||Godprint: The Life of Abraham
Genesis chapter 20 and 21. He said, hopefully. In 1927, the medium of television was invented. That's not that long ago. Since then, hundreds of thousands of programs have aired and the more popular ones have aired over and over and over again. They're called reruns. Here's a listing of what are considered the top television shows of the century. Number one, this is by virtue of what people wanted and watched in reruns, MASH. Number two, I Love Lucy. You're going, now we're talking. Lucy, I'm home! Number three, All in the Family. Number four, Sesame Street. Some of you are giving the look like, I haven't heard of those choices. The worst television shows, according to the TV Guide. Number one, The Jerry Springer Show. I agree. Number two, interestingly enough and I'm rather disappointed, My Mother the Car. How many of you remember My Mother the Car? Kindred souls we are. Number three worst TV shows, XFL Football. It was one season only--2001. It never made it off the ground. It's the wanna-be's who didn't make it in the NFL and it didn't last. And then number four, The Brady Bunch. I can't help you there. Chapter 20 is one of those chapters I wish was not in the Bible. It is like a rerun of The Jerry Springer Show. It is an episode unfortunately that is repeated in Abraham's life even though it has been almost 25 years since he made this mistake going down to Egypt. He went down to Egypt almost 25 years before this because there was a famine in the land of promise and there, because his wife was so beautiful, she was 65-years-old at the time, and he didn't trust the pharaoh, he said, 'Would you please just tell people that you're my sister.' Well now she's 90-years-old and Abraham's 100. He's a century old and he makes the same mistake, not going down to Egypt, but toward Egypt in chapter 20 to the land of Gerar.
Now something you need to keep in the forefront of your mind; otherwise this will be a very tough chapter. Abraham is a believer. Chapter 15 tells us, 'Abraham believed God and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.' He believed in God and he believed God's promises. He was a believer. God even gave him a new name. It was Abraham; now it's Abraham. But though he has a new name, he still has an old nature. And he goes back to that old nature. Now we know what that struggle is like. Though we have been given new life, we have an old nature. And the Bible tells us that the flesh wars against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, right? These two are contrary to one another and there's a struggle in the life of every believer to want to relapse back into the patterns of the flesh. They never go away. We will always struggle with them to some degree until we finally reach glory. We see that illustrated here in the life of Abraham as he goes back to a familiar pattern of old living--back to the flesh.
We know what the struggle is like. In your spirit, as you have been born again, you want to serve the Lord--you do. But the flesh part of you wants to serve you and make it all about you. And there's a struggle and it's a constant struggle. Your spirit longs to fellowship with the Lord and so, when the alarm goes off in the morning, your spirit says, great, I'm going to spend some time in prayer, while the flesh quickly says, prayer? Are you nuts? Just one more hour of sleep. Sunday morning alarm goes off. Spirit says, time to go to church with God's people, and the flesh, especially when you're waking up might say, church? Why is it Easter? Is there some crisis that has happened in your life that you need to be driven toward church? So we find this struggle back and forth and we find it, interestingly enough, after all of this time, after all of these years, of Abraham walking with God, we find him going back to his old, old ways.
Verse one: "And Abraham journeyed." He's on the move again, remember he's the man in the tent and he's the man of the tent. Lot settled and got a house in Sodom. Abraham never settled down. And why is that? Hebrews 11 says it was by faith. He was looking for a city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. And so he's on the move--he's a pilgrim. And he's a worshiper. He a man of the tent and the altar. And we notice that he would travel, pitch his tent, build an altar. But when he went down to Egypt 20 some years before, he didn't build an altar. Now he's on the move once again. He's a man of the tent. But there's no mention of an altar. Now we don't know why he journeyed. There's no mention or reason given. He was in the land of Mamre, a beautiful area by Hebron, gorgeous. It's a great place to hang out. I've spend some time in that area. Now he goes south toward the wilderness and we don't exactly know why but there was obviously some reason that motivated him. We're just not given the reason. "He journeyed from there [from Mamre where he was, that place of fellowship by Hebron] to the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and stayed in Gerar."
