Hope In Christ Bible Church 4/7/19
Praise to the Lord for the joy we have to be enthralled ourselves by His Word together.
We have come to the momentous 21st chapter of Genesis which gives the birth announcement of baby Isaac. So please turn with me to Gen. 21.
Now every birth of a child is miraculous. And when that precious bundle of joy comes into the world, it’s a humbling and overwhelming gift of God.
So we rejoice in the miracle of life that God gives in precious babies. And we celebrate with Jacob and Jordan over their newborn Lydia Joy- how wonderfully appropriate!
And we look forward to all the other precious children God will give; for children are a gift of the Lord! Ps. 127:3
Yes, every child born into this world is a blessing of God, planned by God, and fashioned in His image!
Yet of all babies ever born in the world, Jesus Christ is the greatest. For God supernaturally caused His Son to be clothed in human flesh through the birth of a virgin. And that little baby born was God and came to save sinners like you and me that He might bring us to God!
The second greatest birth this world has ever welcomed, hands down, is the miraculous birth of Isaac to his father Abraham and mother Sarah. For apart from Christ, the Bible tells us far more about the promise of this boy Isaac than any other!
Now I pray that taking in the amazing account of Isaac’s birth will infuse in you deeper praise and worship to God. For this powerfully proves how God always and so wonderfully keeps His word.
But there’s more. It’s like we get a double header today- two for one. Because back-to-back with Isaac’s birth we see a blowup in Abraham’s home that God uses to further His sovereign plan.
So hang on as we see the greatness of God magnified as we watch Him supernaturally provide for His own and then also protect those who are hurting.
The divine provision for His chosen and divine protection for the abandoned. We start with
1. The divine provision for God’s chosen
Watch the spectacular way in which God fulfills His Word. Verse 1 tells us, “Then the LORD took note of Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had promised.”
Now when God takes note of someone, it’s much different than when we do. For us, it’s just observing or taking interest in a person.
But when God takes note of someone, He directly intervenes in their life. He shapes the entire course of their life. That’s what He did for Sarah.
And that’s what happened to you Christian when God took note of you in your sin.
Think about that. On the day of your being born again, that’s when God took special note of you. He invaded your life. He changed your entire destiny.
Now so crucial here. Carefully notice with me what the LORD’s intervention into Sarah’s life ties to. Two phrases- “as He had said” and “as He had promised.”
Those two phrases testify of this: God did exactly what He said He would do for Abraham and Sarah! And that’s what they were to trust in.
It’s vital that you note here that it wasn’t just that Abraham and Sarah had an attitude of faith. It’s what their faith was anchored in- the Word of God and the God of the Word.
That’s what Heb. 11:11 esteems in Sarah: “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.”
And now God causes her faith to become sight. The promise that God made is the promise that He kept- perfectly!
Friends, this is our God in whom we are called to trust. He is not like us, making statements and then changing His mind or forgetting. For He always keeps His Word perfectly!
Balaam spoke far better than he realized when he exclaims (Numbers 23:19): “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man,
that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”
The prophet Isaiah gives us such a stunning contrast when he writes, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8
Never forget. When God says something, He has given His Word. And His Word will always come to pass- always. You can count on it.
Let’s work this out together in how we ought to live in light of God keeping His word to us. Christian, God has promised to save you. So be certain, He will save your soul forever.
God has promised to guide you. So bank on it, and follow Him. For He will always lead you!
And God has promised to care for you, so bask in that promise. Every day of all your life, Christian, God personally cares for you!
Look now at how God kept His promise to Sarah. And I love how God continues to focus on Sarah first in this!
Verse 2: “So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him.”
Now if this was merely a stand-alone statement with no previous context what might we think?
“O how nice. An older married couple has a baby. Good for them.”
But, it’s much bigger than that. For this is God’s resolution to great drama and long anticipation.
You see, it’s only as we keep fresh in our minds what has happened the last 10 chapters, that spanned 25 years that we can appreciate this fact: here before us stands one of the most spectacular miracles in all the Bible and in all of history!
It’s only then that we can appreciate what would have taken Abraham and Sarah’s breath away.
Why I can just see Abraham running in and out of his tent filled with elation and tears of joy streaming down Sarah’s cheeks- for God had given them the promised son.
So let’s briefly retrace some of the stepping stones that lead Abraham and Sarah to this day.
In Genesis 11:30, when Abraham married his wife, it’s at that point God tells us, “Sarai was barren; she had no child.”
Then in 12:2, when God calls childless Abraham and Sarah to leave their homeland of Ur, He tells them, “I will make you a great nation!”
Famine hits and Abraham and Sarah then go south to Egypt. And God rescues Sarah from Pharaoh who was deceived by them to think she was Abraham’s sister.
