As you may know, last month, I went to Manitoulin Youth Conference; Brother Roger Lewis led the study entitled “Abraham and Sarah: Heirs Together of the Grace of Life,” taken from 1 Peter 3:7. I want to share some of those lessons with you this morning; not just from Brother Roger, but also from discussion groups and from the workbook and other conversations.
Before we go into that: as many of you may also know, I had some trouble getting to Manitoulin; it involved a cancelled flight, a rebooked flight that was then delayed by four hours, resulting in me having to take an overnight bus ride with two layovers in order to finally make it to Camp by Monday morning. I had never been so exhausted. But I do want to bring out a couple of little lessons from that. One is that on that Friday night, when my flight from LaGuardia to Toronto got cancelled, I was pretty lost; it was the first time that I could remember where I had no idea what to do. But fortunately, I called up a brother who lives in north Jersey, who came and picked me up. If I wasn’t a Christadelphian, or I didn’t know any Christadelphians, I would have been in serious trouble that night in New York. That next day, since my rescheduled flight wasn’t until 8 PM, I helped that brother and his family move to a different apartment; his mom even said I was a “Godsend;” my misfortune was someone else’s fortune. It was interesting; I hadn’t thought of it that way. That night, my rebooked flight was delayed by four hours, and again, it was great to know Christadelphians in the Toronto area who were able and willing to help me out; thank the Lord for the family of believers.
While I was at Manitoulin, the most secluded place I’ve ever been, naturally, I felt safer than ever before. Even at night, I had no fear in walking around. The lesson there is that the further you get from the world, the safer you are. Speaking of the world, on my trip home, I was back at my favorite place, LaGuardia airport (sarcasm), and I was walking to the gate, and I heard an angry voice; I looked, and some guy was getting upset with his girlfriend (or wife, or whatever she was to him) and he rammed her legs with the luggage dolly, right in front of me. She ran away from him in tears; it shook me up, but it was an almost immediate reminder that this is the world we live in.
One other thing about Manitoulin, being that it’s so secluded, is that one should be able to see more stars from there than from almost anywhere else; unfortunately, because of the wildfires in California, the sky was hazy all week. It just goes to show again that even the creation is groaning and travailing even until now (Romans 8:22).
This leads me to Abraham, a man that did get to see the Milky Way in all its glory (Genesis 15:5), who was told by God to get out of his country, this “world” that he was living in, to go to a place that the Lord would show him (Genesis 12:1). Just before he’s introduced though, we read a story about a group of people who wanted to build a tower and make them a name; turn to Genesis 11:4-9. We all know the story; they built a tower and the Lord changed their languages and scattered them. This may have been the Lord’s way of putting a restraint on what man is able to do; imagine if he hadn’t; the whole earth may have been destroyed by now if he let man have free reign and didn’t intervene to keep his promise. Interestingly enough, the people of Babel did make themselves a name; “Babel” means “confusion.” Sometimes God gives people what they want, but in a different way.
We’re not going to go through the whole life of Abraham and Sarah this morning; we don’t have time. But I do want to go through a few lessons from their life, maybe some of which we don’t think about.
Turn with me to Genesis 16:16-17:1. You’ll see here that between the time that Abraham had Ishmael and the time he was promised Isaac, thirteen years had passed. Remember thirteen years ago, the summer of 2005? It was a fun summer, for some of us. Here in this country, George W. Bush had just started his second term as President, and the summer of 2005 saw Hurricane Katrina slam New Orleans. Thirteen years is a long time. Something to remember as we read stories like this is that these were real people, living in real time, day and night. It’s easy to just read the words on the page and to feel distant; to read the story and give little if any thought to the reality of time; even though time seems to go by faster as you get older, each year, day, and hour last as long as any other. Time is very real. But we also know that God doesn’t delay; he always deals with it on time. He doesn’t work on timetables; he says, “there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1).”
Let’s read Genesis 18:1-8. Abraham and Sarah didn’t even know the men that visited them, yet look how well they treated them. How much more could we do for our brothers and sisters? It’s interesting that Abraham had many servants, but that he wanted Sarah to make the cakes (Genesis 18:6); he wanted them as a married couple to make the meal memorable by showing incredible hospitality. Imagine having this spirit on a Sunday morning, where a visitor walks in, especially a brother and/or sister we have never met, and we invite them over that afternoon or evening for a meal. You may ask, “What would we talk about?” The reality is that you would have plenty to talk about; Brother Roger suggested a list of topics, some of which were: “Who is your favorite character in the Bible?” or “What is your favorite verse and why?” or “Who would you like to meet in the Kingdom?” or “What job do you hope to have in the Kingdom?” There would be more than enough to talk about for an evening.
