I recall traveling with a friend from Jordan to Germany and we landed in Austria, actually it was Franklin Graham that I was with, and we touched down in Austria and we had just about an hour on the plane and then we were going to take off to Germany. And Franklin said, 'Have you ever driven from this airport to Frankfort. This beautiful stretch--you ought to get off the plane now. Rent a car; it's only two or three hours. It's one of the most scenic drives you can do.' So I thought, why not, that sounds really good. Eventually, I talked him into doing it with me. It ended up being a nine hour drive and we didn't get to our hotel in Germany until about 2:30 in the morning. It ended up, not being a shortcut, but the long way around--a detour. We wasted precious time. In chapter sixteen, Abram and his wife Sarai take a detour when it comes to the will of God.
Once again, the man of faith, the father of them that believe, displays a shallower kind of faith than we might expect. Taking the long way around, it actually cost him and to this day we're experiencing the fallout and the ramifications of that choice. Now some people prefer not to fly airplanes but they prefer to drive and it's not because of economy, it's out of fear. They actually feel safer in a car than they do in an airplane. I know a businessman that drives from coast to coast. He won't fly; he'll drive. He feels safer. But his feelings are misleading because the studies reveal that flying in jet aircrafts is seven times safer than driving in a car. So going six hundred miles an hour, careening through space through a metal tube at 35,000 feet is safer than an eight-cylinder machine that never leaves the earth. It might feel as if it's unsafe to get in that airplane, but it's actually safer. I'm sharing that because there's a parallel with the will of God. Sometimes when we just trust the Lord it feels really scary. It feels unsafe. We'd rather live by sight rather than faith. But the safest way to navigate through your life is to live a life of faith, trusting in the Lord rather than what you can only see. Well, let's find out what happens.
"Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, "See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her." And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai." That was a mistake. It's not always a mistake, sometimes it's the best thing a man can do. But in this case, it was a mistake. They were unable to have children. We're presented with that in chapter eleven, when they're first introduced to us. You remember that old saying, 'God helps those who help themselves'? Where does that come from because when I grew up, my father said, 'The Bible says God helps those who help themselves.' And I thought it was in the Bible. And I read it and I read it and I read it in different translations and I looked in the concordance to try to find that verse. 'God helps those who help themselves.' And I never found it in the Bible. Jesus didn't say it. Paul never wrote of it. The prophets never declared it. Now maybe it's in 1 Flesh-alonians but it's certainly not in any of the real books of the Bible. It's one of those phantom verses, made-up, imposed by people who don't know what the Bible says. I actually did a little research and discovered it was Ben Franklin who said that. It wasn't God at all. But we get this mistaken notion that if we set the gears in motion, we start moving, eventually God will see that we're serious and we're moving and catch up to us and then take us all the way through. Once He sees that we're serious and we're going to work hard.
Here's a case of people trying to help themselves, or should I say, help God out--help God fulfill a promise. Because God said, 'You're gonna have a child,' and we see here that his wife Sarai decides to do it this way. Before we completely trash Abram and Sarai in this, let's assume the highest. Let's imagine that they had really good intentions. So let's imagine a conversation. They're in the tent one night burning a candle, having lamb and olives and hummus and pita bread for dinner, and they're having this conversation and Sarai looks at Abram, now she's past 75, and says, 'Sweetheart. Now I know that you're really into this having a kid thing. And I know you'd really like me to have a child. But sweetheart, look at me. I'm over 75 years of age--ain't gonna happen, sweetheart. Now Abie, what exactly did God say when He made all those promises to you? Can you recall?' 'It's like yesterday, of course I can recall. God said specifically that from my own body I'm gonna have a son.' 'Ok. That helps, Abie, because God said it's going to come from your body. God said nothing about it coming through my physical body. So because it's going to come through your body and not necessarily mine, I propose we help God out a bit on this. I have Hagar, this Egyptian maid, she's much younger. She's capable of bearing children. You go into her and you have a child and we'll adopt that child and we'll say that's God's promise fulfilled.' And it says that Abram heeded his wife.
