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Abraham, Part 9: Right Relationships

Scripture: Genesis 20:1-18, Genesis 21:1-34, Hebrews 11:11
Date: 04/17/2004 
The ninth in a 12 part series on the life of Abraham. Here we look at Abraham's relationship with Abimelech and the birth of Isaac. God continues to work with Abraham despite his failings. God looks upon our hearts.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Welcome if you’re a visitor here at Sacramento Central and we’re thankful that you are here. For those who may be joining us and you have not been part of the subsequent series we have been going through a series dealing with the patriarch Abraham. “Abraham the Ultimate Patriarch” and today we are in part nine of that presentation. You may remember the last time we were dealing with Abraham interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah and then the subsequent destruction of the two cities of sin. Now we resume our study with our hero in chapter twenty. Genesis chapter 20, and they’re some very interesting lessons. The title of today’s study is “Right Relationships.” There are so many different issues that are addressed in the next two chapters. This morning we’re going to talk about chapter twenty and chapter twenty-one.

In our next study on Abraham we’ll be talking about chapter twenty-two of course which is when he offers Isaac. Please don’t miss that. It’s I think the high point in the book of Genesis and in much of scripture. Chapter 20, verse 1, “And Abraham journeyed from there to the South, and he dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and he sojourned in the land of Gerer.” Now just to give you the background, he was up on the hills of Hebron. He was able evidently from some vantage point to overlook the valleys of the plain. He was on the mountains of Judea looking east and you remember after God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah the Bible tells us at the end of chapter 19 that Abraham could look up and it says in verse 28, “the whole land of the plain; he saw, behold, the smoke of the land which went up was like the smoke of a furnace.”

We don’t know exactly why he decided to move from Hebron and go towards the ocean. Some of it may have been smoke was bothering him. Some of it could have been just the constant reminder. Can you imagine waking up in the morning and overlooking this plain that had once been like the Garden of God and now it is smoldering ruins and you know tens of thousands of people have been annihilated. That could have been an unpleasant thing to see in the morning as you drank your goat’s milk and so he moved and he began to go down towards the lowlands that dwelt between the mountains and the sea. It is the vicinity that was for hundreds of years occupied by a warlike seafaring people. We’re not exactly where they came from but they were known as the Philistines. And today we talk about the Palestinians. You know that that is a derivative of the word Philistinians?

The land of Palestine, instead of calling it the land of Israel which it really is they give it the name of the Palestinian name which were the people of course that Abraham all the way to the time of Saul and David were seeking to expel. And it says, “Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister.’” Now wait a second! Didn’t this happen already? You remember he went down to Egypt and he said of his beautiful wife he had made an agreement? Some scholars think it was because she stood out in a crowd because she was so fair. Here she is now she’s ninety years of age and maybe they see her going to the well with the other women and someone says, “Whoa! Who is she?” She was still such a striking specimen that Abraham was afraid that people were going to kill him for his wife and he later declared that’s part of the reason, he was afraid.

Even though he was rebuked for doing this before, in a moment of fear he makes the same mistake and he backslides. Now we could stop here and talk about backsliding a little bit. I know that there’s probably only one or two of us here that could relate to doing something wrong, being sorry and then doing it again. Have you ever made a mistake, God told you it was wrong, you repented, you said you were sorry and then you do it again, sometimes because the same circumstances precipitate it? Well, he saw the warlike armies of the Philistines and when the people expressed an interest in Sarah he said, “Oh, my sister?” And so because he says this he gets frightened and his wife now is taken once again into the harem of a pagan king. You’d think he’d be ashamed by that. I want you to know that in spite of that God still does not forsake Abraham. He still considers Abraham his child, indeed his prophet. It’s good to know there are stories like this in the Bible because, friends, I’ll tell you right now when I think about the fearful responsibility of being a minister and preaching the word knowing my frailties and failures (those are very generic terms for sin) I could never stand before you if I wasn’t reminded that God used people in spite of their weaknesses and they were still his.

I believe I’m God’s property. I believe the Lord works through me and the ministry and it’s because I read stories like this in the Bible where I say, “Well, I’m in good company.” That’s the only way, and same thing with you. God still wants to work through you. He wants to witness through you. I’m reminded in the Bible that Jesus when he sent out the twelve apostles, when he first sent them out, were they thoroughly converted? When he first sent out the seventy they weren’t thoroughly converted. You read in the Bible how they were still arguing among themselves which was the greatest, struggling with pride and clambering for position and Peter of course denied Jesus and John and James were asking for fire and brimstone to come down on people and they had some character blemishes. I’ll submit to you that I’m convinced that working to save others is part of our conversion process so don’t ever think you’re supposed to be perfect before you can start sharing your faith. God wants you to work for him where you are share what you have in spite of your weaknesses because it has a redeeming quality to it. In doing so Paul said, “You will save yourself and those that hear you.” So in spite of his failures Abraham is still God’s child. He says, Oh, Sarah “‘my sister.’ And Abimelech the king… sent and he took Sarah.” And “God came to Abimelech…” Now there were several kings by the name of Abimelech. It was a favorite name sort of like the name John for popes or the name Henry for the English.

