Tag: The Basics

Like Father Like Son

Genesis 26:1-17

Isaac definitely a key figure in God’s plan of redemption, his plan for us! On the short list for OT figures mentioned by name in NT – Paul connects our spiritual heritage and blessings to Isaac on three occasions. Author of Hebrews does much the same by reminding readers that Isaac is the one through whom the promises came down through the generations. Yet Isaac received pretty limited coverage compared to father Abraham and son Jacob. This chapter the only one given exclusively to Isaac as lead character.

Way the story starts almost sounds like account of Abraham and Sarah back in chapter 20. Author does make it clear this really is different event with different people. King of Philistines referred to as Abimelech – highly unlikely to be same individual from more than 40 years earlier. Either a title like Pharaoh or name common in a family – Sr., Jr., III, etc.

All story is important, it’s in the Bible. Most significant is the interaction between Isaac and God, what we learn about character of each in light of it. Isaac briefly commended for his faith at later time (Heb. 11:20), his faith does not shine very brightly here.

A. Isaac moves to Gerar  v.1-6

another famine

not clear if this was an act of God or of nature – served to give Isaac and Rebekah opportunity to trust God

important to remember – not just a “food” hardship for people – agriculture formed backbone of entire economy

also more like large operations in western US – substantial portion of Isaac’s wealth in animals, not land – grazing rights, not ownership

and… if conditions meant famine for people, meant the same for livestock – plus, semi-nomadic farmers don’t have barns / silos / granaries

change of plans

based on God’s message to Isaac, seems he probably intended to pass on through Philistine territory, following coastal road to Egypt… perhaps Goshen, Nile delta, less dependent on rainfall

instruction from God very similar to first message to Abraham, only condensed – land I will show you, here it is, not Egypt

should have been greatly reassuring to Isaac – God’s favor did not end at Abraham, still directly interested in Isaac

renewed promise

further encouragement – Abraham had made God’s covenant plain to Isaac, passed it along as part of father’s blessing

now Isaac gets it first-hand from God – not left to rely solely on Abraham’s say-so and hope God agrees with it

is one significant addition: fulfillment explicitly conditioned on Isaac’s obedience – stay here and I will be with you, bless you, give you, keep my old promise

God’s statements look to past as well as future – Isaac will receive these blessings in part because of Abraham’s obedience / faithfulness

implied Isaac’s obedience and faithfulness to God could have similar bearing on future fulfillment of promise

B. Isaac sins in Gerar  v.7-11

same fear

Isaac had similar ideas about his wife as Abraham had about Sarah – age difference, beauty, got serious risk there

hard to believe Isaac didn’t know his parents’ history… story made it to Moses – appears he followed example without getting the point

someone has said there is big difference between being afraid and being a coward – being afraid at times right/good

Isaac’s fears probably were warranted – problem was he handled his fears in a cowardly way… and got busted

same lack of trust

don’t be hard on Isaac, we do exactly the same – Isaac did trust God… for the really big things he couldn’t control

Isaac did obey God’s command, stayed where God told him to, did not continue traveling to Egypt

did not trust God with the little thing he thought he could control… and made it worse:sinned against God (lack of trust), sinned against neighbor (told a lie), sinned against Rebekah (expected her to back up the lie)

how often do we do the same – different details, basic points the same: trust own abilities rather than God

same outcome

only matter of time – husband / wife can’t keep up charade indefinitely… esp. when the king is a peeping Tom

saw clear evidence were husband and wife: “obviously…“, then did right thing – confronted Isaac with his deception

same song, second verse, same chorus – in attempting to protect himself, Isaac put many others at risk… from God’s displeasure – always the way with sin

even though possibly discrediting Isaac, Abimelech told the truth… and put teeth to it – not to be any question about their relationship

C. Isaac is blessed and banished from Gerar  v.12-17

blessed by God

clear example of forgiveness – God did not hold Isaac’s sin against him even though would have been justified

Isaac didn’t obey (trust) God yet he was blessed in spite of it – hope of future blessing can be no incentive to sin

experience of blessing after sin is incentive for praise and thanksgiving… for God’s grace and mercy – esp. when blessing is abundant / over the top… 100:1 for starters

envied by his neighbors

not an uncommon reaction – people consider only what they see and react to it… often in a bad way

neighbors saw Isaac’s amazing prosperity and resented him for what he had – apparently didn’t bother ask “why”

is highly likely if Philistines had trusted and obeyed God rather than idols, they would have been blessed also

banished to his tent

fear got added to envy, raised red flags enough king got involved – for sake of peace and national security, Isaac had to go… at least out of immediate neighborhood

Isaac and Rebekah had settled down, house with windows – had to leave that behind, go back to life in tent

something obvious in everyday life: even though God promised Isaac the land, he was not to think of it as the ultimate promise – God had much more in view

One of results of famine and Isaac’s migration – God sent the Gospel to the Philistines… before they became such fierce enemies of Israel. Happened while they still had some grasp of right/wrong, commitment to the truth. Like others, Philistines squandered opportunity God gave and lived to pay high price – eventually an end as distinct people group. Long before Jesus’ commission to disciples, had all nations of the world in view. Abraham and descendants would be favored above others, yet rest of humanity not excluded from God’s blessing and the Gospel.

Second thing to see: God’s promises and blessings for this life are real, are wonderful, are intended to serve as attractant: way to show the lost in way they can understand that friendship with God is good thing. Means we should be sure to let them know the source of blessing: not our smarts, family legacy, luck of the draw, but God and his grace.

Third thing: even God’s best blessing in this life only a tiny example of blessing found in eternal life and inheritance promised to us in Christ. No matter how good our imagination, how much God has revealed in his word, we still have no real grasp of what is waiting for us. We just know it’s gonna be great!

 

God Raises Up Another Generation

Genesis 25:12-34 

God is so gracious. Here a fellow who to every appearance had no use for true God… in spite of father’s example. Mother’s attitude kinda sketchy, too, even though had some personal interaction with YHWH. Conflict that started early on doesn’t go away, eventually causes lots of heartburn for other branch of the family. Yet God promised to bless Ishmael and his offspring… knowing all that in advance. Didn’t limit his kind providence to Isaac and his descendants. Ishmael’s descendants could not rightly say they were upset with God because he abandoned them, never did anything for them.

Is last time we hear much about Ishmael and family, focus of narrative turns to Isaac and Rebekah, their adventures. God didn’t keep his plan hidden, put it right out there for them to know. Isaac and Rebekah didn’t have any easier time trusting God than Abraham and Sarah. Details slightly different but… had to learn to trust God while doing the right thing. Come to think of it, hard lesson we all get practice in.

God is certainly gracious and he is certainly sovereign – he continues to make that abundantly clear. And not only to people immediately involved in his redemptive plan… plain to others including generations who read their story in Bible.