You just have to imagine what it was like those eleven years they'd been waiting for this promise. Eleven years. It's hard to wait on the Lord; it's hard to wait and wait and wait and wait. Because your flesh gets really antsy and Proverbs says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." And we have a tendency, when we've waited on the Lord and waited for the Lord, when we don't get what we think we should get, to just push it a little bit. Make it happen. And impose our own scheme and designs and produce something of the flesh rather than the Spirit. That's what they're doing. They've been waiting eleven long years since God first said, 'I'm going to make you a great nation.' I imagine that every time Sarai had a twinge of pain or walked a little bit differently that Abraham noticed and said, 'Ah-ha! You must be pregnant!' But she wasn't pregnant. And year after year after year after year, she wasn't pregnant. And so now this. 'This is crazy. Let's just get on with our life. Let's have a child. If God promised that through your body you'd have a son, He didn't say anything specifically about my body. So just take Hagar.'
Then verse three: "Then Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes." Where did Hagar come from? Egypt. So they must have picked her up on that little foray down into Egypt when they didn't trust God during those famine years. You remember? It seems that's when she arrived into their household. You know the past has a way of catching up with you, doesn't it? She becomes pregnant. So now it's pretty obvious that the real problem isn't with Abram, it's with Sarai. Now maybe up to that point, they didn't really know. Because they were unable as a couple to have children, so was it a problem with her womb or was he not virile, was he unable to have children? Now the proof. He has no problem bearing a child with a fertile woman and so it would mean in ancient cultures that Sarai must somehow be cursed. And anger rises up in her heart. Moreover, Hagar despises Sarai her mistress. "And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes."
We know this problem too well, I believe. In Galatians 3, Paul asks, "Having begun in the Spirit are you now trying to be made perfect in the flesh?" God has started something. Are you now trying to bring it to completion by your flesh? How many times in your own situation, in my own situation, have we stepped in to help God fulfill His promise? And sometimes even counseled the Lord--give God advice. As if He needs it. Maybe you haven't done it verbally, but I bet you've thought things like, 'God, I know you're busy running the universe. Step into my office. There could be a couple of things you just have overlooked. Let me educate you. I've gone to college. I can help here.' And we might step in with an agenda and with a plan that is simply trying to fulfill God's promise by a work of our own flesh. What does it say to us in Proverbs 3? "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." They're not doing that here. There's a great old Jewish proverb that says, "It's better to ask which is the right road ten times, than to take the wrong road once." They take the wrong road. As I mentioned, the repercussions are still felt today.
"Then Sarai said to Abram,"--now watch this, here's Sarai--"My wrong be upon you!" Whoa! "I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The Lord judge between you and me." Now whose idea was it to begin with? It was her idea! It was Victor Hugo who said, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." So here's Abram, 'Ok, sweetheart. Whatever you say, dear,' and then he does it and this happens and she blames him. "So Abram said to Sarai, "Indeed your maid is in your hand,"--according to ancient custom she was the property of Sarai, that's what he meant by that--"do to her as you please." And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence." Wow. The Scottish poet and author George MacDonald said, "In whatever man does without God, he will fail miserably or succeed more miserably." Here's Abram and Sarai with a plot; with a plan. And they succeed so miserably. Helping God out. What do I mean by that? What I mean, it's been 4,000 years since this and we are still experiencing the Arab-Israeli conflict, the seed of Ishmael and the seed of Isaac at war with one another. With suicide bombings, with problems in the Gaza, with the 9/11 bombings and America's policies concerning Israel. And it seems that year after year the focus gets back on that and this is where it all began.
Verse seven: "Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur." So she's trying to go back to Egypt where she's from, which is nothing but barren desert on this road. She would've died in the wilderness--she wouldn't have made it. So she's by a spring of water in the wilderness. "And He said, "Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?" She said, "I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai." The Angel of the Lord said to her, "Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand." This is, by the way, the first mention, and I'm trying to give you all of the rules of first mention when we come up to them in Genesis. Here is the first mention in the entire Bible of the term the Angel of the Lord. You're going to read about it a lot in the Old Testament. There's conjecture as to who this person is. Some people believe here that it's Gabriel, the one who announced to Mary and to Joseph and to Zacharias all of the events surrounding our Lord's birth. But this is the first mention of the Angel of the Lord coming. Here's what I love. This is a story of failure, fumbling, bumbling, failure. And yet in the midst of that we see the mercy and grace of God. The overriding, overruling, intervening hand of God in being merciful and just not letting them go through all of this without some movement of His own hand.
Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, "I will multiply your descendents exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude." And the Angel of the Lord said to her: "Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has heard your affliction." Ishmael means 'God hears,' so every time she would call out her son's name, she would be calling out the remembrance of God's mercy in her life. God hears; the Lord intervened down there by that well. "Because the Lord has heard your affliction. He shall be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren." So rather than just letting her leave the home, maybe die in the wilderness, the Angel brings them back to Sarai and Abram and Ishmael will grow up in the household of Sarai and Abram.
