Three weeks ago we started to look at the story of Isaac with the servant searching for Isaac’s wife. The servant found success through the Lord’s leading and Isaac and Rebekah were married. Then came the passing of Abraham, the hero of the faith. The two brothers, Isaac and Ishmael, were brought together again by the death of their father and could have very well been the last time that they met. Isaac, the chosen son, the one that had received the promises of God, and Ishmael, the wild donkey of a man. Two nations separated by the actions of God. That leads us to the text we have before us. The passage falls easily into three parts. In the first, we find the Generations of Ishmael in verses 12-18. This is the account of the family of Ishmael. Moses writes this here as he just mentioned Ishmael being present at Abraham’s burial. It closes the book of Ishmael and opens the book of Isaac in verse 19. The book of Isaac opens with Isaac and Rebekah having the same struggles with infertility that Abraham and Sarah had. Again, we find the intervention of God and then the birth of twins which will become Two Peoples Divided. Finally, in verses 27-34 we get a little sneak peek at what is to come in the stories ahead. We get a short story of Jacob and Esau before the story returns to Isaac. In this story, we find a description of Jacob and Esau and it is not a pretty picture of either of them. We find that the twins though very different are very similar in one way; they’re both sinners.
This week we are going to continue looking at the story of the search for a wife for Isaac. We are in the closing years of Abraham and his death is quickly approaching. We have already seen that this final story in the life of Abraham is centered upon his son. The question that is looming is what will happen to the chosen line? How will the promise continue? In Genesis 24:1-9, we saw Abraham giving the command to his servant to go and find a wife for his son. We already know who this woman is because Moses clued us in back in chapter 22 when he told us that Bethuel fathered Rebekah, but of course, Abraham and his servant, did not know that yet. In verses 10 through 27 we saw the description of the servant’s trip to find that wife. We heard the prayers of the faithful servant and we saw the providence of God. Rebekah “just happened” to be the first young woman to arrive at the well when the servant arrived. If you stop and think about how many events that transpired over the length of the servant’s journey, even just the day of their meeting, that had to align, it staggers the mind. This week we have three more sections to study. In verses 28-53 we find the servant’s interaction with Rebekah’s family as he recounts everything that has just happened. The response from everyone is: This is from the Lord. The second part in 54-58 the servant asks to return home with Rebekah immediately. Her response is: I will go. Finally, in verses 59-67 we find the description of Isaac and Rebekah’s meeting and marriage. The blessing of Rebekah’s family is: May you become thousands of ten thousands. As we continue through this story, there are several things that we need to keep in mind. First, this is not just a story about some Middle Eastern man looking to arrange a marriage for his bachelor son. Ultimately, this is a story of how the promise of God to send an offspring of the woman to crush the serpent’s head would come about. This is about the providence of God and how everything is under the governance of the King of Kings. And it is about saving faith, which is a gift of God, so that no one, including Abraham, could boast in himself. God has used trials, tests, important decisions, and pagan kings as tools to grow the faith of Abraham, and not only Abraham’s faith but his servant’s as well.
The text before us today is one that, hopefully, most Christians are acquainted with. Now, the enemy is most definitely acquainted with it and would like to see it erased from existence. You can see this in the world’s response to it. This story, to the world, is an example of the wickedness of God. After all, how could a good God ask a father to sacrifice his only son? Doesn’t God condemn child sacrifice in his law? Why does God contradict himself? This just shows how evil Christianity is. Why do they say this? Because some have never read the Bible and therefore have no idea why God is doing this. They can’t trace the promise, the scarlet thread of Christ that is weaving its way through Scripture, starting with “In the beginning, God.” Satan knows full well what this passage means and that is why he hates it and wants the world to hate it.
Unfortunately, you will hear many in the church miss the point of this passage. This story is not about being willing to sacrifice to God what you have so he can give you something better. It’s not about giving to get. If you are in a church where that is coming from the pulpit then you might want to leave. That is taking the beauty and the sheer glory of this passage and making it about temporal needs. The sacrifice of Isaac is not about getting what you want. That is not what this passage is about.
Because this passage is on one hand fearfully hated and on the other watered down or made into a man-centered message we expect to find speculations run rampant. Where God does not speak we are not invited to fill in the blanks. We might wonder about things but we must not place our wonderings into the Bible. We must not place our speculations on the level of “Thus saith the Lord.” And if we are going to teach on this passage we ought not make points of instruction based on guesses. It’s a danger all of us must be careful to avoid.
The story of God’s command to go to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice Isaac can easily be broken into two sections. The first two verses of 22 are the command that God gives. We must spend some time examining that before we press into the rest of the narrative. The rest of the story in verses 3 through 14 tell of Abraham’s response to God’s command. The question is: When God commands what does faith do?
The Promised Laughter 17 JAN 2021
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.