Gerar is just over the border, going south, just over the border from the Promised Land. It's not all the way down in Egypt, but Gerar was the place the Philistines settled. Now you're going to read more about the Philistines as the Scripture goes on. The Philistines were originally a seagoing people and a warlike people that migrated from the islands west of the Mediterranean and found their way down toward the coast of Egypt and the southern coastlands of the Promised Land. And they become the formidable enemy during the time of David. The king is Abimelech. Now Abimelech is either his name or it is his title, just like a pharaoh or a prime minister. He is the abimilech or his name is the Abimelech. We don't know. "Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, "She is my sister." And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. So here's Abraham, he's crossed the border; he's out of the Promised Land, out of the land God gave him. He's not in Egypt but he is in dangerous territory. He's in enemy territory. And because he's in enemy territory, he's living in fear. He doesn't want to die and so he goes back to that old lie that we saw back in chapter 12. He told his wife, tell people you are my sister. And he gives that same false information out: she's my sister. The Bible tells us that we are to stay far away from temptation. I like the biblical injunction: "Flee temptation." Run from it. Get away from it. Flee. And when you flee temptation and when you run from the enemy's snares, don't leave a forwarding address. There are some places Christians ought not to go. There are some people they ought not to be around. There are some practices they are not to be engaged in because it's going to draw them in closer and deeper into the temptation and possible sin.
Well he goes down to Gerar. "And Abraham said of Sarah his wife [it used to be Sarai, now it's Sarah], "She is my sister." We're going to find out that that's partially true. It's partially a lie, but it's partially true. "And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, "Indeed you are a dead man,"--I like God's style--"because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man's wife." Now it's been, like I said, 25 years since the whole incident occurred like this when he went down to Egypt. She was 65-years-old. Now she's 90-years-old and so we're a bit puzzled, are we not? That he felt the need to make up a story about her. To say, it's my sister. You're thinking, Abraham, she's 90-years-old. You don't have to worry about anything, dude. They're not going to take your wife. But, and I can't totally explain it, except a couple of shots at the explanation, she must have been extraordinarily beautiful. All of the ancient literature recall Sarah as being perfect in form and as beautiful as Eve, who was given by God a third of all beauty. Now that's legendary. That's in some of the ancient writings. But nonetheless, all of the ancient writings attest to the beauty of Sarah. Second, it was common practice among kings, rulers, those who were rich and powerful, to give a woman, a wife, somebody from their household to another ruler's harem to make a strong alliance. And perhaps to form an alliance, since Abraham was rich and powerful, he had 318 of his own trained, paid servants, and Abimelech was the king of this area, that it was to form an alliance. But it was a lie and it's going to get him into trouble.
There's a little phrase in verse three that just grabbed me when I read it this week. And I love this little phrase: "But God." How thankful I am for all of the "but God's" we find in Scripture. Here's Abraham: dumb mistake, dumb to travel down there. But God. I love that and we find many of them in the Bible. One of them, notably, is in chapter 50. Joseph will say to his brothers who betrayed him and sold him to the group that sold him down into Egypt, remember that? The last chapter of Genesis, Joseph says to his brothers, "As for you, you meant this for evil against me but God meant it for good to save many people alive as it is this day." What you meant for evil, God meant for good. But God--God intervened. My favorite "but God" is Ephesians 2. You probably know that story really well, or that little outline that is given in Ephesians 2. Paul says, "You were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works among the children of disobedience. You were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God who is rich in mercy and the great love with which He loved us, even while we were dead, He has made us alive; by grace you have been saved." See we all have this story of "but God." We were going our own way, doing our own thing, minding our own business, not interested in the things of the Spirit… but God. That's Abraham's story, too. He went down to Gerar, did something dumb, fatal, perhaps for his wife and for the kingdom of the Philistines… but God. So here's King Abimelech. He's sleeping at night. He does not know what's happening. He does not know the relationship between this man and woman. He did not take her that night, which was typical when a new woman was brought into a harem. He just went to sleep that night. While he was sleeping, just on the pillow sawing logs, God spoke to him and said, 'You're a dead man.' I'd call that a nightmare. "Because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man's wife. But Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, 'Lord, will You slay a righteous nation also?"