God overruling. I don't know who said it, but somebody said, "When God can't rule because we won't let Him, He always overrules." I love that beautiful verse of Scripture in Romans 5 that says, "Where sin has abounded, grace did much more abound." It overflowed and here's an example of God's grace to this woman and her son. "Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, "Have I also here seen Him who sees me?" Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi." The well of the Living God who sees. "Observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered." So if you were ever wondering where that well was, now you know. "So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram."
Now we have a gap between these two chapters of thirteen years. Thirteen years. By now, Ishmael is a young teenager. Abram is 99 years old raising a thirteen-year-old teenager--have pity on him. Sarai is about 90 years old and they're raising this child. But it's not over yet--it's just the beginning. Because that son of promise hasn't yet been born into their household. And that's coming--that's Isaac. So Abram isn't going to retire, he's not going to go lawn bowling for the rest of his life; he's going to have more children. "When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless." Somebody once said that one of the great things about being 99 is you don't have much peer pressure. Of course, it would be obvious why, right? You wouldn't have many peers. He's 99 years old and the Lord speaks to him. Now we have the very first mention of this title of God: God Almighty. El Shaddai. El Shaddai is mentioned in the Bible about 36 times. It means Almighty God or God the Mighty One or better yet God the Most Sufficient One. Interestingly enough, the term El Shaddai is found more in the book of Job than any other book in the Bible. It's around this time frame; same era, patriarchal era. Now El Shaddai, it is thought, is an old Acadian word from that whole Semitic Syrio-Babylonian region. An old Acadian word that means 'mountain' or 'breast'. And the idea is that some of the ancients would, when they would see hills in the distance, it was as if the earth was flexing its muscle. It represented a buff muscle coming up out of the earth. So here's God saying, 'I am God the eternally sufficient One. The divinely buff One. The One can do anything that you can't do. I'm strong, you're weak. I'm God, you're not.' That's how He introduces Himself.
Why does He call Himself El Shaddai? Because Abram's 99 years old, that's why. He's almost 100 years old. If anybody's feeling weak, it would be Abram. And so God says, 'Let me just tell you who I am. I'm El Shaddai. I have unlimited muscle. I can do what no man or no country or no ruler could ever do.' It's interesting that the Lord says, "I am Almighty God, walk before Me and be blameless." What does it mean to walk before God and be blameless? The idea is this: walk, or literally live your life, knowing that you're living your life in plain view of Me. You know how it's like when you're a child and you know you're parents are watching? You act differently, don't you? If you're alone in your room, you act one way. But when your dad is watching you, you act a different way. 'Abram? You're 99 years old. It's time for you to grow up. Time for you to learn how to walk. Finally. Walk before me, live your life, knowing that I'm watching everything you're doing. And be upright; be blameless; be pure. Be a man of integrity.'
I think God tells him this because of Abram's history. When Abram went to Haran for fifteen years and waited before he went into the land God told him to, he wasn't walking before the Lord. He was walking before his father and his family. When he went down to Egypt because of the famine, he wasn't walking before the Lord; he was walking before his 318 servants who needed food and water. When he pulled the Hagar stunt in chapter sixteen with Sarai, he was walking before his wife, not before the Lord. But here's what's cool to me. He's 99 and God still comes to him and says, 'You can still walk with Me.' You know, a new walk with God can begin for you at any age. It doesn't matter who you are, what you've done, how old you are, what you've been through--this could be the night of a brand new relationship with Him. A relationship of obedience; a relationship of love. A walk with God can begin at any age.
Verse two: "And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly." Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him--I love that thought, just humbly before the Lord, down on his face wanting to hear from God--"As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations--now watch this--"No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations." I've also supposed that the name Abram was embarrassing to him. Abram means 'exalted father'. How many children did he have while he was called that? Zip, zero, zilch, nada, none. So imagine what it would be like as the caravans would come through and he'd get out of his tent and they'd go, 'Hello! What's your name?' And he'd say, 'I'm exalted father.' 'Oh wonderful, how many kids do you have?' 'None.' 'Oh. Sorry about that.' It was embarrassing to say the name; that was his name and he tried to have children with his wife back in Haran, unsuccessfully.
