The Story - Chapter 2
September 19, 2010
As we came to the end of chapter 1, we saw God has a big vision. God wants to be with us. But the conflict immediately emerges, as the first two people God created, Adam and Eve have a different vision, and as a result a sin nature came into their DNA, so that it separates them from a holy God and causes death. And we see that this sin nature gets passed on to their offspring. And to their offspring, and to every person in this room. This is our number main problem.
The rest of the story of the Bible tells one page after another of God’s relentless pursuit to get us back. And in chapter 2 God is going to unveil His big plan.
So open your Story up to chapter 2. God is going to build a new nation. The question is, so, what is building a new nation going to do for us? The point is, God is going to build a new nation to reveal Himself and His plan to get us back.
Now, from the time of the flood, when Noah and his family got off the boat in the human race has grown again. In Genesis 11, you’ll see God dispersed the people, and new nations and new languages are created. God wants to reveal Himself and His plan, so what He decides to do in chapter 2 is to start a brand new nation.
And out of this new nation people are going to be able to get to know and relate to God, and He’s going to be able to reveal Himself and His plan. And all the other nations are going to be able to look at this one new nation and see how they relate to God and see His plan in action and how He’s going to redeem what was lost.
And it all begins in a place called UR. If you open up your book The Story to the inside cover, you will see the Old Testament map. Not only do we want you to know the Bible story, we want you to learn a little geography along the way. So, if you look by the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers you will see the land called UR. Make a stick figure or put down a letter A for Abraham.
Who is God going to select to start this brand new nation. We see at the beginning of chapter 2, God selects Abram and Sarai. So, the question I have is why these two people? Why did God select Abram and Sarai to be the parents of this new nation so that He could reveal Himself and His plan? Is it because Abram is a righteous man like Noah? Did Abram and Sarai worship God?
The answer was NO. Abram and his family worshiped pagan gods and idols. Abram didn’t know God until God visited him. Did God choose Abram because he was a charismatic and natural leader, who was young and strong? Someone who could build a nation. Nope. The Bible tells us God chose Abram and Sarai for no other reason than the fact that they were old and without children. Now I may be wrong and I may be the only one here who believes this, but it seems to me that selecting Abram and Sarai is not the best choice to build a nation upon. Does anyone see this with me, or do I stand alone.
Let me stop for a moment and tell you something, that’s a common pattern of God in the Bible. What you’re going to see on many occasions is God selecting the least likely person to engage in a big project. Why? Because when something big and huge happens, the people will look around and say, ‘there’s no way that happened because of them, there must be another reason.’ And we know the reason is God. You see, God’s desire is to help people see beyond Abram and Sarai to the God who wants to get them back. And as they see this they will understand God better.
For many of us in this room, this may be a message of hope. You may not have a great resume, but to God that doesn’t really matter, in actuality it may put you at the top of His list of people to select for His next God sized project.
What’s the plot of this story? It unfolds in Genesis 12:1-3 (page 11).
1 The LORD had said to Abram, go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you.
God came to Abram for the very first time, and basically said, ‘you don’t know me, but Abram, I want you to pick up everything you have and I want you to begin walking to a place you don’t know. Just start walking and eventually I’ll tell you when you get there. And by the way, leave behind your extended family.’ What would you do if some unknown God called out to you and told you to get up and leave? That’s a big request from a God you don’t know. By the way God is still asking us to do things like this today. We’re to follow Him by faith wherever it leads us.
Then God reveals a 4 fold plan He’s come up with, that will become the Abrahamic covenant. It’s a promise God makes to Abram, but it’s also a promise He’s making to us, to provide a way to get us back.
Here’s the 4 fold plan . . .
1. 2 "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you. Now the Hebrew word for the phrase “wait a minute” is the Hebrew word - - YO. Obviously we don’t see this in the English text, but in Hebrew to say, ‘wait a minute,’ is the word YO. So, when God says to Abram, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you.” Abram says YO! Hold on, I think you have the wrong guy here. I’m 75 years old and my wife cannot have children.’