Now it's interesting that he said 'slay a righteous nation' and we'll learn the full impact of that when we get to verse 18 and we learn that all of the wombs of the Philistine women had been closed by God. So not only was God threatening King Abimelech, but God had closed all of the wombs of the women so they were unable to bear. Well if you can't bear little Philistines and have little Philistines running around your tent who will grow up to be big Philistines, you won't have a nation of Philistines. And so would You slay a righteous nation--interesting that he calls it that. "Did he not say to me, 'She is my sister'? And she, even she herself said, 'He is my brother.' In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this." And God said to him in a dream, "Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her."
Now every time there is a first mention of something in the Bible, I've been telling you the principal of first mention, right? The very first mention of the word integrity is found here, from the lips of a Philistine. A man of integrity. And God says, you're right. I actually agree with you; you are a man of integrity. And that's why I'm keeping you from further sin. Now here's a principal. If you are a person of integrity, honesty, you're not covering up, you're not hiding anything, you are who you say you are, what you are in private, in public, are the same. If you're a person of integrity, God will keep you from further plunging into those kinds of activities, sins, that would destroy families and destroy relationships. But if you are a person who lacks integrity, you're on that dangerous road of going further into areas that will destroy. You're right; you're a man of integrity. That's why I'm not letting you do this. In fact, there's something I find interesting in verse six. It says, "For I also withheld you from sinning against," who? Me. Now wait a minute. Abraham sinned against his wife Sarah by doing this. Abraham sinned against King Abimelech by doing this. King Abimelech took Sarah not knowing what it is, and even if he did know what it was and he was going to do it anyway, wouldn't that be a sin, first of all, against Sarah, or first of all against Abraham? No. Here's the important principal. Adultery is first and foremost a sin against God. And that's what most people forget. Oh, the poor children! True. Oh, the poor wife, she was a victim--or husband. True. But first and foremost, it's a sin against God. And why would that be? Because God was the One who invented the institution of marriage, that's why. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cleave into his wife and the two shall become one flesh." Jesus will say 'Amen' to that by saying, "What God has joined together let not man separate." So to commit adultery, according to God here, is first a sin against Him. That's where we ought to look. That's where the fear of God begins, is with thoughts like this.
Now later on you're going to read about Moses. And Moses was Egyptian, he was at least a Hebrew, but in the Egyptian court. And one day he goes out and he's angry at an Egyptian and it says he looked this way and he looked that way and he killed the Egyptian. What was his problem? He didn't look that way. So we look around to see who's looking or not looking--God's always looking! And in his sleep, God reminds Abimelech of that truth. "And therefore I did not let you touch her. Now therefore, restore the man's wife; for he is a prophet." He's a what? This is shocking to me. "And he will pray for you and you shall live." Ok, back to the rule of first mention. The very first time the word prophet is mentioned in the Bible is in this verse and it's used of a disobedient Abraham. Now I say I'm shocked at this because, if there's one time you would think that God would not want to even be related to Abraham, it would be here. You'd think He would say, for this man is a problem. This man is a problem child of Mine. I've had problems with him for years, ever since I called. Or, I don't know who this joker is. But God owns him as His prophet. Isn't that interesting? He says, he's a prophet and he'll pray for you. And Abimelech's probably thinking, I don't want him to pray for me. I'll tell you why this is good. It's good because whenever we fail, whenever we blow it, and we all do, in our own thinking we ruin our future ability to serve the Lord so often by these thoughts. Oh, I've blown it. Oh, that was a bad mistake. I can never be used by God again. Oh boy, you don't understand our God. You don't understand the great grace of our God, the mighty mercy of our Maker. He's a prophet and he's going to pray for you. In fact, the Lord's going to hear his prayer and going to heal him.