Years go by, and in Genesis 15:3 Abraham tells God, “Since I have no child, let Eliezer my servant be my heir.” It was like an adoption, a beautiful thing.
But that’s not what God had in mind. He takes Abraham out of his tent and tells him to count the stars. And God adds, “That’s how your descendants will be!” (Gen. 15:5)- Far too many to count. Yet Abraham doesn’t even have one arrow in his quiver (no child), and Sarah can’t have children
Well, Hagar knows she and Abraham are getting older (he is 86), so she becomes impatient and tells Abraham to take Hagar as a second wife. He does, and Ishmael is born.
But that wasn’t God’s plan. So, God tells Abraham He would give him and Sarah a son of their own. And Gen. 17:17 reports that “Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”
The next amazing chapter in the saga, the angel of the Lord appears and says in Gen. 18:10, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him.”
The irony intensifies for we are reminded right after that- “Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. 12 Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
And then we read that stellar statement made by the Lord, “Genesis 18:14 “Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I
will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
But before that year ends, Abraham again risks the mother of the promised child with Abimelech. God was not caught off guard but preserves her purity and rescues her and Abraham.
Remember God’s says to that king (20:7), “Restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet.”
Well, that divine protection guarded God’ very promise. I want you to see how protection is so significant that the psalmist celebrates it in: Psalm 105:14–15 “He permitted no man to oppress them, and He reproved kings for their sakes: “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.”
So it is, God did it all. He not only rescued Sarah but He rejuvenated her and Abraham’s worn out body so they could have a child.
Remember, this couple was EXTREMELY OLD. For Gen. 17:17 tells us Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90!!!
And just so we don’t forget, verse 5 of our chapter tells us once again: “Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.”
That’s absolutely astounding! And that’s why Paul upholds this aged couple for their faith in Rom. 4:19-20 saying, “Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.”
Be encouraged Christian, as you grow in faith as that couple did, you give glory to God.
In fact, the more you trust God the more you honor God.
So view ever trial that enters your life as an opportunity to bring glory to God by trusting Him.
No doubt about it with Abraham and Sarah. God made a way when there was no other way. God made the impossible possible!
This undoubtedly marks one of the greatest days in Abraham and Sarah’s life- they would never forget it.
Every past doubt and discouragement about having their own child now vanished!
As promised, that son was born a year after the angel of the Lord had promised.
It was the appointed time, the perfect time on God’s divine timetable. That would be roughly 2065 B.C. which comes at the start of the Middle Bronze Age.
Now let’s put this in perspective of God’s redemptive plan.
The fulfillment of Isaac’s birth points forward like an arrow in a line of descendants that lead to Christ’s birth.
Do you realize in Mary’s song of praise over the announcement of Christ’s birth that she connects that with God’s promise to Abraham?
She exults with joy in Luke 1:54-55 saying of God, “He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.”
God kept His Word giving Abraham and Sarah’s a promised son. And He kept His promise concerning Jesus His Son whom He gave to the world! For He is the ultimate promise fulfilled.
That’s why we read these glorious words of II Corinthians 1:20 “For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us!”
We can say it like this. All God’s promises in the Old and New Testament made to the believer, promises of peace, spiritual protection, fellowship, answered prayer, comfort, and the hope of heaven- all those are made possible for us in Jesus Christ!
What a world of encouragement. Because to be in Christ means God vouches, He guarantees He will make good on all His promises to you!
Well, they have a newborn baby boy. What are they to name him?
Verse 3 reports: “Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac.”
Now that’s a funny name in more ways than one.
I looked up this week and found that there are 83,934 people today in the U.S. with the first name Isaac. But as far as we can tell, the first one to be given the name Isaac was this son of Abraham and Sarah.
And there are two important reasons they named him this.
First, because God had told Abraham (Gen. 17:19) to call him that.
And that’s the same reason, we are told in verse 4 that “Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him” (God had told him to do that in Gen. 17:12).
Here’s a wonderful pattern for us to see. Just as God had given Isaac according to His Word, so Abraham obeys God according to His Word!
The second, reason for the name Isaac- it was because God wanted that designation to communicate something to people: Yitschaq means “he laughs.” You know it’s a pun that describes laughter. So, every time someone would say that boy’s name, Isaac, it would literally be saying he or someone is laughing. But why? It’s not to rub Abraham and Sarah’s nose in the dirty for laughing the year before in disbelief. For so beautifully Sarah says, verse 6, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”
People aren’t laughing at Sarah but with Sarah.
