Lord. This anticipates a peaceful coexistence that the Israelites should have with other tribes who would respond to the message of peace and desire to share in God’s blessing. By living peacefully with its neighbors, the Israelites could more readily become the channel of blessing they were intended to be.

Think about your own life. Can you look back and see God’s sovereign hand at work in your life to get you where you are today? I definitely can. That should cause us to worship our Sovereign Lord. That should cause us to call upon the name of the Lord in praise and worship. That brings us to our third next step which is to “call on the name of the Lord in worship for his sovereign hand at work in my life.”

Finally, we see that Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time, maybe for as much as ten to fifteen years. It was probably a great time of peace and happiness for Abraham. Tranquil old age was a sign of God’s blessing. This was going to be Abraham’s neighborhood for a long time and God had blessed him and would continue to bless him so he could be a blessing to those around him. We may ask what was the author’s point in including this story? Walton in his commentary says, “It has to do with covenant roots. Gradually Abraham is establishing roots in the land – digging wells and planting trees. Additionally as relationships are established with the peoples in the land the blessing is taking root. Finally, Abraham’s relationship with God is taking root as land and family become established.”

So how can we be good neighbors that would make not only Fred Rogers proud but more importantly our Heavenly Father proud? We can live into the example of Abraham. First, believers should agree to the request for peaceful relationships. Second, believers should try to restore peace when it is disrupted. Third, believers should strive to ensure that peaceful relationships continue into the future. Fourth, believers must use their peaceful, prosperous life to serve God. God brings us peace and harmony so we can be a blessing to those we come in contact with where we live, work, and play.

The question that again comes to mind after studying this passage is, “Does the world see God in our everyday life?” First, for God’s purpose to be fulfilled through us, the world should see God in us. As Christians we need to be aware that the people in our neighborhoods who don’t know Jesus are watching us to see if we are different than everyone else. They are watching what we say and do and our attitudes toward them. How do we react when mistreated? Do we grumble and complain like everyone else? They are watching us at work, in restaurants and across the street in our yards. Do we work hard or take shortcuts? Are we honest even in the smallest matters? They are watching and they should be able to tell that we are ambassadors of God and followers of Jesus without us saying a word. And when we do open our mouths and witness to the blessing and goodness of God we need to be careful that our words match our actions and vice versa. If we don’t the world will see us as hypocrites and they won’t be able to see God in us at all

Second, for God’s purpose to be fulfilled through us, we have to be walking with God. In spite of Abraham’s past deception, Abimelech recognized God in his life. Why? Because Abraham was a friend of God and walked in daily communion with God. He wasn’t perfect, but he had a reality with God and God’s gracious hand was on him. Abimelech could sense that in spite of Abraham’s previous failure in the incident with Sarah, he was a man who walked with God. As God faithfully provides us protection and our daily needs, and as we walk with Him and give Him the credit for His care for us, as Abraham did, He uses us in the ordinary matters of life to bear witness to a world that desperately needs to turn to Him. When we are faithfully walking with God our neighbors see it and will know that we have something they lack.

If you know the Savior, walking with Him and enjoying His faithful provision, God wants to use the ordinary events in your life to fulfill His purpose of blessing all the nations through the Seed of Abraham, the Lord Jesus Christ. What a privilege to be used by the Eternal God as we live our ordinary lives on this earth!

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn, let’s pray: Lord God, I pray that your Holy Spirit would continually indwell us as we strive to be the kind of neighbors you want us to be in this world that you have placed us in. As we share the good news of Jesus Christ, help us to live in such a way that our neighbors see God at work in our daily lives, help us to strive for harmony and cooperation when conflicts arise with our neighbors and let us remember to call on your name in worship for your sovereign hand at work in our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Origins

Wondering While Wandering

(Genesis 21:8-21)

 

INTRODUCTION

“I did not want to go to prayer service that evening; I wanted to stay home and make a dish of candied fruit from a new recipe. But the recipe called for three oranges, and I had none.

 

Reluctantly, I decided to go to church, thinking that if I got the oranges that night, I could make the dish first thing in the morning. As I drove through the city to church, I stopped at every corner store along the way, looking for oranges. Unfortunately, all the stores I passed were out. I arrived at church feeling disappointed but determined to keep my mind on the service until the end.

 

As I was leaving, a teenaged boy asked for a ride home, and I agreed to take him. When we pulled into the public housing project where he lived, my headlights landed on a loaded pick-up truck. As we drew in closer I shrieked, ‘Oranges!’ There, spotlighted by a street lamp, stood a truckload of oranges, boxes and boxes of large, beautiful oranges.

 

‘Where is the driver?’ I asked aloud.

 

‘Here he comes now!’ replied the teenager. Reaching hurriedly in my purse and finding one dollar, I gave it to the teen and told him to ask the man if I could buy three oranges. He jumped out as I craned my head out the window trying to see around the truck. I was still holding my breath when the boy came around the truck with as many oranges in his arms as he could carry.

 

‘He didn't have any bags!’ called the boy.

 

Awed and overjoyed, I took the fruit, returning several to the grateful teen. That night, I made my candied fruit, knowing I had put God first, and he had met my needs.”

 

Source: Margaret D. Pagan, Baltimore, Maryland.

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2002/october/13938.html]

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Moving from Florida

        • We were living in Florida at the time

        • We were expecting our first child and we decided to live off my income only and save Judy’s income

        • We knew that after the school year was over and our baby was born, that we were going to be moving back to Ohio from Florida

        • The savings we accumulated was just what we needed to survive until I started serving with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF)

        • It took us a little bit of time to raise our personal finances with CEF

        • God provided for us while we were wandering

    • Moving from California

        • He did the same thing when we moved from California

        • We put everything in storage and started back across the country not knowing that we would finally settle down in Pennsylvania

        • We spent time with Judy’s parents in Florida and my parent’s in Alabama

        • We even spent time with Judy’s grandma in Ohio

        • Eventually, God called us to serve Idaville UB Church in Pennsylvania

        • God had provided the income we needed while we wandered across the country and He provided places for us to stay

        • We knew that He was with us while we were wondering what the next step would be

 

  • WE

    • Wondering while we wander

        • Perhaps each person here today understands what it’s like to wonder while we wander

        • My guess is that we have all seen God provide during a transition

        • Maybe He prepared us ahead of time or provided throughout the transition

        • The great thing is that He was with us the whole time

 

Family tensions came to head at a feast Abraham had held in Isaac’s honor. ​​ The result caused Hagar and Ishmael to wander through the desert with minimal supplies. ​​ God was with them through their wanderings and He provided for them as they wondered what was going to happen to them. ​​ Through this important narrative today, we will learn that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – God is with us even in our wanderings.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Genesis 21:8-21)

    • Deride (vv. 8-10)

        • Weaned

          • Approximately three years have passed from verse 7 to verse 8

          • “In traditional societies mothers nurse children for longer than is customary in the West; in 2 Macc. 7:27 a mother refers to having nursed her son for three years.” ​​ [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 331]

            • Hannah waited until Samuel was weaned before taking him to the temple to serve for the rest of his life (1 Sam. 1:22-24)

            • Gomer waited until Lo-Ruhamah was weaned before having another son with Hosea (Hosea 1:8)

          • Feast

            • We are not told if Abraham held a great feast for Ishmael when he was weaned

            • In the ancient Near East, it was something to celebrate when a child made it to the age of three, because the infant mortality rate was so high

            • We see here that Abraham prepares a great feast to celebrate Isaac turning three and moving on from milk to solid food

          • Even though Sarah was no longer barren, it appears as though there was still tension between her and Hagar

            • Goldingay highlights the fact that family gatherings have the ability to bring to the surface underlying issues that are not resolved, but are festering [Goldingay, 331]

            • How many of us can relate to that reality?

            • Perhaps yesterday brought some things to light

            • Maybe there was tension during the family Christmas gathering

            • Some of us were probably not looking forward to getting together with our family

            • Can I encourage you, today, to forgive your family members, whether or not they ask for forgiveness?

            • Just tell the Lord, right now, that you forgive them

            • Don’t end 2021 and begin 2022 with a rift behind you and another family member

          • Isaac has been weaned and the family is having a party for him, but Sarah is worried

        • Worried

          • Sarah was acutely aware that Ishmael was actually Abraham’s first-born son

            • Because of the miraculous nature of Isaac’s birth, Sarah is probably guessing that she will not have any more children

            • Imagine how protective she probably was of Isaac

            • She was not going to let anything happen to him, physically

            • She would not tolerate others mistreating him verbally

            • I know how protective I am of my own children, as most parents are

          • Mocking

            • During the celebration for Isaac, Sarah noticed that Ishmael was mocking Isaac

            • The Hebrew root word for mocking means “to laugh” [Waltke, Genesis, A Commentary, 294]

              • Some people believe that Ishmael was just laughing together with Isaac – playful laughing

              • But, it would seem that Sarah would not react the way she does, if they were simply playing together

              • The Apostle Paul perhaps helps us to understand the seriousness of what Ishmael is doing

              • Galatians 4:29, At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit.

            • In the Piel form of the verb it means to laugh in bad taste, with the intent to verbally harm

            • Perhaps Ishmael is using Isaac’s name in a way that is making others laugh at him or to ridicule him

            • “Isaac, the object of holy laughter, was made the butt of unholy wit or profane sport. ​​ He [Ishmael] did not laugh, but he made fun. ​​ The little helpless Isaac a father of nations! ​​ Unbelief, envy, pride of carnal superiority, were the causes of his conduct. ​​ Because he did not understand the sentiment, ‘Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?’ it seemed to him absurd to link so great a thing to one so small” (Hengstenberg).” ​​ [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 156]

            • As a protective mother and the first wife of Abraham, Sarah will not stand for this

            • She demands that Abraham get rid of that slave woman and her son

          • Drive out

            • Sarah’s demand is not a friendly request

            • “Her entreaty is strongly worded: “get rid” (gārēš) describes the evictions of Adam (3:24) and Cain (4:14), the removal of Moses by Pharaoh (Exod 10:11), and the dispossession of Canaan’s population (e.g. Exod 23:29-30; Josh 24:18).” ​​ [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 269]

            • This verb in the Piel form means to “throw out, drive out, get rid of”

            • The same verb in the Qal form means “divorce” [Goldingay, 332]

          • No sharing

            • Sarah does not want anyone to be in competition for Abraham’s inheritance

            • She wants Isaac to be the only heir

            • “According to the legal practices of that time, she [Sarah] had no genuine cause for worry. ​​ The Nuzi documents . . . imply that just as the inheritance rights of a son born to a man and his servant girl take precedence over the rights of an adopted son, so also do the inheritance rights of a son born to a man and his wife take precedence over those of a servant girl’s son. ​​ To summarize the matter in the context of Abraham’s family, just as Ishmael’s rights superseded those of Eliezer, so also Isaac’s rights would supersede those of Ishmael (Youngblood, 181).” ​​ [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 184]

        • ​​ The demand from Sarah, concerning Hagar and Ishmael, is distressing for Abraham

    • Distress (vv. 11-13)

        • Concerned

          • Abraham is emotionally attached to Ishmael – how can he not be, since Ishmael was his only child for around 11-12 years

          • Sarah is demanding that Abraham cut all ties with Hagar and Ishmael

          • There is a high probability that Abraham will never see Ishmael again

          • Distressed

            • The Hebrew word can also be translated as “displeased, very wrong, grievous”

            • “The word translated ‘grievous’ means ‘to shake violently,’ like curtains blowing in the wind.” ​​ [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 102]

            • Abraham is physically upset

          • But the Lord comforts him in his distress

        • Comforted

          • God tells him not to be distressed about Hagar and Ishmael

          • He tells Abraham to listen to what Sarah is telling him

            • Perhaps Abraham is struggling to understand why the covenant cannot come through Ishmael

            • The Lord again reaffirms the fact that Abraham’s offspring will be reckoned through Isaac

            • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is sovereign!

              • “God has determined that Isaac is the one through whom fulfillment will come, through whom Abraham’s offspring will be ‘named’: his genealogical line is the one that will count.” ​​ [Goldingay, 333]

              • “Ishmael will not share in the inheritance with Isaac, but that is not because of Sarah’s pettiness, or jealousy, or skullduggery. ​​ It is because God has decreed that Abraham’s line of promise will be continued through Isaac. ​​ Here is an instance of God using the wrath of a human being to accomplish his purposes.” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 81]

              • God in his sovereignty chose several second-born children to fulfill his purposes and continue the line to Jesus

                • The Lord accepted Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s

                • The Lord chose Jacob over Esau (Gen 27:27-29)

                • The Lord chose Ephraim over Manasseh (Gen 48:14)

              • Even when we do not understand God’s plans, we can trust in His sovereignty to accomplish His purposes

            • PRINCIPLE #2 – “The Lord has a word for us even in our severest dilemmas.” ​​ [Baldwin]

              • The Lord can speak to us in various ways

                • Through prayer

                • Through His Word

                • Through a sermon

                • Through other believers

                • Even through unbelievers

              • He can speak to us through difficult circumstances, which is what Abraham experienced

              • Abraham had to be attentive to what the Lord was saying

              • Perhaps someone here today is going through a difficult situation

                • Is the Lord speaking to you through someone else?

                • What He is saying may not be what you want to hear, but God is sovereign

                • It may cause you to shake violently when you think about what has to be done

                • Are you willing to be obedient to what the Lord is saying?

                • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Listen to the voice of the Lord in the middle of the difficult situation I am experiencing.

            • As we will see in just a moment, Abraham obeyed the Lord

            • The Lord not only told Abraham to listen to Sarah, He also reaffirmed His promise concerning Ishmael

          • Promise reaffirmed

            • The Lord promises to make Ishmael into a nation also

            • The reason the Lord gives, is because Ishmael is Abraham’s offspring

            • This again goes back to the promises the Lord gave to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. ​​ I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

            • PRINCIPLE #3 – God keeps His promises!

              • We know that the Arab nations came from Ishmael’s line

              • God fulfilled His promise to Abraham that Ishmael would also become a nation of people

          • The Lord comforted Abraham in the difficult task that lay before him

        • Abraham was obedient as he accomplishes the task early the next morning

        • PRINCIPLE #4 – God is pleased when we obey Him.

          • We fleshed this principle out last week, so we will not spend additional time on it this week

          • It is still an important principle for us to embrace

    • Drift (vv. 14-21)

        • Sent (v. 14)

          • Abraham gives Hagar food and water

            • He does not give her cattle and flocks

            • He does not give her servants

              • “In the Lipit-Ishhtar law code (ca. 1875 B.C.), a clause stipulates that if a slave bears children and the father then grants freedom to her and her children, ‘the children of the slave shall not divide the estate with the children of their (former) master.’” ​​ [Waltke, 294]

              • This is in keeping with the fact that Sarah states that Ishmael will not share in Isaac’s inheritance

            • Abraham gives her the amount of food and water she is able to carry on her own

              • The skin would have held approximately 3 gallons of water (24 pounds) [Waltke, 295]

              • We’re not told how much food she is carrying

          • Separation

            • After supplying her with food and water, Abraham sends her off with Ishmael

              • The Hebrew word for “sent her off” in the Piel form is “another term that can mean divorce.” ​​ [Goldingay, 333]

              • Abraham is making a clean break with Hagar and Ishmael

              • He is setting them free

              • At this point, Abraham has to trust the Lord to provide for Hagar and Ishmael

              • Abraham’s hope and faith are based on the promise that the Lord had given him that Ishmael would also be a nation

              • Abraham could trust in the promise of God, that his son would not die, while wandering in the desert

            • Hagar wanders in the desert of Beersheba

              • [Show map of the desert of Beersheba]

              • The fact that they are wandering is evidence that she and Ishmael are all alone and do not have a place to live [Mathews, 273]

              • They are probably moving from place to place, but have not found a permanent location to call home

              • Imagine being given just enough food and water to carry and then being sent away

              • Everything we have ever known, and the security of a family unit are all gone

              • We have to start all over again

              • The emotions we would be having would be devastating

          • That is exactly what Hagar and Ishmael were experiencing

        • Sad (vv. 15-18)

          • No water

            • “In such wilderness, when your water is finished (v. 15), you are finished, and so is your child.” ​​ [Goldingay, 334]

            • Hagar recognizes that fact, which is why she does what she does with Ishmael

            • Perhaps dehydration has sapped the boy of his strength and ability to walk – he is dying!

          • Sobbing

            • Hagar cannot bear to listen to Ishmael’s cries of suffering

              • She separates herself from him after putting him under a desert bush for shade

              • A bowshot is approximately a half a mile [Goldingay, 334]

              • At this distance, she would not be able to hear Ishmael’s cries, but she could probably still see him

            • If she could provide food and water for him, she would

            • Hagar’s sobbing is without hope

              • She is thinking that she and Ishmael are going to die

              • She has forgotten that God was with her in the wilderness 16 years before

              • He had appeared to her by the spring that is beside the road to Shur (Gen. 16:7-9)

              • God was going to be with her again

            • God is with us even in our wanderings.

              • When we don’t know what to do or where to turn, God is with us

              • When we feel like we are wandering through life’s desert, God is still with us

              • He will take care of us and provide for us

              • We can have hope in His presence with us

              • He promises to never leave us or forsake, so we can say with confidence that the Lord is our helper (Heb. 13:5-6)

            • It appears as though Hagar’s sobbing is simply that – she is feeling sorry for herself and for Ishmael and just sits down and begins to cry

          • God hears and responds

            • God heard Ishmael crying

            • Perhaps Ishmael was crying out to God asking Him for help

            • As God hears Ishmael’s cries, He responds to Hagar

              • He speaks to her from heaven

              • First, He asks her what is wrong

              • Then He encourages her not to be afraid – He has a plan to save them

              • Hagar has to return to where she left Ishmael and help him to stand

              • Finally, God reveals that He will make Ishmael into a great nation

              • They are not going to die, but rather thrive, by God’s grace

            • PRINCIPLE #5 – God is concerned about the outcasts.

              • There are all kinds of outcasts

                • Those who have been alienated from their immediate family

                • Those who have been alienated from their extended family

                • Men and women who have experienced divorce or separation

                • Husband and wives who have lost their spouse to death

                • Children who have lost their parent(s) to death

                • Individuals who have been alienated from a friend group, because of either negative or positive life changes

              • I want you to know, today, that God is concerned about you!

                • He hears your cries for help

                • He knows you are feeling hopeless, anxious, depressed, and like there is nothing to live for

                • He is ready to send someone to help you stand – to support you through this difficult time

                • He is ready to save you

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Find hope in the truth that God is concerned about my situation and me.

