Summary: Genesis 17:15-18:15. A look at how and why God always keeps his promises.
LESSONS FROM THE LIVES OF THE PATRIARCHS
GENESIS PART 2 – POSTDILUVIAN/PATRIARCHAL HISTORY
ABRAHAM: RECEIVING THE PROMISES OF GOD
- I really have only one main goal for us today and I’m going to share it with you right up front. What I want to do is highlight the character and nature of God. I want us to get a refreshing glimpse at God’s faithfulness and his commitment to keep his word. Throughout our look at the book of Genesis so far you have heard me say several times that God is a promise-keeping God; that he keeps the covenants he makes with people. We mentioned it in the account of the fall, in the life of Noah, and several times thus far in our look at Abraham. Today I want to dwell on this point, see it in action in the life of Abraham, and then draw out some of the principles we see at work here so that we can apply them to the promises that God makes to us in his word.
- As we start, think about the last time someone broke a promise to you. Everyone knows what it’s like for someone who has made a promise to them to break that promise. Broken promises affect us from our earliest years. A child’s heart hurts when his or her mom or dad doesn’t make that big game that they promised they would see. Teenagers experience emotional turmoil when their boyfriends or girlfriends don’t, in fact, stay with them forever as was promised. Perhaps parents of teenagers are hurt by broken promises regarding behavior or school performance. Marriages collapse because the promises made on the wedding day are broken. Broken promises are a part of life, sometimes a very painful part of life, that we all experience.
- Of course, we all know what it is like to break a promise as well. We have all made promises to family, promises to friends, promises to church members, or husbands or wives, or children that we have failed to keep. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons why promises are broken, and sometimes, as is most often the case, we simply fail to keep our word or someone else simply fails to keep their word.
- Now knowing what we know about Abraham from our look at Genesis thus far, it is not hard to imagine him beginning to feel some of the same emotions we feel when a promise has been broken. He is now ninety nine years old and still does not have a legitimate son. Sarah had taken things into her own hands and had given Abraham Hagar to sleep with and Ishmael was born. So he does have a “sort of” son, but we find that God is not going to fulfill his promises through Ishmael.
- So Abraham’s situation remains unresolved. God promised to bless the nations through him by forming him into a great nation; a great nation through which Jesus Christ would come; but nations cannot be formed from a man’s descendants if he has no descendants. Let’s begin reading at Genesis 17:15: [READ GENESIS 17:15-21, 18:9-15]
- God has just finished changing Abram’s name to Abraham and has given him the sign of the covenant that he has made with him: circumcision. Every male who was born of Abraham’s descendants from then on was to be circumcised on the eighth day after their birth. This was a sign that the descendants of Abraham (the people of Israel) were a set apart community to which God’s covenant belonged.
- At the beginning of our text, God changes Sarai’s name to Sarah. God is in the process of redefining this family’s identity and even their names were changed to reveal this. During this name changing encounter God once again tells Abraham that Sarah is going to be blessed with a son through whom his promise would be fulfilled. And what is Abraham’s response? He laughs at God. Not a very smart move. Whatever communicative relationship is going on here, it is obvious that Abraham is having some form of dialogue directly with God. If God and I were having a conversation, I don’t think I would be inclined to laugh at something he says to me.
- But that’s what Abraham does...why? Well because he was nearly one hundred years old and Sarah was ninety. The passage in chapter 18 gives us the rather obvious information that Sarah was no longer at prime child-bearing age and so the “way of women had ceased to be with Sarah”. I think we all know what that means...she was no longer ovulating and no longer menstruating.
- This seems like it would be a problem, does it not? But listen to the words of Genesis 21:1-3: The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.