************ Sermon on Genesis 15:10-16 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 10, 2012
"Sowing and Reaping"
If you sow wheat, you will not reap cotton. If you sow corn, you will reap corn. And, if you sow thistles, you will reap thistles. Paul has this in mind when he says in our text for this morning,
(Gal 6:7) Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.These words of the Apostle Paul are scary and ominous, encouraging and comforting depending on your relationship with Jesus and your walk with God.
"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked" (Gal 6:7). God may not be treated with contempt. God cannot be outwitted. Do not think you can ignore the commands of God and go your own way as if nothing has happened.
Our text reminds us there is an inseparable connection between actions and consequences. What you put in is what you will get out. In the end, we all get what we deserve. If you sow corn, you will reap corn. If you sow thistles, you will reap thistles.
What does this mean in the Christian life (because that is what we are talking about)? We cannot expect to reap the fruit of the Spirit if we do not sow in the field of the Spirit.
If we sow immorality or drunkenness or drug abuse or dishonesty, then we can expect to reap an awful harvest. It may not happen today or tomorrow. But do not be deceived. God is not mocked. You are not getting away with anything. God sees. He knows. He will visit upon you the judgments that your sins deserve. We see this in our Scripture reading from Genesis 15.
As we look at Genesis 15, I want to raise three points about sowing and reaping. First, God's knowledge. Second, God's patience. Third, God's judgment.
I God's Knowledge
A Our Bible reading starts with a heifer, a goat, and a ram. The animals were cut in half by Abraham, and the halves were placed opposite each other on both sides of a trench. The blood and fluids of the sacrificed animals ran into the trench. Abraham was supposed to walk with God between the carcasses; Abraham and God were supposed to walk in the river of blood and fluids making promises to each other, and calling down curses upon themselves if those promises were not kept. But, as you know from our Bible reading, God did the walk by Himself.
The entire ceremony was a covenant-making ceremony between the almighty, holy God and His servant, Abraham. This means the slaughtered animals were holy. The blood and other fluids were holy. The place was holy. But what happened? Before the ceremony took place, unclean birds of prey swooped down on the offering animals to eat and devour. Abraham drove them away because their presence desecrated a holy place and a holy sacrifice. The presence of the birds of prey was an evil omen.
B God explains the swooping birds of prey in what He says to Abraham:
(Gen 15:13) Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.God is talking about Egypt. Egypt, like the birds of prey, opposes and desecrates the covenant.
Do you see what we are told about God? God knows. God knows what is coming next for the descendants of Abraham. God knows Israel's enslavement for four hundred years. God knows what the Egyptians will be doing to His children. God knows the mistreatment, the slavery, the building of the Egyptian store cities, the drowning of the baby boys in the River Nile. God knows. As Paul puts it, "God cannot be mocked." There are no secrets from a God Who knows when I sit and when I rise, Who perceives my thoughts from afar, Who discerns my going out and my lying down, Who knows the words of my mouth before I even say them (cf Ps 139:1-4).
I was fixing computer and network problems at Sierra Village. The men in the pool room wanted to know what I was doing. I explained that the cameras were connected to the internet and that from my office I could see them playing pool or exercising or sitting in the big room or coming in the front gate.God sees way more than me. God sees everything and knows everything.
God knows exactly what the Egyptians will be sowing and what they will be reaping. Likewise, He knows what His servant Abraham – and His descendants after him – will be sowing and reaping.
God indicates He also knows what the Amorites are sowing and reaping. The Amorites are not the only inhabitants of the Promised Land but they are predominant and occupy land on both the East and West side of the Jordan. God knows the "sin of the Amorites" (Gen 15:16). He knows what they are doing at the time of Abraham – think of Sodom and Gomorrah. He knows what they will be doing four generations later: idolatry, sodomy, infanticide, the sacrifice of children, the consulting of mediums and other forms of witchcraft. God knows.
Think of what these words about Egypt and slavery and the Amorites must have meant to Moses' original audience – the children of Israel who had been enslaved in Egypt, the children of Israel who experienced the very things said to Abraham, the children of Israel on their way to the land of the Amorites. Not only does God know and understand their situation, but it is all part of His plan announced 500 years earlier to Father Abraham. It is all in God's hands.
C Likewise, God knows everything about our sowing and our reaping. "God cannot be mocked." God cannot be fooled. God cannot be deceived. He knows everything and sees everything. He knows what happens to the seed of the Word and the Gospel. He knows when the seed falls upon the hard and beaten-down path – that is, the hearts that do not understand the message about the kingdom. He knows when the seed falls upon rocky places – that is, the hearts that receive the Word with joy but quickly fall away when trouble or persecution comes. He knows when the seed falls among the thorns – that is, the hearts that hear the Word but choke it off with worries and the deceitfulness of wealth. He knows when the seed falls on good soil – that is, hearts that hear the Word and understand it and produce a harvest of gratitude.
God knows everything about our sowing and our reaping. God knows when our bodies occupy a pew but our hearts and minds are a thousand miles away. God knows when we live one way during the week and another way on Sunday. God knows when we fail to read the Bible and to pray. God knows when our life is a lie. God knows when we commit adultery. God knows when we get drunk. God knows when we lust after our neighbor's husband or wife. God knows when we are less than honest. God knows when we gossip and slander. God knows when we violate confidences. God knows when we are puffed up with pride and arrogance. God knows. God knows what you are sowing and reaping.
But God also knows the few "good" things about us. God knows when we try to serve Him. When we sincerely repent of our sin. When we desire to be in worship. When we try to do right and be right. When our love for Him and neighbor is (mostly) real and genuine. When we are faithful to our spouse. When we are diligent with devotions. God knows. God knows what you are sowing and reaping.