A. God keeps his promise about Ishmael  v.12-18

promise to Hagar

Hagar disrespectful toward Sarai, Sarai mean to Hagar; Hagar ran away, God met her at well gave her promise Gen. 16:10-12 

too many descendants to count (blessing) – call him Ishmael (God hears) – he will be a wild one (warning of conflict)

anyone who says / thinks God is sexist / misogynistic / anti-women, needs to read Bible for themselves

Hagar more favored even than Sarai – she heard first-hand from God, Sarai heard through tent wall and from her husband

promise to Abraham

didn’t happen for 14 years, yet God added to stated promise – informed Abraham how he would bless Ishmael Gen. 17:20 

promise of 12 sons, matched generation later in sons of Jacob – promise of fruitfulness, great influence and power

not just that God didn’t agree with Abraham, actually went contrary to his wishes – Isaac would receive God’s favor in way that Ishmael would not

trend started long before, continues to this day – God decides who he will favor and how he will do so… according to his eternal plan

principle we don’t mind… when God swats down someone else who doesn’t follow his plan; not so happy when God doesn’t follow our plan, carries out his own instead

Ishmael’s legacy continues

God had warned his mother that Ishmael would have turbulent life – “His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s hand against him.”

yet seems God is more than foretelling the future – just as he ordained blessing for Isaac, had he also ordained conflict for Ishmael?

given subsequent events, could be reasonable to think so – if so, must recognize God had purpose in that as well

B. God keeps his promise about Isaac… eventually  v.19-27

another barren wife

know from God’s promise to Abraham that Isaac must have at least one son, probably with Rebekah, yet not known for sure… yet

by God’s design was to be faith-building experience for both of them… and Abraham – he has stake in the outcome also

nearly 20 years pass without sign of children – was it something about the tent? that Rebekah barren like her unknown mother-in-law

a test of faith

how would married couple deal with disappointment – get used to it and give up on the idea? cook up some plan of their own like Abraham and Sarah?

would they conclude maybe Abraham or God got it wrong, wasn’t to be another generation on their account

this time they passed the test – Isaac pleaded on behalf of his wife… and maybe himself also… and God heard / answered – once again God answered prayer on Isaac’s behalf

early conflict

gotta feel sorry for Rebekah – twenty years married, no children, immediate (other) family many miles away

gets pregnant, things going mostly according to plan, then major ruckus develops and she has no clue what’s happening

not sure she wants to be pregnant, figures something must be drastically wrong, learns she is carrying twins… who started sibling rivalry early… and with great vigor

learn of God’s sovereign choice yet again – for his own reasons had role reversal in mind, also clear indication that younger would receive blessing as well as inheritance

C. favoritism and foolish behavior  v.28-34

divided family

already seeds present for serious conflict, then parents take sides and fuel rivalry – recipe for trouble in any family

shows how powerful corrupting influence of sin really is – brothers fighting before birth, continued for much of life

then there is believer / unbeliever thing – at least some of players in this drama knew God’s plan to bless certain ones and not others – another factor / contributor to conflict

as next scene plays out, gain a much clearer picture of nature and character of twins… and neither look very good

instant gratification

Esau very much a man for our day – primary concern for present, little interest in the future; valued things he could hold, no consideration for value of intangible things

Esau very much the work / eat / play / sleep, wash / rinse / repeat type – not interested in looking beyond daily wants

put physical comfort ahead of spiritual blessing, and… didn’t seem to be taking much of leadership role in family either

prudent planning

Esau showed absolute disdain for birthright, the privileges he could expect from being firstborn – anticipated benefit couldn’t compare with present need

Jacob willingly sacrificed present value (bowl of soup he could have eaten) for anticipated benefit of inheritance

probably not spur of the moment decision, Jacob instead playing his brother, capitalizing on his weakness to take advantage

at least portion of what Jacob had in view for future a good thing – problem was how intended to go about getting it

At this point in twins’ history, we would consider both unbelievers. Jacob didn’t have his “come to Jesus moment” until years later, no evidence that Esau ever had one. Nothing in their actions so far to set one above the other for any spiritual reason, hard to find moral or ethical reason either. Point is this: God didn’t choose Jacob because he was good; Jacob became good because God chose him. True for absolutely everyone born into sin-corrupted world… except Lord Jesus of course.

Once again, new generation raised up because of God’s intervention… remember Rebekah was barren, too. And God didn’t give her a couple of perfect sons to raise either. If we had all of human family tree to pick out series of ancestors to stretch from Adam to Jesus, almost certain would not have made some of choices God did. Is part of reason why God did it that way!

God intends there to be no part whatever, anywhere, any time in whole history of redemption… from Day 1 of creation to the Last Day where man and his goodness or ability can take any credit. Salvation is all of God and he intends us not to forget it… and that includes the people he chose along the way. Each was a useful part of God’s plan because God chose them, prepared them, equipped them, used them for his own glorious purpose. Had God not made the moves, all of mankind would be hopelessly lost. God did move, and he included us in his plan. Don’t ever forget it and don’t forget to thank and praise him!

 

 

The Death of Abraham

Genesis 25:1-11

 Are several things we can glean from this portion of God’s word. An important one: God does not hang about, pay attention to us until we have accomplished the big things, then move on to the next thing. Could think maybe Abraham was done being important – he and Sarah had the son of promise, Abraham passed test with that son, now Isaac has a wife and another generation is on its way. Yet God didn’t put Abraham on the shelf, didn’t stop being interested in Abraham. Stayed with him to the end… and made sure we get to know his story.

Good encouragement for us – as long as God leaves us here in his world, he will not neglect us. He still has things for us to do that are important part of his plan. Wouldn’t have been big surprise if Abraham’s world had shrunk, had reduced his obligations, limited any plans for the future and waited for the end. Yet Abraham did just the opposite, continued to invest in others as long as he had breath.

A. a new wife  v.1-4

perhaps not only Isaac who needed comforting

previous chapter ended with Rebekah filling up a void in Isaac’s inner person… and he had only known Sarah 40 years

we have no adequate frame of reference for Abraham’s loss – 127 years had known her, husband / wife for most of those years

ripped away without warning and without being present – Abraham must have been quite a man to endure that and move on

life can go on with “new” spouse

Abraham acted most foolishly, if, after the loss of his wife, he, in the decrepitude of old age, contracted another marriage.” Calvin

nowhere in Scripture is any hint of rebuke / displeasure on God’s part for this decision… and certainly in keeping with God’s design for man and woman: “not good for man to be alone”

father (not grandfather) promise kept

Abraham certainly mindful of God’s promise, that he would have a multitude of descendants signified by name change

Gen. 17:4-5 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.”

if all would ultimately come through Isaac, he would be considered the father of the nations rather than Abraham

and perhaps Abraham had some unmentioned indication from God that he should marry Keturah