Abimelech was a very popular name for the kings of the Philistines. All the way down to the time of David they had a king Abimelech and again during the time of Isaac we believe it was another of his sons so you’ll just get used to that name when you’re thinking of Philistine kings because it seemed like almost all of them had that name. Abimelech took Sarah. Now part of it some scholars think, I mean think about it, Sarah is how old? I just told you ninety and you read on in this chapter you find out she’s ninety and pregnant. It probably was not only because she was still a very striking woman in spite of the advances of aging. You remember what I told you about them aging more slowly back then. Sarah at ninety probably looked like our age of women when they’re fifty, sixty and so you know you can still see some women who have retained this beauty even up in those years. So she was still a good looking woman but there was more to it than that. I believe that it may have been a political alliance. Abraham, you know they used to marry for politics back then and Abraham is a very wealthy, powerful sheik and when he enters the land of the Philistines for his flocks Abimelech thinks, “We’ll create some solidarity and that’ll protect us against Egypt and other nations.”

So there was probably some political reasons there. You would want to forge an alliance to someone who could be a threat through marriage. And so he takes Sarah into his harem but they have not consummated the relationship, thank God. And it says, “But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, ‘Indeed you are a dead man…’” Well, would that make you nervous if the Lord spoke to you that way? “Brother, you’re dead!” That’s the modern translation. “…because of the woman that you’ve taken, for she is a man’s wife.” Now is that only true if you take Abraham’s wife or does God still say to us today, “You’re a dead man.” If you start fooling with someone else’s spouse how does the Lord view that? You know if you stole, that’s one of the Ten Commandments, right? There was a provision in the law for you to make restitution a variety of ways. But if you committed adultery what was the penalty? There are varying degrees of sin and this was very offensive to the Lord, and I don’t know that God has modified his Law. So think about that and you know you can also commit that sin not only in deed but in thought. If you look and you lust Jesus said you could be stealing someone else’s spouse in your heart. “‘…she is a man’s wife.’ But Abimelech had not come near her (yet); and he said, ‘Lord, will You slay a righteous nation?’” Now think about this. Here you’ve got Abimelech almost echoing the words of Abraham when he was thinking about Lot. He said, “Lord, will you destroy the righteous with the wicked?”

Now Abimelech is saying, “Lord, will You slay a righteous nation?” The Philistines were a whole nation then. “Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she, even herself said, ‘He is my brother.’” So was Sarah in on the conspiracy? “In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this.” And God said, “Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I have also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.” You think you didn’t touch her because you were too busy. I’m telling you it was my providence that kept you from touching her. You know what that tells me? Sometimes the Lord saves us in our ignorance from things being worse than they could be. God was also protecting Abraham in his cowardice from things getting much worse. Think about what could have happened. First of all, you think about this; how do you think Sarah felt? Who looked like Abraham’s wife when he came with his flocks and his servants into that vicinity? He’s got Hagar there probably hanging on his arm with Ishmael dancing around like a prince and Sarah, how do you think she felt when Abraham said, “Oh her? Oh, she’s my sister.” Don’t you think that was humiliating for her as a wife? And when he got her to agree to that deception and even though it was a part truth it was a deception. That must have been humiliating. And now this woman who… Abraham now has heard from the Lord, remember? When he was up in the mountains before Sodom was destroyed God said, “It is through Sarah you’re going to have this promised child. Through Sarah all the nations of the world will be blessed.” And he allows this woman who is the vehicle of the Messiah to go into the tents of a pagan. That was really dumb.

That could have gotten really bad. Do we all agree? And God kept it from getting worse. Oh, thank the Lord for the times that he keeps our mistakes from getting much worse than they could be. And he says to Abimelech, “I know that you did this in your innocence.” It was still wrong. Sometimes you know we sin in ignorance. The Bible says in Acts chapter 17, verse 30 that “the times of this ignorance God winked at.” Let me just share with you a little bit about the principles of sinning ignorantly. I already read you Acts 17:30. God is going to reward people not only on what they did but what they knew. Have you thought about that? Luke chapter 12, verse 47 and 48, you might jot some of these down. This is a very important biblical principle about the way God operates. God looks upon our hearts, doesn’t he? You know Jesus began his ministry by explaining… I know, I was getting ready to read something but a thought came to me. He said there were many lepers in the land in the days of Naaman but none of them was cleansed in the days of Elisha, but none of them was cleansed but Naaman. There were many widows in the land in the days of Elijah, but Elijah wasn’t sent to any of the Jewish widows. He was sent to a gentile. And he said, “Many will come from the east and the west and sit down in the kingdom with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the direct descendants will be cast out.” In other words, it’s not just what you know, it’s not just what your family tree is, God works on the heart.