          • The Lord encouraged Hagar in her seemingly hopeless situation and He provided a way of salvation

        • Saved (vv. 19-21)

          • There the whole time

            • God opened Hagar’s eyes and she saw a well of water

            • She was able to refill the skin and give Ishmael a drink

            • It is amazing that the solution to Hagar and Ishmael’s plight was there the whole time – they were just blind to it

            • How often is that true of us, as well

              • The solution to our problem, to our situation is already at hand, but we cannot see it

              • This happens because we are so consumed with the problem

              • When we step back and turn to the Lord for help, He gives us a new perspective on the situation

              • We can see clearly what we need to do and how to handle the situation

            • PRINCIPLE #6 – God provides for us.

              • I do not know about you, but I’m always blessed when God provides the solution to my problems

              • Our problems are not a surprise to God, because He is all-knowing

              • He already has a plan prepared to help with and provide just what we need

              • We just need to turn to Him and trust Him

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Turn to the Lord and trust Him to provide for me.

            • My guess is that the cool drink of water helped to revive Ishmael and Hagar

            • Finally, we see the quick progression of Ishmael’s life from teenager to adult

          • God is with us

            • God was with Ishmael as he grew up

            • This fulfilled the promise God had made to Abraham and Hagar concerning their son

            • He lived in the desert and became an archer

            • His mother obtained an Egyptian wife for him while he was living in the Desert of Paran [show map]

            • God was with Ishmael in his wanderings – it appears as though he never stopped wandering in the desert

            • God is with us even in our wanderings.

 

  • YOU

    • Do you need to listen to the voice of the Lord in the middle of your difficult situation?

    • Find hope in the truth that God is concerned about you!

    • Are you ready to turn to the Lord and trust Him to provide for you?

 

  • WE

    • As a body of believers, we experience difficulties too that require us to listen to the voice of the Lord, find hope in the truth that He is concerned about us, and trust Him to provide for us

 

CONCLUSION

“David Jeremiah wrote a book entitled A Bend in the Road (Word, 2000) that details his struggle with cancer that began in September 1994, when he was diagnosed with lymphoma. He describes the dark days of ‘life’s disruptions’ and reminds us that as the Israelites traveled long distances from their homes to Jerusalem to worship and celebrate the great feasts, they often sang to express their joy and faith in God.

 

We don’t see Abraham singing at any point in Scripture, but he certainly set the foundation for people of faith who want to handle life’s disruptions and struggles with spiritual courage. Abraham exemplified Jeremiah’s emphasis on how to handle the burdens of life, including the conflict with Abimelech and the agony of sending Hagar and Ishmael into the desert. Jeremiah says, ‘When the enemy closes in, we’ll never defeat him using his own weapons. Instead, we load the weapons of our lips, our tongues, our hands, our wills … with the most powerful gun powder that has ever been discharged on earth—worship and praise’ (Jeremiah, 126).

 

Jeremiah survived the first physical struggle, but his cancer reappeared in the fall of 1998. During this time he found great comfort in the Book of Psalms: ‘Whenever I have suffered, the psalms have provided my medicine; when I have been wounded, they have bandaged me and have pointed me toward healing … I’ve drunk deeply of them, bathed in them, and let them wash over me until I’ve felt the dust of the world cleansed away by the hope and peace of God’s presence in the music of the psalms’ (Jeremiah, 141).”

 

[Gangel & Bramer, 189]

14

 

Origins

Le J.I.T.

(Genesis 21:1-7)

 

INTRODUCTION

“JIT is a form of inventory management that requires working closely with suppliers so that raw materials arrive as production is scheduled to begin, but no sooner. ​​ The goal is to have the minimum amount of inventory on hand to meet demand.

 

JIT inventory management ensures that stock arrives as it is needed for production or to meet consumer demand, but no sooner. The goal is to eliminate waste and increase the efficiency of your operations. Since the main objective is often quality and not the lowest price, JIT requires long-term contracts with reliable suppliers.

 

JIT is what’s known as a lean management process. In JIT, all parts of any production or service system, particularly people, are interconnected. They inform each other and are mutually dependent on generating successful outcomes. This practice’s origin comes from Kaizen, a Japanese term meaning “change for the better.” Originating in Japan, the business philosophy looks to continuously improve operations and involve all employees, from assembly line workers to the CEO. Like JIT, the goal is to reduce waste and improve quality.”

 

[https://www.netsuite.com/portal/resource/articles/inventory-management/just-in-time-inventory.shtml]

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Placenta previa

        • We had a miscarriage between our second and third sons

        • Since Judy’s body did not naturally remove the fetus, she had to have a procedure to remove it

        • The procedure created scar tissue, which posed a problem with the next pregnancy – our youngest son

          • It is not uncommon for the egg to implant low in the uterus, because of the scar tissue

          • Early on in that pregnancy, Judy was diagnosed with placenta previa

          • This condition happens when the baby’s placenta partially or fully covers the mother’s cervix – the outlet of the uterus, which leads to the birth canal

          • Natural birth is not an option and delivery requires a C-section

        • During the pregnancy we kept praying that the placenta would move up the uterine wall and not cover the cervix

          • God answered those prayers, and we saw, through various ultrasounds, the movement of the placenta

          • Judy was able to have a natural delivery of our third child

          • We trusted and had faith in God’s power and ability to cause the placenta to move on its own

          • God allowed the placenta to move just-in-time

 

  • WE

    • Just-in-time

        • Every one of us can probably share a time when we experienced God’s power through our faith arriving at just the right time

        • It was not too early or too late

        • We may have felt like it was too late or getting too late, but it was not

          • Perhaps our experience is centered around a medical issue or pregnancy

          • Maybe our experience had to do with finances and God providing at just the right time

          • Some people have experienced God’s perfect timing through relationships

          • Students can attest to the fact that God helped them to complete a paper or project, just-in-time

 

Abraham and Sarah have been living in the Promised Land for 25 years. ​​ Abraham had received a word from God of a promised son. ​​ While he may have thought that Ishmael was that promised son, the Lord reminded him that the promised son would come from him and Sarah. ​​ At just the right time, God fulfilled His promise to Abraham. ​​ God’s promises are Le J.I.T. (legit/legitimate). ​​ Sarah had heard the promise just a year before and had laughed with doubt. ​​ Abraham had also laughed when he heard the promise, but his laughter was filled with faith instead of doubt. ​​ What we will see today in Genesis 21:1-7 is that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – “Faith in God’s promises releases God’s power.” [Wiersbe]

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Genesis 21:1-7)

    • Obtained (vv. 1-2)

        • Gracious

          • The Hebrew is literally “visited”

            • It meant that God intervened in the affairs of humanity

            • It meant that God supernaturally superseded nature

            • He was concerned about Abraham and Sarah

            • “. . . we have here an instance where visit takes on the connotation of Yahweh mercifully delivering one form an apparently hopeless situation, that is, infertility.” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 72-73]

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God keeps His promises!

            • He is never early and never late

            • He keeps His promises in His time and in His way

              • This is especially difficult for us in America, because we are accustomed to instant gratification

              • Most times we do not have to wait for anything

              • Patience is a virtue, but it is one virtue most people in our society lack

              • “Trusting God’s promises not only gives you a blessing at the end, but it gives you a blessing while you are waiting.” ​​ [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Old Testament, Genesis-Deuteronomy, 99]

                • Most of us do not recognize the blessing while we are waiting

                • We become frustrated and angry with God

                • We experience dissolution toward God

                • Doubt in God’s ability to do the supernatural begins to creep in, which can breed doubt in His existence, love, compassion, and care for us

                • That doubt can drive people away from a personal relationship with the Lord

              • In the midst of our frustration, anger, dissolution, and doubt, we have to hold on to faith in an all-powerful God who is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine

              • “Faith is a journey, and each happy destination is the beginning of a new journey. ​​ When God wants to build our patience, He gives us promises, sends us trials, and tells us to trust Him.” ​​ [Wiersbe]

                • Is God building your patience right now?

                • What promises has He given to you? (take a moment to write those down)

                • What trials are you experiencing, currently? (take a moment to write those down)

                • Are you trusting the Lord through those trials?

                • James 1:2-8, Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. ​​ Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ​​ If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. ​​ But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. ​​ That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

              • God can and will keep His promises to you and me

            • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Patiently wait, through the trials I am experiencing, for God to fulfill His promises to me.

          • Abraham and Sarah had to exhibit a great deal of faith as they waited 25 years for the promise to be fulfilled

        • Promise fulfilled

          • That is what we see in the verse 2

          • Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to a son

          • This happened when Abraham was 100 years old

            • That seems amazing to us, but God is able to do the miraculous

            • God continued to sustain Abraham in his old age, because he remained alive until this promised son grew up to be an adult

            • God’s sustaining power is incredible!

          • Faith in God’s promises releases God’s power!

            • This promised son came at the very time God intended for him to come and according to the promise given the year before

            • God waited for Abraham and Sarah to be “as good as dead” so that their son would be a miracle from Him and not just from a natural process

            • Read Romans 4:17-21

            • Ephesians 4:20-21, Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! ​​ Amen.

        • While we see the faith and patience of Abraham and Sarah, we also see Abraham’s obedience

    • Obedience (vv. 3-5)

        • Abraham names his son

          • NOTE: ​​ “Both Isaac and Jesus were named before they were conceived (Gen. 17:19; Luke 1:31). ​​ Both mothers conceived through God’s supernatural activity. ​​ Both sons fulfilled the Abrahamic covenant.” ​​ [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 183]

          • He gives him the name Isaac just as God had directed him

          • Genesis 17:19, Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. ​​ I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

          • The name Isaac means “he laughs”

          • Genesis 17:15-17, God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are not longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. ​​ I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. ​​ I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” ​​ Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? ​​ Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”

          • As we saw in Romans 4, Abraham’s laughter was not without faith – he still believed that God was able to accomplish what He had promised

          • “Isaac was designated as the fruit of omnipotent grace working against and above the forces of nature.” ​​ [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 155]

          • Abraham not only names his son Isaac, in obedience to the Lord's command, he also circumcises him

        • Abraham circumcised his son

          • On the eighth day, after Isaac’s birth, Abraham circumcised him

          • Genesis 17:10-12, This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: ​​ Every male among you shall be circumcised. ​​ You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. ​​ For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner – those who are not your offspring.

        • PRINCIPLE #2 – God is pleased when His people obey His commands.

          • Abraham was obedient to the commands of God

          • Are we obedient to the commands of God?

            • This is a question that we need to ask ourselves

            • “There is a simple exercise I walk through with church leaders. ​​ First, I have them list all the things that people expect from their church. ​​ They usually list obvious things like a really good service, strong age-specific ministries, a certain style/volume/length of singing, a well-communicated sermon, conveniences such as parking, a clean church building, coffee, childcare, etc. ​​ Then I have them list the commands God gave the Church in Scripture. ​​ Usually they mention commands like ‘love one another as I have loved you’ (John 15:12), ‘visit orphans and widows in their affliction’ (James 1:27), ‘make disciples of all nations’ (Matt. 28:19), ‘bear one another’s burdens’ (Gal. 6:2), etc. ​​ I then ask them what would upset their people more – if the church didn’t provide the things from the first list or if the church didn’t obey the commands in the second list. . . . God had given clear commands in the Old Testament He expected His people to obey (613 things to be exact). ​​ Then along the way those people created additional traditions God never actually asked them to do but they felt were good ideas. . . . Honoring traditions made the Pharisees feel like they were obeying God when they actually weren’t. . . . Many of us have become so accustomed to various traditions that we genuinely think they are commanded.” ​​ [Francis Chan, Letters to the Church, 46, 48]

            • Francis Chan’s comment hits close to home for many of us

            • Are we more concerned about our expectations being fulfilled and traditions being followed or obeying the commands of God?

            • How are we doing with obeying God’s commands?

            • I know for myself, and I’m guessing the same is true for every one of us, that we can improve in the area of obeying God’s commands

            • That is what pleases the Lord

          • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Choose to obey God’s commands and identify at least one command where I need to improve.

            • Imagine what it will look like when we focus on obeying the commands of God instead of our own expectations and traditions

            • The Lord will be pleased and we will be more unified, holy, and loving

            • What an incredible opportunity we have to continue to develop these qualities as followers of Jesus Christ

        • Abraham obediently followed the commands of God and Sarah worshiped the Lord for His grace extended to her

    • Overjoyed (vv. 6-7)

        • Sarah’s laughter has been transformed

          • Before, she laughed to herself

          • Genesis 18:12-13, So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” ​​ Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’”

          • Now, she laughs openly and encourages others to join in her laughter

          • “Sarah credits God with changing her laughter of incredulity (17:17-19; 18:12-15) into joy. ​​ All will now laugh in joy and amazement with Sarah.” ​​ [Waltke, Genesis, A Commentary, 293]

          • Even Sarah’s statement about her nursing a child, shows the joy she is experiencing

        • PRINCIPLE #3 – God is glorified when we rejoice at the display of His sovereign power.

          • The birth of Isaac obviously helped to strengthen Sarah’s faith

          • How often does the display of God’s sovereign power strengthen our faith?

            • When the initial diagnosis says there is something there that needs further investigation, but when the time comes for that appointment, the doctors cannot find what was originally there (our faith is strengthened)

            • The end of the month is coming, but there is not any more money to pay bills and someone anonymously drops off an envelope with money in it (our faith is strengthened)

            • The furnace, air conditioner, or vehicle breaks down and we do not have the money to repair it, but God provides the money through the benevolence fund at church or through other people (our faith is strengthened)

          • Application

            • How have you seen the display of God’s sovereign power in your life?

            • Has it strengthened your faith?

            • Have you taken time to rejoice and thank the Lord?

            • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Rejoice in the Lord for displaying His sovereign power in my life.

          • “Nothing can give such deep, lasting satisfaction as the faithfulness of God, demonstrated in the fulfillment of his promises especially, perhaps, after a long time of expectant waiting.” ​​ [Baldwin, The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of Genesis 12-50, 85]

 

  • YOU

    • Are you waiting patiently for the Lord to fulfill His promises to you?

    • What command of God do you need to improve upon?

    • Do you need to rejoice in God’s sovereign power at work in your life?

 

  • WE

    • God has given promises to His church, so we have to wait patiently for His timing

    • God has given His church commands that we need to be following

    • Corporately, we need to rejoice when we see God display His sovereign power in the life of the church

 

CONCLUSION

“We become so used to reading about miracles in the pages of the Bible that it is easy to lose an appreciation for how startling they are. ​​ In an attempt to recover the wonder, let’s take a moment to observe the response to such an occurrence in a modern medical context. ​​ The details of the following account were reported in the Chicago Tribune, September 8, 1981.

 

A woman whose ovaries ceased to function almost three years ago has given birth to a healthy 9-pound baby girl, baffling doctors at three hospitals. ​​ ‘It is impossible, impossible,’ the 35-year-old woman quoted one of the doctors as saying when he detected a fetal heartbeat. ​​ In effect, the birth took place after the woman . . . had gone through menopause, her doctors said.

 

The woman had been diagnosed with premature ovarian failure and was told she did not have to worry about getting pregnant. ​​ A further complication was that the woman was on hormone medications to ease the symptoms of menopause. ​​ These medications typically serve as effective contraceptives. ​​ Dr. Jerry Rakoff, director of the Scripps Clinic Medical Group’s Fertility Center had confirmed the diagnosis of another physician but was also the one who eventually discovered that the patient was pregnant.

 

Rakoff said neither he nor Dr. John Willens, the University Hospital physician who delivered the baby on August 18, had ever heard of birth by a woman with a well-documented case of premature ovarian failure. . . . Rakoff said that there is no medical therapy to reverse premature ovarian failure. ​​ He said that he and Willens believe an egg may have been left after the ovaries shut down.

 

We can see that even in today’s world of medical sophistication, this is a remarkable obstacle for God to overcome.”

 

[Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 499-500]

 

 

How does all of this tie in with Christmas?

Genealogy

  • Matthew 1:1-17

Jesus came just in time

  • Galatians 4:4-5

  • Romans 5:6-8

8

 

Origins

Unstoppable

(Genesis 20:1-18)

 

INTRODUCTION

“On any given night at a bowling alley in America, you might find someone who has bowled a 300, a perfect game. A good bowler on a hot streak can roll 12 consecutive strikes. For a competitive bowler, however, the "holy grail" night is a perfect series—three consecutive perfect games. A 900. In the history of bowling, there have only been 21 perfect series.

 

And Bill Fong was three rolls away from just that—perfection.

 

On a January 18, 2010, league night at the Plano Super Bowl, Bill Fong had rolled 33 consecutive strikes. The crowd of fellow league members stopped to watch, as on frame 34, Bill Fong gathered his ball, walked up, and rolled another strike.

 

And then he rolled another on frame 35, and the crowd went wild.

 

But something was wrong. Two frames back Bill had begun sweating profusely and feeling dizzy. But he was just one roll away from history. Bill pulled the ball to his chest, took his usual five steps, and released the ball perfectly.

 

People actually started applauding before the ball reached the pins. That's how perfect the roll was. It curved exactly where it was supposed to, made contact with the pins at precisely the right spot. Pins flew, the crowd cheered.

 

And the number 10 pin wobbled, but settled back onto its base. Standing.

 

899. One pin short of perfection.

Heartbroken, Bill headed home.

 

The dizziness that began on frame 34 had not improved. Bill staggered into his bathroom and threw up. The walls continued to spin.

 

Bill was having a stroke. Already struggling with high blood pressure, the events of that Monday evening turned a delicate situation into a deadly one.

 

But Bill never realized he had suffered a stroke until he had another one later. His doctor found scar tissue, and was told about the league night.

 

The only thing that saved Bill on the night of the 899? That number 10 pin staying up. Had that last pin fell, Bill's doctor feels certain that his body, already in the midst of a stroke, would have pushed his blood pressure even higher. That, most likely, would have killed Bill immediately on lane 28.

 

What felt like the worst thing that could have happened turned out to be the very thing that saved Bill's life.”

 

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Sovereignty of God—Although the article did not mention Bill's faith or lack thereof in Christ, we do know that believers can have confidence in God's good and sovereign plans for their lives despite disappointments, confusion, and failures. God may have a better purpose that we can't imagine with our limited perspective. (2) Success and Failure—Sometimes the success we think we must achieve can actually hurt us. And at times it's the apparent "failures" that actually save us from greater harm.

 

Source: Michael J. Mooney, "The Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever," D Magazine (July 2012).

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2012/october/1101512.html]

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Moving to Birmingham, AL

        • Growing up, our family had always lived in a parsonage

        • From the time I was two-years old until age 17, our family had never owned a home

        • When my parents felt the call to plant a church in Birmingham, AL, we had to find a house to live in

        • That was the first time my parents had ever had to buy a home, so everything was new

        • Grace Ministries was the organization that had the vision to plant multiple churches in Birmingham from various denominations

        • That ministry had a real estate agent associated with it that made himself available to the pastors who were moving

        • He asked my parents what kind of neighborhood that were hoping to reach and then showed our family several houses

        • After seeing the one house all five of us said, “That is the house!”