Then, through Hagar, one day Ishmael was born. And he probably thought, 'Alright! Now when somebody says what's your name and I say exalted father, I'll feel good about it.' And now he's got one son and God says, 'I'm changing your name. I'm not going to have you be called exalted father anymore. Now your name will be father of a multitude.' And you can just see Abram going, 'No, please, Lord! Not that!' Because that would denote that he would have many children. Again, it could be embarrassing. Why is God naming him this before the son of promise comes? Why wouldn't God name him that after Isaac is born and he has other children and grandchildren? Because God will often declare His purpose before He does it. And He will do it to stretch the person into using their muscles of faith. 'Abram, you believe Me. Remember that, a couple chapters ago, you believe Me? When I said that I was going to make your descendants like the stars of heaven, you believed Me and I counted it to you for righteousness. You believed that. Do you believe it enough for me to change your name, even at 99, to being father of a multitude?' So God, before the event, calls him this name to stretch him.
Verse six: "I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations [plural] of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." Last week when we were in back in chapter fifteen and I skimmed through the last part of that, the borders of the land were given. Do you remember that? From the river of Egypt all the way to the Euphrates River and the borders were outlined in that chapter. 300,000 square miles God promised them. Now they have never, ever occupied all that God gave to them. They have only, at the peak of the kingdom under Solomon, occupied 30,000 square miles. They wouldn't have much luck going to all these neighboring countries now, like Egypt and Jordan and Syria and Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Iran, and saying, 'This is our land. God promised it to us. Kindly move out of here.' But I want you to see is this, what God said they would have, they only took one fraction, one tenth, of all that God said He would give to them. And what God told them is this, 'Every place that your foot walks is yours.' They obviously, evidently, didn't believe God for all of it. So even at the peak of their kingdom, under King Solomon, when he expanded the borders, one-tenth of all that God promised they enjoyed.
Does that at all sound familiar to you? Think of all the promises that God has made you. How many of them are you enjoying? All of them? Half of them? A small fraction of them? What kind of victory are you living in? What kind of cache of God's promises are you enjoying? I tend to believe we're just living on a small fraction of all that God has for us. Now God, one day, will allow them to enjoy all of that border that He promised them. And that will be in the earthly kingdom outlined so often the Old Testament called the millennium in the New Testament. A thousand year reign of Christ upon the earth. It will be then that their borders will be expanded to all that God gave to them. That's just the land; that's part of the covenant God says the land He promised to Abraham. But not just that, not just property, notice the promise includes posterity. Notice the plural 'nations'. We often think Abraham is the father of the Jewish nation. He is, but he's the father of many more. There are 13.3 million Jewish people on the earth; there are 22 Arab nations with 300+ million people. All of them trace their lineage back to Abraham. That means that today, 5% of the earth's population can trace their genealogy directly to Abraham. Now you know why God says, 'I'm changing your name to father of a multitude'. God has made good on His promise.
Verse nine: "And God said to Abraham: "As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you." Circumcision was not something invented here. Understand that circumcision had been, for generations, practiced by nations all around that part of the world in the Middle East. The ancient sixth dynasty of Egypt practiced circumcision. Even into the Roman Empire, the priests of Rome and their offspring were circumcised. The Ammonites and the Moabites. So here you have God taking a social practice and turning it into something with spiritual meaning. I love that. It's a social practice; it's something that had meaning to other cultures. But God is sort of redeeming that and letting it apply to a sign of the covenant. He will do that with baptism. Baptism didn't begin with Christians. Jews had practiced ritual baptism for generations. Being purified before they would go up to worship. And then John the Baptist did that in a river, down in the Jordan, and then later on, they took that symbol of being cleansed for worship, that ritual purification, and we know it now as Christian baptism: the immersion in water. But it's symbolic. It's an outward sign of a covenant.
We discover that whenever God makes a covenant, He then provides some kind of a sign, an outward indicator. So when you see the indicator, you're reminded of the agreement that God made with people. And so what was the sign of the covenant God made with Noah? A rainbow. Beautiful, colorful. You look at it and it brings a smile to your face. It's a sign of a deal that God made with Noah. And God made a covenant with Moses and the children of Israel through the Law of Moses. What was the sign He gave them? It was the Sabbath. On that day, you rest. It's restful, it's peaceful, it's wonderful. To the church, it was the symbol of baptism, the outward sign of an inward reality. Now God makes a sign with Abraham. I'm sure that Abraham was not having this in mind when he's thinking God is going to ask him to provide some kind of an outward sign. Remember, he's 99 years old. So just let the impact of this fall on your ears. 99 year old man and God says, 'It's time to get circumcised.' Abraham's going, 'What is this walk of faith all about?! I didn't sign up for that!' "This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you."