He looks on what you know and what you do with what you know, how much light is shined on your path. Let me illustrate this. I told you Luke 12:47, “And the servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself to do according to his will, he’ll be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few.” Will there be people in heaven who had too many wives? Can you name any of them? I’m not hearing any modern names. You know why? Because we know better now, don’t we? They were living in an age where, you know, so many men were annihilated in these wars and there were sometimes seven women for one man and the Lord winked at their ignorance then he sometimes allowed polygamy. It wasn’t his will. It was because of the hardness of their hearts. And he made laws to protect the multiple wives, but it doesn’t mean he wanted it. He winked. Now if I take extra wives, I’m dead. And I don’t know what the Lord will do to me later. God judged us according to the light that we have. “But he who did not know his master’s will, yet committed things deserving of stripes, he’ll be beaten with few.” John 13:17, Jesus said, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” If you know them, you’re blessed if you do them. John 15:22, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin.” “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” I remember doing an evangelistic meeting, I’ll never forget this fellow came up and he was really disturbed. He was hearing the truth night after night but he didn’t look like he was enjoying it, and he said, “I wish I never came to these meetings.”

I said, “Why is that?” He said, “I know too much now. I’ll never be happy again.” He says, “I know and I don’t want to do it. I know what Jesus wants. I know what the truth is. I know what the commands are but I don’t want to follow. I wish I never knew because now I can’t be happy because I know.” He understood that principle. So what’s the object? To try to keep ourselves in ignorance? No, Hebrews 10:26, “If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains any sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation that will devour the adversaries.” Some of you are saying, “Ignorance is bliss. I’m just not going to learn any more. I won’t read my Bible any more and if I don’t know I won’t be judged.” No, God knows, you can’t fool him like that. Not only are we judged according to what we know. What do you do with the opportunity to know? If you are willingly in ignorance, if your car engine blows because you won’t open the owner’s manual, you can’t blame the manufacturer. You had it in the glove box, right? Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Now if we stopped there that wouldn’t sound fair. God’s going to destroy someone because they don’t know something? You read on. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I’ll also reject you.” It’s not just following what we know. It’s taking advantage of the opportunities to know. Think about the blessing that you and I have in our age.

That doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to absorb all the knowledge on the Internet. Some of you are trying to do that. But there is so much that we can know about God and his word because we have Bibles and biblical information at our fingertips for us to reject that we’re accountable for making use of the time and the resources that God gives us to know him. Amen? And if we reject the knowledge of Christ, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” not just knowing about the Bible and details but knowing him. What will Christ say to the lost? “I don’t know you.” And so many of us have rejected the knowledge to know him and we can plead ignorance if we don’t know but if we have an opportunity to know that’s different. So God says to Abimelech, “Look that’s why I’ve spared you because you didn’t know.” He says, “Now,” verse seven, “restore this man’s wife; for he is a prophet.” You notice that God doesn’t say, “He was a prophet until he blew it like this.” Something else we learn from this story is that God still uses imperfect prophets. Can you think of any prophets in the Bible that maybe erred? That doesn’t mean they erred when they were speaking for God. Do you know the difference? Did Jonah? Was Jonah a prophet? Did he misbehave? Did he exhibit some faithlessness and fear? And this is what’s happening here. Samuel was a prophet of the Lord and yet sometimes you remember one time the sons of Jesse stood before him and he said, “Oh, this must be the king! He looks good to me.”

God said, “No, Samuel, you’re looking at it humanly. He’s not the one.” And so you’ve got to remember that prophets sometimes made mistakes when the human side came out but he was still a prophet of God. You can take that a little further and you know where to take it, right? “So Abimelech rose early in the morning,” he has this dream at night and he’s probably sweating and trembling. He gathers all his servants and he tells these things about this vision to his servants; “and the men were greatly afraid” because he said not only are you dead, all of yours are dead. “And Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, ‘What have you done to us? How have I offended you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom this great sin? You have done things to me that ought not to be done.’” What have I done to provoke this kind of deception? And Abraham really doesn’t have a good answer. He starts to make excuses. “Abraham said, ‘Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place.’” The only argument that Abraham can give is because they don’t worship his God he thinks they have no moral scruples at all. Sort of an insult. Does the Lord also speak his law to the barbarian? I’m wording it the way I am because that’s how it’s worded in Romans.

Even the people in pagan countries who have never laid their eyes on a Bible or heard a gospel sermon they can have certain ethics and morals. You know I’ll never forget when I went to India. In spite of the fact it was the most paganistic country I’d ever seen with the idols and the bizarre worship, they have much less divorce than we have. Their marriages, ninety percent intact. Maybe we could learn something. They have some understanding of those issues. And so it’s I think it’s not fair for us to assume that just because they may not know Jehovah that they have no scruples at all and Abraham was making that assumption. He was also afraid. He says, “I thought that the fear of God was not in this place and they would kill me on account of my wife. But indeed she truly is my sister.” You know it was a half-truth. “She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. And it came to pass, that when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is your kindness that you should do for me: in every place, wherever we go, say, “He’s my brother.”’” Have you ever been ashamed of the gospel? I remember, and I may have told you this before, but you know I am predominately an evangelist.