B. an inheritance  v.5-6

Isaac declared the sole heir 

“Father Abraham had many sons” but not all to be treated the same – seen already in distinction between Ishmael and Isaac

similar pattern would continue while Isaac… because of God’s covenant… would be the only one to inherit Abraham’s estate

also indicates Isaac the one to inherit all of the blessing – God’s special favor not divided up among all his step-brothers

bequests given to other offspring

Abraham wise enough to not simply cut the rest off – instead, made provision for them while he was still alive

if any had a problem (including Keturah) Abraham could address – would not fall to Isaac to sort out family squabble over property rights

because of God’s great blessing, Abraham wealthy enough to provide well for sons, set up in their own enterprises… perhaps spice trade, based on names and associations

protection ensured for Isaac

further effort by Abraham to minimize conflict and preserve integrity of line of promise through son of promise

don’t know how much God told Abraham, he did know that God himself had singled out Isaac for special treatment

as had done with Ishmael, sent rest of his sons to distant place… perhaps with some family connection in the old country

NOTE: seems likely that Abraham didn’t figure this all out by himself; almost certain that he had some direction from God… either in person… or through Eliezer and/or Keturah

C. death and burial  v.7-10

old age is good

Bible gives different view of age than culture – today, in the West, worship youth and spend trillions to prevent at least appearance of aging

Bible holds up advanced age as privilege and blessing – he “died in a good old age”: pleasant, agreeable, rich, valuable, excellent, “good in the widest sense”

not something to be dreaded, avoided, rather to be embraced and enjoyed and used for good and benefit of others

full life a blessing

not just one day after another, Abraham lived life to the fullest – made all his days count for more than momentary pleasure/gratification

those who live the fullest lives even in our common way of thinking are strongly others-minded

the more others-minded we are, more days God often gives us to be a blessing to them – he blesses us, we bless them

burial by / with family honorable

interesting that any personal animosity that might have existed between I & I did not prevent properly honoring dad

even though was to be buried next to wife, not concubine, Ishmael did right thing and honored father’s wishes

sign of God’s grace that two men who could have been sworn enemies were able to bring era of Abraham to fitting end

D. promise continues  v.11

beginning of a new era

not only new generation, a new kind of generation – Abraham and Sarah both very strong personalities, Isaac didn’t stand a chance

Isaac a much different kind of person than his father – in the narrative, continues to stay mostly in background

focus quickly moves on to Jacob and Esau for a time – will learn more about Isaac’s character… later

Isaac confirmed as heir

writer makes sure we know that God confirmed Abraham’s identification of Isaac as his sole heir

God had already made plain to Abraham what his (God’s) choice / plan was to be and Abraham made publicly official

Isaac would come to know for himself that God had not forgotten his covenant with Abraham, blessing continued

God still the One Who Sees

is interesting that Isaac would choose Beer Lahai Roi for his homestead – a place of great significance to Hagar and Ishmael

was Hagar that gave the place its name after God had met with her there… and sent her back to Sarai

practical reason: an oasis, well of water located there; perhaps an indication that Isaac wanted to remain under God’s watchful care

certainly would work out that way: God would see and continue “involved” in Isaac’s life, the life of his sons

Abraham had his issues, times when he didn’t trust God the way he should, instead relying on his own genius. Yet God never abandoned him, never left to his own devices. And Abraham finished well, stayed faithful for the long haul. Thank God for his grace and his patience – that he blesses us even when we don’t deserve it, puts up with our failings, uses us to carry out his plan even into old age. Abraham left a good legacy, was commended for his faith, “called the friend of God”. Jas. 2:23 May the same be said of us!

 

 

God Provides a Wife

Genesis 24:28-67 

So much time passes between Genesis 3:15 and New Testament, besides details, people, and those names, is easy at times to lose sight of God’s hand on the wheel. Of course, see him in the big stuff, major events that shaped the world and Jewish people over thousands of years. But what about all of life between the big stuff? Just how involved was God, anyway? And what does that mean about God’s providential directing of affairs in today’s world? God is far more involved in simple details of our daily life than we often have any awareness of.

Is obvious from account why Abraham valued this servant so highly. Never lost track of his purpose, continually deflected attention from himself either to master Abraham or to God. Labored diligently to promote interests of Abraham and Isaac, all the while making careful note of how precisely God had directed his affairs. And he must have had some inkling of how significant his own part in all this was – future of an entire people group depended on good outcome.

Servant using his wits, everything he had at his disposal, to pursue goal of finding master’s son a wife. At same time was depending on God to do the impossible… and was not disappointed. Not only servant being directed by God, so were Rebekah and all who were part of her circumstances. Servant made initial contact, received encouraging response. Yet work not finished – important details still to work out.

A. family response  v.28-32

Laban – don’t let him get away

can feel intensity of the drama – Rebekah ran, Laban ran, too exciting to maintain composure… gotta tell someone, gotta check it out… see if it is really real

at first introduction see strong hints of Laban’s character… that he is motivated by wealth/possessions, what’s in it for him

be hospitable

retained his manners, not concerned only for Abraham’s servant’s personal needs… for his entourage also… camels as well as those who accompanied (59)

B. servant’s soliloquy  v.33-49

first things first

servant was diligent, task-oriented, would not relax so long as were still things that needed doing – also didn’t intend there to be room for misunderstanding (Laban could have taken notes!)

complete recital

opportunity while talking for family to gain insight about potential groom’s family / circumstances, process this new idea

focus on God’s providence

servant had more important goal in mind… persuading Rebekah and family that this entire scenario directly orchestrated by God himself

countless opportunities over 500+ mile journey for something to happen, make a mess of timing… yet God worked it out perfectly down to smallest detail

could see / hear what kind of family Rebekah would marry into – more important, would know up front that true religion of great importance too

NOTE: servant did give one important detail, the escape clause (41) – if Rebekah/family did decline offer, would not bring shame or embarrassment to servant

C. family response  v.50-51

we can’t interfere

one of those tantalizing details left out of Bible – Laban and Bethuel respond to servant as if they know and at least respect YHWH… how did they come by that knowledge??

had heard enough to be convinced they really had no say in the matter – probably didn’t want to refuse anyway!

