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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

October 14, 2015

Genesis 17:17-18-8

  1. Verse 17. In 17:3, Abram “fell facedown” exhibiting respect and reverence for the Lord. Here in 17:17, he again falls on his face but this time it is to hide his laughter. When Abram heard that God would greatly increase his descendants, he responded with respect and submission. But when he heard how God would carry out his plan, his respect contained a tinge of laughter. So put yourself in Abraham’s sandals for a moment. He began following God at age 75. He is now 99. He has been following God for 24 years. During these years God has repeatedly told him that he will have a son and he will possess the land. After 24 years, what does Abraham have to show for it? Nothing! Why does God delay in our lives? His opportunity may not even begin until we have exhausted our own resources and all other options. His delay is designed to bring us to the point where we recognize that there is no human hope—our only hope is in God (Rom 4:18-21).

  2. Verse18. Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” We must feel the agony of this request. All of Abraham’s love, all of his hopes, and all of his dreams have been poured into this boy. Abraham was not expecting another son. He must have thought: “Lord, be reasonable. After all, Sarah is a very ‘iffy’ proposition whereas Ishmael is a certainty. Let’s go with a sure thing.” Abraham is seeking to protect God from the embarrassment of not keeping His promise. Abraham has gotten into the habit of being content with something less than what God intended. Be careful to ever limit God.

  3. Verse 19. God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.’’ God once again confirms His promise, but this time explicitly states that Sarah shall be the mother. God even says that the boy’s name shall be “Isaac,” which means “laughter.” God thus made an ironic play on Abraham’s response and his son’s name. Every time he heard his son’s name, Abraham would be reminded of the miraculous birth. God always gets the last laugh! However, God is gracious. He responds to Abraham’s request. He says, “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation” (17:20). God heard the prayers of Abram and He blesses Ishmael. As the Hebrew people would have twelve tribes, so Ishmael’s people would also have twelve families. God blesses both believers and unbelievers (Matt 5:45). He is a gracious God—slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

  4. Verses 21-22, the Lord says, ‘“But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.’ When He finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.” For the first time, God gave a specific date for the birth of the promised son. Within a year, Abraham would know whether or not God had fulfilled His promise.

  5. Verses 23-27. Imagine this scenario: A 99-year-old father tells his 13-year-old son to go get a flint knife so that all the males in the household can be circumcised. Think about this. Most junior high kids won’t even take out the garbage but somehow Ishmael is willing to be circumcised. Why? I believe that he observed his father’s tendency to obey God and he was willing to follow his father’s example. Fathers, are you that kind of a man? Is your life a model of obedience? Do your children see Christ in you? These verses stress three elements of obedience in our Christian lives.

    1. Biblical obedience is complete. Abraham circumcised “every” male in his household. The words “all” and “every” are used four times in 17:23 and 27.

    2. Biblical obedience is prompt. Abraham obeyed God “the very same day” (17:23, 26). Abraham did not say, “All right, God, I hear you. I know what You want. I’ll do it tomorrow, or next month, when I have a little more leisure time. I’ll do it after I do something else I want.” Abraham knew that the time to obey God was now.

    3. Biblical obedience can be risky. Circumcision is quite painful and disabling (Gen 34). Abraham’s obedience rendered his family defenseless. He trusted God to protect and provide for his family. In order to be true to what I read in the Scripture, I have to take risks. Again, it is important to note that circumcision was not a condition of the covenant but a sign of participation in it. Likewise, our responses to God are not the conditions of our salvation but are the appropriate and expected signs of our participation in the new covenant. Why does God delay in our lives? Sometimes God’s opportunity does not come until our human extremity is reached. His opportunity to meet our need may not even begin until we have exhausted our own resources and all other options. His delay may be designed to bring us to a point where we recognize that there is no human hope—our only hope is God. When God says, “Jump,” will you trust and obey and take that leap of faith?

  6. Chapter 18:1-3. In chapter 17, the Lord had appeared to Abraham for the first time in thirteen years (17:1). Now, just a short time later, God appears again. The Lord is encouraging Abraham with His presence and friendship. The text says that the Lord (Yahweh) appeared to Abraham “in the heat of the day.” It was in the heat of the day and Abraham was resting at the door of his tent. Abraham did not see his three guests walking from a distance, they just appeared. Abraham responded by running to meet them and bowing himself to the earth (18:2). Finally, Abraham says, “if now I have found favor in your sight.” In the Scriptures, this is always spoken to one of a higher rank. These clues all point to the fact that Abraham recognized the Lord (cf. 12:7, 17:1).We can assume that this was God, in the person of Jesus Christ, appearing to Abraham before He took on flesh and was born at Bethlehem. The Bible teaches that no man has ever seen God the Father (John 1:18; 1 Tim 6:16). Therefore, if God appeared to someone in human form in the Old Testament, it makes sense that it was the pre-incarnate God-man that we know as Jesus Christ. Abraham responds with one of the greatest lines in Scripture: “My lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please do not pass your servant by” (18:3). He was eager to encounter and experience God. He wanted God to remain with him so he said, “Please do not pass your servant by.” This is precisely how the church should respond when Jesus knocks to be invited in for fellowship (Matt 25:31-46; John 6:53-58; Rev 3:20; 19:7).

  7. Verses 4-8, Abraham responds to the Lord with great zeal. Abraham jumps to provide service and care for his guests. He prepares a basin for them to wash their feet and he promises them that he will bring “a piece of bread” (18:5). The Hebrew word translated “bread” (lehem) can refer either to bread specifically or to food in general. Based on Abraham’s directions to Sarah in 18:6, bread was certainly involved, but 18:7 indicates that Abraham had a more elaborate meal in mind. As this section unfolds, there is a striking emphasis on worship. [These principles are also relevant to hospitality.] Abraham demonstrates worship in three ways: (1) speed, (2) selection, and (3) service.

    1. First, we will look at speed. When Abraham saw the men, “he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth” (18:2). The text goes on to say that Abraham “hurried” into the tent to delegate the orders to Sarah (18:6). I love this verse because it is so realistic. Abraham is a lot like most husbands. He makes commitments without talking to his wife. Men, are you guilty of this? At one time or another, I think every one of us has been. In effect, Abraham says, “Come on in, I’ll wash your feet. I’ll feed you a meal. Rest with us. I will take care of you.” But he has nothing prepared for these unexpected guests. So Abraham hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.” Like a wonderful, loving wife, she does just that. In the very next verse, Abraham “ran” to his servant to have the best meal possible prepared (18:7). Good old Abraham definitely got his fair share of exercise when company came into town. The man took worship and hospitality seriously.

    2. Not only was Abraham a man of speed but also he was a man of selection. Abraham prepared the best available food for his guests (18:6-8). He didn’t hold back his first fruits for his family; rather he gave of his wealth to others. He was a man of great generosity. The feast that Abraham had prepared could have fed a small army. The ingredients for the bread cakes, “three measures of fine flour,” are equivalent to about thirty quarts of flour, which would make a lot of bread. Depending on the breed of cow, the calf butchered for the meal could produce up to 100 pounds or more of tender veal.

    3. Lastly, Abraham was willing to provide service. We know Abraham had 318 men in his household who were his servants (14:14), but here he himself becomes personally involved. Abraham sought the rest and refreshment of his company (18:4-5). He was after their best interests. So much so that Abraham was willing to make himself available to these men as a waiter/servant (“and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate,” 18:8).

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