I believe I also have gifts of pastoring but they are different gifts. And I’ve been conference evangelist and I usually do one evangelistic meeting every year somewhere and evangelists, it’s one thing in our culture to say you’re a Christian, it’s almost a dirty word. If you use a variety of other slurs you’re called intolerant but if you say a Christian it’s like admitting to people I’m a religious Taliban. That’s how people view you. But if you say you’re an evangelist, that is the bottom of the Christian barrel. And especially a few years ago with all that hit the headlines if you say you’re a television evangelist well you may as well be wearing a green plaid suit and sell used cars. It’s just you’re considered low. And so I’ve traveled before with Karen and I’ve said, “You know, dear” as we went on our honeymoon and I said, “People are going to say when you meet them, ‘What do you do?’” And I said, “Let’s just say I teach because really that’s what I do.” Friends, I admit it. This was cowardice. I hope I’m doing better. And so we’d meet people on the ship. “Hi, what do you do?

What’s your name?” “I’m a teacher.” “Oh really? What do you teach?” “Well, I travel around and I teach.” “Well, what do you teach?” “I teach the Bible.” “Oh, you’re an evangelist.” And it didn’t help me very much. But you know the Bible tells us that we should not be ashamed of the gospel. Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” For the pagans and even God’s people. Peter said 1st Peter 4:16 “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed.” Jesus said, “If you’re persecuted for righteousness sake for saying that you’re mine, rejoice and be exceedingly glad.” How many of you wives would appreciate it if your husbands denied your relationship? Would you take that as an insult, by show of hands? What about… if you’re a Christian you’re married to Christ. The church is the bride of Christ. Am I right? And when we deny our relationship with him, when we deny that intimate relationship with him that’s a cowardice that really hurts the Lord.

In our scripture reading Jesus said, “Whoever is ashamed of Me in this evil and adulterous generation I will be ashamed of him before my Father and his angels in heaven, but whoever confesses me in this evil and adulterous generation I will confess him before My Father and the angels.” You know when I read that verse and then I went to the book of Job where you hear God in the presence of the angels say to the devil, “Have you considered my servant Job?” Jesus literally means that if we stand up for him under persecution and mockery in this wicked generation, even here in what is supposed to be a Christian country you say you’re a Christian it’s not very popular. Jesus says, “I will confess your name in heaven.” That’s something to consider. And you think about it even the apostle Paul one time this devil, a devil said, “I know Jesus and I know Paul, but I don’t know you.” There are conversations in heaven where they brag about their champions, and I’d like to live in such a way where I glorify God so that the Lord is not ashamed to confess my name. Wouldn’t you?

Here Abraham was denying that love relationship, that intimate relationship, acting like “Oh her? Yeah, ah, she’s my sister.” That must have hurt, and to have it compounded by having Hagar look like the real wife and Sarah not look like the real wife, don’t you think that really made it keen? How humiliating for Sarah to be taken into another pagan king’s harem, be surrounded with all these other wives while Hagar is prancing around the camp thinking, “Ah, glad she’s finally gone!” I’m sure that was happening. It must have been very intimidating to have Sarah still the primary wife. You need to keep that in your mind. Now here God had said to Abimelech, “If you touch her you are but a dead man,” verse 3. Verse 7, “But if you do not restore her, know that you will die, and all who are yours will die.” If you don’t let her go not only am I going to slay you I’m going to slay yours because she is mine. It makes me think of that verse in Zechariah 2:8, “Thus says the Lord of hosts… ‘He who touches you touches the apple of His eye.’” God’s church, his bride, is the apple of His eye.

What did the Lord do to the Egyptians because they took God’s bride Israel? Did he plague them? Did he plague their firstborn? Was their death among the people? And what about the Philistines? You know I think it’s interesting that these two groups of people, the Philistines occupied the land of Israel and enslaved them up until the time of David. You remember that? They even captured the Ark. And again you’ve got the Egyptians that occupied them and these two scenarios acted out first with Abraham that were later acted out with his posterity. You remember I told you whatever Abraham goes through seems to repeat itself in history. Are you with me? The church is the apple of the eye. When the dragon is wroth with the woman and the seed of the woman it’s because it is the greatest treasure on earth. There is a statement in that classic book called Acts of the Apostles that says something to the effect, “Feeble and defective though she might be the church is the object upon earth upon which God bestows his supreme regard.” And you know I think one reason that in spite of the worldliness in North America and the materialism I think one reason that God is still preserving to a great extent our country and blessing it in spite of the troubles and the wars we are still the most blessed country in the world. Trust me.

It’s because do you know North America is the primary source of mission resources for the whole planet? More money and missionaries come from this country and resources to the rest of the world than any other country and because the church is the apple of his eye he’s still protecting in spite of a lot of the moral failures. I’m wondering what will happen if they do legalize same-sex marriages. I don’t mind going on record saying that. I’m trembling. You’ve heard me mention it several times because I think that’s going to draw a line in the sand prophetically and I’m trembling to think of what might happen at that point. All you’ve got to do is read biblical history. So he protects them. Now let’s read on in our story and we’ll go back to Genesis chapter 20 and verse 14, Abimelech then takes “sheep, and oxen, male and female servants, and he gives them to Abraham; and he restores Sarah his wife to him.” You would have thought it would be the other way around. You would have thought that Abraham had to pay for his bad behavior, but both times, the king of Egypt when he says, “Take your wife” he gives a bunch of money to Abraham. You know God is so good that even when the church messes up he still blesses. And it was also sort of an insult and Abimelech said to Abraham, “See, my land is before you;” I’m in verse 15 “dwell where it pleases you.” Then to Sarah Abimelech says, “‘Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; indeed this vindicates you before all those who are with you and before others.’