God has decided

acknowledged that YHWH was the one orchestrating this marriage, that he had already decided the outcome

didn’t seem inclined to even give Rebekah a say in the matter – maybe she had already expressed her willingness

D. servant’s persistence  v.52-61

worship

this theme runs throughout story, worship of YHWH – did refer to YHWH as his master’s God, but not to indicate he was riding on Abraham’s coattails

as easily as servant responded with worship it must have been regular habit – not ashamed to let everyone including his men see

generosity

made sure to tend to this detail before stopping to eat – even though he knew God was working it all out, he didn’t slack off

when God is directing, should be no hindrance to generosity – Abraham really just acting as funnel to share God’s blessing with another part of family

haste

gotta love this fellow’s energy – Abraham’s oldest / most trusted servant, up at first light and anxious to take Isaac’s bride and head for home

couldn’t send text message to Abraham, wanted to get news to him and Isaac asap that God had given him success

Rebekah’s willingness another indication of God’s providence – reluctance not a good way to start a relationship

E. bridegroom’s acceptance  v.62-67

introduction

Isaac apparently had “left home”, gone south to establish own homestead in anticipation of having a wife and family

not told if Isaac was watching the road but pretty likely he was – would also have been good time to make plans

seen by Rebekah, suspected who it was, servant confirmed it – Rebekah didn’t presume, maintained her modesty while servant introduced them

acceptance

seems that Isaac had no reservations about servant’s “choice” of a wife by God’s providential direction

lonely 40-something single fellow received and accepted her as his bride, the mother of his children, one who would support him in future as mother had in past

love

many marriages in that time and place ones of convenience, not necessarily involving affection or respect

not the case for Isaac and Rebekah – even though Isaac probably not strong leader in family, he did love his wife

comfort

Isaac basically an only child, mother had died, father well-advanced in years – Isaac allowed Rebekah to fill up his life

and Rebekah did her part to be complement to Isaac that God intended a good wife to be – perhaps she went a little overboard but… God knew what he was doing

Marriage a big deal, not a big surprise that God would work out choice of right person. But don’t forget how many small things he worked out on the way to the big thing. And remember how important a piece that was of an even bigger thing… Lord Jesus’ family tree. He is still guiding and governing steps of his people and those with whom they interact. We should be like Abraham’s servant: trust him in all things, give him glory when he answers our need.

 

 

Searching for a Bride

Genesis 24:1-27 

 

At least for a while, seems like God’s redemptive plan on Pause. Sarah has died, Abraham is old, Isaac is single, what comes next? A whole lot God has promised not yet fulfilled, not small promises either. For Abraham at this point, line of promise at dead end. Isaac not a kid, definitely old enough to have an idea what his future should include. Doesn’t seem he has made any moves at all to keep things moving – the exact opposite of his parents, trying to “help” God.

This chapter a pivotal point in Isaac’s life, yet he can hardly be seen. Servant went by himself to carry out Abraham’s commission, wonder why Isaac stayed home… One writer:

“…as might be expected, Isaac is merely a passive figure in the scene. Everything is being managed for him. This was quite natural. Isaac was always being managed. For forty years he was managed by his father, then he was married, and for the rest of his life he was managed by his wife.” Charles Erdman

Without question, Isaac much different temperament from others in family. Yet he willingly acquiesced in this part of God’s plan for his life. Isaac may be in background, God otoh plainly seen throughout – he is moving his plan forward according to his own timeline and his purpose. When servant questioned some details, Abraham assured him of God’s help. At crucial moment, servant himself asked God for his help. And when servant saw clear answer to his prayer, thanked God for his timely help.

A. God will help (7)  v.1-9

God has blessed

no question of God’s kindness to Abraham for more than half his life – one of great blessings highlighted in description

he “was old, well advanced in age” – no doubt that Abraham was old by anyone’s standard, long life viewed as blessing from God

blessed in other ways, too – faithful wife for most of his years, material possessions, good health, children, protection

God works through human instruments

some action needed to kick-start promise fulfillment – not much time left for Abraham to enjoy his grandchildren

God had already years before put trusted servant in position to be ready for this need – someone who could be counted on to carry out instructions exactly

God could have worked it out so Isaac and future wife would encounter one another, chose to work differently

God supplies wisdom

Abraham gave certain explicit instructions: find a bride from home country, own family, under no condition to be a Canaanite – would have complicated God’s plan for Canaan

all the rest up to the servant… and brings up good point, what if? – no negotiation by Abraham, must be willing bride

so many details: timing, route, supplies and more needed planning and implementation – huge responsibility, yet God was in those details, too

God gives direction

Abraham’s faith shines through: same God who brought me here and gave me promise will take you there and back

seemed like Abraham putting great deal of trust in servant to carry out commission – really trusting God to carry out his purpose through servant

Abraham expecting God to be more than glorified GPS – guiding travel, yes, and making clear God’s choice for wife

the servant commits

once questions satisfactorily answered, expectations made clear, servant willingly takes solemn oath to do just as Abraham required

called on YHWH Elohim, Creator God, sovereignly ruling over all creation… not just Canaan… to be witness

certainly appropriate that One who is giver of life should be the witness and one expected to provide guidance and understanding

B. God, please help (12)  v.10-21

the servant calls out

another strong indication of just how close relationship existed between Abraham and servant – perhaps amplified since Sarah’s death

all of Abraham’s assets at his disposal, selected judiciously enough for journey and to impress the girl / her family

gets to Nahor’s home town, immediately prays that God would make his efforts successful… as a favor to Abraham

prayer includes his plan… how he will clearly ascertain the right person – no surprise, he is looking for wife with servant’s heart

God’s response has already begun

God didn’t wait for prayer to be finished before answer was in progress – seems like servant didn’t have to choose between several options, either

Rebekah’s presence, action, attitude something that had been in process for long while – God had orchestrated all necessary preliminaries for this moment

Nahor’s choice years before of place to settle definitely a factor – the way God chose to provide wife not steeped in idolatry as Canaanite women (or those in big city of Ur) were

God’s answer was more than sufficient

suppose maybe servant was thinking “this is way too easy! first prospect and away we go!” – didn’t just assume, though, scrutinized her closely to make sure

described here as one who had great beauty both inside and out – clearly at each step of investigation meeting conditions

is often the way God does it, providing above and beyond the minimum – just like he blessed Abraham, would bless Isaac too

C. God, thanks for the help (27)  v.22-27

God’s blessing is shared

pretty substantial gifts for just some water and labor – shows the servant already had confidence that God had answered

further clarification later when servant explains his mission, but remember where story began: “the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things”

blessing spills over on extended family – another of Abraham’s nephews enjoys benefits of God’s treatment of Abraham

God confirms his choice

servant confident but not yet fully convinced – didn’t know her name or who members of family were

asks the question, gets full answer in response – was indeed from the right family, satisfying Abraham’s stated condition

last piece of puzzle in place, has the whole picture and is perfect match – servant has indeed chosen God’s choice for Isaac

the servant worships

huge sigh of relief, had not come that far just to be disappointed… his confidence in God justified and rewarded

really only one right response… worship – giving praise and thanksgiving to God for his clear direction and provision

once again servant links his own success to God’s love and favor toward Abraham, credits God with precisely directing his steps

Have no way of knowing if Rebekah had been praying for a husband or not. Do know that both Abraham and servant completely trusted God to work out all details necessary to give their plan success. Was not a “bring the problem to God then sit in recliner while he does all the work” kind of plan. They trusted God to direct their formulating a plan, their implementing it, and conclusion of it. Isaac may have been passive observer, Abraham and servant were definitely not. They were busily engaged in doing what they believed was right, at same time trusting God completely.

