This week we begin a new study. Yes, we are still in Genesis but the main character that the Bible points us to is changing. Abraham is still alive and still has a role to play in the remaining years of his life. Abraham remains a background character for the rest of Scripture. He never completely leaves the story of the Bible. But the focus of God’s word does shift from Abraham to follow his descendants. Abraham is an old man now and his life is drawing to an end. The question remains: What will happen to the promise of God concerning the multitudes of descendants after Abraham is dead and gone? Will the covenant that God made with Abraham stand? We’ve seen threats made against the covenant. How will God see this through? Will God see this through?
Many months ago we saw the beginning of the promise that developed into the covenant that God made with Abraham. In Genesis 3:15 we heard it. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head.” That’s the promise and the forerunner of the covenant of Abraham. We’ve seen the promise work its way through history. We saw how God ordered history and protected his promise. This is what we call divine providence.
I’ve mentioned it before and will continue to do so as we go through Genesis. Divine providence is a key theme throughout this book. What is this great doctrine of Divine Providence? People used to know and believe it. The signers of the Declaration of Independence said they were relying upon the protection of divine Providence as they defied the tyrant king. What is this great doctrine of providence? Charles Spurgeon said, “Blessed is that man who is done with chance, who never speaks of luck—but believes that from the least, even to the greatest, all things are ordained by the Lord. We dare not leave out the least event! The creeping of an aphid upon a rosebud is as surely arranged by the decree of Providence—as the march of a pestilence through a nation! Believe this, for if the least thing is omitted from the supreme government, so may the next be, and the next—until nothing is left in the divine hands. There is no place for chance, since God fills all things.” Matthew Henry said, “God who feeds the sparrows—will not starve His saints! God controls all the concerns of His people, even of those that are most minute, and least regarded. This is an encouragement to live in a continual dependence upon God’s providential care!”
The story we have before us is one of providence, the fulfilling of a promise, and steadfast love. We are going to look at the story over two weeks. This week we find Abraham commissioning his servant and declares his faith in Providence in verses 1-9 and then we’ll see the journey of this servant as he obeys his master and trust in the Lord and his steadfast love and faithfulness toward Abraham in verses 10-27.
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.
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.
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.