She was reproved.” Now the way that translates more specifically is he is saying use this money to buy a veil for yourself. It says he is to be a covering of the eyes. How many of you in your translations have it more like that? I think that’s the King James translation. That means buy yourself a veil. If you’re afraid that you’re so beautiful that others are going to kidnap you and kill your husband then veil your face, but don’t allow someone to almost commit adultery and interfere with marriage. And here they were rebuked. You know Jesus reminds us that sometimes the children of the world are wiser than the children of light and sometimes we have been rebuked. While I’m on that subject God has committed great truth to his church. He’s given oracles of truth. He’s given great light and great knowledge to his church. One thing in particular that stands out in my mind is in many respects God’s people are not embracing the truth and living it as well as some of the pagans. Take the health message if you will for instance.

I meet people all the time that are more careful in following the light and the knowledge that we’ve got about caring for our bodies better than the children of light. Some of these folks in the New Age are you know they’re covered with crystals and all this nonsense, but they’re living healthy lives. They’re getting fresh air and sunshine and eating a good diet and all this stuff and the children of light are living on Twinkies and banana splits. The children of the world are wiser. Get a veil! “So Abraham prayed God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his maidservants. And they bore children.” Now what was the problem? It tells us that a specific plague had come on his household. Evidently Sarah had been with him long enough to know that his family, his people all of a sudden they were either not having children or having miscarriages or something because he had to pray for a specific healing for this whole nation which seems to say that somehow Abraham and the Jewish people, the prosperity of others hinged upon their prosperity. You remember reading the story of Joseph?

The prosperity of Potiphar hinged on the prosperity of Joseph. In the prison they prospered because of Joseph. You remember what God said to Abraham? “He that blesses you I will bless, and he that curses you I will curse.” And so Abraham here is praying for, he’s interceding for Abimelech even though Abraham had been the source of the original problem. Now let’s move on to chapter 21, and here is where we reach sort of one of the mountains in the Bible. “And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time which God had spoken to him.” Now God had made a promise ever since the beginning. When God first called Abraham out it was thirty years earlier when he left Ur of the Chaldeans and he said, “I’m going to make of you a great nation.” Changed his name to “father of a multitude” and still he had no son. Tries to help God along by having a son through Hagar. God says, “No, you’re going to have a son through Sarah,” and more years go by and she’s getting older and it’s looking more and more hopeless and finally this miracle occurs and then the Bible takes great pains at reminding us God does what he says. “As the Lord had spoken.” If God says something is going to happen it’s going to happen.

It doesn’t matter how long it may delay God’s promise arrives. Amen? God will do what he says he’s going to do. Did Jesus say he’s coming back? It’s been a while. Does that mean that the word of the Lord is not going to be fulfilled? God is going to do what he says he’s going to do. His words never fall to the ground. It never fails. Every word of God is true. Heaven and earth will pass away before the promises and prophesies of God fail. And God has said very distinctly, “I will come again.” Jesus came first time just like he promised. God promised to give a child to Abraham through Sarah. He did what he promised even though it looked like it was hopeless. And while I’m there before I move on… Oh, I’ll move on one more verse. “And Abraham,” verse 3, “called the name of his son who was born to him—whom Sarah bore to him—” notice it emphasizes not Hagar, Sarah, “Isaac.” And what does Isaac mean? Laughter. You look up that word in the Hebrew and it’s the word that’s generically used for laughter, for giggling, for lightheartedness and mockery. The word, this term is not mockery, and you read on and you can understand that better. It says, “Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. And Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born.”

He was seventy when he left. Thirty years later Isaac is born. How old was Jesus when he began to minister? Thirty years of age. Thirty years after the promise Christ began his ministry. “And Sarah said,” verse 6, “God has made me to laugh, so that all who hear will laugh with me.” They’re not mocking her. They’re laughing with her. It’s a rejoicing. Isaac was a rejoicing. When Jesus was born what did the angels say? Mocking to all men or rejoice in peace and good will? It was positive news and Sarah is feeling that way too. There may have been some giggling involved too but it wasn’t mockery when people considered this ninety year old woman had a son. Now I want to park here for a second and I want you to think about something. Turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Galatians chapter 4 and I’m going to do something I always dread to do. I’m going to read about ten verses maybe with a little comment along the way. Abraham had two primary sons. You know he later has other children with another wife named Keturah, but two primary sons. What were their names? Ishmael, the oldest and Isaac. The real firstborn was born second. Did you hear me? The real firstborn was born second. That not only happened here it happened with the next generation. Who was born first Esau or Jacob?

