Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: From Barrenness to Fruitfulness

Abraham, a man of Challenge, Faith and Promise

From Barrenness to Fruitfulness

Reading: Genesis 20:14 - 21:7

One of the keys of seeing our God move is our coming to the understanding that He does because of His name, and not because we have in any way built up some credit with Him. This is also true when it comes to His dealing with His wayward people. In Isaiah 48 we find that our Lord defers His anger and continues to bless His people, not because they were exceptional people of faith, but of His name. "For My name’s sake I will defer My anger, And for My praise I will restrain it from you. So that I do not cut you off." (Isaiah 43:9) That is not to say that He will stay His hand forever to a wayward people, even in those few verses He is clearly showing that they are to repent and turn from their wicked ways. If they were to do this, they would know a multiplying of the presence and manifestation of His goodness toward them, but He was going to honour His.

In chapter20 we have Abraham using a world mind to control the situation. We need to note that Abraham was blessed not because of his own doings, which were born out of fear and a carnal nature, but because the Almighty was honouring His own name. Abimelech was a man of integrity and so dealt with Abraham according to the word of the Lord and not according to any sense of revenge or outrage. Then some very remarkable things happen:

Firstly: Abimelech who could have put a very good case in the eyes of the customs and laws of the day, and even more so today, for just returning Sarah to Abraham and leaving it there. His mitigation was the fact of Abraham and Sarah’s deceit. Yet he restores as if he were the offending party, he acknowledges that he was nevertheless in the wrong; he had failed to check the situation out to the fullest extent, with both God and man. So he restores Sarah to Abraham as if he were the transgressor and as an act of vindication of Sarah. Even though he was the violated, he still accepts his own personal accountability and culpability; fro what has was personally responsible for.

Secondly: Abraham now prays for Abimelech and his household and the net result is children. Abraham at this stage still did not have an heir by Sarah, yet here was God demonstrating in the clearest possible way that He was able and willing to bring such healing.

Abraham and Sarah had known the hand of God upon them for many many years; they had known the leading and guiding of Him. They had known His provision, and His protection; they had known His strengthening and His enabling. Yet there was still this area of Barrenness. This says a number of things to me:

a. No matter how many years I may have walked with my Lord, accumulating knowledge of Him and His ways, I still will not have arrived.

b. Because of who and what I am, the owning of Jesus as Lord needs to be a continual and ongoing thing in my life.

c. Barrenness is the result of my own submission to the fallen nature.

Abimelech by his actions toward Abraham and Sarah highlighted the need in them of integrity. Once that issue was resolved, that area of bareness was to become fruitful. I am able to say this in part because they called the son Isaac, which means "He laughed," in the sense of mockery, it comes from a group of words, which holds the sense of being proud and haughty, but it also has its root in the sense of be thirsty. Here was a couple who were painfully aware of this are of bareness, they had done all that they could in their attempts to remedy the situation, and their best simply did not produce the results, their best fell short of their desire. So when God came and said to them the son is soon to come, even them they knew that Sarah now into her seventies was beyond child bearing, they laughed, not laughter of joy, not laughter of thanksgiving, but the laughter of haughty pride. Now Abraham and Sarah were acknowledging that they were wrong, that their best shot simply was not good enough. That they were willing to act according to the words of their Lord. That confession was made in the naming of the son Isaac.

In verse 6, there is a subtle play on Hebrew words here, where Sarah says; "God has made me laugh, so that all who hear will laugh with me." The first time the word is used it holds the meaning of laughter with pleasure, the second time it is the same word used in connection with the name of Isaac, laughter with scorn. She was in effect saying; "God has now made me laugh with pleasure and joy, so that all who hear will know of my laughter with scorn and so laugh with me." My scorning has been turn to pleasure, my unbelief had been turn to unshakable faith.

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