Now I don't want you to misunderstand me because some of you may be thinking, oh, so great, if I've blown it, and I have, I can just keep on blowing it. Nope. Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? God forbid, said Paul. Because even though you can get up there and still teach a Bible study or preach a sermon or play the notes on the piano or guitar, there'll be something you'll be lacking the whole time--life. Real life. You'll shrivel up inside. There'll be pain and sorrow and repercussions in you and around you with relationships and family. You'll just be drying up inside. The Bible says in Proverbs 13, I believe, that the way of the unfaithful is hard. It's hard; it's miserable. So you'll be operating out of an empty well instead of a full well that never runs out. But He calls him a prophet and he said, he'll pray for you and you shall live. "But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours." So Abimelech rose early in the morning, called all his servants, and told all these things in their hearing; and the men were very much afraid." Of course. God just said they're going to be dead men unless they give her back. "And Abimelech called Abraham [oh, this is going to be interesting] and said to him, you jerk. No, he didn't say that. It's perhaps what I would have said. He said, "What have you done to us? How have I offended you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done deeds t me that ought not to be done." Now he's rebuked by him.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, "God will not allow His children to sin successfully." And so, he does it, he goes through with the plan, man, we made it down here, God reveals something in a dream, unwitting to Abraham's knowledge until the next day. What have you done to us, he says. Now there's a Scripture in Proverbs 25 that says, "When a righteous man falters before the wicked, he is like a murky spring or a polluted well." Very picturesque, isn't it? When a man or woman of God, known to be a man or woman of God, known to be a Christian man or woman, when they stumble before the unbeliever world, they're like a murky spring. No refreshment there--a polluted well. Abraham has done exactly that. Well when you stretch the truth, it's apt to snap back, right? And here we find it. "Then Abimelech said to Abraham, "What did you have in view, that you have done this thing?" And Abraham said, "Because I thought." Stop right there. What was the problem? "Because I thought." That's where he goofed up. He started thinking. Now don't jump to conclusions, finish it out and I'll explain. "Abraham said, "Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place." Oh really? They seemed to be more attuned to the fear of God than Abraham. "And they will kill me on account of my wife." Notice he doesn't say, well, I'll tell you what I had in mind here. Um, because I prayed and when I prayed I felt that the Lord was telling me, give your wife to this man. That's not what he says. In fact, if he would've prayed, God would've spoken to him and said, what are you thinking? Of course not. So he doesn't say because I prayed, I felt led, or the Spirit told me. But it's because I thought and that's where we so often get into trouble is we think it through and we strategize and we get our buddies together and we plan and we do everything but pray.
Now there's two categories of people. Which do you find yourself in most? A thinker or a pray-er? Some of you are quite bright. Maybe you have a 144 IQ, you're considered genius, don't know. Maybe you're above average, you're 100-115 or 20. Wow. You're an idiot in comparison to the mind of God. Do you recognize that? If you are living just by your own thinking and your own strategizing and your own planning and not consulting the Creator, that's ignorance. That's stupidity. Well, you know, I thought. Wrong answer, buddy. That's your problem. And yet, I find people in ministries, I find them having conferences around the country, strategizing for church growth and strategizing for the next level and strategizing. Why not just get together and pray and ask God for His wisdom? That's where the power is. It's because I thought. And boy did he think wrong. He assumed. Assumption is the lowest form of communication. You assume, you just, it's probably. Don't do that. He assumed and he assumed wrong. He was clever and it got him into trouble.
Now watch this: "But indeed she is truly my sister." Now watch: "She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife." Ok, so technically it was true, right? It's a half-truth. A half-truth is a? Total lie. It was meant to mislead, right? You can say, well technically it was the truth. Here's the problem. If we start living on these little technicalities and verbal, you know, statements that aren't meant to fully disclose that's bearing false witness. If we start saying, well it depends on what 'is' is… that is a statement purposely meant to deceive. Not to disclose. It's bearing false witness. Now, it's interesting that that term finds its way into the New Testament, bearing false witness. By the way that's one of God's top ten that He thundered from Mount Sinai that day: "You shall not bear false witness," yes? We find it in the New Testament when, at the trial of Jesus, they couldn't find anything against Him so it says they brought in false witnesses who said, pointing to Jesus, "This man said that He would destroy the temple and in three days He would build it back up." Did Jesus say that? Yes, He did say that. He did say that. Technically, it was true. In John chapter 2, He said, "Destroy this temple and in three days I'll build it back up." But John, in an editorial comment says, "But He was speaking of the temple of His body not the temple in Jerusalem." So yes, it's what He said. But what He meant was His own body. So to bear false witness is more than just giving information, it's all about the implication. It's the spin you put on it. And if you are meaning to deceive, which is what Abraham was doing. He has born false witness--and he's in trouble.
