Summary: Faith is tested when we must wait and continue to trust God even when the answer seems far away, or when our problems seem too great. Abraham's lack of an heir, and God's promise to work a miracle for Abraham provide a powerful example for us of waiting
Sermon Notes April 22, 2012 FBCam
Will You Wait on God?
We often equate FAITH with DECISIONS. Sometimes FAITH is about WAITING.
Romans 4:9-12 describes Abraham as the “Father of our Faith.” When we consider Abraham’s faith, we normally consider his faith in trusting God for salvation. This is the truth conveyed in Genesis 15:6 "Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness." Here, Abraham’s JUSTIFICATION is illustrated through the faith he demonstrated in trusting God.
But if we look to another passage of Scripture describing Abraham’s faith, we find an event much later in his life as the picture of faith.
Hebrews 11:11–12 "By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. " "And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore."
The theological truth illustrated by Abraham’s faith in this passage is Abraham’s SANCTIFICATION. The event recorded by the Author of Hebrews refers to the Genesis 17 event that we are studying today, and occurs years after Abraham’s justification.
We come to God by faith. The only way we can be justified is through faith (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). But we must also continue to walk by faith (Galatians 2:20). As much as Justification depends on faith, so also sanctification depends on faith. We must continually trust God to provide what we need so that we can serve him.
QUESTION: Am I waiting on God for the things in my life that are most difficult?
- When I’ve prayed and there is no answer
- When I feel that I cannot go on
- When I suffer for doing what is right
- When my struggle has been going on for years
- When there seems to be an easy way out if I just forget my principles
- When others are telling me that God cannot be trusted
Our faith in God in the ongoing details of life is most often tested by waiting. We often start out with good intentions and brave commitments to the Lord, but we lose hope and go back to our own methods of doing things our way when the answer does not come soon enough, or the obstacles are larger than what we anticipated.
John Ortberg describes this process waiting by faith. “Biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.”
The lesson of Abraham’s FAITH in WAITING is demonstrated through
DATES and NAMES here in Genesis 17,
In this chapter, two events symbolize the confirmation of the Covenant. First, Abraham’s Name is Changed. (17:5). The second is the command that Abraham and his descendants be circumcised (17:9-14).
Circumcision was practiced in other cultures. It was a tremendous test of the depth of Abraham’s faith! Notice that Abraham obeyed God immediately (Gen 17:23, “on that very day..”)
Circumcision reminds Abraham of two truths
1. Purity in marriage was necessary for the promise to be fulfilled
2. the Promised seed (the deliverer) could only come in God’s way. “Human nature is unable to generate the promised seed.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary)
The STRUCTURE of this passage emphasizes the importance of the signs God gave to remind Abraham of the Covenant. The center of this chiasmic structure is the name change for Abraham and the very center point of the chiasm is the command for circumcision. Notice the chiasm here.
i. Abraham was 99 years old (17:1)
(1) God appeared (17:1b)
(a) Abraham fell face down (17:3)
(i) Abraham’s name changed (17:4-8)
1) CIRCUMCISION (17:9-14)
(ii) Sarah’s name changed (17:15-16)
(b) Abraham fell face down (17:17)
(2) God when up (17:22)
ii. Abraham was 99 years old (17:24)
How is Abraham’s FAITH in WAITING for GOD being tested? The text gives us two ways that Abraham’s faith was tested. The first is found in the significance in DATES
24 years since Abraham set out for Canaan. (12:4)
Ishmael is 13 years old! Ishmael represents the struggle between FAITH and FLESH
In Abraham’s FLESH, he first sought Lot as his promised seed, then Eliazer (15:3), and finally through Hagar (16:2). The result of this was the birth of Ishmael. We can see in the text how Abraham had his hopes fixed on Ishmael and not on the promise of God. “if only Ishmael would live under your blessing” (17:18).