Esau was born first but who got the blessing? Jacob. And among the sons of Jacob who was the firstborn? Reuben. Who got the blessing? It went through Judah, but in another sense Joseph the last, the youngest got the blessing. Of the sons of Jesse was it the oldest or the youngest. The youngest. God often uses, he does this to illustrate, he often uses the weakest. Of the sons of David who ended up reigning? The oldest or the youngest? Solomon was the youngest. God does this to say he takes the weak and the childlike to do great things, the humble. And I think that’s one reason, but of the two sons of Abraham Ishmael these two nations and Isaac were born the Arabs and the Jews is really what you have and two great world religions have sprung from Abraham that are, in most cases, avid enemies. They represent two economies, two forms of salvation. I don’t want to be unkind, but I must say to you that the Islamic religion is a religion of righteousness by works. It is exhibit A of righteousness by works. There is far more grace in the Catholic religion than in the religion of Islam, and if you know anything about it you should have said Amen, but maybe you’re afraid for your life. It’s the truth. Isaac represents grace. Ishmael represents works.

Now let me read to you Galatians. “Tell me,” Paul is speaking. I am in Galatians 4:21 “…you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons…” Paul is saying the same thing I say even though he later had other children by concubines. “…one by a bondwoman…” What’s her name? Hagar. “…the other by a freewoman.” Who would that be? Sarah. “But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh…” Was there anything supernatural or spiritual about the birth of Ishmael or was it just, you know, the regular processes of biology? You know it is very unfortunate the reckless approach that people take to having children. It’s a very sacred thing. That’s why marriage and the act of love involved in marriage and intimacy and reproduction in our own image is a very sacred thing that is and it is debased by our culture. I heard someone say one time, “You need a license to drive a car and fly a plane. You need a license for a dog, but any nincompoop can have a human.” Have you ever thought about that? It’s… you know, some people think, “Yeah, I think I want to have a kid so I can feel like a father. I wonder what it’s like.” And they have no idea the responsibility and the sacred trust of shaping a human soul. That’s heavy.

But you know what if people go through the act according to the flesh if the plumbing is working they can have a baby. Ishmael it was just the regular process and it was not God’s plan. It was the act of the flesh. According to the flesh the bondwoman had a baby, “and he of the freewoman…” Who would that be? Sarah. “…according to the promise.” It was a miracle. It was spiritual. Some of us think every time you have a child that it’s something spiritual. It is a miraculous trust. I have friends that were trying to decide whether or not to have children and sort of kidding them I say, “Well, why don’t you just don’t do anything to prevent it and pray. See what happens.” But is that spiritual? Or is that tempting the Lord. I’m treading out on thin ice now, I can see. It’s… Where was I? Sarah was the mother of the spiritual child Isaac and then Paul goes on to say these two sons represent “two covenants: one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage…” As we read on we’ll find out that Ishmael wanders down in Saudi Arabia and became the father of the Arabs and that’s where Mount Sinai was and it represents the law. He goes on to say, “…for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, in bondage with her children—but Jerusalem which is above which is free, which is the mother of us all.” In other words, Paul is saying any of the Jewish people in Jerusalem who think they’re saved by keeping the law they’re in bondage just like Ishmael.

It’s religion of the flesh not of the spirit. “For it is written: ‘Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! (speaking about Sarah now) Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband.’ Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of the promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’ So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but children of the free.” Paul goes to great lengths here in Galatians, what he does, in case you don’t know, Paul is also setting down a precedent for Bible study that I use all the time. You take Bible stories to understand New Testament theology. Did you get that? You who come regular, you know I do that all the time. Paul does it frequently. Go back to our story. Paul actually got ahead of our story a little bit. And so it says, Abraham, verse 8, he circumcises his son. “The child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.” We don’t know exactly how old he was. Samuel was weaned somewhere around four or five.

They nursed them a lot longer back then than they do today. “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing” mocking. Now put yourself in Hagar’s shoes. You have to feel sorry for her. She goes from the status of being a slave. She doesn’t get asked. She’s ushered into Abraham’s tent and said, “You’re going to be a surrogate mother.” She has a baby. She’s glad for the promotion. Now she’s sort of a concubine which is not like a slave but it’s not quite a wife, but she does have the heir. She is the mother of the boy who is going to inherit everything Abraham has! He’s going to get the status of the firstborn and now all of a sudden, who would have ever put odds, if you were betting, that Sarah was going to have a baby? And finally at the last minute Isaac makes it through the gate, so to speak, and he’s born and now there’s a new, and now they’re having a feast to celebrate this new firstborn son. You’re Hagar and Ishmael and you see everybody is gushing and cooing over this toddler who is now the son who is going to get the inheritance and all the blessing. How would you feel? Unless you were really filled with the spirit of Jonathan you would be a little bit threatened by that. Am I right? So Hagar is, she’s hmm, hmm, hmm, she’s upset. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” right? She was excited when Sarah was in Abimelech’s tent. She thought, “Free at last! Free at last!” Right? Now she’s back and has a baby.

So you can understand why Hagar is upset. And Ishmael he’s thirteen, fourteen years old. He starts to mock the stumbling little kid. And Sarah is reading the handwriting on the wall and she said, “This is only going to get worse.” Now if Abraham didn’t already have division in his family it was getting ready to really get bad. I believe that when it says that Ishmael was mocking that something really unacceptable was happening. In other words I think that Hagar and her son were doing some things that were very offensive. They may have been threatening harm to the child. You can understand this is a very tense, the whole estate is at stake here, a very tense situation. You’re going to wonder about that because Abraham now takes some drastic action. Follow me. “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing. Therefore she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son,…’” (Is that plain enough?) “…namely with Isaac.” She doesn’t even call her Hagar.