Verse twelve: "He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant." Wow. Why the eighth day? Interesting that science tells us that on the eighth day of a child's life, all of the vitamins, nutrients, and antibodies are present in the bloodstream that causes the clotting of the blood. If you were to circumcise a child say at three days old, there would be hemorrhaging. The clotting elements aren't there until the eighth day; that's the perfect day.
Verse fifteen is the change in his wife's name. By the way, something just about circumcision. The whole idea behind circumcision is that the life of the flesh that once dominated you is not to dominate you any longer. The symbol of the cutting of the flesh is the repudiation of the fleshly life. Because the foreskin of the male, this was the organ that generated life, is cut, showing that, like the Bible says in Psalm 51, "in sin my mother did conceive me; I was born in iniquity." But I'm making a covenant with God that the life of the flesh will be pushed back, repudiated, and it will be something that I live now by faith in the Spirit. I'll live in the Spirit, not in the flesh. That's the whole idea behind it. It was a symbol. What happened unfortunately among the Jewish people, and it has likewise happened among Christian people with baptism, is they turned it from a symbol into a sacrament. If you perform this sacrament, it will confer some grace, some merit, to you and you will have a right relationship with God. So all you have to be circumcised, or all you have to do is be baptized, or all you have to do is keep this ritual. They made a symbol into a sacrament. All along the Lord said, 'No--it's inward, not outward'. Deuteronomy 10, God says, "Circumcise therefore the foreskins of your heart and be stiff-necked no longer." That's what it meant. It was inward, not outward. It was simply symbolic; they turned it into a sacrament.
"Then God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name." This is a wonderful change. Sarai means domineering and contentious. Imagine when Abram came home one day and said, "Hello, Princess." That's what Sarah means--princess. And I'm sure her heart just skipped a beat when her husband said, "Hello, Princess." And that was the name that God gave her and that was the name her husband and everybody else would call her from then on: princess. By the way, husbands, there's a great name for your wife. Call her your princess. Just try this. Speak kindly unto her. Somebody once said, "If you treat your wife like a thoroughbred, she won't ever turn into a nag." Speak kindly to her; she's your princess. "And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be from her. Then Abraham fell on his face". Now he's doing that a lot. And as an old guy you wonder, I hope he's not getting too bashed up. "And laughed, and said in his heart, "Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" Now this is not unbelief. This is faith. We've already established that last week when God said, 'You will bear children as numerous as the stars.' Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. He believed that promise. This is laughter of sheer joy. How do I know that? Because God doesn't rebuke him. And in chapter eighteen, Sarah laughs when she hears this and it was the laughter of unbelief, because the Lord said, 'You don't believe what I'm saying, do you?' But here's an old guy just going, 'I can't believe it! I'm an old dude and she's an old chick and we're gonna have a kid!' It was something along those lines.
The very next verse there seems to be sort of a coming back down to earth, like, 'Wait a minute. I'm old and I live in reality.' "And Abraham said to God, "Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!" Then God said: "No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and with his descendants after him." He's an old guy. His son is thirteen and the promise is exciting but then it's like, 'You know what? I think maybe I'm done now. Can't You just take Ishmael and do what You said through him? Let him be the one that You fulfill Your promise. Let him live before You.' God says no. God is going to bless Ishmael, many nations will come from him, God's hand will be upon him. But the covenant that God wants is through a son of promise, not a son of the flesh. It's going to be through Isaac. How many times have you said that? You've had your dream, your agenda, and you just say, 'God, here. This is what I really want. This is what I produced. Would you just bless my thing? No, just bless this. I don't want to do anything else.' And sometimes God may require the death of your vision. And maybe your prayer should be, 'Oh, that Ishmael might die within me!' That my little episode, my little agenda of the flesh, would die and I would be open to whatever He wants from me. No, God said. "Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name [Laughter]; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him."
