We’ve made it to Genesis chapter 21. Aren’t you glad? The last couple of chapters in Genesis have been hard to read through. The graphic portrayals of the depravity of man can be overwhelming. Remember that Shem, Noah’s son is still alive somewhere in the Middle East. He has witnessed his descendants and those of his brothers, descend into wickedness. Like the world before the flood, evil had filled the world and, like the flood, God demonstrated that He will not tolerate sin in the heart of man forever. The destruction of Sodom would stand as a monument to the sinfulness of man and God’s perfect justice. The warning has been issued and mankind is without excuse.
We also saw the effects of sin upon a righteous man that has chosen to stray from the path. Like Christian in A Pilgrim’s Progress, Lot has often taken a path that he ought not to take. Where the right path looked hard and steep and rocky, Lot chose the wrong path because it looked smooth and easy. His choices would not only affect him but his entire family. Lot’s journey was still taking him to the Celestial City, but the path he took was a lot harder than it had to be. Those choices he made would have a sinful outcome in his life, and yet, God was always at work. God would often use the children of Lot to punish the children of Abraham. And yet, God would bring some of those children that came from that horrible sin to be in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. God’s eternal plan contained the sinful rebellious acts of man. Those acts of darkness God used to bring about the great light.
That brings us to Genesis chapter 21, where we read about the promised laughter, Isaac, being born. Finally, we get to read about some joy. We see something good amidst all the darkness. Twenty-five years have passed since Abraham and Sarah made the journey into the land of Canaan. Twenty-five years since the promise of God had first been spoken. Twenty-five years they had to endure as God slowly, piece by piece, revealed the details of the promise. Twenty-five years of this rollercoaster of faith. Finally, the appointed day had arrived. Sarah would have her first and only born son.
But this is a true story and not a fairy tale. Along with the happiness there comes growing jealousy and division in the family. Where there are blessings and joy from God there comes hatred and resentment from the world. And yet, through both God works his plan. God is steadfast.
As we look at the first twenty-one verses of chapter 21, we see them easily divide into two parts. One through 7 tells us of the birth of Isaac, which reminds us that God always fulfills his promises. Eight through twenty-one explains the dissension in the family which leads ultimately to a final separation and we are called to contemplate the fact that God’s loving choice separates us.
The Dog Returns We made through the tough sections of Genesis 19. We saw some things that are disturbing and make us uncomfortable, but that’s the Bible. Hopefully, you also saw that chapter 19 is a bold statement on sin and sexuality. The fall of Sodom and Gomorrah and the disgrace of Lot stand as a condemning statement against humanity.
And we have seen a split, a contrast between Abraham and Lot. These two men, both righteous according to God’s word, have taken two different paths. Lot had chosen to live in a place surrounded by evil and he paid the consequences. Abraham, on the other hand, has chosen to walk before the Lord. Now, as we have seen, he is not a perfect human being. He is a hero of the faith, but all of the heroes are real people, that struggled with real temptations, and, on occasion, they stumbled. It doesn’t mean that they weren’t a child of God. It doesn’t mean they lost their salvation. It just means that they hadn’t arrived yet. Like Paul says in Philippians he was not perfect but he was pressing on to make perfection and the resurrection from the dead his.
Genesis 20 through 23 contain some of the struggles that Abraham has as he tries to live before God. Some of the struggles are outside of his control. Some of the struggles come from God’s direct command. And some of the struggles, like the one we’ll see today come from Abraham’s own doing. Even though we see Abraham riding the rollercoaster of faith, God shows himself in this narrative as one that is always faithful. He has made a covenant and he will see it fulfilled. And even though what Abraham does deserve punishment, God shows himself merciful and withholds punishment and graciously give Abraham blessings.
I’ve chosen to break the passage down into four parts for you. In verses 1 and 2 we find Abraham deceiving Abimelech and we’ll talk about how we are repeat offenders before God. In verses 3 through 7, we have the appearance of the Lord to Abimelech in a dream, which reminds us that God intervenes on our behalf. Third, Abraham is confronted by Abimelech and we see the uncomfortable but welcome truth that God mercifully exposes our sin. Finally, we’ll see the intervention of Abraham for Abimelech and we’ll marvel at how God graciously uses us. www.lvchurch.org
Back in chapter 18, we saw God revealing his plan to Abraham to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their great sin and wickedness. Abraham through the leading of God prayed for the wicked cities. Abraham began to fulfill the promise that he would be a blessing to the nations. He stands as a type of Christ as he intercedes on behalf of the people who are completely lost in their sin and have sunk to a debased mind. He pleaded for mercy if there were as few as 10 righteous people in the city.
In chapter 19, we witnessed a graphic example of the sin that the cities were involved in. The actions of the men of the city were just one sin amongst a sea of sins that demonstrated to us that God does not bring his judgment arbitrarily. God is a just judge and only brings judgment upon those who deserve it. Sodom would stand as an eternal symbol of God’s eternal judgment against sin. Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Zephaniah, Paul, Jude, and John all use Sodom as a standard of depravity and an example of judgment. This is why this story has been recorded for us in Scripture. It was a warning to all those that reject God, reject Jesus, that a worse destiny awaits.
Now we come to the end of Genesis chapter 19 and another disturbing passage. Most pastors these days have resorted to preaching topically random passages of Scripture. Some do this out of the fear of man because they want to please the people. Some do it out of ignorance because they do not know how to handle the text. Others will never preach from this passage because it doesn’t fit their “vision” or agenda. Other preachers skip this topic because they don’t think their people can handle it. You will never hear them preach on this passage. I read that even some bible commentators have skipped over this section. This is one of the beauties and the difficulties of preaching expositionally through a book of the Bible. We are forced to look at and consider some things that we would otherwise skip over. Yet, this is the word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness. Rest assured if you learn from this lesson you will be closer to being complete, equipped for every good work.
This passage breaks down into three main parts. First is the setting of this story in verse 30 where we will consider the messes we make. The second section is verses 31-35 where we read the story of Lot and his daughters play out and we’ll consider how we open the door for sin. Finally, in verses 36 -38 we see the commentary on the story and we’ll think about how we, through this story, are instructed and encouraged.
The chapter before us breaks down into two main scenes. In the first we find the promise and the struggle to believe in verses 1 -15. We have already seen God giving Abraham assurances of the promises and bolstering his faith and here we find God doing the same for Sarah. Then in the second scene we find the plan and the intercession. God has a plan, which included Abraham and his prayers for the lost.
Abraham is a normal man and his faith ebbs and flows depending on the situation he finds himself. His desire is to grow in the faith and to be pleasing to the Lord but he still struggles. His view of God is still too small. But here in chapter 17, and specifically the section we are looking at today, God is trying to expand Abraham’s view. Abraham’s view of God is still too small. It needs to grow and keep growing.