Genesis #18: The Promise - The Rest of the Story

Genesis: The Promise  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:54
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There’s a cultural phenomenon going on in our world today called “cancel culture”. What it says is that if you express views that are contrary to those acceptable by a particular group - whether that be a group of friends, a business, a media channel, a government official, you can be locked out of participation.

Cancel Culture

This isn’t really new, it’s been done for generations. What’s different now is that a different group of people have the keys.
Our world tells us that only the right people count… only people who do the right things… say the right things… think the right things… can accomplish worthwhile things.
We might think the Bible does the same thing… after all, God expects us to be holy… expects us to love one another… expects us to avoid sin…
We need the whole story.
The bible helps us to see the whole story.
The bible is a great book.
Not only because it is God’s word, but also because God uses it to teach us how we fit into his plan.
Let’s be honest. We never feel worthy to be used by God… not in ourselves, who would say: “God is using me for something special.” It would take a bit of pride because you and I know what goes on between our ears… in our hearts… we know our own limitations - so we wouldn’t say that, right
I see pastor friends who have full churches, staffs of passionate ministers, online worship services that are like feature movies....
I see all that in others… and I ask, Lord, can’t you do that here? Can’t I be a part of something like that?
Jesus teaches us in the New Testament that God has very clear expectations for us; our lives are to be holy… as God is holy.
The question is, what am I to expect in my life, given all my short comings?
What’s a reasonable expectation for people like us? For people who mess up, who struggle, who stumble, who break the law, who look at people with lustful thoughts, who get caught up in political arguments, who say things out of anger, who lose sight of the gospel?

What can we expect for this life?

I think Abraham can help us with this.
I know, I know… we know Abraham because of his great faith right.
As Scripture put it :He believed God.”
In the NT, we see the early church looking back almost with a nostalgic view of Abraham.
You know what that’s like. When we look back at our past and overlook the inconvenient truths.
I do it all the time in my life.
Boy I sure wish we could go back to 2019… as if all things were great back then. No 2019 was filled with problems, granted it might be better than now, but it wasn’t that good.
Hear how Paul in his letter to the church in Rome describes Abraham:
Romans 4:18–21 NIV
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
That’s the victorious Abraham we all know about. That’s the Abraham that we think, I could never be like that.
Well that’s why we need to read Genesis… so we hear “the rest of the story.”
Because seldom do we see or think about the struggling Abraham.

Abraham a story of (inconsistent) Faith

Today we read a passage that reminds us the rest of the story, but it also has some information that can make us kind of sideways if we miss the point of the story.
Genesis 20:1–2 NIV
Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
It reminds us of an event that occured back early on when we met Abraham in Ch 12.
When God called him to go to the land he would give him, only there was a famine there, so he kept on going to Egypt. When he got to Egypt, in fear of Pharoah, he allowed his wife to be taken into Pharaoh's harem.
Now here we are some years later in the text and a similar thing happens.
All sorts of questions come to mind… What did this king see as so attractive about a 90 year old lady? She must of been some looker.
To explain this, theologians have come up with all sorts of ideas. But they are just ideas… and they aren’t the point.
The point here isn’t that Sarah was a cutie even at 90… but that Abraham is very human with very human faith. Meaning… inconsistent.
And whenever there is inconsistent faith, there is misplaced fear.

Inconsistent faith is revealed in misplaced fear

This is clear to us because we see him again, looking at the king with fear.
He should know better… but he’s inconsistent… he’s human. And because he isn’t perfect, he fears things, fears people that he need not fear.
God has promised him to have a land, to have heirs, and yet here he is, worried about what some king might do to hurt him. Again he’s not worried about Sarah… but about himself… or rather worried about what King Abimelek might do.
It’s easy to say… he had a promise from God, why would he fear anything.
But this sort of cowardice is throughout the Bible.
In the NT, the disciples had been sent ahead of Jesus one time. And while they sailed, a storm came up and they all grew afraid… and Jesus came walking up on the water seeing them afraid, he asked them:
Matthew 8:26 NIV
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
Or again when Jesus was teaching and people came to believe, they wouldn’t let people even know of their faith
John 12:42–43 NIV
Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.
They were afraid of losing their position in the temple if they believed in Jesus.
The problem with misplaced fear isn’t that it wouldn’t happen.
The boat with the disciples may sink… the new believers may get kicked out of the synagogue. Abraham may get in trouble with the King… but God has a plan and when we let our fears push our our faith, it leads to misplaced hope.