God just as gracious and faithful today, in big things as well as small. We can count on him just like these fellows did to make sure we act according to his plan as we carry out our plans.

 

Facing Death…Again

Genesis 23:1-20 

 God has an interesting way of teaching history. Much different from way we all learned nation’s history, at times more like family history… sometimes bits and pieces, not always obvious what connections are. And then those things we wonder why are even remembered. For instance, this bit about Sarah, her life / death / burial. A lot more press given to Sarah’s details than Abraham’s even though he lived nearly another 40 years.

Does appear that Abraham’s experiences actually useful in developing and strengthening his faith. Once he endured test over Isaac, Biblical record suggests he cut a straight course for remainder of his life. One of points at which his faith really obvious right here in our text. Like so much of rest of Bible, this included for our learning and for example – how should we face death of a loved one, where do we find necessary resources to live that way.

A. a hard loss  v.1-2

a century of marriage

Abraham had known Sarah since her birth – grew up together, things led to things, spent virtually all of Sarah’s life together

each would have difficulty remembering / imagining life without the other – typically be basket case when separation came

probable her death unexpected – living at Beersheba (22:19), Sarah died at Hebron (25 miles), perhaps visiting extended family, Abraham not there

honest grief

loss and grief an inescapable part of human life – question not if but how we grieve, point that New Testament adds to

cannot have kind of relationship these two did and not miss the other person, esp. when is mutual respect and concern

yet Abraham not consumed by his great loss – outward expression did come to an end, did what had to come next

mother of a nation

if Abraham father of many nations (Gen. 17:5), then Sarah mother of at least one of them through son Isaac

apparently Sarah important in God’s eyes also – she is only woman in all of Bible whose death and age at death recorded

good reminder for current culture – death for believer not a bad thing, not something to be denied or redefined… should not try to keep person alive through monuments or memories either

B. gifts are good  v.3-11

alien rights

Abraham made point of his immigrant status – a resident alien, temporary settler, not one native to the area

status gave limited rights / privileges incl. restricted access to land ownership – required approval of entire community

notice, too, Abraham even in view of God’s promise still considered himself temporary resident… and still wanted burial place for Sarah

gifts can be revoked

Abraham well enough respected in Hebron that several native landowners readily offered to share cemetery space

good-will gesture appreciated by Abraham but… had seen enough of human nature in 100+ years to want more

respected his wife more than his neighbors, wanted to show that by acquiring permanent burial place

often a short-term solution

gifts sometimes temporary because of how will be used – burial in cave/sepulchre followed by later transfer of bones to ossuary

bone box easily portable, permanent place of interment not necessary, can be used by others in future

then is fact that Abraham not young, gifts don’t always endure to following generations… on either side of transaction

C. deeds are better  v.12-16

binding on both parties

as much as Abraham might have appreciated gift, had resources and intention to pursue an enduring agreement

Ephron understanding and compassionate, tried to make whole thing as simple as possible for friend Abraham

Abraham politely makes plain his commitment to legal transaction universally recognized as binding on parties to it

and future generations

Abraham diplomatic enough negotiator to keep discussion focused on immediate situation even though he had more in mind

small enough “community”, Abraham and family big enough deal so everyone acquainted… recognize need for future planning

Abraham acting very prudently to as much as possible prevent conflict over this issue for his descendants – death hard enough to deal with when are no complications

the need justifies the expense

several things in view here – Abraham accepts exorbitant price without question because: wants no resentment, future question about fairness of transaction

by his actions Abraham makes plain that nothing too good, no expense to great to do what is right for loved one

NOTE: writer makes another thing clear, location detail at beginning and end of account – Sarah died in the land of Canaan, Abraham buried Sarah in the land of Canaan

D. burial isn’t the end  v.17-20

Abraham’s perspective

don’t know how much time actually elapsed between 22:19 and 23:2, probably at least 20 years – Isaac 37 or 38 when mom died

last recorded big deal in Abraham’s life his test on Mount Moriah – last time we know God spoke to him directly

likely made indelible impression on Abraham, maybe something he remembered daily for remainder of life

future for the land

Abraham and immediate family lived as resident aliens in land of Canaan for sure, yet by no means all of how Abraham thought about Canaan

Abraham convinced of God’s promise, that future generations of his offspring would surely live in the land… where he and Sarah would be buried

purchase of field and cave at highly inflated price shows also Abraham’s confidence he was investing in land that would one day be his people’s

by expressing confidence in “land” promise, was also showing confidence in what that promise really stood for, “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”  (Heb. 11:10)

future for Sarah

Abraham’s great care in burial of Sarah greatly influenced by experience with Isaac there on Moriah, given further insight in Hebrews 11:19 

“concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”

Abraham had some concept of resurrection – if God could raise Isaac from dead, could and would someday do so for Sarah

Can learn much from this scene in Abraham’s life that goes against grain of modern ways of dealing with death.

Grief is expected and proper… but is not the last word

Death is hard… but is not the end

Burial (as opposed to discarding on the dump, turning to compost) shows proper respect for someone made in God’s image

Also shows confidence that more is yet to come, that God, not sin and death, will have last word

For the living, life goes on… and we have things to accomplish for Christ and his Kingdom

 

 

The Lord Will Provide

Genesis 22:1-24 

 Do you suppose Abraham ever wondered how many more tests God would give him? Leave home and family; part company with nephew Lot; administer the sign of the covenant… when he was 99; expel Hagar and Ishmael from his home; and now this one, probably the toughest one Abraham would ever face. And God waited until Abraham had decades of obedience under his belt starting with leaving Ur before he issued this test.

Certainly was test of Abraham’s faith and obedience (see v.12), but was far more than that. Abraham ended up learning far more about God than he did of himself. This a very graphic reminder for us that, like Paul, we haven’t “arrived”… either in own sanctification… or grasp of God and who he is. Will always be more for us to learn and experience from the Lord, our Provider.

Is a masterfully told account of darkest and most glorious day of Abraham’s life – author presents it as dialog in word and action between God and Abraham. Cannot hear God’s tone of voice, do know that Abraham understood precisely what God intended him to do.