They used to be friends. Now she says, “This bondwoman.” “And the matter was very displeasing to Abraham in his sight because of his son.” Can you understand that? He loved them both, and he knew it was going to be impossible to have harmony in the family. God speaks to Abraham probably through an angel in a dream and he settles the matter. “Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of the bondwoman.” What does God call Hagar? She was never supposed to be his wife. God never told him to do this. God never told him to move down to the Philistines either, did he? He says, “Do not let it displease you. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice.” Now, men, I want you to underline that. I can see women grabbing their husbands’ bible and helping them. Whatever your wife said, listen to her.

God speaks through our wives sometimes. Amen? All the time? No, not all the time. Where was I? You all know that verse, huh? “Listen to her; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. Yet…” to reassure Abraham I love Ishmael also. “Yet I will also make a great nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed.” “So Abraham rose early in the morning” probably couldn’t sleep, and he “took bread and a skin of water” and he put it “on her shoulder.” It doesn’t even sound like he gave her a donkey. “And he gave it” to her “and the boy” and he “sent her away.” Now there is no other way to look at this. When he said, “Put away.” You know what the Hebrew phrase is for divorce? Put away. God is telling Abraham to divorce Hagar. Of course it could be argued probably very well whether they were ever married or not, right?

He says, “Put her away.” And he basically puts a skin of water on her. We believe he gave her a gift of money. Let me go back and see if I can illustrate that. In Genesis 25:6, you might make a note of this. “Abraham gave gifts to the sons of his concubines” which he had; but he left the estate to Isaac. So he did give her money. He was very wealthy. It doesn’t say he gave her any servants. It doesn’t say he gave her a caravan or anything. It may have been partially punishment because of what may have been some very bad behavior and he sent her away. God also may have instructed him that it was to be an illustration that this was never his plan for a man to have more than one wife and to bring that into the family. By the time of Jesus it was beginning to be understood that it was unacceptable.

If you look under the criteria for elder and deacon it says “husband of one wife.” That doesn’t mean that you couldn’t have had a wife that died and been remarried. It means polygamy was rampant during that time. Where am I here? And the Bible says he rose early in the morning, he gave her the water, put it on her shoulder, and sent her out into the wilderness. Now I believe Abraham probably told her to go back to her people in Egypt, but she didn’t. Instead you notice what it says? “She wandered” and because she wandered, he had given her provisions and when it says bread he didn’t hand her a loaf of bread. That word bread there is also translated provisions, food. I mean if we say we’re going to break bread together it’s probably a lot more than just bread, right? So he gave her provisions and water and said, you know, go back to Egypt.

Go to your family or wherever her relatives might be. And she didn’t. Instead she wandered. Probably, can you imagine what was going through her mind? She was probably having conversations with herself. Here she is this great status and all of a sudden she’s out. And it says the skin of water “was used up.” She wanders in the Wilderness of Beersheba. And they’re starting to die of thirst. She became lost, disoriented. She places the boy, he’s still a teenager, “under one of the shrubs.” It provides some shade in the bush. “Then she went and sat down across from him.” She didn’t want to see him die. “…at a distance of about a bowshot; for she said to herself, ‘Let me not see the death of the boy.’ So she sat opposite.” Talk about being low, but did God, had he forgotten Hagar?

She was to go from being the wife of Abraham to being out in the desert, dying of thirst with this boy who was going to be the crown prince and she “wept.” You can imagine hearing her wails and sobs. “And God heard the voice of the lad” who was probably moaning and crying and weeping. “Then the angel of God he called to Hagar out of heaven, and he said to her, ‘What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make of him a great nation.’” I have not forsaken you. “And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water.

Then she went and she filled the skin of water, and gave it to the lad to drink. So God was with the lad; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and he became an archer.” So history goes on to tell us that she linked up probably with some of the people who were living in that land. Later some of them were known as Midianites. Moses married one of them Zipporah. And they became the modern nation of the Arabs, and they became a wandering people. You notice it says she wandered in the wilderness. They became a people who largely did wander through that region and a nomadic people. And it says “he became an archer.”

Something like that brother of Jacob. He was a hunter. Jacob was a shepherd. Isaac became a shepherd and a farmer. His brother became an archer, a hunter. And “he dwelt in the Wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of” where? “Egypt.” I’m glad you’re reading with me. That would mean Ishmael was part Egyptian and part Hebrew. Abraham was his father. He then marries a wife who is Egyptian. What are his offspring? What percentage Egyptian? Wouldn’t that make them three quarters Egyptian? And so the modern Arab nations in Ishmael their seed were are approximately three quarters Egyptian and one quarter Jew. Now in tying this off, now I’m out of time and I had some more to say to you in this story, I want you to notice one thing that is happening here. There is a battle that’s going on between two women and their children.

