Summary: This is the 31st sermon in a series on the Book of Genesis. In this sermon we examine how faith is shown by what you do rather than what you think or say.
Obedient Faith (Genesis part 31)
Text: Genesis 17:15-27
By: Ken McKinley
Well we’ve been in Genesis for quite a while now. And this is our 3rd week on Genesis chapter 17. We’ve been looking at Abraham, and we’ve already seen how he had spent 86 years of his life not being a father at all, and then finally he has a son through Hagar, his wife’s maid servant. And Ishmael had been his only son for 13 years and during that time, Abraham had started to waiver a bit, and started thinking that maybe… just maybe, God was going to fulfill His promise through Ishmael. Now there’s application right off the bat, so we need to look at our text and unpack what God’s Word has for us this morning.
Ok… so far God has given Abraham some pretty amazing promises. Way back in chapter 12 God called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans. Then God blessed Abram in Egypt, even when Abram himself was not living as he should have. In chapter 14 God blessed Abram and gave him victory over his enemies. Chapter 15, God literally cut a covenant with Abraham in order to assure the promises that He had made. But Abram had sinned by trying to bring about God’s promise in his own way and in his own strength. The result was Ishmael who the Apostle Paul calls “The son according to the flesh.” And so there’s been a 13 year span that’s taken place before God again speaks to Abram. Last week we saw God reaffirm the covenant with Abraham, and He gave Abraham the sign of the covenant which was circumcision.
And like I said, there’s application right off the bat here, and that’s our first point.
God is persistent in fulfilling His Word and giving us assurance.
Look at verses 15 and 16 (Read). God changes Sarai’s name to Sarah, and He is going make it possible for her to conceive a child. Now remember; God reiterated the promises of the covenant, He gave Abraham a sign of the covenant He changed Abram’s name to Abraham, now He’s changing Sarai’s name to Sarah. All of this stuff is designed to give Abraham assurance. Also remember, this is God speaking to Abraham.
He says that He’s going to bless Sarah by allowing her to conceive. So the promise isn’t coming through Hagar, and it isn’t coming through Ishmael. Then God says she will be the mother of nations. Now God had already told Abraham that he was going to be the father of nations, so again… this is sort of God’s way of saying the same thing that He just said, the promise isn’t through Hagar and Abraham, it’s through Sarah and Abraham. And then God says Sarah will be the mother of kings. So God is saying; basically, that it’s Sarah who the promised seed will come from. She has an important role in God’s plan, and No Abraham, you’re efforts to bring about the promise are not sufficient or acceptable.
Now look at verses 17 & 18 (Read). Abraham didn’t comprehend it. He just wasn’t getting it. He was still looking at things in the natural, worldly sense. And like I said last time, he had basically resigned himself to wrong thinking. He had faith in God, but at the same time, he was limiting God. And not only that, he had grown comfortable in that kind of thinking. And we can be exactly the same way. How many of us have resigned ourselves to thinking Fort Supply Baptist Church is just the way it is, and it’s never going to grow?
Don’t raise your hands or anything. Well let me just tell you, your pastor hasn’t. God brings about the increase, but He does it in His way, not in our way. So what’s His way? Evangelism. That’s why the last week of March and the first week of April, I’m going to blanket this community with door hangers, inviting everyone I can to come to our Easter service on Easter Sunday.
Alright… So, God is reassuring Abraham here that He is going to keep His promise. Again this is assurance for Abraham. And the reason assurance is important is because if we have no assurance of our standing with God, then we’ll either do one of two things. We’ll continually be trying to get it (assurance), we’ll become legalistic… We’ll tell ourselves that we have to pray so many times a day, or for so long, and read our Bible so many times a day or for a certain amount of time, and that we have do certain things, “If I can just do this thing or that thing, then I’ll be right with God.” But the Bible is clear that we are right with God based on what Christ has done, and we can only be right with God if we’re in Christ. And if we’re always trying to make ourselves right with God, and give ourselves assurance, then we’re not doing things like evangelism or ministry. We’re totally focused on ourselves. I’m not saying that we should never examine ourselves. We’re told to do that. 2nd Corinthians 13:5 says we are to examine ourselves and test to see whether or not we are in the faith. I’m not saying don’t do that. What I’m saying is that if a person lacks assurance of their salvation, then they are going to either totally focus on getting that assurance, leaving other important things undone. OR… they’ll give up altogether. They’ll say, “What’s the use? I’m tired of trying.” And they’ll end up kind of like we find Abraham in our text. “What’s the use? I’m old, Sarah’s old. God can’t we just use Ishmael?”