A. God commands  v.1-2

take that son

is personal instruction – calls Abraham by name, makes sure he has full attention… intends there to be no opportunity for misunderstanding

shows his grasp of relationship between father and son – your son, only son, son you love – as if bond with Ishmael completely broken, only relationship with Isaac remaining

as far as Abraham concerned, Ishmael entirely God’s “problem”, all his attention focused on Isaac

go to a particular place

was to be place of God’s choosing, not Abraham’s – father would probably have picked place closer to home! – git ‘r done, don’t want to think about it

but God did want him to think – was to be eyes wide open test, Abraham needed time to prepare mind and emotions

for a particular purpose

as part of Abraham’s preparation, God didn’t keep in dark about purpose – let him know up front what he was facing

God wanted more than blind obedience – really expecting Abraham to make choice between what he could see and the God he couldn’t see

B. Abraham obeys  v.3-9

without delay

didn’t stay in bed and try to hide – probably acted according to custom, maybe so Sarah wouldn’t know what he was doing… and ask questions

tended to all details necessary for obedience first – showed kind of trust relationship he had with God

with proper provision

didn’t take minimalist approach – ok God, if you want this, I’ll do it, but you’re gonna have to do the lion’s share

went about this task as he would have if were going to sacrifice an animal – was really to be an act of worship

with time to think

seems from Genesis account and commentary in Hebrews that Abraham had no expectation that God would intervene in any way

also does not appear Abraham questioned God’s character or justice – modern theologians have, danced quite a jig to get God out of awkward corner

bottom line, though, from God’s POV Isaac deserved to die and God had authority to appoint Abraham as his agent

we know from rest of story that was not God’s purpose, yet does not do violence to God’s law or character

with commitment

did not deviate from course over 3-day journey even when saw it in distance – kept on going to place God directed

declared and acted his intent to worship, something which necessarily included sacrifice – where is the lamb?

showed his commitment to God, trust in him – notice, too, Abraham said “God will provide for Himself“, not for us

however this all turned out, Abraham believed a suitable “lamb” would be sacrificed and accepted by God

C. God intervenes  v.10-18

you have passed

Abraham in his mind had thought through to conclusion, now carrying out commitment to act as God had directed

at just the right moment, God halts the process… temporarily – sacrifice and worship still necessary but Abraham had satisfied God

you have let go

Isaac not only Abraham’s only son, was Abraham’s guarantee of a future… and of God’s far-reaching promise

for Abraham to reach this point, had to relinquish any claim he had to Isaac and trust God to work it out somehow

God has supplied

an acceptable sacrifice already provided, one that did not deserve to die in place of those (Abraham and Isaac) who did

God provided far more than life to Isaac and substitute sacrifice – the Isaac Abraham received back was far more precious than before

God also provided further insight into his character, his faithfulness that Abraham would never learn another way

God reaffirms his covenant promises

once again, God declares his intention to bless Abraham and his descendants – blessings were dependent on obedience

strongest oath God could ever take, to swear by himself – so long as he is God, he will keep this promise

know from Paul’s commentary in Galatians 3:16 that God had redemption through Lord Jesus in view all along

“Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.”

D. Future provision  v.19-24

outcome never in doubt

from God’s perspective, outcome of his eternal redemptive purpose hanging by thread of Abraham’s faithful obedience

God knew all along how would turn out, never doubted even though Abraham and Sarah did more than once

God’s provision already in progress

one more piece of evidence – God already had Isaac’s wife and progress of successive generations in the works

true for many things that are part of God’s plan – much already in progress, some starting in previous generations, that we never see until time God chooses

Based on Abraham and Sarah’s history, this particular outcome not a given. His faith pretty shaky, sometimes not even mostly in right things. Yet when came to those times when God spoke plainly, Abraham obeyed… without question or delay.

And when God asked Abraham to choose between God and something else, Abraham made right choice. He let go of his dearest possession, believing that if necessary God could raise Isaac from the dead and “give him back”. Abraham had more confidence in God’s promise than in one particular method.

God can be trusted to never cheat his children. If he takes something away, what he provides in its place is of greater value. Usually what he provides is in part a greater understanding of himself – his love, faithfulness, grace and mercy, all those things he declared to Moses on the mountain. And… just as he supplied perfect sacrifice for Abraham and Isaac, has provided the perfect sacrifice for all his people… the Lord Jesus.

 

 

The Covenant with Abimelech

Genesis 21:22-34 

So much of life of significant people in Bible complete mystery to us – have record of some details, significant milestones in God’s plan of redemption. Yet in between those events were many days, weeks, years even with routine, one day after another. God doesn’t say much about those periods, might even wonder if God was paying attention. Then there is portion of Scripture like our text.

Seems like must be big deal, is in the Bible after all. And involves some kind of covenant, a treaty between important political figure and Abraham. Are some key points that show God really cares about smaller details of everyday life. Also bears testimony to fact that people who worship other gods act according to God’s direction. When it serves God’s purpose, pagan kings do what is of benefit to God’s people. Is not only big things or small things that receive God’s attention, he is fully aware and involved in governing all things.

A. recognition of YHWH  v.22-24

Abimelech initiated the peace treaty

God had directed Abraham to attend to one detail relative to Isaac’s safety – Hagar and Ishmael, but more was needed

apparently God intended Isaac to grow up in basically peaceful environment with limited influence from neighboring Philistines

so God moved… Abimelech to approach Abraham – don’t know Abimelech’s entire motivation, peace with Abraham obviously very important to him

acknowledged God’s action in Abraham’s favor

“This little incident shows forth clearly how influential and prominent a personage Abraham had become under Yahweh’s blessing: neighboring kings were concerned about retaining his goodwill; he ranked on a par with the mighty men of his day.” H. C. Leupold

Really, now? not what Abimelech focused on – was concerned with giving credit to Abraham’s God

perhaps motivation increased by what he saw happening with Abraham – Abraham’s God was treating him very well

remember, this observation came from one Abraham had earlier written off as having no fear of God, perhaps not even any recognition of YHWH

Abimelech could see the evidence, perhaps felt a little threatened at least by God if not Abraham and his growing influence/prosperity

required Abraham to take vow of honesty

something else on Abimelech’s mind – hadn’t forgotten his first encounter with Abraham, lack of complete honesty displayed

good reminder for Abraham (and us) that people who do not worship true God still have code of ethics that governs actions

complete honesty and full disclosure of first importance for Abimelech – expects if Abraham takes vow before God, he’ll keep it

…and reciprocal kindness

not just ethical standard that he had, acted with loyalty and generosity also – asks same in return from Abraham

had given large gift to Abraham and Sarah, given him pick of the land in which to settle – Abraham apparently took him up on the offer

since their first meeting Abraham and family moved from Gerar to Beersheba, about 25 miles

interesting note: Abraham and Abimelech could be amicable neighbors when Abraham and Lot could not

B. conflict resolution  v.25-27

a problem of water

seems to be perennial issue in much of the world… that of water rights – Abraham took opportunity after making vow to complain

Abraham’s servants had dug well for them and livestock, Abimelech’s servants opportunistic and took advantage

sounds like experience Moses had generations later, intervened on behalf of Jethro’s daughters

…and of ignorance

not a big surprise, something relatively insignificant for someone in Abimelech’s position, had no knowledge of the issue

Abimelech astute enough to recognize importance of what Abraham was complaining about, also recognized injustice

quickly resolved

another reminder that pagans understand injustice and often act to address it – as soon as he knew the problem, resolved it

reminder also that God paying attention to daily needs of his people and their livestock for adequate water

good example for us to go to one who can intervene to resolve conflict… and not delay but address it quickly