        • My parents have lived in that house for 34 years

    • God’s plan for our family

        • We knew that God had led us to that particular house

        • The previous owners of the house were both doctors

        • So, you probably guessed it, the wife became our family practice doctor for many years

        • God’s sovereignty was evident through our move from Pennsylvania to Birmingham

        • His plans for us never failed

 

  • WE

    • Every one of us probably has a testimony of when God’s plans have succeeded in our lives

        • Perhaps the testimony is about a relationship

        • Maybe it’s about a financial success

        • It could even be about a job or being accepted to a particular college or university

    • As we look back over our lives, we can probably share multiple stories of how God’s plan didn’t fail us

        • We may not have recognized it at the time

        • Time and hindsight give us clarity and a different perspective

 

It would seem as though time and hindsight had not given Abraham and Sarah clarity. ​​ They use a familiar ruse 25 years later with a different ruler and got similar results. ​​ They were still struggling to trust the Lord with their fears about the people of this new land. ​​ What they learned, again, was that even though their fears caused them to mislead another ruler, God’s plan could not be stopped. ​​ This truth is one that we need to learn and embrace. ​​ We will learn today that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – God’s plans never fail.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Genesis 20:1-18)

    • Ruse (vv. 1-2)

        • On the move

          • Most scholars agree that Abraham is moving from his current location, near Hebron, by the trees of Mamre

          • He takes his entire family and clan and moves them to the region of the Negev

            • We are not given the exact location, but rather a between two regions

            • They were staying between Kadesh and Shur

            • [Show map]

            • This was the same region where Hagar had fled to after being mistreated by Sarah (Genesis 16:7)

            • It was here that the Lord spoke to Hagar and promised her many descendants (Genesis 16:8-14)

          • Stay in Gerar

            • While his clan remain in the region of the Negev, it appears that, at least, Abraham and Sarah move north and stay in Gerar

            • Abraham probably left his flocks and herds in the care of his servants in the Negev

          • While they are in Gerar, Abraham uses the same half-truth that he used 25 years earlier with Pharaoh in Egypt

        • Half-truth

          • Abraham tells the people of Gerar that Sarah is his sister

          • We already know that Abraham and Sarah had the same father, but different mothers

          • Because of the half-truth, Abimelech, King of Gerar, sends for, and takes Sarah as part of his harem

            • Sarah is now 89 to 90 years old

            • In the Egyptian episode, Pharaoh took Sarah because of her beauty (Genesis 12:14-16)

            • There is no mention of the reason why Sarah is taken by Abimelech

            • It is perhaps based on the desire of Abimelech to forge “an economic relationship with the Abraham clan” [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 251]

            • Sarah has described herself as “worn out” in Genesis 18:11-13 [Mathews, 252]

            • All of this played an important role in protecting Sarah and preserving God’s plan for the promised son to come from Abraham and Sarah

            • God’s plans never fail

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is patient with His people!

            • We know that God’s plans never fail, but sometimes we, in our humanness, put God through the ringer

              • He has to bring plagues and illness to others in order to preserve His plans

              • He has to threaten death and command that certain things be returned, in order to set things right

            • How have we put God through the ringer as it pertains to His plans for us?

              • I know that, for Judy and I, we moved all over the country and served with various ministries before being obedient to the call to pastoral ministry

              • I know that Judy had to wait 13 years to be a pastors wife (she always thought that was God’s calling for her, when she grew up)

              • What has it looked like for you?

                • What things did you have to go through before submitting to God’s plan for your life?

                • Perhaps you are still putting God through the ringer, because you are resisting His call on your life

                • God’s patience is so amazing!

                  • He is willing to wait on us

                  • He is willing to allow us to go done a different path, until we realize we need to be on His path for our lives

                  • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Thank the Lord for His patience and submit to His plan for my life.

                • God was certainly patient with Abraham and Sarah, even when they used the “sister act” again, 25 years later

          • Their deception had adverse consequences not only for them, but also for others

            • “Charles Spurgeon said, ‘God does not allow His children to sin successfully.’ ​​ When we deliberately disobey God, we suffer both from the consequences of our sins and from the chastening hand of God, unless we repent and submit.” ​​ [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Old Testament, Genesis-Deuteronomy, 96]

            • Read Hebrews 12:5-11

        • We see Abimelech’s reaction to this deception

    • Reaction (vv. 3-13)

        • With God (vv. 3-8)

          • God came to Abimelech in a dream (v. 3)

            • Pharaoh was aware of Abraham’s deception because of the serious diseases that he and his household experienced

            • This time, God uses a dream to expose the ruse

              • Dreams were a common form of communication or revelation in the ancient Near East [Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 494]

              • “Dreams were a mode of revelation, even to those outside of the covenant (see 28:12; 31:24; 37:5-9; 40:5; 41:1; Num. 22;9, 20).” ​​ [Waltke, Genesis, A Commentary, 285]

            • God tells Abimelech that he is as good as dead

            • The reason He gives is that the woman he has taken is a married woman

              • Even within the pagan culture, adultery was a serious offense

              • “In Egypt (marriage contracts), Mesopotamia (hymns to Ninurta and Shamash), and Canaan (king of Ugarit extradites and executes his wife), adultery is regularly referred to as ‘the great sin’ and is considered extremely detrimental to society to the extent that it is characteristic of anarchy. ​​ Hittite laws, Middle Assyrian Laws, and the Code of Hammurabi all contain legislation against adultery.” ​​ [Walton, 495]

              • “Mosaic legislation required the death penalty for adultery, both the man and the woman (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22).” ​​ [Mathews, 252]

                • Leviticus 20:10, “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife – with the wife of his neighbor – both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.”

                • Deuteronomy 22:22, If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. ​​ You must purge the evil from Israel

            • Abimelech realizes the seriousness of God’s revelation to him, and so he pleads his case

          • Abimelech’s plea (vv. 4-5)

            • The narrator tells us that Abimelech had not gone near Sarah, meaning that he had not been intimate with her

            • Abimelech wants to know if God will destroy an innocent nation

              • This is Abimelech’s view of his kingdom

              • But, Abimelech is not saved – he is lost – he is not a follower of God

              • Abraham is a follower of God – he is saved

            • He explains to the Lord that Abraham and Sarah both said that they were brother and sister

            • He confesses that he took Sarah with a clear conscience and clean hands – it was unintentional

            • Abimelech’s sin was one of ignorance and not negligence – there was potential for deliberate action (adultery) without knowledge [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 62]

            • God acknowledges Abimelech’s plea

          • God’s reply and command (vv. 6-7)

            • The dream is still taking place

            • God confirms that Abimelech took Sarah with a clear conscience, but He is the One who kept Abimelech from sinning against Him

              • God kept Abimelech from touching Sarah

              • PRINCIPLE #2 – God is sovereign!

                • God’s sovereignty means that He has the right to rule and He rules rightly

                • God was completely in control of the circumstances that Abraham and Sarah had created, which had to potential to mess up His plans for the promised son

                • God’s plans never fail

                • He protected the purity of Sarah, by His sovereign power

                • God, in His sovereignty, is in complete control of the circumstances that we create

                • Those circumstances have the potential to mess up His plans for our lives, but God knows exactly what to do to get us back on track

                  • He may be stopping you from touching something

                  • He may be stopping you from moving

                  • He may be stopping you from taking another job

                  • He may be stopping you from looking at certain things

                  • He may be stopping you from pursuing a particular relationship

                  • He may be stopping you from doing something that will be detrimental to you, physically, financially, emotionally, or spiritually

                • Instead of trying to push forward, we need to thank God for stopping us

            • God commands Abimelech to return Sarah to Abraham

              • Abraham is identified as God’s prophet

                • God calls Abraham His prophet

                  • Abraham’s deception has not negated his salvation or standing with God

                  • His deception has not rendered God’s promise void – that all nations will be blessed through Abraham

                  • God will use Abraham and his prayer to bring healing to Abimelech and his household

                • PRINCIPLE #3 – God uses His people in spite of their failures.

                  • Romans 11:29, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable

                  • As Christians, we will still choose to sin sometimes

                  • When we choose to sin, God does not take back the spiritual gifts or the calling that He has placed on our lives

                  • He still uses that calling and those gifts in spite of our sin – for His glory!

                  • “. . . I have found that the thing which hobbles so many people in their service for the Lord is thinking, ‘God can’t use me. ​​ God wouldn’t use me. ​​ God won’t use me because I’ve failed so miserably; I’ve botched it so badly.’ ​​ That’s the voice of the enemy, for the voice of the Lord says, ‘Because you didn’t earn the gifts I gave you or the calling I sovereignly placed upon you, there’s no way you can lose them either.’” ​​ [Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament, Volume 1: ​​ Genesis-Job, 84]

                  • Have you been living with the enemy’s lie that God cannot, would not, or will not use you because of your failures?

                  • Today is the day to put that lie in its place, to put that lie to rest

                  • God can, would, and will use your calling and your gifts in spite of your failures

                  • Our testimony and witness may be hurt because of the failures, but our ability to pray for and serve others is not affected

                  • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Reject Satan’s lie and embrace God’s truth that He can, would, and will use me in spite of my failures.

                • God was still going to use Abraham even though he had failed to trust in God’s power to protect him

                • God tells Abimelech the result of not obeying His command

              • Death will be the result of his disobedience

                • If Abimelech refuses to return Sarah to Abraham, he and his household will die

                • That was how serious God was about making sure His plans would not fail

            • Abimelech takes the warning seriously

          • Seeking counsel (v. 8)

            • Abimelech does not waste time seeking the counsel of his officials

            • He is up early and calling his officials together

            • He confides in them about the dream he had

            • His officials took the warning seriously

            • They were very much afraid – they did not want to die because of Abimelech’s ignorance about Sarah

          • We have seen Abimelech’s reaction with God, but we also see his reaction with Abraham

        • With Abraham (vv. 9-13)

          • Abimelech’s questions (vv. 9-10)

            • After consulting with his officials, Abimelech called for Abraham

            • Abimelech peppers Abraham with questions

              • What have you done to us?

              • How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom?

              • What was your reason for doing this?

            • Abimelech also scolds Abraham for doing something to him that should not have been done

          • Abraham’s response (vv. 11-13)

            • Assumption

              • Abraham did not consult the Lord concerning the people of Gerar

              • He assumed they were like all the other inhabitants of the land

              • Keep in mind that Abraham just witnessed the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah along with two other cities in the plain, because the Lord did not find ten righteous people there

              • We see Abraham acting independently of the Lord’s guidance and direction, because of fear and a lapse in faith

              • PRINCIPLE #4 – God is pleased when we trust in Him instead of ourselves.

            • Mode of operation

              • From the time that Abraham set out on his own and separated from his father’s household, he and Sarah have been using the “sister-act” as their standard mode of operation when entering new territories

              • It has worked in the past, so they continue to use it (even 25 years later)

              • Abraham pulls the, “if ​​ you love me,” card and asks Sarah to tell everyone that he is her brother

        • Abimelech must have accepted Abraham’s response to his questions, because he provides reparations to he and Sarah

    • Reparation (vv. 14-16)

        • Pharaoh had given Abraham sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, and servants prior to knowing the truth about Sarah (perhaps as a bride price)

        • Abimelech gives Abraham sheep, cattle, servants, and first choice of land after he finds out the truth about Sarah (this is recompense)

        • Abimelech obeys the command of the Lord and returns Sarah to Abraham

        • Abimelech also gives Abraham 1,000 shekels of silver

          • That is about 25 pounds of silver

          • This is a very generous amount of silver

          • Mathews points out that Abraham paid 400 shekels of silver for the cave at Machpelah where he buried Sarah (Gen. 23:15-16), Jacob purchased a piece of land in Shechem for 100 pieces of silver (Gen. 33:19), and Joseph was sold into slavery for 20 shekels of silver (Gen. 37:28) ​​ [Mathews, 258]

          • Waltke states, “A Babylonian laborer, usually paid a half shekel per month, would have had to work 167 years to earn such a sum.” ​​ [Waltke, 287]

          • The silver was given to Abraham as a way of restoring Sarah’s honor in the eyes of those who knew about Abimelech taking her into his harem [Waltke, 288]

          • It was done to hide Sarah’s shame [Mathews, 258]

          • Abimelech did not blame Sarah, which is what is meant by her being completely vindicated

        • After reparations are made, Abraham prays for Abimelech and his household

    • Restoration (vv. 17-18)

        • Abraham’s prayer released God’s healing power

        • God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his slave girls

          • We are not told what Abimelech needed healing from, but it probably had something to do with him not being to engage in sexual relations

          • We know that God had closed up every womb in Abimelech’s household, so now the woman would be able to conceive again

        • PRINCIPLE #5 – God answers the prayers of His people on behalf of others.

          • It probably took a long time for Abimelech to trust Abraham

          • He was probably cautious whenever Abraham spoke to him

          • Wiersbe highlights what this one lie cost Abraham [Wiersbe, 97]

            • His character

            • His testimony

            • His ministry (instead of a source of blessing, he was the cause of judgment)

            • He almost lost Sarah and Isaac

            • His peace (he watched Isaac repeat the same lie years later, Gen. 26:7-11)

          • Perhaps our lies have cost us some of the same things

            • We may have lost our character, testimony, and ministry to family and friends

            • They don’t want anything to do with Christianity, because of what we have said or done

            • Fortunately, when we repent of our sins, the Lord forgives us and restores us

            • We still have the ability to bless our family, friends, and even our enemies through prayer

              • “When I pray for my enemies, not only does it release blessing upon them, but it keeps me from getting involved in a cycle of bitterness which will only destroy me.” ​​ [Courson, 86]

              • Matthew 5:43-45a, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ ​​ But I tell you: ​​ Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

          • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Pray for the healing, prosperity, and well-being of my family, friends, and enemies.

 

  • YOU

    • Do you need to thank the Lord for His patience?

    • Are you ready to submit to the Lord’s plan for your life?

    • Is it time to reject the lie and embrace that God can, would, and will use you in spite of your failures?

    • Whom do you need to pray for today?

  • WE

    • Idaville Church needs everyone to embrace God’s truth that He will use us in spite of our failures – we need everyone to be serving

        • Pastor Marc handed out spiritual gift surveys during the Mission Possible Meeting last week

        • Our hope is that everyone will take the time to complete one of those surveys, so we can serve in our area of giftedness

 

CONCLUSION

“Henri Dunant was a wealthy 19th century Swiss banker. He was sent to Paris by the Swiss government to work on a business deal with Napoleon. He arrived only to be informed that Napoleon was off fighting a war against the Austrians in Solferino, Italy. So Henri Dunant got back into his carriage and set his horses galloping down to the battlefront. He got there just in time to hear the bugles blast and see the thundering charge of Napoleon's troops. Dunant had never before witnessed the ghastly carnage of war. He watched in horror as cannonballs tore through human flesh, and acres of land became heaped with maimed and dying men. Henri Dunant was so devastated that he remained at the front for weeks helping doctors tend to the wounded in churches and nearby farmhouses.

 

After his return to Switzerland, Dunant continued to be haunted by the images of war he had seen in Italy. He could not keep his mind on banking, becoming so distracted that he lost his fortune. Yet even with his career derailed and his plans askew, he had a sense of God's sovereignty in all that had occurred. Of this time he later wrote: ‘I was aware of an intuition, vague and yet profound, that [this was] God's Will; it seemed to me that I had [something] to accomplish…as a sacred duty and that it was destined to have fruits of infinite consequence for mankind.’

 

And indeed it was. Out of his depression and failure—after following the wrong road to Italy—Henri Dunant founded the Red Cross, which has saved millions and millions of lives and given aid to countless victims of war and disaster over the years. For establishing this organization, he received the first Nobel Peace Prize.”

 

Source: Victor D. Pentz, from the sermon "A Hobo's Heart: How Wrong Roads Often Lead to the Right Places."

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2004/august/15490.html]

13

 

Origins

The Issue with Isolation

(Genesis 19:30-38)

 

INTRODUCTION

“For two of his five years in a Vietnamese POW camp, Senator John McCain was locked in a tiny isolation cell, cut off from all human contact. He was beaten regularly and then denied adequate medical treatment for two broken arms, a broken leg, and chronic dysentery. But for McCain something was far worse than physical pain—the pain of isolation. McCain said, ‘[Isolation] crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.’

 

Medical doctor Atul Gawande points to McCain's experience and then describes a study of nearly 150 U.S. naval aviators who returned from imprisonment in Vietnam: they reported that social isolation was as agonizing as any abuse they had suffered. But what happened to them was physical. EEG studies going back to the 1960s have shown diffuse slowing of brain waves in prisoners after a week or more of solitary confinement

 

Gawande writes:

 

Some prisoners whose only social contact was a food tray shoved through a slot became catatonic or developed autistic features. … Still others had panic attacks or became extraordinarily aggressive. These symptoms suggest neurological damage. Neuroimaging studies confirm that isolation creates the same level of activity in the brain as does physical distress; the neural signs of social pain look a lot like the signals created by physical pain. Even months after they were released, MRIs of prisoners of war in the former Yugoslavia showed the gravest neurological damage in those prisoners who had been locked in solitary confinement. Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic head injury.”

 

Source: Adapted from Susan Pinker, The Village Effect, (Spiegel and Grau, 2014), pg. 100-101.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2015/march/6031615.html]

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Family Life, Weekend To Remember

        • Judy and I have attended the Weekend To Remember for many years now

        • It’s a great way for us to stay connected to the Lord and to each other

        • “If couples are not intentionally moving toward oneness, their marriages will drift toward isolation.” ​​ [Weekend To Remember Manual, 20]

        • “The goal of marriage is not isolation; it’s oneness.” [Weekend To Remember Manual, 20]

        • The natural drift toward isolation

          • Romantic phase (dating or honeymoon)

          • Reality phase (honeymoon or early marriage)

          • Renovation phase (working over our spouse to adapt to their own preferences)

          • Retaliation phase (resentment and bitterness turn into hurtful words and actions)

          • Rejection phase (emotional separation or divorce)

        • The path to oneness . . . leads to hope

          • God’s purpose for marriage

          • God’s plan for marriage

          • God’s power for marriage

          • God’s process for marriage

          • God’s product for marriage

        • Our desire and goal as a married couple is to intentionally move toward oneness

 

  • WE

    • How have we experienced isolation in our lives?

        • Dating

        • Marriage

        • Work

        • School

        • Church

    • What has that isolation done to us?