A few verses later (12-15), we see Sarah laugh because she doubted that the Lord would give her a son. Her doubt was at least somewhat reasonable; she knew that she was not only barren, but also very old. A few chapters later, Sarah would give birth to Isaac; she named him so because “God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me (Genesis 21:6).” The question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” was answered.
In verse 9, the men ask where Sarah is. Sarah’s name had just been changed (Genesis 17:15); how did the men know her new name? It may have been here that Abraham knew they were angels. The men’s primary objective was to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20); they made a detour for the express purpose of helping Sarah’s faith. Imagine the angels making a detour for us.
Genesis 20 is where Abraham messes up; he lies to Abimelech. We also see Abimelech as a man of integrity (Genesis 20:5). God actually prevented Abimelech from sinning against him; remember that all sin is against God (Psalm 51:4). This is not the only time that God prevented someone from sinning; he did the same when David went to kill Nabal (1 Samuel 25:26, 34).
Abraham knew he had to be the father and Sarah had to be the mother of the promised seed; nothing on earth could kill them at that time, but he hadn’t thought about that here. Sarah may have even gone along with the deception to protect Abraham, seeing as she knew he had to be the father.
That brings us to Chapter 22, possibly the most important story in the life of Abraham, when he is told to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Two chapters earlier, he was afraid that Abimelech would kill him; now he was ready to sacrifice Isaac, believing that God would raise him from the dead even though there was no precedent; it had never been done before. Abel was righteous, but he didn’t come back from the dead, and before Abraham, the most righteous person in history may have been Noah; even he died. It was here that his faith was confirmed, and the Lord did provide; Abraham saw a ram caught in a thicket (Genesis 22:13). A ram is a male sheep; isn’t that interesting. We know that this story points forward to God giving his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him may have everlasting life (John 3:16). Think as well of the incredible faith of Isaac and Jesus; either one of them could have at any point said, “No way.” Instead, both were willing to go the distance. Jesus actually did go as far as dying on the cross; he died for us even though we were sinners (Romans 5:8).
The writer to the Hebrews says that when Abraham was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, he obeyed, “not knowing whither he went (Hebrews 11:8).” We don’t know the hills and valleys we will face, but God will take us to the land through faith. It’s all part of the journey. No one really has it so much easier than someone else. Everyone in our Bibles had a different story; we all will as well. We know from Malachi 3:16 that a book is being written in heaven, and we don’t know for sure, but what if our story is in it, and what if the people living in the Kingdom will read about it one day? There’s little reason to think otherwise. Abraham was a friend of God (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23); we are related to Abraham through covenant; God’s compassion is based on that relationship (2 Kings 13:23). No matter how badly you’ve sinned, you are still closer to God than anyone out there, because of the covenant.
Abraham and Sarah are a great example of a married couple who served the Lord together; even though they had their faults, they were people of faith, and it was accounted to them for righteousness (Galatians 3:6). They are both mentioned in the “Faith Chapter (Hebrews 11).” Peter uses them to describe a good marriage in the Lord (1 Peter 3:1-7). When marriage involves sacrifice, love, submission, reverence, the focus is upon meeting needs and fulfilling obligations. Abraham knew that Sarah shared in the promises; his prayers opened her womb. Paul writes to the Ephesians that husbands should love their wives, and that wives should submit to their husbands (5:22-33). A brother said last year, “Men will quote that verse that says ‘wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands…” but are afraid to quote the last part of the verse that says “husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church” because it ends with “and gave himself for it.”
Abraham is not just a Genesis figure; he is all throughout scripture. The Lord tells Israel, “Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him (Isaiah 51:2).” The New Testament starts by saying “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1).” The very first verse says that Jesus was a Jew; many Jews today are unaware of this. Abraham is mentioned 74 times in the New Testament; only Moses is mentioned more times in the New Testament than anyone from the Old Testament. Jesus said that Abraham rejoiced to see his day (John 8:56), because of the promises made to him. Abraham was told by God, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed (Genesis 12:3).” The promises made to Abraham are essential; the Gospel is not complete without them. Let’s turn to Galatians 3; we’ll read verses 6-9, and skip down to 26-29. We see in verse 8 that the Gospel was preached to Abraham; the Gospel is not just a New Testament thing; it is all throughout our Bibles.
I’d like to close with the words to a song called “Faith Is”; it was written by Brothers Levi Myers and Darryl Rose, and was this year’s Camp song:
We lift up our eyes and look from where we are, to promises offered to us.
North, south, east, and west, we’re promised the best if in the Lord we place our trust.
Our God is a shield, so we won’t be afraid; we know our reward, it is great.
Nothing is too hard for Yahweh our Lord; by grace we’ll inherit the land.
He’s the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and He is our God.
We’ll obey our God’s command; we don’t see what lies ahead.
We will go as he has planned; by His word we will be led.
Walking by faith not by sight; knowing His ways: they are right,
His word our path and our light,
For faith is, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.