"And it came to pass, 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 of me, "He is my brother."'" Ok now just stop right there. And I don't care if we make it into 21 or not. Now we have some in information that is valuable in verse 13. Now we are privy to some information where the picture comes together--it all makes sense. We didn't have full understanding when, in chapter 12, he goes to Egypt and says, 'Say to pharaoh you're my sister.' But now we have some information. It wasn't that Abraham was pressured into saying this or he panicked and he just said it spur of the moment. Now we understand it's been a pattern. He planned to say this. When in chapter 11, and on into chapter 12, when we read the first read about Sarai and Abram leaving Ur of the Chaldeans and going to Haran and then down into the Promised Land, now we understand that ever since we were married, part of the prenuptial agreement was, wherever we go, she's going to say this. So can you imagine their wedding vows? Will you have me as your lawfully wedded husband to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for rich or for poor, in sickness and health, and wherever we go if I'm in trouble say you're my sister? I will! I don't know, maybe she looked at Abram and thought, honey, whatever you want, sweetie, baby, I love you, I'm crazy about you, yeah, I'll do it! Whatever it was, they made a pact; an agreement; thirty years before. So when in chapter 12 he does it and now he does it, we understand it's been a pattern. He never broke from sin. He never made a break from it. It's been a pattern and a pattern and he could've done it more than twice. It's mentioned twice. He could've done it all the time. Whenever you see a Christian fall, and you're initially shocked: I can't believe that! What would possess that person suddenly, out of the blue, to do that? It wasn't sudden. It wasn't out of the blue. They fell in the very spot they were most vulnerable and weakest and unguarded and over time, sowed into that area. We made a pact thirty years ago. It was the kindness that I asked her to do for me. It's a pattern.
"Then Abimelech took sheep, oxen, and male and female servants, and gave them to Abraham; and he restored Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelech said, "See, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you." Now you might say well this is kind of weird. Why would he bless him and reward him? Because God woke him up in the middle of the night and spoke audibly to him and said he's a prophet. So he understands, not that he's impressed with Abraham, he's not impressed with Abraham, he's very impressed with Abraham's God. And he knows that Abraham's God is connected to Abraham so, I'm going to bless him. You know, it's like, where does an 800 pound gorilla sit? Wherever he wants. Where is Abraham, connected to this great God, going to go? Wherever he wants. Take the land. Go for it. And he leaves. "And Abimelech said, "See, my land I before you; dwell where it pleases you." Then to Sarah he said [now watch what he says], "Behold, I have given your husband." No, he doesn't say that, does he? No. oh yeah, you want to call him your brother? I'll call him your brother, too. Because I'll tell you one thing sweetheart, he sure didn't act like a husband to you. So he didn't even call him a husband but a brother. Yeah. I could see a brother doing that but not a husband, so "I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; indeed this vindicates you before all who are with you and before everybody." Thus she was rebuked. So Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then they bore children; for the Lord had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife."
Abraham could not preach to Abimelech. He couldn't. He couldn't give him a message. He couldn't say, now Abimelech, do you know that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life? Here's a Four Spiritual Law booklet, Abimelech, let me just go through this with you really quick. He wouldn't have listened to him, right? He had ruined his testimony, yes? He couldn't preach to him. Abimelech wouldn't receive anything from him. But he could pray for him. All of us have somebody in our lives that we have hurt. Don't know what it is, maybe it was just some dumb sin we committed. You can't preach to them; you can't share anything with them. They won't receive it; they won't listen. If you call on the phone, they'll hang up. If you send them a letter, they'll send it back unopened. They won't receive from you. But you can secretly pray for them. You can secretly pray for them. You say why would I want to do that? Two reasons. You'd want to do it, number one, because it will free you from being bitter. They may be bitter at you, but you can be freed from bitterness by praying for them. If you put your enemies on a prayer list, you won't have a grudge against them. I will guarantee that. If you pray for them, if you daily bring them before the Lord and ask God to bless them, you can't harbor a grudge. If it's an old colleague or an ex-spouse or some brother or sister who's aired against you and you pray for them, man, you're free. You sleep well. You're asking God to bless them. Number two, you'll bless them. They'll be blessed. You go, I don't really want them blessed. Oh yes you do. Yes you do. Because here's what's going to happen. They're not receiving from you now but you're praying for them and you're getting free of it and you're watching them get blessed, and they won't even know that you're the instrument of that blessing. They won't know the source of it until you get to heaven. And in heaven it will be revealed and they'll be blown away. You mean you were the source of all of that blessing? You prayed for me? Yeah. There will be such a wonderful reunion. It will be so grand and glorious. So you can't preach to everyone, but you can pray for everyone. And you'll be free and others will be blessed and eternity will tell those stories.