        • We may not think clearly

        • We may make decisions that we would not otherwise make

        • We can become irrational, agitated, angry, aggressive, frustrated, depressed, anxious, hopeless, suicidal, etc.

 

Today finishes the story of Lot and his family. ​​ He is not mentioned again in the Genesis account. ​​ We will see that he and his two daughters were isolated from the rest of society and the effect that had in their lives. ​​ Isolation caused them to compromise their morality. ​​ We will learn today that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Compromise leads to immorality.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Genesis 19:30-38)

    • Move to Isolation (v. 30)

        • Out of fear, Lot and his two daughters leave Zoar (tso’ar/tso’air) and head to the mountains

          • We’re not given the reason for Lot’s fear of staying in Zoar

          • We can speculate and say that perhaps he noticed, rather quickly, that Zoar was just as wicked as Sodom and he knew the end result of that

          • It is possible that Lot believed that God would also destroy Zoar sooner than later and he didn’t want to try to establish a dwelling there, only to be uprooted again

        • It was out of fear that Lot had petitioned the angels to allow him to flee to Zoar instead of the mountains

        • Now we find Lot and his daughters right where they were originally supposed to be

          • It is amazing how that happens, right?

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God’s plan is always best for us.

            • Has that ever happened to you?

              • God has made it clear to you what He wants you to do or where he wants you to go

              • In our humanness, we believe we know better than God, so we don’t obey His Word immediately

              • Instead we try to accomplish it a different way or try to do something completely different

              • Many times, when we finally come to our senses, we obey the Lord’s original message to us and find ourselves right where we were supposed to be

              • Sometimes that journey is short, while other times it is long and difficult

              • I do not know about you, but the older I get, the shorter those journeys become, because I have learned to follow the Lord, first, and not try to do my plan

            • Where are you at today?

              • Are you on a long, difficult path right now, because you are trying to do something in opposition to what God has told you?

              • Remember Jonah’s story (went opposite direction, endangered others because of his rebellion, spent 3 days in the belly of a large fish, got regurgitated onto land, repented, and finally he obeyed the Lord and went to Ninevah)

              • Do you need to recognize that God’s plan is best for you?

              • Do you need to abandon your plans and begin following God’s plan?

              • Are you glad that God is loving, compassionate, forgiving, and patient?

            • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Acknowledge that I am following my own plan instead of God’s, and begin to follow God’s plan, today.

        • My guess is that God’s plan to move Lot to an isolated location was completely different than the outcome we will see in a moment

        • Lot moved out of a nice home in Sodom and is now living in a cave

        • PRINCIPLE #2 – God’s design for His people is relationship and fellowship, not isolation.

        • What we see next is how isolation can cause us to become irrational

    • Isolation Irrationality (vv. 31-32)

        • The older daughter recognizes that their father is old, which likely means that they believe he will not remarry (there is no hope of additional siblings)

        • No man around here

          • “To the best of the daughters’ knowledge, the loss of life at Sodom has been total: ​​ there is not a man on earth to come into us.” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 51]

          • PRINCIPLE #3 – Isolation breeds misinformation.

            • We see this with the two daughters

              • Even though Zoar is not destroyed they still feel like they are the only people left on earth

              • If their fiancés’ in Sodom were any indication of the moral fiber of the men in Zoar, then they probably didn’t even consider them as potential husbands

              • Certainly they were aware of Abraham and Ishmael by this point

              • There were also many other towns and cities besides the five cities in the plains

            • We saw this with the pandemic shut downs in our own country

              • When we were isolated, our only form of information was from the major news outlets

              • The isolation that we experienced only bred misinformation

              • It was difficult to know what was true and trustworthy and what was not

              • Were certain prophylactic (preventive) drugs successful against the coronavirus or not?

              • Certain viewpoints and beliefs were labeled as “misinformation” and some individuals were “cancelled”

              • While in isolation we were left to figure it out on our own, which bred misinformation and fear

              • The misinformation and fear then caused some people to think and act irrationally

            • When have you experienced misinformation, because of being isolated?

              • It happens in our work environment when we have to work remotely

              • It can happen in our families when we live far apart

              • It can happen at church when we aren’t able to attend consistently (we hear news about the church, second-hand, with the individuals perspective and understanding of what they heard, which may not always be accurate)

              • It can happen with our friends when we text them and they misread or misunderstand what we were saying (sometimes we miss a text or don’t receive it immediately after it is sent, which can breed fear and anxiety about what the other person is thinking)

              • It can happen at school, if we miss several days (we may not get the right information about what is due and when)

            • When we are misinformed, we can become irrational in our thinking and actions, which is what we will see in verses 32-35

            • The only way to combat misinformation is to go to the source

              • Judy does a great job with this, and then she keeps me informed

              • During the election cycle, she would try to listen to the whole speech from a candidate instead of listening to the opinion pieces or media spin

              • When she did that she avoided the hazard of misinformation and therefore could make an intelligent decision about which candidates to vote for

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Avoid misinformation and becoming irrational, through regular fellowship with others.

          • The two daughters were perhaps not even in fellowship with the Lord, which is evident by their statement about the customs all over the earth

        • Custom all over the earth

          • The daughters were looking to the customs of their society to dictate and justify what they were about to do

          • They were not relying on the Lord to provide a miraculous and moral solution to their problem

          • How many of us would admit that sometimes we have chosen the societal customs of the earth to dictate and justify our irrational behaviors and/or decisions

          • We do not rely on the Lord to provide a miraculous and moral solution to our problem

          • I want to encourage us, today, to rely on the Lord to help solve our problems – turn to Him in prayer, read His Word, seek the advice of godly family members and friends

          • That is not what Lot’s two daughters did, instead they turned to trickery

        • Trickery

          • The two daughters know that what they are proposing is immoral, which is why they conspire to get their father drunk

          • Compromise leads to immorality

          • “The intent to ‘preserve our family line’ (vv. 32, 34) was honorable, but the means of incest was deplorable (e.g., Lev 18:6-18; cp. Tamar 38:13-26). ​​ That it was so understood by the daughters themselves explains why they had to trick their father through drink.” ​​ [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 245]

          • Read Leviticus 18:6-18

        • While their desire to have a family was not immoral, the way in which they proposed to have a family was

    • Isolation Immorality (vv. 33-35)

        • Lot’s two daughters got their father to drink wine two nights in a row

          • The first night, the older daughter went in and laid down with him – she had sexual relations with him

          • The second night, the younger daughter went in and laid down with him – she too had sexual relations with him

          • To even think about what they are doing should make our skin crawl

          • That is what compromise does, it leads to immorality – it makes us think that what is immoral is acceptable (the ends justify the means)

          • “Earlier the father was willing to use his daughters for sexual purposes without their consent. ​​ Now they will use their father for sexual purposes without his consent.” ​​ [Hamilton, 51]

        • PRINCIPLE #4 – Isolation can lead to immorality.

          • Lot’s two daughters knew that no one else was around to judge or hold them accountable for their actions

          • The other inhabitants in the region would never have to know how they became pregnant

          • Isolation can do the same thing for us

            • The internet and personal devices have allowed us to be isolated, even in a crowd (we completely ignore those around us, while we on our phones/devices)

            • We can lock our phones so no one else can access them to see what we have been looking at

            • We can even browse the internet with the “private” setting engaged, so that no one will know what we have been searching for

            • We can engage in emotional affairs online, without having to really tell the other person who we are

            • The move to isolation has taken a major toll on the morality of our society

            • If anyone is struggling with immorality because of isolation, I want to encourage you find an accountability partner that will ask you the tough questions, that will be there for you when you are tempted to give in to immoral behaviors

            • God did not design us to live in isolation, but rather in fellowship with others

            • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Admit that I am dealing with immorality, and commit to finding an accountability partner.

          • Lot’s two daughters had allowed isolation to lead them to irrational decisions about immorality

        • Lot was not even aware of what had happened with he and his daughters

        • We are not told if Lot every found out how his daughters became pregnant, but we see the results of their isolation immorality

    • Result of Isolation (vv. 36-38)

        • Both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant

        • Lot’s descendants

          • Older daughter

            • Moab

              • “‘Moab’ was apparently derived from the combination of min (‘from’) plus ʾāb (‘father’), which becomes mēʾāb, ‘from [my] father (v. 37); mēʾāb is a reflection of the previous mēʾăbîhen (v. 36), meaning lit., ‘from their father.’” ​​ [Mathews, 245]

              • The older daughter was not very discreet in naming her son

            • Moabites

              • Moab’s descendants became the Moabites

              • “The Moabites worshipped a fertility god and indulged in orgies which beguiled the Israelites on their way into the promised land (Nu. 25).” ​​ [Baldwin, The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of Genesis 12-50, 80]

              • They caused the Israelites all kinds of problems as they attempted to possess the Promised Land, and yet, God protected the Moabites from the Israelites

              • Deuteronomy 2:9, Then the Lord said to me, “Do not harass the Moabites or provoke them to war, for I will not give you any part of their land. ​​ I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.

            • The younger daughter probably followed in her sisters footsteps

          • Younger daughter

            • Ben-Ammi

              • “‘Ben-Ammi,’ born to the younger daughter (v. 38), is ‘son of my [paternal] kinsmen’ or singular ‘kinsman.’” ​​ [Mathews, 245]

              • The younger daughter was no less creative or discreet in naming her son

            • Ammonites

              • Ben-Ammi’s descendants became the Ammonites

              • “Ammon became noted for cruelty not only in war (Am. 1:13) but even in religious observance (Lv. 18:21), for Molech was the Ammonite god who demanded child sacrifice.” ​​ [Baldwin, 80]

              • They too caused the Israelites headaches, but God also protected their land

              • Deuteronomy 2:19, “When you come to the Ammonites, do not harass them or provoke them to war, for I will not give you possession of any land belonging to the Ammonites, I have given it as a possession to the descendants of Lot.”

          • While Lot was unaware of when his daughters came in to him to lay with him, my guess is that he knew what had happened when both daughters became pregnant at the same time and then named their sons the way they did

        • Through this Bible passage today, we have learned that isolation can cause us to think and act irrationally and that compromise leads to immorality

 

  • YOU

    • Are you currently on a long and difficult path, because you have chosen your plan over God’s plan?

    • Have you given in to irrational behavior due to misinformation and the lack of fellowship

    • Do you need to find an accountability partner to help you with immorality in your life?

 

  • WE

    • As a body of believers, we need to seek God’s face for His plan for Idaville Church and not allow our plans to take precedence

    • We need to make sure that misinformation does not spread by going to the sourced

    • God’s Word tells us not the neglect meeting together (Heb. 10:25), so we need to make sure we are obeying God’s Word – the fellowship of believers is so important

 

CONCLUSION

“The Europeans who came to settle North America found it vast and unexplored. ‘Self-reliant’ was the watchword, and the scout, the mountain man or pioneer, with his axe and rifle over his shoulder, became the national hero.

 

In the early days the government gave away quarter sections of land to anyone who would homestead, in order to encourage settlement. People flocked west from crowded cities and villages to have their own land at last. Before they could farm the land they had chosen, their first job was to build a sod hut to live in, and most families built them right smack-dab in the middle of their quarter section. The reason was obvious. People who had never owned land before had a new sense of pride and ownership. They wanted to feel that everything they saw belonged to them.

 

But that custom changed quickly. This chosen isolation did strange things to people. Occasionally, photographers went out to record life on the frontier and returned with photographs of weird men, wild-eyed women, and haunted-looking children. Before long most of these families learned to move their houses to one corner of their property to live in proximity with three other families who also lived on the corners of their property. Four families living together, sharing life and death, joy and sorrow, abundance and want, had a good chance of making it.”

 

Source: Chuck Swindoll, Dropping Your Guard (Word Books, 1983), p. 23; quoting Bruce Larson, There's a Lot More to Health Than Not Being Sick.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2003/october/14641.html]

10

 

War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel by English author H. G. Wells, first serialized in 1897 by Pearson's Magazine in the UK and by Cosmopolitan magazine in the US. It was written between 1895 and 1897 and is one of the earliest stories to detail a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race. It has been both popular (having never been out of print) and influential, spawning half a dozen feature films, radio dramas, a record album, various comic book adaptations, a number of television series, and sequels or parallel stories by other authors. The novel has even influenced the work of scientists, notably Robert H. Goddard, who, inspired by the book, helped develop both the liquid-fueled rocket and multistage rocket, which resulted in the Apollo 11 Moon landing 71 years later.

We may wonder why this type of story catches the collective imagination of countless peoples. Maybe it has something to do with this idea that our world is always in conflict and invasion seems at times to be imminent. According to Google, from the time of the American Revolution til the time H.G. Wells wrote his book there had been about 54 different conflicts between the United States and various groups including many different Native American tribes, and many different countries including Mexico, Britain, France, etc. But there has been a war of the world’s waging constantly since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. This is the war between God and Satan, good and evil, and Christians and what we call the “world”, which is the embodiment of everything that is against God and his will. As Christians, we are commanded to “be in the world but not of it” and to “not conform to the pattern of this world.” This is no easy task when we are bombarded, even invaded, by the world on a daily basis. But we are to stand firm and not be influenced by the world, in fact, we are called to influence it by being “salt and light” in the world on a daily basis.

This morning we continue the story of Lot and his family. Over the past several chapters we have seen Lot look toward Sodom, pitch his tent toward Sodom and eventually live in Sodom. Even after Abraham rescued Lot from the four kings, he returned to Sodom and continued to live there. Lot chose Sodom as his home because it was well-watered like the garden of the Lord and like Egypt. On the outside it looked nice but on the inside it was evil and perverted. Pastor Stuart showed us last week that Lot had compromised and it had weakened his witness with the people of Sodom. After all his years in Sodom, Lot had not had a positive influence on the people, in fact, the people had influenced Lot and his family and the result was a spiritual downward spiral that cost some of Lot’s family not only their physical lives but probably their souls as well.

Lot’s relationship with God had also deteriorated and we see this as we contrast the way Abraham is living to the way Lot is living. Abraham is sitting at the door to his tent when the visitors come; Lot is sitting at the gate of a wicked city. Abraham lives as a pilgrim in the world just passing through; Lot has settled down in the city of Sodom. We have seen Abraham building altars to the Lord but we never see Lot building an altar at all. Because of Abraham’s influence he became a blessing to the world; because of Lot’s worldliness he had no influence in Sodom or even in his own household. After separating from Abraham, Lot allowed his character and his relationship with God to weaken as he continued to compromise the ways of God with the ways of the world. God visited Abraham but we never see him visiting Lot. It is possible that the Lord could not be in close fellowship with Lot because his worldliness has so deteriorated their relationship.

When I think of Lot, I am reminded of Romans 12:2 which says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Lot has been conformed to the “pattern of this world” and has not been “transformed by the renewing of his mind.” His heart and mind has been so infected by Sodom that he is not in tune with God or with his will. When we compromise the things of God for the things of this world it not only weakens our witness but our relationship with God, as well, which brings us to our big idea this morning which is “compromise weakens our relationship with God.” The world that we live in today also looks nice on the outside but after it pulls you in and conforms you to its will you notice the evil and perversion that is going on. By the time we notice that the world is influencing us we have a hard time reversing the process or sadly we don’t want to. This is why it is important for us as Christians to have a strong relationship with God and Jesus. This is the only way we can fight and win the spiritual battles that the world and Satan wages against us daily. This morning we will look at three ways, from our scripture, that the world affects us when we allow it to conform us to its image. Before we start to unpack those three ways the world affects us, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we ask you to pour out your Holy Spirit on your people this morning. We pray for wisdom and discernment as we open your Word. Help us to find it in our hearts and to share it with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The three ways that the world can affect us is wavering, worrying and wondering. The first, wavering, is found in Genesis 19:15-17. This is what God’s Word says, “With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”

We notice that these events are given a timeframe meaning that there is an order to these events and they will happen. The angels arrived in Sodom at evening time and Lot goes to talk to his son-in-laws sometime later. We notice that Lot has wasted the entire night because it is now almost dawn. The angels have seen what is going on in the city of Sodom and its destruction is imminent. With dawn coming the angels urge Lot to take his wife and two daughters and get out of Sodom or they will be destroyed along with the city when it is punished. We see the element of free will here. The city will be destroyed and Lot and his family is to be saved but he needs to take the initiative to take his family to safety or they will be destroyed as well. But what does Lot do when confronted with the fact that he needs to urgently leave the city or be destroyed along with it? He wavers, he hesitates and the angels actually have to take Lot, his wife and his two daughters by the hand like children and lead them out of the city. He seemingly continues to choose Sodom over God. He may not have liked what was going on in the city but there were things he did like about it and those had a stronger hold on him. The reason Lot was spared is because of the mercy of the Lord not because of his own righteousness.

Once outside the city the angel tells them to flee for their lives, not to look back, and to not to stop anywhere on the plain. They are to flee to the mountains or be “swept away” and destroyed. We don’t know exactly what is going on in Lot’s head at this moment but again he wavers. Maybe he was thinking about the good life he had in Sodom. He had come to Sodom with a lot of wealth and has probably parlayed that into more wealth. From 2 Peter 2:8 we know that Lot was a righteous man living among evil men and was tormented by the lawless deeds he saw and heard but he lacked the will to leave them. He may not have participated in their lifestyle but he couldn’t have lived day in and day out in that kind of environment without breathing the spirit of Sodom in. Sodom had become a part of Lot. When we are living “in and of” the world we waver when it comes to the things of God and we lack the will to stand up for what is right. We may not participate in what the world is doing but we allow ourselves to breathe its spirit in. Our standards start to erode away the longer we are exposed to the world and we may start to justify a certain lifestyle or sin. We think just a little bit of compromise here or there will be ok and so we waver when confronted by sin, we waver because of our love for the things of this world and we waver in the face of certain destruction. This brings us to our first next step which is to confess my wavering when it comes to the things of God and to purpose to stand up for what is right.