They are laughing with her with hearts of joy. And by the way, she credits God for that breakthrough. For God had performed in a spectacular way what the psalmist will centuries later no doubt recall in praise to the Lord:
Psalm 113:9 “He makes the barren woman abide in the house As a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD!”
You can be sure. This birth of the baby Isaac was more than the talk of the town. Had Abraham and Sarah been able, they would have tweeted everyone the great news- God did it. He gave us the promised son!
Look at the maternal musing of Sarah:
Verse 7: “And she said, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’”
According to verifiable records, the oldest mother to conceive naturally is Dawn Brooke of England. In 1997 she gave birth to a son at the age of 59 years. Well, Sarah would say to her “Dawn, not bad. But I had my first son when I was 90, and up to then I was barren!”
We are told of the development of that little boy Isaac.
8th verse: “The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.”
In the ancient Near East, children were typically weaned to eat regular foods at the age of two or three.
Well, when that day came, Abraham couldn’t wait to put on an extravagant feast.
It would have been a great time of festivity celebrating with family, friends and servants the blessing of God that miracle son, Isaac.
Perhaps he and Sarah donned that toddler Isaac in a beautiful robe- for he would have rightly been the center of the attention.
What great joy, “I can hardly believe it’s true feeling” must have filled the minds of Abraham and Sarah. They may have had to pinch themselves to be sure it wasn’t just a dream.
But it was so real and wonderful.
Their God had fulfilled His promise. He had miraculously provided for His chosen.
And child of God, that’s nothing compared to what you have in Christ.
For to have Christ God’s Son means He has given you “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (II Peter 1:3).
And if you have everything in Christ, that means you need nothing but Christ!
Well, with the gift of Isaac, we might like to think that everything went well for Abraham and Sarah. No big trials. Just smooth sailing.
But there are more sovereignly prepared lessons to strengthen Abraham’s and Sarah’s faith.
That’s the way it is in walking with God.
Thus, we dare not become comfortable or complacent at any point spiritually thinking we have arrived. For God loves to bring into our lives whatever necessary to cause us to rely on Him.
In fact, if we are honest with ourselves and with one another, we each have things in our lives, marriage and families in which there is room for growth.
A Chinese proverb says, “Nobody’s family can hang out the sign ‘Nothing the matter here.’ ”
Well, enter the problem in Abraham’s home.
From the divine provision for His chosen we now come to the
2. The divine protection for the abandoned 9-21
Continuing with the flow of the story in verse 9 we read, “Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking.”
In contrast to the celebration over Isaac there is resentment and jealousy.
The word for mocking has the same root as “laughter.” But this is an “in your face, put down.” It’s full of scoffing. In fact, the original grammar shows that Sarah repeatedly saw this mockery.
And who is the culprit? Ishmael, who at this point according to the chronology is a teenager around 17 years old.
(Remember, Genesis 16:16 tells us Abram was 86 years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him. That was 14 years before. And if you add 3 more years until the time Isaac was weaned, that makes Ishmael 17 years old!
Clearly, he’s a proud, resentful and jealous teenager.
Just a sidebar. “Teenager” is a strange term. Young adult is better. Because between 13 and 19 doesn’t have to be a time of self-centered and wasted living. Those 7 years can be some of the greatest years for a young man or woman to live to the hilt for Christ!
Well, why does Ishmael show such animosity toward Isaac his half-brother?
Because Isaac had taken the limelight and left him in the shadows. Yes, in part.
But deeper than that. Remember, as soon as Hagar conceived Ismael, her attitude toward Sarah? She despised Sarah in her heart (16:5). Hated her guts.
You can be sure the evil disposition Hagar showed toward Sarah (and to Isaac) was a toxic influence on her son Ishmael.
So, a heavy cloud of animosity had invaded that home. And Sarah refused to tolerate it. Watch what she does:
Verse 10 “Therefore she said to Abraham, ‘Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.’”
Wow. This looks like sweet submissive Sarah going on a rampage.
She is saying, “Abraham, kick them both out. Disown them. Cut them off from our family. I never want to see those two again!”
Did you notice Sarah refuses to mention either of Hagar or Ishmael’s names?
She only calls her “this maid” and refers to Ishmael as “her son” and “the son.”
Why has Sarah become so adamant that Hagar and Ishmael must go? Here’s why-
She perceives this as a threat. She sees there would only be hostility and hatred between those two brothers that would get worse with time.
For all she knew, this violent rift could follow the deadly course of jealousy the first two brothers took with Cain murdering Abel.
So she tells Abraham to drive them out.
Now God has tucked away in Galatians 4:28-31 a fascinating reference to this very tense situation. Paul uses it as a key example for us.
“And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON, FOR THE SON OF THE BONDWOMAN SHALL NOT BE AN HEIR WITH THE SON OF THE FREE WOMAN.” 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.”
