This is our last message in our study of Abraham. Over the last couple of stories, we have seen the blessings of God upon Abraham’s life. We saw him walk by faith and not by sight. His faith in his God has grown. He has learned that God is the God of blessings, he is Yahweh El Olam, the Everlasting God, and he is Jehovah Jireh, the Provider. We find the death of Abraham in chapter 25, but after the death of Sarah, which is at the heart of the text we are looking at, the focus of the narrative turns to Isaac. God has tested Abraham’s faith, strengthening it and making it shine and now he is ready to run the last leg of his race. In the story today we find some things that are familiar to us and some things that might cause us to scratch our heads. We know the familiar scene of a loved one mourning at the side of the beloved. We know from experience or we can sympathize with those that have the tough job of making funeral arrangements and preparing for the burial of their loved one. Some of us have experienced that this past year and know all too well what Abraham is going through. This story is a reminder that, if the Lord does not return in our lifetime, death comes for us all. As Spurgeon once said, “The young may die. The old must die.”
This story is also one of promises and perseverance. One of the main themes that I have tried to emphasize to you as we started in Genesis is the promises of God. It started in Genesis chapter 3 and will continue unbroken until the book of Revelation. The promises have been given and now we watch them unfold. But more than just watching them in the word we must strive to make them our own. AW Pink once said, “The bee would not extract honey from the flowers as long as he only gazed upon them.” This is perseverance. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob are given to us as those that persevered to the end. They heard the promises of God, they saw them but greeted them from afar. Yet, this did not stop them from finishing the race in faith.
Today’s passage divides nicely into five parts. Verses one through two describe the death of Sarah and we will consider the passing of an example. In verses three through six we find Abraham, a man who has lived decades in the land still a sojourner and a foreigner. In verses seven through eleven we see the Hittites willing to give Abraham a cave for burial but in verses 12 through 16 Abraham insists on weighing out the silver (he buys the land). And finally, in verses 17-20 we’ll consider Abraham’s possession and what that means.
Today, we finish looking at Genesis chapter 22. Remember what we looked at last time. We had the monumental event of Abraham’s life. God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar as a burnt offering. This whole situation was not for God, as if he needs anything, but it was planned for Abraham and us. We needed to learn about the great doctrine of substitution.
The doctrine of substitution says that Jesus Christ stood in our place, he took the punishment for us that we deserved. He became sin who knew no sin. James Smith said about this idea, “The scene on Mount Moriah, as typical of the greater scene on Mount Calvary, could scarcely have been perfect without the thought of substitution being made prominent. The figure now changes. The ram becomes the burnt-offering, and the submissive one goes free. You observe this sacrifice was provided by God. We have still Jesus before us, not as the Son now, but as the Substitute of one condemned to die. Man found a Cross for Christ, but it was God who found the Ransom…Ask Isaac, as he gazes on the ram burning in his stead if he believes in substitution.”
We also saw in that passage a picture of resurrection. Hebrews 11 explains. “[Abraham] considered that God was able even to raise [Isaac] from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Abraham knew what the promise was and he knew what God had also said. He did not consider that God contradicted himself. To the eyes of the flesh and the world, the commands of God seem to oppose each other, to the eyes of faith, there is beautiful harmony. Abraham knew that if he did kill Isaac, Isaac must rise from the dead to fulfill God’s promise. And so, figuratively speaking, Isaac was a good as dead but God’s substitution brought him back from the dead.
So, after learning some amazing truths about God’s plan of salvation or how the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head, we are now ready to hear the conclusion to this story.
The text we have before us naturally breaks down into two main parts. Verses 15-19 explain what happened immediately after Abraham sacrifices the ram that God provided in place of Isaac. The second section is verses 20-24 we are told of someone we haven’t talked about in a long time, Abraham’s brother Nahor.
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?
We saw in the previous chapter that Abraham had moved his household to Gerar. Abimelech, the king of that area, took Sarah into his household because he believed that Sarah was an unmarried woman. Why did he think that? Because Abraham and Sarah used the line that they had come up with in Ur; Sarah was Abraham’s sister. They chose to not mention that she was also his wife. And as the story went, God intervened, corrected Abraham and restored Sarah back to him.
Then we read of the birth of Isaac. Sarah rejoices over the miraculous birth and Abraham is once again obedient to God as he circumcises his son on the eighth day and gives him the name Isaac as God had told him.
A about 5 years pass and the time for Isaac to wean from Sarah came. Abraham threw a great party for the occasion which brought the mockery and scorn from Abraham’s firstborn, Ishmael. Sarah witnessing this tells Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away because Ishmael was not a part of the covenant. God confirms this and tells Abraham it is right for him to break cultural norms and send Ishmael away. Abraham didn’t have to worry though, because God promised to take care of him.
That brings us to our text today where we find Abimelech coming back into the scene. The previous stories I just mentioned are more well known but I feel that our text today is probably unfimilar to most people. When you think of Abraham, I’m guessing your mind doesn’t go immediately to this story of Abraham’s treaty with Abimelech.
Before we get into the story, I want to make a side note about Abimelech. This is not the only Abimelech recorded in the Bible. There are several Abimelech mentioned and so it is assumed that the name is either a common name, a royal name that is passed on to the different generations or it is a title like the name Pharaoh. We see a Abimelech here, with Isaac several chapters later, which is the same guy but he would probably be an old man. There is one in the time of the judges and there is one in David’s day.
In the text we have before us I want to point out three main ideas to you. First, we are going to see the obviousness of God’s blessing upon Abraham’s life. Second, we find Abraham entering into a covenant with Abimelech and an offering of earnest money for the rights to a well and we’ll finish up by see Abraham publicly worshipping God again and calls God the El Olam or the Everlasting God.
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.
Over the past several weeks we’ve been looking into this appearance of the Lord to Abraham. It started with God changing Abraham’s and Sarah’s names. God gave Abraham the sign of circumcision to strengthen his faith. Then God gave Abraham the promise that in a year he would have a child from Sarah.
In chapter 18, a little time has passed and the Lord appears to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre. The Lord repeats that in a year’s time Sarah would have a baby. By now, Abraham is believing. He is trusting in God’s promises and his plan to bring about the promise but, Sarah has an issue. She’s not quite there yet. And so God challenges her. He confronts her doubt. He instructs her.
God then turned to Abraham and tells him that he is going to let him in on his plan. God tells him he’s going to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because their sin is so great. Abraham follows the lead, the prompting of God and intercedes for the wicked. Abraham begins to fulfill the promise that he would be the blessing to the nations. He prays according to God’s great mercy that God would spare the cities if 10 righteous persons were living there. Of course, God would spare if there were ten. The problem is, as we will see today, there weren’t 10 righteous. But Abraham was correct in his intercession.
And so that brings us to chapter 19. I hadn’t planned on preaching about Sodom and Gomorrah right before Christmas. It’s not a typical advent text. But as I began to think about it and talk with the elders, the idea began to grow on us, on me. John 1:4-5 came to mind. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” As I said last week, there is a contrast made by God here. The light of new life, the promised child of the covenant, is contrasted to the death and depravity found in the city of Man. Though the darkness is great and is widespread the light shall not be overcome.
As we think about chapter 19, I want to point out three things about God that are on display. In verses 1-14 we find that God is merciful and just. In verses 15-22 we see God as a savior. And finally, in 23-29, we find that God is the perfect judge.
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.