The second way the world can affect us is by worrying and we see this in Genesis 19:18-26. This is what God’s Word says, “But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.” He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.) By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”

After being taken outside the city and urged to flee for their lives, what does Lot do? Does he run as fast as he can with his family for the mountains? No, he bargains with those who were sent to save them. He stops right outside the city and wants to make a deal with them. The reason he doesn’t want to go to the mountains is because he is worried he can’t get there before the disaster over takes him. The angels have come to his house to save him and his family from the disaster but somehow in his mind he thinks there is no way he can make it to the mountains in time to be saved. The angels have come to save him and he is worried about his safety. The world has so entangled Lot’s mind that he is not thinking straight and common sense has been thrown out the window. But I also wonder if he is more worried about his lifestyle than his safety. He asks the angels to allow him to go to another city called Zoar. Zoar is similar to the Hebrew word for “a small thing.” Baldwin says, “The pun reinforces his plea that he is really not asking for much. Lot’s “little” request amounted to no less than a reversal of the instructions he was first given.” He doesn’t seem to be taking the threat of his destruction seriously. He believes by going to the city of Zoar he will be safe but Zoar was one of the five cities in the plain slated to be destroyed along with Sodom. The world has not only conformed his heart but his mind as well and he is making wrong decisions and his thinking is distorted. His heart and mind should have been transformed through his relationship with God but sadly compromise had weakened his relationship instead. (BIG IDEA)

We again see God’s mercy as the angel grants his request. In fact, the entire city is going to be spared because Lot wanted to go there. We see the similarity here that as Abraham interceded for Sodom now Lot pleads to be sent to Zoar, in effect saving that city. The difference is that Abraham is being selfless and Lot is selfish. Abraham pleads for divine justice but Lot is looking after his own well-being and convenience. Lot proves to be fearful, selfish and faithless, all the things the world will do to us when we allow it to. The angels tell Lot he needs to flee quickly because the destruction can’t start until he gets to Zoar. Think about that for a second: the destruction of Sodom and the plain can’t begin until Lot gets to Zoar just like it wouldn’t have started until he was safe in the mountains. We see how messed up Lot’s reasoning and logic was. If we are living “in and of” the world our reason and logic will suffer just as Lot’s did. We will not make the right choices or decisions.

Next, we see the destruction that comes to Sodom. It happens once Lot reaches Zoar and the sun has completely risen. We are told two times that it is the Lord who caused the destruction. First, it is the Lord who rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah and, second, that it came from the Lord out of the heavens. This is important because it wasn’t just a natural disaster that took place but was judgment and punishment from the Lord. There was no doubt as to what happened to these cities and why. We are also told that the destruction was total in that it destroyed all living people and all the vegetation in the land. It was a complete and total annihilation. Keil & Delitsch says, “Not only were the cities destroyed but the soil as well. Even to the present day in the Dead Sea there is a sulphureous vapor which hangs about it, there are great blocks of saltpeter which are around it, there is the utter absence of the slightest trace of animal and vegetable life in its waters.” The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities was so complete that even to this day there is not exact certainty where they were located.

Then we are told what happens to Lot’s wife. The text says she looked back and became a pillar of salt. We are not told why she looked back but she seems to be longing for what she had there. Whatever it was, not even being with her husband and her daughters could keep her from disobeying a direct command from the angel to not look back. She became a pillar of salt and lost her life. According to Walton’s commentary the Hebrew preposition used means Lot’s wife didn’t just look back toward Sodom but had started going back to Sodom being caught in the burning sulphur that the Lord rained down. The angel’s command was not disobeyed by looking back but by willingly going back to Sodom. She must have been so enamored with the city and what it had to offer that she was willing to go back without her family and to a sure destruction.

Being “in and of” the world made Lot worried about a lot of things but all his worrying was really for no reason. He was worried about his safety but God was in control and even sent angels to save him. The Bible says a lot about worry: Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Matthew 6:25-27 says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” and 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

For those who do not know Jesus as their Savior or for those whose relationship with God has been compromised, debilitating worry will be part of their daily life. But as Christians in a right relationship with Jesus we don’t need to worry because we know that God is in control of this world and we have the hope of an abundant life on this earth and eternal life in heaven. That brings us to our second next step which is to claim the promise that because of my relationship with Jesus I do not need to worry about the things of this world.

The third way the world can affect us is in wondering and we see this in Genesis 19:27-29. This is what God’s Word says, “Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace. So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.”

We are again given a timeframe. God has rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and the other cities in the plain at sunrise and then sometime later early in the morning Abraham goes back to the place where the Lord had first told him about Sodom’s destruction. He looks down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and sees the dense smoke rising from the plain. “Burning smoke” in the Bible demonstrates divine anger and judgment. Abraham now knows that not even ten righteous people have been found in the five cities. He doesn’t need to wonder about the fate of Sodom anymore. But he must have been wondering what happened to Lot and his family. The narrator has let us, the audience, know but Abraham doesn’t. We can be sure that he is hoping that they made it out alive? Or maybe he was already mourning the loss of Lot and his family and the inhabitants of the plain? This is the only chapter in the story of Abraham that he doesn’t speak. His quiet contemplation says it all. We are never told if Abraham ever found out about Lot and his family but after this chapter Lot disappears from the pages of the Old Testament.

This section ends with the audience being reminded of a couple of things. One, it was God who destroyed the cities of the plain. It wasn’t a natural disaster. Second, we are reminded that because of Abraham’s intercession Lot was spared from destruction. Sodom wasn’t saved but Lot and his two daughters were. And the reason they are saved is because God remembered Abraham. The verb for “remember” is important because it speaks to God’s covenantal faithfulness. The Lord was faithful to his promise to Abraham. We have seen this before when God remembered Noah and saved him and his family from the flood and brought them out of the ark.

Living in this sinful world will cause us to wonder. Just as Abraham must have been wondering if Lot and his family had been saved from destruction, we may wonder about our loved ones, our friends and family, and their salvation. Just like Lot who had the free will to be saved or be caught in the destruction of the city, our friends and family have free will to make a decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and be saved from eternal separation from God or not. But that doesn’t mean we won’t wonder if they have made that decision. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep interceding for them to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We live in a sinful world and this world wants to drag us down and drag us away from God. And because we live in this world we may wonder about the salvation of our friends and family and even wonder about our own salvation. Maybe that’s where you are today. Maybe you are wondering about the salvation of your friends and family. If so this next step is for you: My next step is to keep interceding with God on behalf of the salvation of my friends and family. Don’t give up on them and don’t give up on God for the miraculous to happen.

Maybe you are unsure of your own salvation this morning. If so you don’t have to wonder anymore. You can accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, right now. This final next step can be for you: Admit that I am a sinner, believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead and confess that he is my Lord and Savior. If you made that decision today, mark the back of your communication card and make sure you put your contact information on it, so we can be in touch with you. If you made that decision, you are still going to have to live in this sinful world as we all will, but you will never have to wonder again about where you will go when your physical body passes away. Your eternal home will be in heaven with God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we can read these stories in the Bible and wonder how it applies to us. Certainly the next steps are ways that we can apply this text to our lives. As we live in this world we need to be careful not to be “of it.” We must not waver when it comes to the things of God, we must not worry because God is in control and we do not have to wonder about our eternity because God has made a way for us to be in a right relationship with himself.

But Lot and his wife are also warnings for us today to what the world can and will try to do to us. If Lot couldn’t be in Sodom, he wanted to be as close as he could and his wife couldn’t bear to not be there. As Christians, we live in Sodom every day, we live in this world with all its surface beauty, fake happiness and prosperity. We have been warned to not let the world influence us but to influence it but that is not an easy task. We are given the chance to “escape” so to speak, not physically but spiritually. As Christians, we must continually strengthen our relationship with God and Jesus daily. We must be in his Word, we must be communicating with him through prayer, we must be studying and meditating on scripture and we must be evaluating our lives through its lens and not the lens of this world. We must be striving to live holy lives, set apart by God, and to be salt and light in this world that he has placed us in. We must be striving to be more like his son, Jesus Christ, every day. And we are given the means to make this happen which is the Holy Spirit. This is how we can be “in the world but not of it.” The question for each of us this morning is this: What will we do when given the chance to escape this world? Will we waver? Will we worry? Will we look back and even go back to the world and let it overwhelm and conquer us? Or will we put on the armor of God and daily fight this spiritual war of the worlds that we find ourselves in. This is what Jesus calls his followers to do.

As the praise team comes to lead us in a final song let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we ask that you would give us the strength to not waver when it comes to following you in this world. We pray that you would help us to take all of our worry, anxiety and burdens and lay them at your feet. And God we pray that we would not grow weary of interceding for the salvation of our family and friends. Thank you for your Word and its truth and application for our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Origins

The Consequence of Compromise

(Genesis 19:1-14)

 

INTRODUCTION

“For the past eight years, Kim McClain, has been a research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies. She has traveled to hard-hit cities and towns to understand why people got killed in storms that she says ‘really should be survivable as long as people can get to the right shelter.’

 

In an interview with NPR, McClain was asked to explain why people failed to heed weather warnings:

 

We give people days of alert that their general region may be threatened. But people are really savvy about this. They know that even if a region in general is at risk, that doesn't necessarily mean there will be a tornado that hits their house. So people wait until things get quite close until they make those calls. For tornadoes, they typically wait until they're under a warning and then there are just a couple of minutes. Then all they can really do is shelter in place.

 

People are doing what we call ‘confirming the threat.’ And they do this … on a continuous basis. They'll be watching, and maybe they'll go get their children. But they won't necessarily take shelter until things get a little bit closer.”

 

Rebecca Ellis, “What Makes People Heed A Weather Warning - Or Not?” NPR (3-2-19).

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2019/july/why-warnings-are-not-heeded.html]

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Confirming the threat

        • I have totally done that when we lived in Missouri

        • The tornado sirens would go off and I would wait outside and look around to see if I could actually see a tornado

        • Judy, on the other hand, would immediately scoop up the boys and head to the basement

        • FYI – I never got to see a tornado

    • Wildfires in California

        • It was different when we lived in California with the wildfires

        • We had a container packed, ready to go with all of our valuable information and keepsakes in case we were evaluated

        • The wildfires scared me more than a potential tornado, because it was something I wasn’t familiar with

 

  • WE

    • Every one of us can probably remember a time when we did not heed the warning signs

        • Perhaps it was a medical warning sign that we didn’t heed

        • Maybe it was a financial warning sign

        • Remember Y2K and the preparations that most people made

        • The COVID-19 pandemic was another situation where we had to heed some warnings and prepare

    • What was the result of not heeding those warnings?

 

The warnings that Lot and his family received were not just signs, but actual verbal warnings. ​​ How would they respond to these warnings? ​​ As we will see, Lot and his family were considered righteous, which is why they were being warned about the coming destruction of Sodom. ​​ When Lot tried to stop a morally offensive act from happening to his two guests and when he tried to warn his future sons-in-law, they rejected him and his warnings. ​​ The reason this happened is that Lot had compromised his beliefs. ​​ He was not taken seriously, because he had not led his family well, as the spiritual head of the household. ​​ The citizens of Sodom did not respect him because he had compromised. ​​ What we will learn from this passage of Scripture today is that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Compromise weakens our witness.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Genesis 19:1-14)

    • Welcomed guests (vv. 1-3)

        • Angels arrive (v. 1a)

          • The narrator tells us that the angels arrived in the evening

            • The journey from Abraham’s camp to Sodom would have been between 18-20 miles

            • That distance would have been humanly impossible from the afternoon at Abraham’s to the evening with Lot

            • There are two explanations for this timeframe

              • There were several days that have passed between the angels leaving, in Gen. 18:22, and their arrival, in Gen. 19:1

              • It is also conceivable that being heavenly beings, they could have made the trip, supernaturally, in just a couple of hours

              • Fortunately, the time frame is not what is most important in this passage of Scripture – rather it is what is going to happen while the two angels are there

          • The angels obviously have to enter through the gateway, which is where Lot is sitting

        • Lot’s location (v. 1b)

          • The fact that Lot is sitting in the gateway is significant

            • “The gate, generally an arched entrance with deep recesses and seats on either side, was a place of meeting in the ancient towns of the East . . .” ​​ [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 148]

            • The gateway was where the inhabitants of the city would meet to discuss what was going on in the city, a place where business transactions would take place, legal matters would be handled, and political affairs were discussed

            • “The gate was the physical symbol of collective authority and power.” ​​ [Waltke, Genesis, A Commentary, 275]

          • This shows that Lot was potentially one of the leaders of Sodom and had some authority

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when we hold to the truths of His Word and not compromise.

            • This principle is evident throughout this passage of Scripture, so we will be revisiting it again in verses 3 and 8

            • In verse 1 the principle is found indirectly

              • In fact we have to look back to Genesis 13 to see the beginning of Lot compromising

              • First, Lot looked at Sodom, Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. ​​ (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) ​​ So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. (Gen. 13:10-11)

              • Second, Lot pitched his tents near Sodom, Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. ​​ Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord. (Gen. 13:12-13)

              • Third, Lot moved into Sodom, They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom. (Gen. 14:12)

              • Finally, Lot has become part of the leadership structure in Sodom . . . and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. (Gen. 19:1b)

            • Lot knew the spiritual condition of the people of Sodom and he willingly compromised on the commands of God in order to live there

              • It would have been different if God had called Lot to live in Sodom and be a witness for Him, but that was not the case

              • “God put Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, and Esther in Persia; and their presence turned out to be a blessing. ​​ Worldliness is not a matter of physical geography but of heart attitude (1 John 2:15-17). ​​ Lot’s heart was in Sodom long before his body arrived there. ​​ No doubt he got his first love for the world when he went to Egypt with Abraham (Gen. 13:1, 10), and he never overcame it.” ​​ [Wiersbe, The Bile Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 93]

            • Abraham had separated himself from the evil inhabitants of the plains, which enabled him to have a close relationship and communion with God (2 Cor. 6:14-18; John 14:21-24) [Wiersbe, 93]

          • Application

            • Have we compromised the truths of God’s Word in order to enjoy the things of this world?

              • We can compromise the truths of God Word with our speech

                • I cannot tell you how often I heard people say, “Cussing is not a sin,” or “Cussing won’t keep me out of heaven/send me to hell.”

                • This is how we justify our desire to use foul/filthy language

                • Ephesians 4:29, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

                • Ephesians 5:3-4, But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. ​​ Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

                • Colossians 3:8, But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: ​​ anger, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

                • James 3:10, Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. ​​ My brothers, this should not be.

                • Matthew 12:36, But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken

              • We can compromise the truths of God’s Word by our actions

                • We may act one way while at church

                • We may act completely different at home, work, or with our friends

                • Perhaps we have taken something that does not belong to us

              • We can compromise the truths of God’s Word by our attitudes

                • We may harbor bitterness toward someone else

                • We may be unwilling to forgive someone who has hurt us (physically, emotionally, mentally, verbally)

                • We may not love one another as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her

              • We can compromise the truths of God’s Word by what we allow ourselves to watch or look at

              • We can compromise the truths of God’s Word by what we approve as culturally acceptable

                • Premarital sex

                • Living together before marriage

                • Abortion

                • Same-sex marriage

                • Substance use/abuse

            • We have to recognize when we have compromised the truths of God’s Word in order to embrace the things of this world

            • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Ask the Lord to show me how I have compromised the truths of His Word and confess that to Him.

          • As Lot is sitting in the gateway, he sees the two angels arrive and approaches them

        • Lot’s hospitality (1c-3)

          • Lot bowed with his face to ground

          • He invites them to his home

            • At his home, he would make sure their feet would be washed

            • He was also offering them a place to sleep

            • They would be able to leave early in the morning

          • At first they refused his hospitality

            • They told Lot that they would spend the night in the square

            • In most ancient cities, the square was a safe place to spend the night

            • It was certainly safer than sleeping out in the countryside

          • Lot strongly insisted that they stay with him

            • Lot was aware of the wickedness that took place after dark in the city square, especially when people from out of town were around

            • This speaks again of Lot’s willingness to compromise his beliefs and witness in Sodom

            • He tolerated the wickedness instead of confronting it or fleeing from it

              • Flee from sexual immorality. ​​ All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. (1 Cor. 6:18)

              • Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)

              • But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. (James 1:14)

            • Compromise weakens our witness

            • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when we hold to the truths of His Word and not compromise.

          • Lot provided the two angels with a meal that included unleavened bread

        • After they had eaten, but before they had gone to bed, Lot’s greatest fear for the two angels came true

    • Unwelcomed guests (vv. 4-9)

        • Everyone was wicked

          • The description of those involved help us understand that wickedness and sinfulness had permeated the entire city

          • It was not just one section of the city (the slums or the wealthy section

          • It was not just one age group/generation (it was young and old)

          • It was probably not every man in the city, since Lot has to go out to talk with his sons-in-law (we will see that in verse 14)

        • Homosexual rape

          • The men call out to Lot and a demand that he hand over the two men who came to him

          • The reason they give to Lot is so they can have sex/relations with them

          • It appears as though they would have sex with them whether the two men consented to it or not (rape)

          • “The city is guilty here of two crimes: ​​ violation of guests and unnatural lust. ​​ The men of the city cry not just for homosexuality but for rape. . . . They rape the mind, emotions, and body, trivialize the sacred, and legitimatize the vulgar. ​​ Homosexuality is a capital offense in the Old Testament (Lev. 18:22; 20:13). ​​ The sin of Sodom’s act is presumably the worst sort of sexual offense: ​​ homosexual gang rape (cf. Judg. 19; Jude 7).” ​​ [Waltke, 276]

          • There are individuals who try to say that what is being talked about in Genesis 19 is not homosexuality, but just wanting to get to know the two men

            • This is a weak attempt to trivialize the sacred and legitimatize the vulgar

            • It is talking about homosexual rape

            • The Lord would not have destroyed Sodom because all the men wanting to get to know the two visitors

            • There is a movement within evangelicalism that is trying to argue that the Bible affirms, or at least does not prohibit, same-sex sexual relationships. But renowned progressive New Testament scholar Luke Timothy Johnson disagrees with this approach, even though he himself also holds an affirming position.

              He writes, ‘I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says.’

              He continues:

              I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us.”

              Possible Preaching Angle: ​​ While we disagree with Johnson’s conclusions, we have to admire his intellectual integrity. On this subject of same-sex sexual relationships, the Bible is clear: “We know what the text says.” The only question is whether that is the authority one chooses to live by.

              Source: ​​ Luke Timothy Johnson, “Homosexuality & The Church” Commonweal Magazine (6-11-07)

              [https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2020/august/progressive-scholar-says-bible-is-clear-about-sexual-sin.html]

            • “Now here's something you don't see every day: in the wake of Ireland's landslide victory to allow same-sex marriages in their country, journalist Matthew Paris, who calls himself ‘a (gay) atheist,’ publicly laments the church's wishy-washiness.

              Paris writes, ‘Even as a (gay) atheist, I wince to see the philosophical mess that religious conservatives are making of their case. Is there nobody of any intellectual stature left in [the church] to frame the argument against Christianity's slide into just going with the flow of social and cultural change?’

              Paris continues his lament: ‘Can't these Christians see that the moral basis of their faith cannot be sought in the pollsters' arithmetic? ...Would it have occurred for a moment to Moses (let alone God) that he'd better defer to Moloch-worship because that's what most of the Israelites wanted to do? … It must surely be implicit in the claim of any of the world's great religions that on questions of morality, a majority may be wrong; but this should be vividly evident to Christians in particular: they need only consider the fate of their Messiah, and the persecution of adherents to the Early Church. 'Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you,' says Paul.’