Inconsistent faith revealed in misplaced fear leads to misplaced hope

Abraham you see was putting hope in Sarah to protect him. Maybe he figured that since she was to deliver the child, he’d let this king be the father? Maybe I don’t know. But he was putting his hope in something other than God’s plan.
We put hope in our schemes, our ability to figure things out.
That’s should be an alarm to each one of us when we start believing that the best way has anything to do with our superior intellect or our ability to see things better than everyone else.
That’s what happened to Abraham, when his faith wavered, he looked around to what he could trust, and it turned out to his planning.
Our hope belongs only in God's plan.
Ephesians 5:6 NIV
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.
That includes you… don’t deceive yourself.

Inconsistent faith revealed in misplaced fear leads to misplaced hope

That’s the first principal from today’s text.
The second principal we see in today’s text is one that we are well aware of.
Faith is defined as that which we believe.
Hebrews 11:1 ESV
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
See that word conviction of things not seen. Faith is a conviction we have. And these shape how we live our lives. You think of a person who is faithful, you don't think of what is in their minds. We can’t see what’s in their minds. It’s what they do that defines their faith.
That’s what we think of Abraham… God called him and he went, God sent him and he packed up; God promised him… and he offered his wife to another man.

Inconsistent faith shapes our actions unpredictably.

Genesis 20:3–10 NIV
But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.” Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.” Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.” And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
What we see in Abraham, isn’t solid faith, but inconsistent faith. He believes, then he schemes… he believes, then he schemes.
Faith that frankly I can identify with.
We see his actions here not only impacting Sarah who was turned over to another man, but Abimelek was affected as we see God speaking to him in a dream… his whole people were to be destroyed by God for this… when Abimelek hadn’t intentionally done anything wrong other than be a pagan.... and have a harem of women that is.
The key here is that Abraham and Sarah’s scheme wound up putting all the people of Gerar at risk.
You ever told a white lie… or come up with some scheme to get around a problem that had unintended consequences?
When my kids were in trouble, I worried… and that stressed my relationship with my wife. When our bank account was low, I looked around for another job… which took me away from my family. Why did I do that? Because I had put my hope in something other than God… and I took action.
Sure I may have called it acting faithful, but more times than not, if I were to be honest, there was more me in it than God.
That’s what we see in Abraham. We get to see that his inconsistent faith shapes his actions for impact on others.

Inconsistent faith shapes our actions that impact others(for good and for bad).

We can’t avoid our actions impacting others.
We don’t live in a vacuum. We tell ourselves that it doesn't matter to anyone else, but we honestly can’t say that because we have no idea what impact our actions can have.
Its like that butterfly effect
Jesus taught this butterfly effect in Matt 5
Matthew 5:13–16 NIV
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Salt and light don’t affect themselves, they shape others
Our actions are shaped by both a solid faith and an inconsistent faith.
But both point to the faithfulness of God
That’s the third principal we see in today’s text… the one that we need to hang on to tightly.

Our inconsistency is part of God’s plan

Genesis 20:11–18 NIV
Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.” ’ ” Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelek said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.” To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.” Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, for the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.

Our inconsistency is part of God’s plan

Do you remember back when all this began with Abraham, God made a covenant with Abraham. Do you remember how it worked? God walked through the covenant… God said, I’ll make sure this promise is kept.
And look at today’s text,
God arranged for Abimelek to be in place to have the dream and be fearful.
God arranged for Abimelek to become impotent so that the promise to Sarah would be protected.
God arranged for Sarah and Abraham to be protected and blessed in spite of their lack of faith.
It means the same thing for you and I.
As Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy:
2 Timothy 2:13 NIV
if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
That’s why we love him… because he is good… even when we don’t deserve it.
Teh fact is, we don’t deserve to be used by God. But he says, i’m going to anyway

The rest of the story: God draws straight lines with crooked sticks.

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