Here’s the point. Just as Ishmael persecuted Isaac (that’s the word Paul uses), so non-Christians persecute Christians (“even so it is now” tells us that”).
And in the argument of the book of Galatians calls us to make a break from any reliance on the flesh for being right with God.
Keep that in mind as we look at Abraham reaction.
Verse 11: “The matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son.”
The word translated “distressed” means “to shake violently,” like curtains blowing in the wind.
Abraham is struggling, and God knows it.
We are told in v. 12: “But God said to Abraham, ‘Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named’ ” And further, verse 13: “And of the son of the maid I will make a nation also, because he is your descendant.”
God’s choice was to work through Isaac (Gen. 17:19) though He would care for Ishmael and raise up a nation from him, (17:20).
But God here stipulates that Isaac not Ishmael was His elect line.
Why Isaac not Ismael? Because of God’s sovereign choice!
The apostle Paul captures this truth in Romans 9:7–9 when he says, “nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. 9 For this is the word of promise: “AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.”
The God-appointed descendants of Abraham, the children of promise and faith, would come through Isaac. Ishmael, an intruder would have to be removed.
So, the Lord is directing that things should now be different in Abraham’s household. Abraham would need to see things with a new perspective.
Many years ago, a very big man was saved at an evangelistic meeting of the Salvation Army.
He couldn’t wait to get home and tell his wife.
And he let her know that everyone helping in the meeting was wearing red sweaters. So, his kind wife made him one too.
He went back to the next evangelistic meeting wearing his new red sweater. But he noticed that all the workers wearing the sweaters had white letters on their sweaters.
When he told his wife she replied, “Well, I can’t read or write, neither can you, but leave your sweater with me, and I’ll see what I can do.”
At that time, a man across the street was painting a sign on the store window, and the lady decided to copy the letters on the sweater. That evening the man went back to the meeting wearing his sweater with the new white letters on it.
When he got back home, he told his wife, “You’ve done it, my dear!” Everyone said I had the best sweater of them all.” She had written in big white letters across the front of his sweater, “This business is under new management!”
So it was, Abraham was learning to put the management of his home into the hands of God.
Watch how he goes into action. Verse 14: “So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar, putting them on her shoulder, and gave her the boy, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered about in the wilderness of Beersheba.”
In that vast desert area along the southern border of Canaan, Hagar and Ishmael seem to get lost. Because they run out of their rations:
Verse 15: “When the water in the skin was used up, she left the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away, for she said, “Do not let me see the boy die.” And she sat opposite him and lifted up her voice and wept.”
What a pitiable sight. They are totally helpless. And hopeless. Hagar sees her son on the verge of death with no water in the middle of the desert. So she leaves him under a bush for to shield him from sun beating down on him.
Now here we see the compassionate heart of God. Verse 17: “God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.
God responded to the cry of that boy, and he came to their rescue. He tells Hagar what to do:
“Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him. Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the lad a drink.”
God saw them in their desperation and provided the solution.
And how we as God’s children can relate to that. For God saw us in the desert of sin with no hope of getting out. And God provided the solution by leading us to the living water in Jesus Christ.
Well, in the closing 2 verses, we see 6 short snapshots of Ishmael.
V. 20: “God was with the lad, and he grew; and he lived in the wilderness and became an archer. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran (that’s the NE part of the Sinai Peninsula), and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.”
Martin Luther concluded that Ishmael becomes “a clever and learned preacher, who establishes a church among the heathen.”
Well, that exceeds the text. But the one phrase that should bring joy to your heart is the first statement about Ishmael, “God was with the lad.”
God had heard that boy’s cry of desperation. And God continued to care for him and be with him as he grew up.
Beloved, God’s heart of compassion is as wide as the world for the undeserving. And He calls us to respond to that compassion by submitting our lives to Him.
What a mighty God who has given Himself to us. For He always keeps His Word and shows mercy on the undeserving.
Let’s thank God together.
Hope In Christ Bible Church 4/7/19
Intro. Ps. 127:3
1. The divine provision for God’s chosen 1-8
Heb. 11:11; Num. 23:19; Isa. 40:8; Gen. 11:30; 12:2; 15:3,5;17:17; 18:10,14; 20:7; Psalm 105:14–15; Rom. 4:19-20; Luke 1:54-55; II Cor. 1:20; Gen. 17:12,19; Psalm 113:9; II Peter 1:3
2. The divine protection for the abandoned 9-21
Gen. 16:5; Gal. 4:28-31; Gen. 17:19-20; Rom. 9:7–9
As a doer of His Word, how would God have me actively delight in His great provision and protection?