              Possible Preaching Angle: ​​ Well, okay, that was actually Jesus who said that, not Paul. But Paris raises some tough questions for the church.

              Source: ​​ Matthew Parris, “As a gay atheist, I want to see the church oppose same-sex marriage,” The Spectator (5-26-15)

              [https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2015/june/gay-atheist-laments-churchs-moral-slide.html]

          • The Church’s response

            • Two extremes

              • Going with the flow of social and cultural change

              • Condemning and ostracizing those who struggle with same-sex attraction

            • Balance

              • Tolerance doesn’t work, because tolerating someone else’s viewpoint or belief means that I have to sacrifice my viewpoint or belief – I’m intolerant of my own viewpoint

              • Compromise weakens our witness

              • Jesus modeled the perfect balance – love

                • We can love everyone, regardless of their viewpoint or beliefs

                • Love does not require that we embrace, approve, ​​ or tolerate a viewpoint or belief that is contrary to God’s Word

                • The Church has failed a whole section of our society, because we have either gone with the flow or condemned those who struggle with same-sex attraction – neither of these approaches are loving

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Repent of either legitimatizing or ostracizing those who struggle with same-sex attraction, and choose to love as Jesus would.

          • While the crowd is pressing Lot to hand over the two men, he provides a compromise

        • Lot’s compromise

          • Lot goes outside to talk with the men of Sodom and encourages them not to do this wicked thing

          • He then offers his two virgin daughters as a compromise

            • Compromise weakens our witness

            • This compromise was not going to satisfy the sexual deviant desires of the crowd

            • Lot did not have any real influence over the crowd, even as one of their leaders

            • They saw him as weak alien

        • The crowd’s response

          • We want what we want

            • “Get out of our way!”

            • “Who are you to judge us, you foreigner?”

            • “You’re no better than us!”

            • “We’ll treat you worse than the two men.”

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – Our actions, when confronted with our sin, show our heart.

            • The men of Sodom were not repentant, instead they retaliated against Lot

            • How do we react when someone confronts us about our sin?

              • Repentance

                • “If you brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. ​​ If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. ​​ But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ ​​ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)

                • Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus. (Acts 3:19-20)

                • Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. ​​ The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

              • Retaliation

                • “‘No longer were their shameful sins tolerated by a permissive society as something people had a right to practice if they pleased. ​​ It had gone far beyond that. ​​ Now the people were an open, aggressive, insistent force in the city with which none dared interfere. ​​ For their behavior was not looked upon by the Sodomites as criminal but as constitutional. ​​ They had the constitutional right to indulge their passion when and where they wished and any attempt to thwart them could be expected to lead to open riot in the city (Phillips, 161).’ ​​ The parallel with modern Western culture should chill us to the bone.” [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 168]

                • Our natural inclination is to defend ourselves

                • It is not pleasant to be confronted by our sin

                • We all know our greatest temptation and so does Satan

                • When it is exposed there is anger, but also relief

            • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Ask the Lord to help me humbly repent when confronted with my sin.

          • The crowd pushed forward against Lot, so they could reach the door and break it down

        • Lot will soon find out who these two men really are

    • Saved by the guests (vv. 10-14)

        • The two men opened the door just enough to grab Lot and pull him back inside

        • Miraculous salvation

          • The two angels then strike the crowd of men with blindness, so they could not find the door

          • There would probably have been a courtyard with a gate between the crowd and the actual front door

          • Perhaps the crowd is groping around in the courtyard trying to find the front door, without success

        • Other family members?

          • The two angels ask Lot if he has any other family in the city

          • They encourage him to get them out of the city, because they are going to destroy it

          • PRINCIPLE #3 – God is merciful!

            • The Lord is allowing Lot the opportunity to warn his other family members

            • This again shows God’s mercy at work

          • PRINCIPLE #4 – God is just!

            • While God is merciful, He is also just

            • The two angels have witnessed enough

            • They have proven that there are not even ten righteous people in Sodom, so destruction is inevitable

            • Lot now knew that these two men were more than men, they were the Lord’s emissaries

        • Warning

          • Lot went to his sons-in-law, who were presumably engaged to his two virgin daughters

          • He tells them to get out of the city quickly, because the Lord was about to destroy it

          • His sons-in-law didn’t take him seriously and thought he was joking

          • Once again, we see that compromise had weakened Lot’s witness

            • His two sons-in-law thought he was joking

            • They probably had not seen Lot modeling a life fully committed to the Lord

            • He was a righteous man, that had allowed the enticements of his world to have priority in his life

            • He had compromised in order to remain living in Sodom, which caused his witness to be weak

          • The same can be said of us

            • When we compromise in our world, our witness will also be weak

            • Those around us (at work, in our neighborhood, our friends) will not listen to our warnings about God’s coming destruction

            • Even some of our own family will not listen to our warnings

            • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when we hold to the truths of His Word and not compromise.

            • #4 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Hold onto the truths of God’s Word and not compromise.

 

  • YOU

    • Where have your compromised the truths of God’s Word – confess that before the Lord

    • Do you love those who are struggling with same-sex attraction or have you legitimatized or ostracized them?

    • How do you react when confronted with your sin? ​​ (Repentance or Retaliation)

    • Are you holding to the truths of God’s Word or are you compromising?

 

  • WE

    • As a body of believers, we need to hold to the truths of God’s Word, no matter what

    • We need to model love instead of acceptance or rejection

    • We need to model repentance instead of retaliation when confronted with our sin

 

CONCLUSION

In a sermon, the Reverend Ethan Magness quoted the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard who told this parable:

 

A crowded theater hosted a variety show, with various acts in it. Each act was more fantastic than the one prior, so it created louder and louder applause from the audience. Suddenly, a clown rushed on to the stage and said, “I apologize for this interruption, but I regret to inform you that our theater is on fire! You need to leave right away, and in an orderly fashion.”

 

But the audience thought he was part of the act, so they laughed and applauded. They thought he was very committed to the role. But the clown again implored them that they needed to leave right away or they would get seriously injured, maybe even die. And again, they greeted him with loud and thunderous applause. At last, he could do no more, and so he left the building, and the people were destroyed.

And Kierkegaard concludes in this sobering way: ‘Our age will go down in fiery destruction not to the sound of mourning but to applause and cheering.’”

 

Source:

Rev. Ethan Magness, Sermon: “The Theater is on Fire,” Grace Anglican Church (12-1-19).

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2020/july/theater-is-on-fire.html]

12

 

Origins

A Whittle Bit Of Mercy

(Genesis 18:16-33)

 

INTRODUCTION

“Mike Krzyzewski's decision to remain as coach of the Duke University basketball team rather than to become head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers was influenced in part by an e-mail from Duke student Andrew Humphries, a 19-year-old biology major. In his e-mail, Humphries recounted childhood memories of playing basketball in his driveway and pretending to hit the shot that won the national championship for Coach K. He spoke of the pride he felt in being part of the ‘sixth man’ student body at Duke that fills Cameron Indoor Stadium to root for their team. He closed his message with the impassioned plea, ‘Please still be my coach.’

 

In a press conference announcing his decision, Krzyzewski said that Humphries' e-mail had moved him to tears and reminded him of the special bond he felt with the Duke students and his players. The coach chose to turn down a $40 million contract offer and stay at Duke, influenced by the petition of a student he didn't even know.”

 

Source: AP Reports (7-6-04).

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2004/october/15558.html]

 

The petition of one student who represented the student body influenced coach K. ​​ We will see God’s mercy being influenced by one man who represented the people of the plains.

 

As we think about mercy, it is defined as not getting what we deserve.

 

BODY

  • ME

    • State Police in MO

        • Judy and I attended church with a State Police Officer when we lived in Missouri

        • He told us that when he pulled over a person who had fish sticker on their car (the fish sticker meaning they were a follower of Jesus Christ) he would ask them if they went to church

        • If they responded positively, he would share with them what the total of the citation would be and then gave them a warning instead of a ticket

        • He would ask them to give the amount of the citation to their church

        • This was mercy in action

        • They deserved to pay the citation and have points added to their license, but this police officer did not give them what they deserved

        • Instead he gave them a warning and a challenge

        • His hope was that they would learn to represent Jesus Christ well by obeying the speed limit laws and that they would use the mercy extended to them to bless their church

 

  • WE

    • When have you received mercy from someone else?

    • When have you extended mercy to someone else?

 

Perhaps one of the most difficult things for human beings to understand about the Lord is His ability to be both loving and just. ​​ We only want to think about God being loving, because His justice means He has to punish those who are wicked. ​​ It is difficult for us to comprehend that God can be perfectly loving and perfectly just at the same time. ​​ The reason we struggle with that concept is that we are incapable of doing that in our humanness. ​​ We will learn today that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – God is both righteous and merciful.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Genesis 18:16-33)

    • Insider Information (vv. 16-21)

        • Rested and refreshed

          • The three men have been refreshed by Abraham’s extravagant hospitality

          • They have been able to rest under the shade of the trees at Mamre

          • They are ready to continue their journey

          • They already know where they are going, which is why they look down to Sodom

          • Abraham continues his hospitality by walking along with them for a period of time

            • It is perhaps three miles that they walk together as they head toward Beni Naʿim (vay-knee neye-eem)

            • This town is three miles east of Hebron and allows for a view into the valley of the Dead Sea that is 18 miles to the south

            • [show picture 1 of Beni Naʿim]

            • [show picture 2 of Beni Naʿim]

          • The Lord and His two angels knew why they were traveling in this region, even though Abraham did not

          • But that was about to change

        • Internal conversation?

          • The Lord is having an internal conversation with Himself concerning whether or not to tell Abraham about the reason why He is in the region

          • The rationale for telling Abraham

            • “Divine call and promise” [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 222]

              • The first rationale for telling Abraham is because of his divine call and the promise from the Lord

              • Genesis 12:3-4, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. ​​ I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

              • “To be blessed in this context means to have one who intercedes before God regarding one’s destiny, to have one who ‘makes intercession for the transgressor’ (Isa. 53:12).” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 18]

                • Hang on to this idea as we get to verses 22-33

                • This is a significant concept that we don’t want to miss

              • Abraham will learn justice through what the Lord is about to do

              • “Such a nation has to learn justice beginning with its father, Abraham (18:17-19). ​​ The Lord models justice to Abraham in his treatment of the Sodomites (18:20-33) and through this remarkable dialogue he educes [brings out and develops] Abraham’s integrity.” ​​ [Waltke, Genesis, A Commentary, 269]

              • But there is a second rationale for telling Abraham about His plan

            • “Divine election of the man” [Mathews, 223]

              • Chosen

                • The Hebrew word for chosen literally means “known”

                • It means that Abraham and the Lord have an intimate relationship

                • Abraham is the friend of God

                • The prophet Jeremiah understood this intimate friendship with the Lord, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5)

                • The Israelites experienced this intimate relationship with the Lord, “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.” (Amos 3:2)

                • Jesus’ disciples also experienced a close personal relationship with the Lord, I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. ​​ Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:15)

                • The Lord knew the kind of man that Abraham was, which is why He chose him

                • He knew how Abraham would handle the information about His plans for Sodom – about meting out justice for the wicked

              • Direct

                • The Lord could trust Abraham to direct his children and household concerning justice

                  • The word direct means “to command, to charge”

                  • This is what Moses did when he was given the law, he commanded, he charged the Israelites to obey it

                • Home schooled

                  • “There is no record of a school in Israel before the late intertestamental period; families were the source of all education, including trades.” ​​ [Waltke, 269]

                  • Abraham was going to teach his children and those in his household the way of the Lord

                  • He was going to do this by modeling for them what is right and just

                  • These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. ​​ Impress them on your children. ​​ Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

                  • Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching ​​ (Proverbs 1:8)

                • PRINCIPLE #1 – Fathers are the spiritual leaders of their households.

                  • The covenant relationship that Abraham had with the Lord was a servant of Yahweh, which had certain responsibilities associated with it

                  • One was to instruct his children and household about how to follow the Lord and do what is right and just

                  • Fathers, we have the same responsibility as Abraham did

                  • As the spiritual leaders of our households, we are given the responsibility of instructing our children and household in the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just

                  • How are we doing with this responsibility, guys?

                  • Are we leading our families by praying together, reading God’s Word together, attending church together, serving together, modeling how to give?

                  • Can the Lord trust us with His plans, because He knows we will direct our families correctly?

                  • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Lead my children and household in the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.

                • Because the Lord could trust and count on Abraham to direct his family well, we see that the Lord would fulfill His promise

              • Promised fulfilled

                • The Lord made Abraham into a great nation

                • The Lord made Abraham’s name great

                • The Lord has blessed all peoples through Abraham

            • As the friend of God, Abraham was given insider information

            • God’s righteousness and mercy are seen through Him including Abraham in His plans

          • God reveals His plans to His prophets

            • Abraham fits the description of a prophet, because the Lord will reveal His plan to him concerning Sodom

            • Amos 3:7, Surely, the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets

            • In the other Biblical instances when the Lord reveals His plan to the prophets, it was so they could warn the people

            • As we will see, the Lord reveals His plan about Sodom, so that Abraham can intercede for them – he will not be warning anyone about the destruction to come

          • So, the Lord has this internal conversation about whether or not to tell Abraham about His plans

          • What we see next is the Lord telling Abraham what He has heard about Sodom

        • External announcement

          • Outcry is so great

            • The first couple of things that comes to mind when we hear the words Sodom and Gomorrah are:

              • God destroyed them with fire from heaven

              • Homosexuality was rampant there

                • Chapter 19 focuses on this sin

                • But are people crying out to the Lord only about this sin?

                • As we will see in chapter 19, it is likely that any visitor to Sodom potentially had to ward off a crowd of men who wanted to sleep with them

                • So, perhaps the Lord is hearing the cries of those who have visited Sodom and have been violated

                • The word sodomy is the result of the practices done in this ancient city

            • The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is broader than just the sin of homosexuality

              • It certainly includes homosexuality, but there is more

              • We see it in Isaiah 1:10-31

                • They were murdering

                • They were not rebuking those who were oppressing others

                • They were not defending the cause of the fatherless

                • They were not pleading the case of the widow

              • Those who were oppressed, fatherless, and widows were crying out to the Lord about their treatment in Sodom – it was injustice that had reached the ears of the Lord, as well as, sexual immorality

              • The Lord is attentive to the cries of the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed/needy

                • Exodus 22:22-23, “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. ​​ If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.”

                • Exodus 22:27, “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. ​​ If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. ​​ What else will he sleep in? ​​ When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”

                • Job 34:28, They caused the cry of the poor to come before him, so that he heard the cry of the needy.

            • The Lord had heard how grievous their sin was

          • Sin is grievous

            • The Hebrew for grievous means, “to be great, vehement, plentiful, of enormity of wickedness.” ​​ [https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h3513/nasb95/wlc/0-1/]

            • It wasn’t just a small amount of sin, it was a huge amount of sin

            • As we will see in just a moment and in the coming weeks, it didn’t involve just a small number of the inhabitants of Sodom, but rather almost every person

            • Because God is righteous, He has to investigate the claims He has heard – He has to see it firsthand

          • Investigation needed

            • The Lord tells Abraham that the reason He is in the region is because He needs to see with His own eyes what He has heard concerning Sodom

            • Isn’t God omniscient (all knowing)?

              • Why would He need to come down and investigate?

              • Doesn’t He already know?

              • “God’s omniscience does not fall into jeopardy when he adopts the behavior of a righteous human judge who does not act until the evidence supports his judgement.” ​​ [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 165]

              • The Lord did the same thing with the tower of Babel – he came down to see (Genesis 11:5)

              • Only after He saw firsthand what they were doing did He confuse their language and cause them to scatter over all the earth

            • God is righteous in His judgment, He doesn’t jump to conclusions or do things capriciously

        • While God is righteous in His judgment, He is also merciful toward His creation

    • Individual Intercession (vv. 22-33)

        • The two angels begin their descent to Sodom

        • The Lord remains standing before Abraham

          • The Lord doesn’t leave immediately with the other two men, because He knows Abraham’s heart

          • He knows that Abraham has taken the promised, “blessing to the nations,” seriously

          • He knows that Abraham is going to intercede for the people in the valley of the Dead Sea

            • I’m using the terminology of the Dead Sea plains and the valley of the Dead Sea on purpose

            • We normally only refer to Sodom and Gomorrah, but as chapter 19 will show us, it was the entire Dead Sea plain that was being consumed

            • “There are five sites of Early Bronze cities on the southeast plain of the Dead Sea, demonstrating that fairly large populations once existed here (occupied from 3300-2100 B.C.) ​​ From north to south they are Bab edh-Dhra’ (Sodom?), Numeira (Gomorrah?), Safi (Zoar), Feifa, and Khanazir, with the last being about twenty miles from the first.” ​​ [Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 476]

            • The significance of there being five cities involved will be highlighted in just a moment

          • “His dialogue with Abraham exhibits the exceptional condescension of God who appears as a man, hears out a man (Abraham), and then ultimately saves a man (Lot).” ​​ [Mathews, 226]

        • Learning about justice and God’s character (vv. 23-25)

          • Through the various questions that Abraham is posing, it seems as though He is simply trying to verify God’s character

            • God is both righteous and merciful.

            • So, Abraham is trying to understand that balance

            • Surely God would not kill the righteous with the wicked

            • God wouldn’t treat the righteous and the wicked the same – that’s just not in His character to do that

          • God’s mercy revealed

            • Abraham intercedes for the people of the plains

              • It was more than Abraham pleading for the life of Lot and his family

              • Abraham is interceding for all of the people in the southeast region of the Dead Sea valley

              • PRINCIPLE #2 – The Lord is pleased when we intercede for others.

                • Is there a group that you know are choosing the things of this world instead of the things of God

                • Have you been praying for them, interceding for them before the Lord?

                • Or, are you content to let them be destroyed and wiped out?

                • Perhaps we need to have the Lord change our hearts and attitudes, so we will intercede for others

                  • The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. ​​ He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8)

                  • This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4)

                  • Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. ​​ Turn! ​​ Turn from your evil ways! ​​ Why will you die, O house of Isreael?’ (Ezekiel 33:11)

                • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Intercede for those who are pursuing wickedness instead of righteousness.

                  • If you are taking this step today, I want to encourage you to be specific

                  • Don’t just pray in general terms for groups of people

                  • Choose one or two groups and pray, specifically, by name, for those who are a part of that group

                  • Pray that God would bring salvation to those in that group

              • Abraham was interceding for the entire group of people in the plain

            • Abraham whittles down the number of righteous from 50 to 10

              • The number ten could represent one family or as Goldingay mentions, “. . . ten is also the minimum number for a Jewish prayer meeting (cf. b. Meg. 23b, which could usefully have claimed this passage among its prooftexts), and Tg. Ps.-J. takes that fact as the clue to Abraham’s numbers. ​​ They had started from fifty, as indicating a minyan in each of the five towns, with the eventual implication that even a prayer meeting in one town could have forestalled the calamity.” ​​ [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, 302]

                • If there were one family or a prayer meeting group in each town, then would the Lord spare the whole plain?