So this story is a bad episode but it ends with a good God, proving the truth of Romans 8:28 that all things work together for good to those who love God, even though Abraham didn't show it, and are called according to His purpose. Now I've got to say, it's time in my mind for a break. Now what I mean by that is, the last several chapters have put frowns on our faces and grimaces on our mugs, and you know, it's been depressing. Chapter 18 is this discussion as God is planning to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and sends out a party to survey that moral landscape and then chapter 19 is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the incest with Lot and his family. And chapter 20 is Abraham's relapse into a lack of faith. And you think, oh my goodness, it's getting worse. It's time for a little laughter, right? Well you're in the right chapter. Chapter 21 introduces us to Isaac. His name means laughter. It's a crack-up because God takes two people that you'd never think could have a child and they have a child. And so the retirement home gets turned into a maternity ward, you might say. You see? Time for a laugh. "And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken." I love that verse. Just like God said, exactly like He promised, it happened. "For Sarah conceived an bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set [or the exact] time of which God had spoken to him." Twenty-five years before, God gave him a promise. Twenty-five years! Right? Chapter 12, 'I'll make you a great nation,' he was 75. Chapter 13, 'Abraham? Just as numerous as the dust is on the earth so shall your descendants be.' Chapter 15, 'Abey, go outside and look up. If you can count the stars, so shall your descendents be.' Chapter 17, the reaffirmation of the covenant. This time Sarah's brought into it. I'm going to have a son. You're going to have a son through her own physical body. Then chapter 18, one hot summer day, nobody's budging, doing anything, three visitors show up and one of them is the Lord and He says, 'Where's Sarah?' and He goes, 'I'll be back this time next year. She's going to have a baby.' Now just like God said, they had a baby. Did you notice something in all that? Did you notice that from the time God gave a promise until the time it was fulfilled it was a long time? And you know what? I find that to be true and that's what bothers some of us. We read God's promises or we feel God has made a promise to us and then there's a long period of waiting and waiting and waiting. And we go, God what did I do wrong? What's the problem here? And then, in God's own perfect time, just as He said, it comes.
Why? Why is there so often a lag between the promise and the fulfillment? Well, first of all, if that is the case then when the fulfillment comes it makes the fulfillment much more dramatic. Number two, and most obviously, that's how we walk by faith. That's how you get your sea legs, man. You want to become a person of faith? Ok. Here's a promise. When can I expect it? Like, I claim it by faith right now in Jesus' name, it's gonna happen? It might be 25 years before you see it. You see, if I'm walking down a road and I can see where I'm going, I don't need faith, right? I don't need faith; I can see where I'm going. I can live by sight and not by faith. If I can't see where I'm going, if I'm launching out only on a promise and it's dark, that's where faith kicks in. And when that promise drags on and on and on and now I'm 100 years old and I'm thinking what's the point of having a baby? I won't live until it's two! It's awesome. It's like a whole new childhood. So the delay. Years ago, there was a family in Scotland named the Clark family. And the Clark family was a large clan. And it was the father's dream to move his family to America, the golden land of opportunity. He saved and he saved and he worked and he saved and finally the day came when he was able to buy tickets and get passports. So excited to bring he and his nine children to America, and his wife. A week before they were set to set sail from Liverpool one of the sons got bit by a dog. Doctor sewed up, stitched up the wound but was afraid of rabies and in those days they quarantined families. The whole family was quarantined, the doctor said, for fourteen days. The family, the Clark family, would miss their golden opportunity to go to America. Oh was that father angry! Mad at his son, mad at God, wept! Until five days later they heard the news that the ship that was leaving Liverpool, the Titanic, had sunk in the cold, icy waters, killing 2300 passengers. He had waited so long and he was so angry. And then he heard the news and he was so thankful and he hugged his son and thanked his son and thanked the dog for biting his son and thanked God for His providence. Because God's delays are not God's denials.
