Summary: An Expository Sermon from Genesis 21:1-21 concerning being faithful to God when His ways make no sense. Genesis Series #43
Genesis Lesson 43 April 7, 2002
Read Genesis 21:1-21
Illustration: Elisabeth Elliot, whose first husband, Jim Elliot, was one of the five missionaries killed by the Auca Indians in 1956, and whose second husband died of cancer, tells of visiting a shepherd in the mountains of North Wales. One by one, he would grab the rams by their horns and fling them into a tank of antiseptic. They would struggle to climb out, but the sheep dog would snarl in their faces to force them back in. Just as they were about to climb up the ramp, the shepherd would catch them by the horns with a wooden implement, spin them around, and force them under again, holding them completely under for a few seconds. The sheep didn’t have a clue about what was happening.
Source: THE JOY AND PAIN OF A LIFE OF FAITH
Genesis 21:1-21 By Steven J. Cole, November 3, 1996, Copyright, 1996
Mrs. Elliot observes, "I’ve had some experiences in my life that have made me feel very sympathetic to those poor rams--I couldn’t figure out any reason for the treatment I was getting from the Shepherd I trusted. And He didn’t give me a hint of explanation."
Source: (World Vision, 4/77.)
She found out something that all of us have learned by experience. The Christian life of faith and obedience to God is not always or even usually easy. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, doubt and unbelief get into our hearts when we wait and wait for the promises of God to be fulfilled, but we fail to see results. We pray consistently and we believe to the best of our abilities but trusting God becomes a real challenge because of the long delays in experiencing the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Another reason it is sometimes difficult to maintain a life of faith and obedience is because God often directs our lives in ways that make no sense to us. He may tell us to do things that seem detrimental to our own lives and through His sovereignty he often chooses to guide our lives in mysterious ways. Even though we are often confused and ask "Why?” God rarely decides to explain to us what he is doing or why he is directing us the way he is.
Certainly Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and Ishmael could relate to this confusion about God’s ways and the difficulties in trusting and obeying him. This story is important for many reasons and I will discuss the different reasons in today’s message. The one thing I will you to understand very clearly from this story can be summarized in the following sentence.
Summary Sentence: You should trust and obey God because He is faithful to His word, even though He often works in unexpected in unexplainable ways
In other words you should trust and obey God in every type of circumstance even though you may not understand what God is doing or why he is doing it or even when he will fulfill his promises to you.
Read verses 1,2
That text tells us that the "Lord was gracious to Sarah." That word "gracious" can also be translated as "visited", as it is in the King James Version. The word means to experience divine intervention in order for God to accomplish his will and in this case refers to the supernatural birth of a child to 90 year old Sarah. The text strongly emphasizes that God does and did fulfill his word with phrases like, "as he said", "did what he promised", and "at the very time God promised."