                • The number fifty also constituted half of a small city [Waltke, 270]

              • Why did Abraham stop at ten?

                • “Phillips suggests that Abraham had multiplied the five cities of the plain by the number of necessary witnesses in each and concluded that ten was the bottom line. ​​ He says, ‘There are five cities in the plain. ​​ In Scripture two is the number of adequate witness, so it required ten righteous people to be in the valley, else there would not be even the minimum witness for God’ (Phillips, 157).” ​​ [Phillips cited by Gangel & Bramer, 165]

                • The numbers are fascinating

                • There were two angels who were heading down to Sodom to see if what the Lord had heard was true – they were necessary witnesses together with the Lord

              • God’s mercy is on display

            • Through this we see that God is merciful

              • “Yahweh can be merciful because he is righteous and just.” ​​ [Hamilton, 25]

              • PRINCIPLE #3 – The Lord is merciful!

                • The Lord was willing to spare the entire Dead Sea plain if only ten righteous people were found there

                • The Lord would not give the Sodomites what they deserved on account of ten righteous people

                • That is incredible!

                • How have you experienced the mercy of God in your own life or because of a righteous person in your life?

                • Can you point to a specific time or situation where you did not get what you deserved?

                • Did you recognize that this came from the Lord?

                • Did you thank the Lord for showing His mercy to you?

                • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Thank the Lord for showing me mercy when I did not deserve it.

          • The time of intercession is complete

          • The saddest part about Abraham’s intercession is that we will see that not even ten righteous people are found in Dead Sea plains

        • The Lord leaves for Sodom and Abraham returns home

 

  • YOU

    • Fathers, are you ready to lead your children and household in the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just?

    • People of God, are you ready to intercede for others?

    • If you have received mercy, have you thanked the Lord?

  • WE

    • As a body of believers, we should be corporately interceding for those who are pursuing wickedness.

    • Corporately, we should be thanking the Lord for His mercy.

 

CONCLUSION

“As many in Britain have reflected on the life and leadership of Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1997–2007), stories have emerged concerning his faith. A 2008 issue of Time magazine featured one particularly moving story from Blair's past:

 

Blair is deeply religious—the most openly devout political leader of Britain since William Ewart Gladstone more than 100 years ago. He handles questions about religion deftly. He doesn't back down. His longtime press secretary and consigliere, Alastair Campbell, remembers Blair in 1996 at a school in Scotland where a gunman had killed 16 children and a teacher. In a bloodstained classroom, Campbell asked Blair, ‘What does your God make of this?’ Blair, says Campbell, stopped and replied, ‘Just because man is bad, it does not mean that God is not good.’”

 

Source: Michael Elliott, "Tony Blair's Leap of Faith," Time magazine (6-9-08), p. 34.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2008/october/1101308.html]

11

 

Origins

Entertaining Angels

(Genesis 18:1-15)

 

INTRODUCTION

“In Outlive Your Life, Max Lucado writes:

 

Long before the church had pulpits and baptisteries, she had kitchens and dinner tables. Even a casual reading of the New Testament unveils the house as the primary tool of the church. The primary gathering place of the church was the home. Consider the genius of God's plan. The first generation of Christians was a tinderbox of contrasting cultures and backgrounds. At least fifteen different nationalities heard Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Jews stood next to Gentiles. Men worshiped with women. Slaves and masters alike sought after Christ. Can people of such varied backgrounds and cultures get along with each other?

 

We wonder the same thing today. Can Hispanics live in peace with Anglos? Can Democrats find common ground with Republicans? Can a Christian family carry on a civil friendship with the Muslim couple down the street? Can divergent people get along?

 

The early church did—without the aid of sanctuaries, church buildings, clergy, or seminaries. They did so through the clearest of messages (the Cross) and the simplest of tools (the home).

 

Not everyone can serve in a foreign land, lead a relief effort, or volunteer at the downtown soup kitchen. But who can't be hospitable? Do you have a front door? A table? Chairs? Bread and meat for sandwiches? Congratulations! You just qualified to serve in the most ancient of ministries: hospitality.

 

Something holy happens around a dinner table that will never happen in a sanctuary. In a church auditorium you see the backs of heads. Around the table you see the expressions on faces. In the auditorium one person speaks; around the table everyone has a voice. Church services are on the clock. Around the table there is time to talk.

 

Hospitality opens the door to uncommon community. It's no accident that hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word, for they both lead to the same result: healing. When you open your door to someone, you are sending this message: ‘You matter to me and to God.’ You may think you are saying, ‘Come over for a visit.’ But what your guest hears is, ‘I'm worth the effort.’”

 

Source: Max Lucado, Outlive Your Life (Nelson, 2010), p. 55.

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2011/february/3022111.html]

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Hospitality

        • Judy and I love to have people over for a meal

        • It’s such a great time to connect and enjoy each other’s company

        • We’re able to talk about a lot of subjects that we wouldn’t normally have time to talk about on a Sunday morning

        • Many times, we’ve found that we have common interests and likes

    • Our parents

        • Judy and I learned the importance of hospitality from our parents

        • Both sets of our parents were great at inviting others over to their homes or out to a restaurant for a meal

        • Hospitality was modeled for us

        • I’ve been introduced to a large number of ethnicities because of my parent’s hospitality

 

  • WE

    • From Max Lucado’s qualifications for hospitality, we all have everything we need in order to serve in this way.

    • Take a moment to think about the last time you invited a person or family into your home for a meal.

 

Three men visit Abraham and he jumps into action to provide incredible hospitality for them. ​​ He includes his wife, Sarah, and at least one other servant. ​​ While hospitality covers the first eight verses, what encompasses all fifteen verses is how Abraham and Sarah reacted to the presence of the Lord in their midst. ​​ So, the author of Genesis wants us to wrestle with the question . . .

BIG QUESTION – How do we react to the Lord’s presence in our lives?

 

We are going to see two reactions today, worshiping and wavering.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Genesis 18:1-15)

    • Worship (vv. 1-8)

        • Setting the stage (narrator)

          • The narrator gives us some information upfront that Abraham did not have at first

            • It is later revealed to Abraham that one of the three men is the Lord – scholars call this a Christophany (the appearance of Jesus, prior to His birth) or Theophany (appearance of deity on earth)

            • We are given insider information before the narrative unfolds

            • The Lord (Heb. Jehovah) appeared to Abraham

          • Descriptive information

            • Geography – near the great trees of Mamre (outside of Hebron)

            • Abraham’s location – entrance to his tent

            • Time of day – in the heat of the day (midday)

          • Abraham’s actions

            • He looked up

              • Perhaps Abraham was taking a little nap

              • During the hottest part of the day, most people would stop working, stop traveling, and rest

              • So, when Abraham looked up and saw these three men standing nearby, he knew that something was up – why are these three men traveling right now?

            • He got up

              • Wiersbe says that Abrahams was “both curious and courteous.” ​​ [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Old Testament, Genesis-Deuteronomy, 91]

              • His curiosity motivated him to run from his tent to meet these men

              • He obviously realized that these men were not just ordinary men, especially one of them, as we will see in just a moment

            • He bowed down

              • He showed incredible respect and reverence for them, even though he did not know them

              • He bowed low to the ground

              • We’re not certain if Abraham recognized the Lord at this point

              • Assuming that he didn’t recognize the Lord, we see modeled in the Old Testament, what the New Testament writer of Hebrews encourages us to do

              • Hebrews 13:2, Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

              • We've all been asked the question: ‘If you had the chance to talk to your hero, who would it be and what would you say?’ Washington, D.C. cab driver Sam Snow didn't have much of a chance to prepare for a conversation with his hero, though, because it took him by surprise. While driving his taxi recently, Snow mentioned to his passengers that even though he was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, his all-time favorite player was Broncos legend John Elway. The passengers then asked him if he thought he could recognize Elway if he ever met him. Snow then turned around to realize that the famous former quarterback, who was in Washington, D.C. for the presidential inauguration, was in fact riding in his own backseat. The two snapped a quick picture, but only after Snow chastised Elway for beating his Steelers so many times in the playoffs.”

                Source: "Cab Driver Praises John Elway, Then Learns He's Driving Him," Yahoo! News (1-24-17).

                [https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2017/february/2020617.html]

            • Application

              • Whether or not Abraham knew he was bowing down before the Lord, we see him modeling worship of the Lord

              • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when His people eagerly worship Him.

                • “Here’s a ninety-nine-year-old man who runs to meet the Lord. ​​ How do you and I greet the Lord when the alarm clock goes off for devotions and prayer, for meditation and worship?” ​​ [Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament, Volume 1: Genesis-Job, 77-78]

                • What is our attitude and posture when we meet with the Lord?

                • Are we excited to see the Lord, to be with the Lord?

                • Do we give Him the proper reverence He is do?

                • I have to admit that I do not always run to the Lord in excitement and anticipation and I do not always bow low to the ground in worship of Him

                • But this is certainly how we should approach Him – with eagerness and humility

                • Francis Chan challenged me recently, through a video that is part of a book we are reading together as a board, to beg God for humility

                • That has been one of my prayers recently – begging the Lord for humility

                • I want to come before the Lord in total submission and humility, so He can use me for His glory

                • Perhaps you are recognizing that you do not come to the Lord with excitement, anticipation, and humility

                • If that is something you desire to do, then this next step is for you

                • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Eagerly approach the Lord each day with excitement, enthusiasm, and humility.

          • Abraham looked up, got up, and bowed down, but then he provided incredible hospitality

        • Hospitality

          • My Lord (v. 3)

            • It seems probable that as Abraham approaches the three men, that he recognizes One of them as being God

              • God had just appeared to him fairly recently (perhaps within 3 month) to establish the covenant of circumcision and promise he and Sarah a baby boy

              • This visit happened when Abraham was 99 years old

              • This next visit can’t be too distant from the previous one, because Isaac is born when Abraham is 100 years old (within the year)

              • So, perhaps Abraham recognized God, which prompts his worship of the Lord by bowing low to the ground, instead of just bowing his head in respect of a superior

            • Original Hebrew

              • “This is better translated ‘my Lord.’ ​​ The translation ‘my lord’ is misleading, since the Hebrew text refers to a title for God. ​​ NIV translates the same Hebrew in 18:27 as ‘the Lord’ (see 18:1, 13, 17), although it should be written in upper case.” ​​ [Waltke, Genesis A Commentary, 267]

              • “Perceiving at once that one of them was the Lord (אֲדֹנָי , i.e., God), he prostrated himself reverentially before them, and entreated them not to pass him by, but to suffer him to entertain them as his guests . . .” ​​ [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 146]

            • Abraham wants to continue his close relationship with the Lord (he was the friend of God), so he offers an opportunity for fellowship

          • Normal hospitality (vv. 4-5)

            • What Abraham offers the three travelers is standard hospitality for the ancient Near East (foot-washing, food, and rest)

            • They all agree to not pass by, but to allow Abraham the opportunity to meet their needs

          • Extravagant hospitality (vv. 6-8)

            • Abraham offered them a meal, but what he provided for them was a feast

            • “Protocol required that the meal served to the guest exceed what was first offered.” ​​ [Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 452]

            • Abraham does just that

              • He asks Sarah to make bread with 3 seahs of fine flour

                • Three seahs would make more bread than the three men, Abraham, and Sarah could eat on their own

                • “1 Sam. 25:18 tells us Abigail made sufficient provisions for David and his band of outlaws with five seahs of parched grain. ​​ The trench that Elijah dug around the base of the altar at Mt. Carmel, which was then filled with twelve jars of water, was large enough to hold two seahs of seed (1 K. 18:32).” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 11]

              • He selected a choice, tender calf and had a servant prepare it

                • While the offering of bread was very generous, the offering of meat was extravagant

                • Meat was not a normal part of their diet

                • It was reserved for special occasions (the Prodigal Son narrative)

                • Abraham was pulling out all the stops

              • He brought curds and milk

                • This was also pretty special for the guests

                • “In the ancient Near East, goat’s milk was especially prized because of its energy and easy digestibility.” ​​ [Waltke, 267]

            • Abraham goes all out for the Lord and His two angels

          • Application

            • PRINCIPLE #2 – The Lord is honored when we offer hospitality to others.

              • I was sharing this past week, with a group, that one of the best ways to connect new people to the church is through inviting them out for a meal or having them over for a meal

              • As Max Lucado already said, every one of us has all we need in order to qualify for the ministry of hospitality

              • I want to encourage everyone to consider who they can invite over for a meal this week

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Invite someone from the church to have a meal with me/us (either in my home or at a restaurant).

            • PRINCIPLE #3 – God is glorified when we give our best to Him.

              • Abraham did not spare any expense when it came to providing for the needs of the Lord and His two angels

              • He was willing to offer His best to the Lord

              • Are you offering your best to the Lord? (time, talents, or resources)

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Offer the best of my time, talents, and resources to the Lord.

                • Resources – Tithing, In-Gathering, Shoeboxes

                • Time – Volunteering Sunday morning or Wednesday evening (you can sign up today at the Welcome Center)

                • Talents – Serving with one of our commissions, special music, worship team, etc.

            • Abraham’s ministry to the Lord was exceptional and we see several characteristics that we should follow [Wiersbe, 91]

              • He served personally

              • He ministered immediately

              • He served generously

              • He served humbly

              • He served cooperatively

              • We should serve the Lord in the same way

        • Abraham reacted to the Lord’s presence with worship and service, but how did Sarah react?

    • Waver (vv. 9-15)

        • Crib (cultural reference)

          • The three men Abraham where his wife, Sarah, is?

          • It’s fascinating that they know her name, especially since we are not told in the passage that Abraham introduces them to her

          • Her certainly could have introduced her when she brought the bread out for the meal

          • It seems as though they are asking where she is, because they have not seen her yet

          • Abraham tells them that she is in the tent

        • Covenant

          • In the original Hebrew, it simply says, “And he said.”

            • The NIV has added “the Lord,” because that is who is speaking to Abraham in verse 13

            • “He” in verse 10 is obviously speaking about the Lord

          • The Lord is now restating the covenant He had shared with Abraham, so that Sarah can hear it

          • The Lord is also giving a specific time frame for the first time

            • Abraham will not have to wonder when this promised son will arrive

            • Within the year Sarah will become pregnant and give birth to a son

          • Obviously, the three men wanted to know where Sarah was, so that she would not miss the covenant announcement

          • We are told that she was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind the three men

        • Confused

          • The narrator again gives us information to help us understand Sarah’s reaction to the covenant announcement and the confrontation that will take place momentarily

            • Abraham and Sarah were old

            • Sarah had reached menopause and was no longer having a monthly cycle – her body was not producing eggs that could be fertilized

            • “Her body is procreatively dead.” ​​ [Waltke, 268]

            • Romans 4:19, 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.

          • Sarah’s reaction

            • She laughed and had doubts

            • It’s important to note that she laughed to herself (not out loud) and thought in her mind that she was worn out and her master was old (she didn’t say those words out loud)

            • Worn out

              • Sarah is aware that she has reached menopause

              • Even though she has never had any children of her know, she knows what it meant for other women in her household who have reached menopause

              • They are no longer able to conceive and bare children

              • From a human perspective, Sarah laughs and questions the validity of the Lord’s announcement, because she knows herself and her body

              • Sarah’s reaction to the presence of God in her life was doubt

              • What she was forgetting was the ultimate power of the Lord to do the impossible

            • Pleasure

              • The Hebrew word for pleasure is ʿeḏen (eh’den)

              • The same Hebrew word is used for the Garden of Eden

              • This Hebrew word can also refer to sexual intimacy

              • It’s fascinating to think that Sarah would consider having a baby or being intimate with Abraham, again, as like returning to the Garden of Eden

          • Sarah’s laughter and thoughts are not lost on the Lord

        • Confrontation

          • The Lord confronts Abraham about Sarah’s private laughter and thoughts

          • The Lord then asks if anything is too hard for Him

            • This is really a rhetorical question

            • PRINCIPLE #4 – God is omnipotent (all-powerful)!

              • There is nothing beyond God’s power to accomplish

              • He can as easily bring Sarah’s womb back to life, as He created man from the dust of the earth or woman from the rib of man

              • He can take the ashes of a cremated body and reinstitute it, when Jesus Christ returns in the clouds

              • He can remove the cancer cells from any human being, with just a thought or the touch of His hand

              • He can restore sight, hearing, and speech to those who are born that way

              • He can bring back to life those who are dead

              • He can save any sinner

              • “‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ ​​ Is there any sin for which the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cannot atone? ​​ Moses was a murderer but he was saved. ​​ David was an adulterer and a murderer, and he was saved. ​​ Peter denied Christ. ​​ Paul killed Stephen. ​​ These and countless other sinners have been saved by the merits of Jesus Christ alone. ​​ Their salvation was not too hard for God. ​​ Why should yours be impossible? ​​ God says to you, ‘Come now, let us reason together . . . though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; ;though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’ (Isa. 1:18).” ​​ [Boice cited by Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 154]

              • The Lord does this for His glory!

              • As followers of Jesus Christ, this is a truth and attribute of God that we must embrace and believe with all of our being

              • Too often we doubt that God is truly all-powerful

              • We may pray for healing, but doubt that it will really happen

              • We may pray for salvation of family member or friend, but doubt they will turn to Jesus

              • Those are not a prayers of faith, trusting in an all-powerful God

              • God is willing and able to do the miraculous, the supernatural

              • He is all-powerful!

          • Confirmation of the covenant

            • The Lord states His covenant announcement a second time, so that Sarah can hear it again

            • He will return in a year and Sarah will have a son

            • “. . . Sarah’s unbelief does not abort, or sidetrack, or slow down the promise of God. ​​ She will still conceive, whether she thinks she can or cannot.” ​​ [Hamilton, 14]

          • We see another reaction of Sarah to the Lord’s presence

        • Calumny (lie)

          • Sarah was afraid, so she lied

            • Her second reaction to the presence of the Lord in her life was fear, which caused her to lie

            • Fear can drive us to do things we normally wouldn’t do otherwise

            • “Fear moves people to do things that are irrational and uncharacteristic of them. ​​ Adam hid because he was afraid of God. ​​ Abraham deceived because he was afraid of what the Egyptians might do to him. ​​ Now Sarah is afraid because she has challenged the authenticity of a divine promise and because she has irked the divine visitor. ​​ Thus she lies: ​​ I did not laugh. ​​ A second sin is committed (lying) in an attempt to cover up a first sin (unbelief).” ​​ [Hamilton, 14]

          • Why did the Lord confront Sarah about her laugher, but not Abraham about his laughter?