C. covenant agreement  v.28-32

Abraham gave, Abimelech received

this a significant treaty, more than just gentlemen’s agreement over a handshake – required transfer of valuable commodities

this a repeat of Abimelech’s transaction at their first meeting – giving of livestock, the equivalent of money/wealth

that Abimelech initiated the treaty and Abraham gave livestock showed Abraham agreed to stated terms – Abimelech receiving showed his acceptance of Abraham’s commitment

both vowed to keep the agreement

treaty intended to be binding on present generation and successive generations also – required taking of vows to ratify

good intentions on both sides lasted for a while – unfortunately conflict over water came up again during Isaac’s lifetime

binding on the Philistine army also

Phichol present for this entire ceremony probably for several reasons – added weight / significance to treaty

to be no misunderstanding with army – had seen / heard the agreement, were bound to support Abimelech’s position

and it included ownership by Abraham of well he had dug – army should defend Abraham’s rights if it became necessary

D. a worship “center”… finally  v.33-34

a memorial tree

we put plaques or engravings in places to memorialize significant events, Abraham planted a tree

would last for generations, serve to remind all who passed by and/or lived in area of peace treaty with Abimelech

probably an altar

Abraham sanctified other places by building an altar – not told if he did here but is likely given he “called on the name of the Lord”

is especially important given the next verse – Abimelech reminded Abraham he was object of God’s grace and blessing

if he were to put down roots, stay there long-term, only fitting there should be place for public worship

God is witness and worshiped

was not only Abraham, Abimelech and Phichol who witnessed this covenant, God was also called to witness

Abraham took oath with God as his witness that he would tell the truth – both of them swore oath before God to keep terms of their treaty/covenant

given God’s part in Abraham’s life up to this point, is only right he should be worshiped

interesting Abimelech and  Phichol didn’t hang about for worship time even though they acknowledged YHWH’s presence and power in Abraham’s life

Good opportunity for us to remember: whether we are aware of God’s nearness, he is present with us at all times. Is watching out for us, moving heaven and earth to supply needs of his people right down to simplest most mundane things. Watches over the big things too, God not limited to working only with his people. His sovereign power extends to all of his creatures. We can trust him to work out all things in his time and way for our good.

 

 

God Sends a Son

Genesis 21:1-21

 

Doesn’t have to be too large a project before we start to lose track of details. Can’t keep it all in our mind, need some kind of help to make manageable. Not so with God. He needs no help, never misses a detail, has it all planned out perfectly. Has left us a record of how he has carried out significant pieces of his plan of redemption. Increases our confidence in God. Also shows just how determined God has been to allow nothing to derail or delay his purpose.

Also shows us how loving and gracious God is, stooping to use weak sinful humans as essential participants in that plan. God works with our weaknesses, overcoming them, often using them to display his power. Were some major weaknesses for Abraham and Sarah – their shaky faith right up near the top of list. Age a pretty big thing, too, especially when it comes to producing and raising a baby. Then there was Sarah’s barrenness – not just a weakness, an impossibility according to human understanding.

Yet God never gave up on these two who tried to help him out more than once… with predictable results. When we mere mortals try to help God, it never turns out well! And yet God kept his word to them… and us. In the process, Abraham and Sarah learned actions have consequences, sometimes hard ones. Yet God and his grace are sufficient to deal with them within boundaries of his eternal purpose.

A. God keeps his word  v.1-7

the right parents

combinations other than Abraham and Sarah a possibility given their ill-advised actions on three different occasions

had timing been different, Pharaoh might have gotten credit for being baby’s father… but God said “no” to that

because of God’s gracious protecting hand, was obvious from his actions that Abimelech would not get credit either

the right baby

and then there was Sarah and Abram and Hagar and… Ishmael – he was Abram’s child, no doubt about that

Abram did have great love for his firstborn son, no surprise there – if Abram to be father of many nations, maybe would start with Egyptian mother

yet when Abraham ask God about it, made it plain that Sarah to be mother of promised son – ruled out both Hagar and Ishmael

had to be Abraham and Sarah, no exceptions, and son would carry name Isaac, not Ishmael, no matter how much Abraham wanted it to be otherwise

the right time

one more detail needed to be satisfied, that of perfect timing – God intended all circumstances to be such that there be no question the boy was a miracle baby

widely known Sarah was infertile… but what about Abraham – there was Ishmael – but… were more details / factors involved

Sarah not only barren, was past child-bearing age and… by this timeAbraham considered himself past fathering

Rom. 4:19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.

uses same language to refer to Abraham’s fertility as Sarah’s – humanly speaking not happening

when all was “right”, God delivered on his promise and Sarah delivered a son just as God had declared she would

Abraham faithfully kept God’s commands – named their son Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day

their reward: Isaac would be a reminder of joy in their old age, not of their earlier lack of belief in God’s promise

B. Abraham is faced with a choice  v.8-12

who will he listen to

Abraham knew what God had said about Ishmael but… still loved him, had some interest in welfare of both boy and mother

at same time, needed to keep peace in family which incl. living with Sarah… and she not happy with Ishmael now

both Hagar and Ishmael had shown disrespect for Sarah and now her son, too – Sarah wanted them gone

once again God makes his purpose known to Abraham, this time tells Abraham to do as Sarah so strongly desired

how will he act

thanks to poor choice years before, Abraham on multiple horns of complicated dilemma, what would he do

would he follow God’s command regarding this and give in to Sarah’s demand to throw Hagar and Ishmael out, something not looked on favorably in that culture?

and what kind of dismissal would it be – how much / well would he try to help them out at risk of provoking Sarah

will he trust God

Abraham’s faith hasn’t held up too well in other times of crisis, maybe would come up short again

God promised he would look after Hagar and Ishmael, that the boy would receive blessing far beyond what Abraham could ever provide for him

iow, would need to trust God to bring good out of what appeared to be evil – we know, Abraham was learning that is something God is really good at doing

C. God keeps his word… again  v.13-21

blessing for the sake of Abraham

is clear from what God said that was because of his relationship with Abraham that he would bring blessing to Ishmael

inspired author doesn’t leave us in suspense – gives some of rest of the story, more later on in chapter 25

need to be careful not to go too far with principle, however… are examples of God blessing families because of faithfulness of one member, blessing individual for sake of father (David/Solomon)

protection in the present

touch and go for little while – unclear what motivated Hagar, what was going on in her mind when she left Abraham

“wandered [aimlessly] in the wilderness” – did she simply not know what to do, where to go, or did she get lost?

whatever the reason, both mother and boy in grave danger – would not live long in hot dry wilderness w/o water

God intervened – Ishmael’s survival necessary for God’s promise to be fulfilled – enabled Hagar to see well

promise for the future

once again God repeats promise – affirms to Hagar that he had not forgotten them or his commitment to Ishmael

author adds more detail, the boy did live to grow up and get married, probably have a family in keeping with what God said

Further indications in this account of God’s plan of redemption being particular. Required Abraham to choose – God had kept his word, how would Abraham do? Abraham didn’t mind benefits of God’s covenant but was he up to the specific terms… obedience. In this case, causing separation between the son of promise (Isaac) and the son of the world (Ishmael). Abraham made right and good choice and God blessed him for it… eventually with another test!