At the exact, perfect time, Isaac was born. "And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him--whom Sarah bore to him--[crack-up, laughter], Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old." Why? We're told "as God commanded him," back in chapter 17. Said, 'You're going to have a son, and just remember this. It's not going to be for a long time until you have one, but just remember when you do, eight days later, circumcise him.' So he did it. "Now Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born." Why does God, Moses through the Lord's Spirit who wrote this, keep bringing up his age? Just to show us this is impossible by human standards, that's why. It's like, oh, just in case you forgot, the couple here? He's one hundred. She's ninety. "And Sarah said, "God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me." She also said, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne him a son in his old age." One hundred years old; she's ninety. Impossible by human standards. But answer the question, go back to the question that God asked in chapter 18. 'Sarah, is there anything too hard for the Lord?' remember that? I wonder if she thought about that as she held that little child. Is there anything too hard for the Lord? I guess not. Nothing. What are you facing tonight? Is it impossible? Oh, yes, impossible. Well, Skip, you don't understand my circumstances, you don't know what kind of payments I have, you don't know what the doctor said. I admit--impossible. But now, now bring God into the equation. Is anything too hard for the Lord? Little baby rocking in that ninety-year-old woman's arms. Wow! What a sight!
And I love it. "God," verse six, "God has made me laugh." Can you say that? I don't think we laugh enough. I'm glad we do laugh around now. Some would have to say, God has made me serious. I don't know about that. God has made me angry--but it's righteous anger. I love it. God made me laugh. Did you know, and Isaac, laughter, brought that into their home, did you know that kids, on an average day, laugh 150 times? Do you know that adults maybe chuckle 15 times a day? Wow! That's sort of sad, isn't it? Scientists tell us that laughter releases chemicals in the brain that are natural painkillers, that are mood elevators. It's good for us. God made me laugh! I hope He does with you. I hope He brings… there's so much. Just look around. Life is ironic enough--you've got to laugh! There's so much to be happy about and so much irony and humor. "So the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned." Three years old a child was weaned, typically in those days. It was a case for celebration, especially because, you know, think of Abraham, he's like, my child's, you know, leaving milk and he's going to solid food. In a spiritual sense, and I am going to take it in that spiritual direction as we close tonight, any parent who raises a child to be a Christian child is so stoked and like Abraham, wants a celebration and party, when he or she, Mom or Dad, sees a child not have to be dependent on being spoon-fed spiritually, but they take it on their own initiative to read the Word, understand the Word. It's like--wow! Let's have a party! This is awesome!
Now we do need spiritual milk. Peter said, 'As newborn babes, crave pure spiritual milk that you may grow thereby.' However, there comes a time when because a Christian grows, they get off of the need to be spoon-fed and they graduate to being able to, on their own, eat solid food. So the writer of Hebrews says that milk belongs to those who are immature but those who have solid food are those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. I look back to the questions that my son Nate used to ask me when he was a just a little tot driving in the car with me. And they would often spurn great conversations or even turn into a series. I did a series on walking with God because Nate said, what does that mean to walk with God, how can a human being walk with God? Because that's a phrase in the Bible. And I thought, you know, that's a great question and that deserves an honest study and exploration. But now I see what God is doing and has done in his life and the wisdom God has given him and his ability and what he'll say, hey, I was studying the Word and the Lord revealed this to me. And it's like, wow! Celebration time! Party time! And isn't it beautiful, parents, when you commit your child to the Lord and you trust God's promises. Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he won't depart from it. And then when they get older and you get old and you look at them and you go, it's true, it happened. It's joyful--celebration time.
So Isaac turns three, that makes Ishmael about seventeen, and now a rivalry will break out that will take us to verse nine and we'll finish this chapter quickly and get into chapter 22 next time. So we got through part of it tonight.