            • Both Abraham and Sarah laughed about the same covenantal announcement

            • Here is the difference

              • Abraham’s laughter was based on joyful, astonished faith

              • Sarah’s laughter was marked by doubt and unbelief

          • No condemnation

            • The Lord confirms that Sarah did actually laugh

            • “The Lord doesn’t condemn Sarah for laughing; but simply reminds her that He knows exactly what’s going on in her heart and what she’s doing behind closed tent flaps.” ​​ [Courson, 78]

        • Omniscient

          • There is one final principle that is evident throughout verses 9-15

          • PRINCIPLE #5 – God is omniscient (all knowing)!

            • The Lord knew Sarah’s name (v. 9)

            • The Lord knew the future concerning Sarah having a son (v. 10)

            • The Lord knew what Sarah did in the privacy of her tent (v. 13)

            • The Lord knew that Sarah had laughed to herself (v. 15)

          • This all knowing God is also aware of everything that is going on in our lives

            • He knows your name

            • He knows your future

            • He knows what you do in the privacy of your own home

            • He knows the attitude of your heart and knows your thoughts

 

  • YOU

    • Do you need to eagerly approach the Lord each day with excitement, enthusiasm, and humility?

    • Whom can you show hospitality to this coming week by having a meal together with them?

    • What time, talent, or resource do you need to give the best of to the Lord?

 

  • WE

    • The same is true of the church, we need to make sure that we are giving our best to the Lord, as a congregation

 

CONCLUSION

How do you react to the Lord’s presence in your life?

  • Do you bow low to the ground and worship Him?

  • Do you waver in your beliefs about His abilities to do the supernatural and miraculous?

12

 

No Laughing Matter

I would like to start this morning with a few Bible jokes. What’s a dentist’s favorite hymn? Crown him with many crowns. What kind of man was Boaz before he got married? He was Ruth-less. When was the first math homework problem mentioned in the Bible? When God told Adam and Eve to go forth and multiply. And finally: An elderly woman had just returned home from an evening church service when she realized there was an intruder in her home. Seeing that he was in the act of robbing her home of its valuables, the lady yelled “Stop! Acts 2:38!” Hearing her, the burglar stopped dead in his tracks and stood motionless. The woman calmly called the police and explained what was going on. As the officer cuffed the man to take him in, he asked the burglar, “Why did you just stand there? All the lady did was yell a Bible verse at you.” “Bible verse?” said the burglar, “She said she had an ax and two 38’s!”

As I thought about this morning’s passage a couple of things stood out. One, life can be funny and life can be unpredictable and sometimes you just have to laugh as life happens. Two, there are times in life when we may want to laugh but in reality the situation that occurs is no laughing matter. And third, God has a sense of humor.

When I think about times when we may want to laugh but in reality the situation that occurs is no laughing matter I think of practical jokes. Practical jokes may be funny but they are usually at the expense of someone else and it is probably not funny to them. If you didn’t know, MASH, is my favorite TV show of all time. As I thought of this idea of practical jokes being no laughing matter I was reminded of a certain MASH episode. In this episode it's almost April Fool's Day, and Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester are getting into the spirit by pulling pranks. Colonel Potter learns that the 4077th is about to be inspected by Col. Tucker, a fire-breathing, Army-regulation quoting martinet who, according to Potter, "Picks his teeth with a rusty nail" and he puts the kibosh on all tomfoolery. Going against Potter's direct order, Hawkeye, B.J and Winchester get back at Margaret who has pranked all three of them recently. After finding her tent missing, she storms into the men’s tent, where waiting for her in Hawkeye's cot is a skeleton, which elicits a scream from her. The guys laugh in delight, causing a pillow fight which spills out onto the compound right into the path of the incoming Col. Tucker, who is not amused and he berates them all, including Potter. The next day, Tucker has nothing but criticism for the medical staff, hurling insults and sarcasm when they protest his lack of respect for their surgical prowess. After a confrontation outside, Tucker puts them all on report, and then tells them he plans to bar them all from medical service and have them court-martialed. Hawkeye, B.J., Margaret, and Winchester decide that if they're going to get busted, they might as well go out in style - pulling off one last giant prank on Tucker. In the Officer’s Club, they set it up so when Tucker asks for his trademark beverage, a bucket of it will dumped on him from the rafters. After being dumped on Tucker is apoplectic, red-faced with rage and after screaming at Hawkeye, he collapses onto the floor with an apparent heart attack. Talk about a time where a practical joke was “no laughing matter.” The Officer’s Club goes silent, and Col. Tucker asks for Hawkeye to come closer. As Hawkeye gets in close, he whispers: "April Fools." It turns out this was an April Fools plot hatched by the both Col. Potter and Col. Tucker, weeks in advance, pulled off to perfection. Practical joking can really get out of hand and at times is no laughing matter.

In our scripture this morning, found in Genesis 17:15-27, God continues to give additional information to Abraham about the covenant he is making with him. We will see that by Abraham’s reaction he thinks God must be playing the first April Fool’s joke in history on him and all Abraham can do is laugh but God is totally serious about the promise he has made to him. To Abraham what God has just told him is seemingly impossible and as we dive into our scripture this morning we will see that when God says he will do the impossible it is no laughing matter. That brings us to our big idea this morning which is “We can trust God to do the impossible.” God is in the business of doing the impossible and Abraham and his descendants will find this out as we continue to study Genesis. And God can and will do the impossible in our lives as well.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, pour out your Holy Spirit on us this morning as we seek your truth in your Word. Help us to believe in your promises no matter how impossible they seem to us. Let us hold on to the fact that you are all powerful and that you can do the impossible in our lives, our families lives, our churches and in the world. Guide us this morning in our study of your Word, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our scripture this morning is found in Genesis 17:15-27. There are two points. The first one is God’s Promises and is found in verses 15-22. This is what God’s Word says, “Then God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, you shall not call her by the name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man a hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, give birth to a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” But God said, “No, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish My covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.” When He finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.”

If you remember a couple weeks ago we saw that the Lord appeared to Abram. He confirmed his covenant with him, he changed his name to Abraham, promised that he would be the father of many nations, and again promised that the land of Canaan would be an everlasting possession to him and his descendants. He then commands Abraham to circumcise every male in his household, including himself, and every male eternally for generations to come. Circumcision was to be the sign of the covenant between God and his chosen people and anyone who was not circumcised would be cut off for breaking his covenant.

The first thing we notice this morning is that God is still talking to Abraham and he tells him that he is no longer to call his wife Sarai but Sarah. The changing of a person’s name was significant. When you named something it was a privilege to do so and you had authority over it, such as when God allowed Adam to name the animals. Names also represented blessing and destiny such as when parents named their children. The names often expressed their hopes and dreams for them. The renaming of Sarah brought her into the covenant just as Abraham was because the child of promise came from both of them. Interestingly, Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose name is changed.

The second thing we notice is that it’s God who changes her name. Normally it would have been the husband who changed their wife’s name but this was done because the Lord was the one who would go on to pronounce the blessing on Sarah. The Lord would bless her and give Abraham a son by her. She would also be the mother of nations and kings of peoples would come from her. The name Sarai and Sarah both mean “princess” but there is a subtle change in the way the word is used. This quote from Charlie Garrett in his sermon, “The Promised Son, A Time for Laughter” explains it well. “Sarai is like “a princess” as if she is in a room with many princesses. But Sarah is like “the princess.” She is over all the princesses and the mother of all the people who would come from her.” Sarah would be a princess because she would be the one to bear the promised child. Just as Abraham was to be the father of many nations, Sarah would be the mother of many nations and “kings of peoples” would come from her. From Sarah, came King Saul, King David, King Solomon, and many other kings and ultimately from her came Jesus, the King of kings.

As God is telling Abraham that Sarah was going to give him a son he again falls face down in worship just as he did in verse 3. But this time as he falls face down he laughs and comments to himself. We can imagine that he probably thought God was joking. What did Abraham mean by his laughter? Most commentators don’t see it as laughter of unbelief. Some see it as laughter of joy and others as laughter of doubt mixed with faith. We have seen Abraham’s doubt mixed with faith before in chapter 15 when he questioned God about how the land of Canaan could really be his and his descendants when he didn’t even possess it at the time. ​​ It was also probably laughter brought on by surprise. For a split second, he must have been thinking, “Ok, God, that’s a good one, you got me.” Abraham is thinking that what God is promising is impossible; there is no way that a son can be born to a man who is a hundred years old and that woman can bear a child at ninety. Ultimately Abraham knew that God was all-powerful and he trusted that God could and would do the impossible, but Abraham was thinking in his humanness at that moment. He couldn’t understand how this was physically possible. We see Abraham doing some fast thinking and fast talking as all this must have flashed through his mind in an instant and what came out of his mouth was not what he must have been thinking but a comment that showed a doubt tempered by faith and a love for his son, Ishmael.

We see God’s answer to Abraham in verse 19. God knows Abraham’s thoughts and he answer’s his question about a man having a son at hundred years old and a woman bearing a child at age ninety with (and I am paraphrasing) “No, humanly speaking that is impossible but Sarah is going to have a son and he will be called Isaac.” God’s covenant would be established with Isaac and an everlasting covenant would be established with his descendants. God is going to do what Abraham sees as impossible because it is part of his plan for the salvation of the world. What is impossible for man is not impossible for God.

We notice a few things in verse 19: God gives Abraham the name “Isaac” for his son before he is even born. This reminds us of John the Baptist and Jesus. Next, we know that names have meanings. In Matthew, the angel tells Joseph to name his son Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. The name, Jesus, comes from Greek for Joshua which means “God is salvation.” Do you know what the name, Isaac, means? It means “he laughs.” Here’s where I believe we see God’s sense of humor. God says the ninety year old Sarah is going to have a son, Abraham laughs at that impossibility and immediately God tells him to name his son, Isaac, which means “he laughs.” I wonder if Abraham thought about why God name his son Isaac? Was it because he (and Sarah later on) laughed? Or was he thinking “God got the last laugh.” Isaac actually means “God has laughed” or smiled or looked favorably on. What will see later is that Isaac will bring laughter and joy to his family when he is born because God had looked favorably on Abraham and Sarah.

We can trust that when God promises to do the impossible he can and will do it and it’s no laughing matter; it will be fulfilled. Which brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to trust that God can and will do the impossible in my life. Whatever that is for you, you can claim that promise today and see what God will do. The last thing we can notice is that again God elects the younger son to be the conduit through which the covenantal line, the line that will bring his son, Jesus Christ, will come into the world. We have already seen this with Seth being chosen over his older brother Cain, Shem being chosen over his older brother Japheth and even Abram being chosen over his older brother, Haran. We will also see it later as Jacob is chosen over his older brother Esau.

I also learned something that I never really thought about before as I was studying this passage. This was the first time that Abraham had heard he and Sarah were going to have a biological son together. God had promised that Abraham would have a son but it’s not until now that a son was promised to come from Sarah. No wonder he laughed. Abraham must have been stunned to learn that Ishmael was not the son that God had promised to him so long ago. Ishmael was precious to him and he considered him his heir. For the last thirteen years Abraham had may have been living under the impression that Ishmael was the son of promise. Think about the relationship that they must have had. All of of Abraham’s love, all of his hopes and dreams have been poured into Ishmael. He may have even discussed the covenantal destiny with him. Abraham has not seen Ishmael as an obstacle to the covenant but as the solution.

As Abraham quickly recovers from his surprise, he suggests that God might work out his purposes in Ishmael. Abraham uses the phrase, “if only” and it is the only time in the Bible that God is addressed this way relating to the future. It was Abraham’s prayer that God would favorably look and smile upon Ishmael and provide for him. God not only knew Abraham’s thoughts but he also heard Abraham’s prayer on Ishmael’s behalf. In verse 20, we see God’s answer to that prayer. In God’s mercy and grace he complies with his request and promises to bless Ishmael making him fruitful and greatly increasing in number. Ishmael was going to be the father of twelve rulers and become a great nation. Later in Genesis 25:12-16, we see these words: “Now these are the records of the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s slave woman, bore to Abraham; and these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages, and by their camps; twelve princes according to their tribes.” Of course, we know that Ishmael was also the father of the Arab people. God’s promise that he would be fruitful and increase in number would be fulfilled. Ishmael would participate in the earthly blessings but Isaac would participate in the spiritual ones as the child of promise.

God then tells Abraham that Sarah would bear Isaac by this time next year. Then as soon as God finished talking to Abraham he went up from him. Just as suddenly as he appeared to Abraham he just as suddenly left him. The meaning is that God visibly ascended in front of Abraham. There was no doubt as to who Abraham had been speaking with.

The second point this morning is Abraham’s obedience. This is seen in verses 23-27. This is what God’s Word says, “On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.”

Notice when Abraham fulfilled his part of the covenant. It says he did it “on that very day.” This is a chronological phrase and is also used in other momentous occasions in the bible. It is used in Genesis 7:12, when Noah and his family entered into the ark. In Exodus 12:41, when at the end of 430 years, all the Israelites left Egypt. And in Joshua 5:11, when the Israelites first ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan. Then the very next day God stopped supplying manna from heaven. By obeying God immediately it showed that Abraham did have faith that God would give him a child by Sarah. We see these words in Romans 4:18-21, “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.” 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. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”

There was no waiting around. Abraham obeyed God immediately and exactly as he had been instructed. We see Abraham’s obedience in three ways. The first way was in his personal obedience. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, so this was probably not something he was looking forward to at his age but he did it immediately. We can also surmise that he circumcised himself first. Courson says, “It was important that even Abraham deal with his flesh in this way, even though he was ninety-nine years old. As we get older we may think that we don’t need to pray or serve or do Bible study – I have already learned or done all I can. I am too old to be stretched spiritually anymore. Not so with Abraham.” We should be the kind of people that tells the Lord “we have had some great days here at Idaville Church, but what do you have for us now.”

The second way was in his parental obedience. It was important that as the spiritual leader of his family he circumcised his son, Ishmael, who was thirteen years old at the time. It is mentioned three times in our passage that Ishmael was circumcised. He was not left out of being blessed even though he wasn’t going to be the child of promise. This was keeping with the Lord’s promise in Genesis 12 that all the peoples of the earth would be blessed through Abraham. God is not going to exclude anyone from the blessing and will include everyone in his plan and covenant and we must do the same. Abraham also didn’t just tell Ishmael to circumcise himself; he took the responsibility for it. How many times do we tell our children or young people that they need to be praying or reading their Bible, etc. Instead we should be praying and reading the Bible with our children and young people. Each of us must be willing to take responsibility for the discipleship of others.

The third way was in his professional obedience. Abraham also took every other male in his household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner and had them circumcised. This is talking about all the non-family members including workers, slaves, foreigners, etc. Abraham made a stand to obey God completely and these other males in his household were not left off the hook just because they weren’t part of his biological family. This speaks to how we should conduct ourselves in our workplace. How can we as Christians use the position that God has given us in our jobs for his honor and for his glory? The Lord considers it worship when we are devoted to him at work.

We can learn so much about how we are to live into our relationship with God from Abraham. We must obey God completely and immediately, no matter what, no matter how far-fetched it sounds or how hard it will be to accomplish. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is to obey God immediately and completely no matter how impossible the task seems.

Until now, the covenant had been unilateral and unconditional. Now God was making a partnership with Abraham and the covenant became bilateral and conditional. Abraham and his descendants would be required to mark or circumcise each male in their household with the sign of the covenant. This was not an option for God’s chosen people but an obligation. Circumcision marked God’s people as separated from the world and as his own. They were set apart by God as a holy people in a covenant relationship with himself. What was important was that their faith was lived out by obeying the command to be circumcised. Once it was done there was no undoing it, no turning back and it was not a private experience but a corporate one. Personal holiness is important but so is corporate holiness.

Covenantal signs are important because they serve as the visible response to being in a relationship with God. They also show that a person is totally committed to that relationship because God commanded them to do it. For the Abrahamic covenant, circumcision was the condition for a person’s inclusion into the community of God’s chosen people. It was a sign of initiation and participation into a relationship with God and a symbol of subordination to him in that relationship. Later in the Sinai covenant, the sign was the keeping of the Sabbath. In Exodus 31:13-17 God said that the keeping of the Sabbath was the sign between God and Israel which showed their continual participation in the covenant and their subordination to God, the covenant maker. We see in Ezekiel 20 that the violation of the Sabbath was one of the primary reasons for God’s judgment against Israel. Later, the sign of the Davidic covenant was the anointing of the Davidic king signifying that the king was chosen by God. By submitting to the ceremony, the king showed that he recognized his subordination to a divine kingship.

Today, we live under the new covenant and God still wants his people/us to be so visibly committed to him that it shows everyone around us whose we are; that we belong to God and that we follow Christ. The signs of the new covenant are seen as sacraments: baptism which is the sign of initiation into the covenant and communion the sign of continual participation in the covenant. There are also two others signs, that are not sacraments, that show we are committed to a relationship with God and Jesus. In 1 John 3:23 it says, “And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” We prove that we are committed to a relationship with God by showing love to one another. And John 15:10 says, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” We prove that we are committed to a relationship with God by obeying him. Just as circumcision was not a condition of the covenant but a sign of participation in it we understand that baptism, communion, loving one another and obedience are not conditions of our salvation but are the appropriate and expected signs of participation in the new covenant. What does our salvation cost us? Nothing. What does our faith cost us? It should cost us everything. It should cost us everything that this world offers because they can’t offer us what we have in Christ Jesus. And it should cost us all of ourselves/all our will in that we submit all of ourselves to Christ and allow him to be Lord and Master over our lives.

In the OT, God wanted the Israelites to not only be circumcised in their flesh but to have a circumcised heart, as well. They had the physical mark of being in relationship with God but at times did not have a circumcision of the heart. They did not submit to God’s authority by showing love to one another and fully obeying him. If we have a circumcised heart, a purified heart, a sanctified heart, it will be a heart that is in total submission to God’s commands inwardly and outwardly, not just giving lip-service but living out our faith on a daily basis. That brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to have a circumcised heart that is in total submission to God inwardly and outwardly on a daily basis.

As the praise team comes forward to lead us in a final hymn, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, I pray that we would trust you to do the impossible in our lives. I pray that we would obey you immediately and completely no matter how impossible the task seems, and Lord I pray that we would have circumcised hearts that are in total submission to you inwardly and outwardly on a daily basis. I pray that your Word would lead and guide us as we live out our faith in the world. Give us divine appointments in order to share your Gospel with those who need your salvation. Give us boldness to share and strength to pursue holiness daily. In Jesus’ name, Amen.