So God moves onto the second part of the plan and says,
2. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. Abram said, ‘YO, make my name great, my name is a joke. Your going to make my name great? How can you? My name if you didn’t know it means father and I am obviously not a father, I don’t have children. This is a joke.’
3. The next point in God’s plan is this . . . 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; You’ll never guess what Abram says, “YO!” But actually that sounds pretty good. The reason God is doing this is that people from the other nations will get to know God and His plan based on how God treats them through Abram, Sarai and this nation.
4. The final part of this plan comes in the final section of Genesis 12:3, when God said, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. And Abram said, “YO! I want to believe it, but I’ve got nothing going for me. I can’t see what you’re talking about. I don’t see how this can come from me.”
You see, what Abram doesn’t know at this time, is this . . . ultimately it’s going to be the One who is coming from him, from his nation, the One born in swaddling clothes, if you know what I mean. He will be the One who ultimately and actually offers the blessing to all people and all nations. What we learn is this – we don’t need to have all of the facts on where we’re going to land in order to follow God now.
So, what was Abram’s real response? It wasn’t YO! His actual response is found in the New Testament, not the Old, and it can be found on page 11 or in Hebrews 11:8; 8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
So Abram started off in Ur with his extended family and traveled north to Haran. He leaves his extended family in Haran and travels to where, he doesn’t know, but God leads him to the land of Canaan. You can draw a dotted line from UR to Haran to Canaan. This is occupied by the Canaanites. On the top of page 12, or in Genesis 12:7, God says to Abram, ‘this is the land I am going to give to your offspring. Now you’re not going to receive it as an owner in your lifetime, but at just the right time I’m going to give it to your offspring.
Now there’s a lot going on in the story, so much that it would take awhile to sift through what’s happening, but I want to cover the big picture, I want to cover the obvious. In order to become a nation, Abram and Sarai are going to have to have their first child. I mean do you agree with me? In order to start a nation, you’ve got to have more than 2 people. It would be embarrassing for Abram and Sarai to introduce themselves to others as we’re the ones who have a great nation. And they are asked, how many are in your nation? They might answer, well let me introduce you to our great nation . . . there’s Sarai, and there’s myself. That’s it. Just us! I don’t think that would work. It won’t impress anyone.
In Genesis 16:3 (p. 13) we’re told Abram and Sarai have been living in the land of Canaan for 10 years now. Abram is now 85 and Sarai is 75. Sarai begins to think maybe we’ve misunderstood something about the God’s plan. You are going to be the father and someone other than me, is going to be the mother. Maybe God needs our help to pull this one off. Now, write this down, because whenever you think God needs your help to pull off His plan, you’re the one who’s going to be in trouble. Follow the original blueprint. God doesn’t need your help to pull off His plan. So, Sarai conjures up a plan where Abram will have a child through her maid servant, Hagar. Abram offers no resistance to this. And they have a son together and His name is Ishmael. This happens to Abram at 86.
You may not realize it, but Ishmael is considered the father of the Arab nation, and God said, Ishmael’s nation and the nation which would come from Abraham, the Israelites, are going to fight forever. And hasn’t that been true.
So, God continues talking to Abram, telling him that while He’s going to bless Ishmael, the nation which will come from him, a son will come from Abram and Sarai. And together Abram and Sarai said, “YO!”
Now the story fast forwards 13 years later, and Abram and Sarai still have no children. Abram is 99 and Sarai is 89. God comes to them and says I am still going to pull this off. In fact, God tells Abram I’m going to change your name. Abram, your name will no longer be Abram, it will now be Abraham. And Sarai, your name will now be Sarah. What’s significant about this?
This is hilarious, because Abram means ‘father’ while Abraham means ‘father of many.’ Can you imagine how embarrassing it had to be for Abram to walk into the office on Monday morning and the people say hello, Abram, and he tells them don’t call me Abram, my name is now Abraham, father of many. The people had to get a laugh out of that one. Then God tells Sarai, your name will now be Sarah. Another laugh, because the name Sarai means ‘princess’ but the name Sarah means ‘queen.’