"And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year." We have something that I neglected to get into last week. I just posed a problem and I left it hanging. If you remember at the end of chapter fifteen; if not, I'll refresh your memory. In the Bible, we have two different kinds of covenants. One is called an unconditional covenant; the other is called a conditional covenant. Or if you will, a bilateral and a unilateral covenant. In the bilateral covenant, or the conditional covenant, God has His part and man must keep his part. If man doesn't keep his part, it negates the deal. Then there's the unconditional covenant--it's unilateral. God says, 'I'm going to do this, this, and that--period--for you.' It's solely His condition that He must keep. So one covenant, called the Edenic covenant, the covenant in the Garden of Eden. What kind of covenant was that, conditional or unconditional? Conditional because they got kicked out. They didn't keep their condition. The covenant of the Law of Moses. What kind of covenant was that? Conditional. If you do this, I'll do that. If you fail at that, then you'll have this happen to you. The covenant that God promises to Abraham for the land that is today the land of Israel, and for the people, what kind of a covenant is it? Unconditional. 'I will bless you, I will make your name great, I will do this, I will do that'. Five times God says, 'I will' and He repeats that same kind of terminology. It's unilateral. It's unconditional.
Now we have a problem because God promises them the land through this covenant with Abraham, but later on, in the covenant of Moses, which is a conditional covenant, there are conditions for them in the land. Do you follow me? In Deuteronomy 28-30, God says, 'If you obey Me and you keep My laws, I will bless you in this land. You'll get a lot of rain and crops in this land. You'll subdue all your enemies. If you disobey Me, your enemies will subdue you. In fact, you won't have good crops, you won't have good rain, your enemies will come and take you from this land and you'll be in captivity.' That's chapters 28 and 29 of Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 30, the Lord says, 'When you are in captivity, in another land, and there you pray to Me because you realize you've been disobedient and you sort of come to and wake up, and when you're in captivity and you pray to Me and repent and turn back in your heart, then I will take you out of the land to which you were taken captive and bring you back into this good land that I promised to you and to Abraham.' So here's how it works, here's the solution to the problem. The land given to Abraham unconditionally would be theirs unconditionally, perpetually, forever. But their tenure in the land, their occupation of the land, was conditional. How does that work? Doesn't one negate the other? No. God says, 'Here you are. I'll put you in the land. You will disobey me. I will take you out of the land.' That's called the Babylonian captivity. 'You will get spiritually spanked in that land. You will cry out and ask forgiveness in that land. I will bring you back into this land. Now you'll be good girls and boys in that land.' But that wasn't the only time they got expelled. The Romans came in, subjugated them, and when the Romans came in and destroyed the temple and destroyed Jerusalem, there were 2,000 years of the Diaspora. Ever heard of the term Diaspora? The dispersion of the Jews around the world in hundreds of different countries.
So they were dispersed and did not have a homeland and people were looking at that and saying, 'You know what? There's not going to be a literal regathering of a literal people in a literal land. All of that is spiritual and figurative and it doesn't matter anymore.' Until May 14 of 1948 when Palestine was now called Israel and Jews from all over the world were allowed to go back to their homeland, fulfilling many promises, including Isaiah 11:11, where God says, "I will bring you back the second time into the land." And God says, "Then I will establish that covenant with you perpetually." And so the land and the people. God promised that as an unconditional and perpetual covenant. Verse twenty-one: "But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year." Then He finished talking with him, and God went up from Abraham. So Abraham took Ishmael his son, all who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very same day, as God had said to him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. That very same day Abraham was circumcised, and his son Ishmael; and all the men of his house, born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him."
We're going to see the fulfillment. Now God narrows it down. Not just, 'I'm going to make a great nation from you.' Now He says it will not only be from his own body but from Sarah's own body. 'You two are going to have a baby.' And they will have a baby. It's what they always wanted. But God's going to not just give them what they wanted--but more than they wanted. Not just a kid but kids and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and nations and kings. Remember the old saying, 'Be careful what you wish for because you might get more than you bargained for?' He's going to get more than he bargained for or ever hoped for. I heard about a couple, they were sixty years old; they were married when they were twenty, so it was their fortieth wedding anniversary. They were so happy; forty years of married bliss. A fairy appeared to them and said, 'You've had such a wonderful forty year marriage. I grant each of you any one wish in the world.' The wife blushed and smiled and said, 'I know what I want. I've always wanted this. I want to travel the world!' Instantly--poof--with the wand. And there were tickets to travel the world, cash in hand, passport, everything ready to go. The fairy said to the man, 'Now it's your turn. You can have anything you want.' He sort of shyly looked around and looked up and said, 'Well, I'd like to have a wife thirty years younger.' The fairy said, 'No problem.' Poof with the wand and he was ninety years old instantly. Be careful what you wish for! You might get more than you bargained for.
But what God will give to Abraham, more than he wished for, more than he bargained for, will be nothing but blessing. He's learned his lessons. He has more to learn, but the blessing of God will rich in his life.