Notice, too, God not averse to blessing those who probably are not fully committed to him. All indications are that Hagar and Ishmael did not continue to worship YHWH as had been modeled for them with Abraham and Sarah. Later we hear Ishmael’s genealogy and the detail that they settled on the opposite side of Egypt from Canaan. Then they basically disappear from the biblical record. Yet God was gracious toward Ishmael… for the sake of Abraham.

God had a specific set of conditions in mind for where and how Isaac would grow to maturity, did not include the influence of his half-brother. Surely was for good reason since this son of promise to be ancestor of another son of promise… Lord Jesus. Again God took particular action to prevent incursion by Satan into his redemptive plan and cause danger or damage to Lord Jesus’ family tree. Good example for us, need to put distance between those who would dangerously influence us and our children. Not a case of putting them in a hothouse, rather setting proper and safe boundaries.

Can easily see from Ishmael’s descendants just how dangerous they could have been for Isaac and his offspring. Yet God graciously did not allow that to happen. Instead he provided perfectly for the one who would be our Redeemer.

 

God Protects Sarah

Genesis 20:1-18 

It seems Abraham had problem common to many… including us at various times of life. Abraham had pretty good handle on a doctrine of God, yet struggled with putting sound doctrine to work in real life. Abraham had genuine saving faith, God accounted it to him for righteousness (Gen 15:6). Yet, his faith couldn’t handle everything he threw at it. Faith not an on/off kind of thing, more like it’s on a dimmer – some times all bright and shining, other times have to look twice to see if it’s there.

Seems like is correlation between promise and test – God makes big promise to Abraham, soon after something that challenges his faith. On more than one occasion, Abraham’s faith fails miserably… this one of those times. And Abraham makes test even more challenging for himself. Not that we would ever do that!! Yet throughout entire situation, God makes sure nothing Abraham and Sarah do will derail fulfillment of promises God made to them.

This one more example of how salvation in all places and times not dependent on man’s efforts or faithfulness. Also demonstrates elements of God’s character declared to Moses later on: The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious”. And makes it clear at this point in God’s plan of redemption that his power is required for more than one reason to make it all happen.

A. their foolishness  v.1-2

they moved

not given reason why Abraham thought necessary to leave Mamre – perhaps too emotionally difficult that close to Sodom

knowingly went to place with practices that would put them at risk – Gerar in what was later Philistine territory

may have weighed risks, intention to only stay for a time and then return to Mamre – still not a good or safe move

they neglected God

was a place with some reputation for worshiping other than true God – hence Abraham’s statement to Abimelech in v.11

no record of Abraham building altar in vicinity of new home as had done in other places – not an encouraging sign

never a good move to go to place without sound church unless plan is to establish one – put both Abraham and Sarah at further risk… neglected spiritual life

they lied

apparently didn’t adequately learn lesson from time in Egypt – used same reasoning again, giving shade of the truth

failed to trust God’s protection, maybe didn’t even ask him if they should move there, acting in own strength and wisdom

not only put themselves at risk, could have had disastrous consequences for fulfillment of God’s promise of a son… besides harm to Abimelech and his household

B. God’s mercy  v.3-7

God warns

God often appeared in dreams to his people, not so often to “unbelievers” – here was best way to warn Abimelech

Abimelech understood his risk, had heard about Sodom & Gomorrah, believed their destruction was God’s doing

defends his innocence, acknowledged by God – was ignorant of important details and had not acted in sinful way… yet

God explains

makes sure Abimelech understands his restraint regarding Sarah not only his strong willpower – God had hand in it too

God had restrained him from sinning in ignorance – now Abimelech knows facts, is his responsibility to stay out of sin

God also gives explanation for what needed to come next – only when Abraham had Sarah back and prayed for Abimelech could he be sure he would live

God protects

because of Abraham and Sarah’s foolish actions, not only were Abimelech and household in danger, so was Isaac

God still determined to preserve that line of individuals he had marked out to be ancestors of Lord Jesus, the Redeemer

in process of protecting all the people involved in Gerar, protection extends to us also – we have a Redeemer according to plan

C. Abraham’s defense  v.8-14

Abimelech challenges

again Abraham faces indignation of an important leader he has put at risk – and Abimelech asks number of valid questions

is your deception limited to this only, or is there more to it? What did we do to justify this risky behavior of yours? Why have you sinned in this way? What were you thinking, what was your motivation?

Abraham explains

first confesses to fear, this from the fellow who with 300 picked men chased down 5 kings and rescued his nephew

bases his fear on difference in worldview between him and Abimelech – accused him of following lesser moral standard because didn’t worship Abraham’s God

and, btw, he didn’t really lie… just didn’t tell everything – according to Abraham’s spin, wanted to preserve life, not be deceptive for personal advantage

D. Abimelech’s reward  v.14-18

material blessing for Abraham

similar response by Abimelech as Pharaoh – really a way for Abimelech to show thanks to God for protecting him from sin

gifts were intended for Sarah’s benefit more than Abraham but etiquette required they be given to her thru Abraham

Abimelech can’t resist another dig… calls Abraham her brother rather than husband which Abraham was first

one difference from Pharaoh – Abimelech offered Abraham his choice of homestead, Pharaoh deported him

restoration of Sarah

gave Sarah back to Abraham… intact… publicly – unlike Abraham, Abimelech carried out all his actions in light of day

Abimelech made sure there would be no question about Sarah’s virtue – showing far more consideration than she really deserved

at same time, God making sure there will be no question, when the time comes, about who Isaac’s father really is

is to be plain to everyone that Isaac’s birth is miraculous act of God in every respect… and with no hint of scandal

healing for Abimelech’s household

apparently Abimelech explained situation to Abraham along with God’s promise of healing / restoration when Abraham prayed

first mention of prophet exercising his office to intercede for others – Abraham prayed, God responded as promised

Abimelech’s wife, all his female servants would be able to relate to Sarah when her time came to birth Isaac, rejoice with her

Once again, God’s love, mercy and grace evident in his treatment of weak sinful people. Gives us opportunity to see how God can protect his people even among pagans, how he can direct behavior of unbelieving leaders, even speak to them directly when needed.

Another situation where an unbeliever took the moral high road, Abraham not so much. Good reminder for us not to presume on God’s power and grace, to have faith in God and his promises, to do what is right even when it appears costly.