In Genesis 18, which isn’t in The Story, God sends three very special visitors to Abraham. And they tell him ‘you’re going to have a child with Sarah by this time next year. Sarah’s eavesdropping and when she hears that she’s going to have a child, she begins to laugh. That makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, she’s 89, I wouldn’t be laughing, I’d be crying.
Sure enough, one year later Sarah gives birth, Abraham is 100 and Sarah is 90. It’s now been 25 years since God first came to them and said they should follow God and leave their home. Sarah and Abraham name their first child, Isaac, which means laughter. A year earlier Sarah laughed at the thought of having a child, now God is getting the last laugh. Never doubt His plans. The Story doesn’t end there.
We read that sometime later God came to Abraham, we don’t know how much later, some believe Isaac was a teenager at this point, maybe around 15, which would make Abraham 115 and Sarah 105. That’s the right age for raising a teenager. And I think I’m tired.
Now on page 16 of your Story book, or Genesis 22:2, we see a strange shift takes place in the story. God said to Abraham, take your son, your only son whom you love, and take him to a place called Moriah and sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you. Now, isn’t this plan strange? You wait 25 years to have this promised child from God, and now God is telling you to sacrifice him. This seems to be an unreasonable request and wrecks the whole plan. Interestingly enough, Abraham decides to do this. I’m not sure I’d be wiling to do this. Do you think you could?
We gain some insight into why Abraham would do this, but again, it’s not in the Old Testament, it’s in the New Testament book of Hebrews. Hebrews 11:17-19 (p. 17) tells us,
17By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.
19Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.
By faith, knowing it was God’s reputation and word on the line, Abraham puts his son on the altar of Mt. Moriah and takes the knife and begins to descend the knife onto Isaac, when all of a sudden an angel of the Lord comes to Abraham and tells him to stop!
And God says to Abraham, I have provided an alternative to you. Look to the side, there’s a ram whose horns are stuck in the bushes. Take that ram and offer it as a sacrifice to me. So the ram was sacrificed instead of Isaac. They come off the mountain and Isaac grows up and eventually marries a woman named Rebekah. They’re married for 20 years before they have their first child. If you think about it, this nation building thing is really off to a slow start.
A perfect set up for the display of God’s power. Sometimes we need to hear this. Because for some of us, things may be going a little slower than we would like. Our plans, our hopes, our dreams maybe aren’t coming to fruition as quickly as we would like. Maybe we’re in tune with God’s plans, but His plans in our honest opinion aren’t happening as quickly as we would like. God sometimes does His best work when things some to be impossible. They have a set of twins, Jacob and Esau, and we’ll find out next week that their grandson Joseph will have 12 children and so this nation is starting to take off, finally.
So we see in chapter 2 that God begins to build a nation. And through this nation God will reveal Himself and His plan to get us back. Just like last week, God is depositing a lot of clues in each page and chapter, giving us a clue about what’s coming. Maybe you already saw it. Did you notice the similarity of Genesis 22:2 and John 3:16?
Genesis 22:2 says, 2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, whom you love . . . and sacrifice him . . ."
John 3:16 says, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son... His Son, who became a sacrifice for you and I. Do you see that?
The provision is going to come through a son, a one and only son. Maybe you saw that, but maybe what you didn’t know is that the hill of Moriah, where God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son, do you know where it’s located?
2 Chronicles 3:1 tells us Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David.
It is the same hill that 2,080 years later, God’s only Son, Jesus would be offered up as a sacrifice on the cross. Can you imagine that when Jesus is on the cross in Jerusalem, that people who know the scriptures were saying, ‘this is the same hill that Abraham was going to offer up Isaac, but a provision was made, a ram supernaturally was caught in a thicket.’ But on that day, as Jesus hung on the cross there would be no provision. There was no stop from the angel. And God let His one and only Son die, so that our sins could be covered up, so that we could find forgiveness from Almighty God.
Is that a good story or what? God wants us to see this, God wants us back. He wants a relationship with each one of us. Will you take God up on this?