You see Sarah saying, “Cast out Hagar and her son.” How many of you remember the story of the two women Hannah and Peninnah? It tells us at first Peninnah, this wife of Elkanah, father of Samuel, had many children. Hannah had no children. She prayed and as a miracle she had children, but there was contention in the family. You remember the story of Solomon? Two women came before him fighting over whose son was the real son. You can read about this famine in Israel where two women are fighting over their children. Rachel and Leah, sisters! You ever read about all that they went through in having children and naming and vying for the status and the position and the attention of their husband? It’s regarding the true children, the blessed children, and the others. Then you get to Revelation. How many women? Two women. They both have children.

One is the mother of harlots, and the other has the promised seed. All these stories that you see, and I’ve only named a few of them, in the Old Testament of these it’s principally usually two women that are vying for their husband over children. One is true and the other is false. They’re telling us a story that there is a battle in the world between the true religion and the false, the true church and the false church, Babylon and her daughters. There’s many different varieties of the false. One has Christ, the Promised Child. The one does not. When Sarah and Abraham finally had Isaac, this child that brought such rejoicing, keep in mind that it was not only a miracle. Was it because of faith? Oh, wait a second here. I haven’t read that verse to you yet. The Bible tells us in Hebrews chapter 11, verse 11, Hebrews 11:11, “Through faith also Sarah herself” we call Abraham the father of the faithful but it wasn’t only his faith. “Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed.” Can you imagine finding out you’re pregnant when you’re ninety?

That could be cause for rejoicing and terror. I mean, child birth can kill a healthy woman, right? What about when you’re ninety? “Through faith Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed.” Was Isaac a child of faith? But were there some works involved? Was Sarah, was it a virgin birth? You think Abraham knew Sarah for them to have faith? Here’s why I’m illustrating this. It wasn’t just faith. It was works. But what was the work? It was an act of love. We’re not just saved by faith; we’re saved by faith and an act of love. Our works must be acts of love. Isn’t that what it was? An act of love combined with their faith brought the promised child. Any works that you and I do must be because of that kind of love for Jesus and that’s what gives us the new birth. Amen? Now there’s a few other things that happen towards the end of the chapter.

He makes a covenant regarding a well and he pays for it with Abimelech, but the essence of this story is really telling us that God had to, he had to separate the division in the family. You know, oh! I’ll have to tie that into my next study. More points that I have to share, but we’ll have another chance. The main thing I wanted to leave you with as we close this section is there are two covenants that were represented in the story. Did you hear it? One faith, one law, one bondage, one freedom. There’s Hagar, there’s Sarah. There’s Sinai, there’s Mt. Zion. And all of us fall under the two. There’s the true light, there’s the false. There’s the true church, there’s the false. And Abraham was not to share his love with the false so Hagar had to be put away. He was not to share his inheritance with the false. She had to be put away. Jesus doesn’t want to share our hearts with anyone else. He wants us to be entirely his. Is that your prayer? That leads into our hymn “Wholly Thine.” I would be, dear Savior, wholly thine. If that’s your prayer let’s stand as we sing it together. Number 308.

I would be, dear Savior, wholly Thine; Teach me how, teach me how; I would do Thy will, O Lord, not mine; Help me, help me now. Wholly Thine, wholly Thine, Wholly Thine, this is my vow; Wholly Thine, wholly Thine, Wholly Thine, O Lord, just now.

You know one of the beautiful lessons in our message in this hymn is that the real happiness and peace comes when we are wholly his. I think it brought a lot of peace into that family when they understood right relationships, when Abraham stopped denying his relationship with Sarah and he did deny the wrong relationship. That’s when peace came into the family. Would you like peace in your family, in your heart? It usually comes from right relationships, right relationships with God and with each other, and getting rid of the wrong relationships. That’s what brings in the peace. There may be some of you here who would like to see healing brought into your families and your relationship with the Lord. And whatever your special need might be, if you would like to come and bring that to the Lord or maybe just rededicate yourself as wholly his please come as we sing the third verse together. And I want to hear the men singing the “O Lord” part. We don’t do that anymore, okay? Come as we sing verse three.

As I cast earth’s transient joys behind, Come Thou near, come Thou near; In Thy presence all in all I find, ‘Tis my comfort here. Wholly Thine, wholly Thine, Wholly Thine, this is my vow; Wholly Thine, wholly Thine, Wholly Thine, O Lord, just now.

If you would be wholly his you must be holy his with an H right?

Father in heaven, Lord, we thank you for the lessons that we’ve found in your sacred word this morning. And, Lord, we know that ultimately salvation hinges on right relationships, having the right relationship with Jesus. We want him to say when he comes that he knows us. And, Lord, I pray that we’ll take advantage of knowing him now. We cannot plead ignorance when Jesus comes because we have opportunity to have that love relationship. And then, Lord, because of our love relationship we pray we can experience that new birth and be born with that freedom inside. Please bless us so that these stories that we read can be acted out in our theology. And be with us so that we can reflect Jesus as we go. In his name we pray. Amen.

You may be seated. I’d like to remind you we want to challenge you to spend this week in a special way in prayer and Bible study. Turn off broadcasts…

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Patriarchs and Prophets Audio CD Set by Ellen White

Patriarchs and Prophets Audio CD Set by Ellen White
God's Promises




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