II God's Patience
A The second thing we see in our passage is God's patience, His incredible patience and long-suffering and forbearance with sinful man.
Did you hear what is said about the Egyptians? They will mistreat the children of Israel for 400 years! For 400 years God will weep and cry with His children. For 400 years God will endure the pain of His children. For 400 years God will hold off punishment.
The same thing is said about the Amorites. God will hold off punishment for the Amorites until the fourth generation.
Do you hear the patience of God? We are talking about horrible sins and horrible sinners. They enslave and mistreat. They drown newborn babies. They sacrifice and kill their own children. They commit sodomy. They violate the ancient laws about hospitality. They sin against God and man. They rebel against those over them. They kill and maim and murder and steal. Yet, God is willing to wait. Yet, God is willing to hold off. Yet, God is willing to postpone action.
B And, God gives a reason: "for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure" (Gen 15:16).
This is not the only time we hear this sort of language. For instance, when did Christ come? Scripture tells us, "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law ..." (Gal 4:4). And, when is Jesus coming again? Christ is coming again "when the times will have reached their fulfillment" (Eph 1:10).
Do you remember the series of judgments in the Revelation? The judgments started with the opening of the seven seals. At that time, Death and Hades were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine, and plague (Rev 6:8). This was followed by the blowing of the seven trumpets. At that time, a third of the earth was burned up, a third of the sea was turned into blood, a third of the waters turned bitter, and so on (Rev 8:7-13). This was followed by the seven thunders. After hearing about judgment on a fourth of the earth and a third of the earth we would now expect some kind of judgment on a half of the earth; but John is told to seal up what the seven thunders have said and to not write it down (Rev 10:3-4). This is followed by the pouring out of the seven bowls. This time judgment falls upon all the earth because God's wrath is now complete (Rev 15:1ff).
Do you hear what Scripture says? God has a measure. God has a plan. It is God Who judges when the time is right. It is not for us to know the times or dates or measures the Father has set by His own authority (Acts 1:7). God is in control. Things are in His hands. He is waiting and weighing and measuring and considering and taking note.
"The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure" (Gen 15:16). Doesn't this talk of a full measure sound a little strange? God says wicked people have a measure of iniquity to fill up, a measure that is known only to Him. Some people fill their measure quickly. Other people fill their measure slowly. But whether it is quick or slow, God waits patiently and bears with them.
"The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure" (Gen 15:16). Do you realize what else this means? This means there will be more sin and worse sin on the part of the Amorites. How do you think Abraham reacted to this? If I was Abraham, I would be thinking to myself,
"You got to be kidding, God. You are going to let them keep on sinning? You are going to let them do more sin and worse sin? You are going to let them keep doing their evil?"
C God has a measure. And God is patient. It is Peter who explains God's patience in terms of the day of the judgment.
(2Pt 3:9) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
God is patient. He is so patient with sinners. He is so patient with Egyptians and Amorites. He is so patient with you and with me. He is patient because His measure is not yet full. He is patient because more evil and sin can still be done. He is patient because He wants to give everyone an opportunity to repent of their sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
III God's Judgment
A The third thing we see in our passage is God's judgment.
The "big lie" in popular culture today is that there are no consequences to sin. Watch TV sometime. The drunks are all funny drunks. They are the life of the party, loved by all. They don't get into car wrecks and kill people. They don't lose their jobs. They don't turn their homes into hell on earth. In popular culture sexual immorality is always romantic, glamorous, and exciting. Teenagers seldom get pregnant. No one seems to get an STD. Single moms don't live in poverty. Adultery doesn't lead to divorce and heartbroken children. Abortions happen without any regrets.
Do you see the popular depiction of sin? Sin is painless and has no downside.
As I said, this is the big lie today. But what does Paul say in our text?
(Gal 6:7) Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.The Bible's message: sin has consequences; but, so does righteous living.
B Our Bible reading reminds us there are two kinds of judgments. First, there is the judgment of those who are righteous in Christ.
We see this judgment in the case of Abraham. Did you take note of what God promised to Abraham?
(Gen 15:15) You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age.You reap what you sow. Abraham prayed to God. Abraham sacrificed to God. Abraham worshiped God. Abraham believed God and obeyed God and followed God. Abraham trusted God. So, being righteous in Christ, Abraham died in peace and at an old age. "A man reaps what he sows" (Gal 6:7).
Abraham shows us and reminds us that holiness is a harvest. That growth in grace depends on what one sows. Do we want to grow in spiritual maturity? Do we want to hear the Father's commendation, "Well done, my good and faithful servant!"? Well, what are we sowing? Are we participating twice each Sunday in worship? Do we spend time daily in Bible reading and prayer? Do we practice tithing and sacrificial giving? Do we observe the Sabbath? Do we participate in the sacraments? Do we fellowship with the saints? What are we sowing because we reap what we sow?
C But, there is also another kind of judgment. This is the judgment of those who don't repent and believe. This is the judgment of those who persist in their sins. This is the judgment of those who think they can mock God and get away with it. This is the judgment God promises for the Egyptians and the Amorites.
Know this: once God's measure is full, His patience runs out! And, once His patience runs out the result can only be judgment, eternal judgment. Look at the Egyptians. They lost their firstborn – their firstborn in people, cattle, sheep, and goats. They lost a great portion of their wealth. They lost their Pharaoh and his army. In fact, Israel left behind an Egypt that was simply devastated by the judgments of God. And, look at the Amorites. We see them as Israel approaches the Promised Land. But after the conquest we hear no more of them; they have been extinguished and exterminated. "You reap what you sow."
My brothers and sisters, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows" (Gal 6:7).
What are you sowing? And, what are you reaping?
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