************ Sermon on Genesis 21:1-2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 27, 2001
"Isaac: the Child of the Promise"
I God's Promise of a Son
A Twenty five years. Twenty five years have passed since Abraham was called by God. It has now been twenty five years since Abraham and Sarah left Haran. During all this time, and for many years before, Abraham and Sarah had carried a burden of grief: they had no children. No words can express their feelings of frustration, hopelessness, and helplessness. Only another childless couple can know what these two Old Testament saints went through all those years.
B Into this situation of grief and gloom comes the Lord with a promise for Abraham and Sarah – the promise of a son. In Scripture it is recorded that God comforted this couple eight times with this promise.
The promise of a son was at first very general and became more and more specific during the course of the twenty five years after Abraham's call. In the first three recorded instances, for example, God merely promised Abraham many descendants (Gen 12:2; 12:7; 13:16). In the fourth and following instances, however, the promise becomes far more specific: "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah you wife will have a son" (Gen 18:10).
This childless couple must have discussed the promise nearly every night. I suspect hardly a moment passed without them thinking about it. And, I am sure, most nights they dreamed about the promised child.
C Make no mistake about this: the child to be born to them was the child of the promise. All of God's wondrous covenant promises to Abraham were bound up in this promised child.
Review with me, for a moment, God's promises to Abraham. This is what God promised Abraham:
(Gen 12:2-3) "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."What beautiful promises! How wondrous they are! I can hardly imagine any living person not wanting to claim these promises for themselves.
(Gen 12:7) "To your offspring I will give this land."
(Gen 13:15-17) All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. (16) I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. (17) Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you."
(Gen 17:6-7) I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. (7) I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
As far as Abraham was concerned, all these promises boiled down to one event – the birth of a son. All those wonderful covenant promises were dependent upon Abraham becoming a father. If Abraham had no child, there would be no nation, no name, no blessing, no land, no numerous offspring, no kings, and no everlasting covenant. All of God's promises were bound up in the promised child. God's covenant promises needed the child in order to be fulfilled!
D My brothers and sisters, we need to realize that God makes many beautiful promises to us. And, as with Abraham, all of God's wondrous promises to us are bound up in the birth of a Promised Child – even Jesus Christ.
Review with me, for a moment, God's promises to us. God promises us redemption, righteousness, new life, freedom from sin and death, justification, His never-failing presence, adoption as His children, deliverance from the anguish and torment of hell, the Spirit with its gifts and fruits, and a new and better life in a new and better body on a new and better earth.
What beautiful promises! How wondrous they are! I can hardly imagine any living person not wanting to claim these promises for themselves.
As far as we are concerned, all these promises boil down to one event – the birth of a Son. All these wonderful covenant promises are dependent upon the birth of the Promised Child, Christ Jesus. If Jesus were not born none of these promises would or could be fulfilled. God's promises to us need the Christ-Child in order to be fulfilled.
E The promises to Abraham need the birth of a promised child to be fulfilled. The promises to us need the birth of the Promised Child to be fulfilled. This speaks to us of the unity of the covenant – both the Old Testament and the New Testament promises need the birth of a child to be fulfilled. We can go beyond this and say that both sets of promises are ultimately fulfilled in the same Child. All of God's wonderful covenant promises to Abraham are immediately fulfilled in Isaac, but they need Christ for final fulfillment. God's promises to Abraham and to us find fulfillment in the birth of the same Promised Child. When it comes right down to it, the ultimate fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham – the promises of nation, name, blessing, land, numerous offspring, kings, and everlasting covenant – depend on the birth of the Christ-Child.
II The Promises of an All-Powerful God
A When God gave Abraham the promise of a son "about this time next year," He was making a promise that, humanly speaking, was quite impossible to be met. You see, both Abraham and Sarah were well past their childbearing years. As Abraham asks, "Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?" (Gen 17:17). From here and elsewhere we are to gather that Abraham and Sarah had given up all hope of ever having a child of their own.
B If we were to glance forward some 2000 years from Abraham we would see God making a promise of a Son to another couple in similar circumstances. The couple, of course, is Joseph and Mary. Mary and Joseph were not united in marriage and to them pre-marital sex was simply unthinkable. Yet, God announced to Mary, "You will be with child and give birth to a son." Mary's response: "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" (Lk 1:31,34).
This was the days before test-tube babies, in-vitro fertilization, and surrogate motherhood, so it was humanly impossible for a virgin to conceive and give birth to a son. Humanly speaking, it is just as impossible that an old couple like Abraham and Sarah will have a child of their own. Yet, God promises both couples an "impossible child."
"How is this possible, Lord?" is the question that is asked.
C The Lord has a response for Abraham and Sarah: "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Gen 18:14).
The Lord has a response for Joseph and Mary too: "For nothing is impossible with God" (Lk 1:37).
This is one of the great sayings of Scripture: "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" "For nothing is impossible with God."
Often God's people forget: our God is so almighty! Jesus can say, "What is impossible with men is possible with God" (Lk 18:27).
In the Book of Job, God speaks for four chapters about His greatness and power and the wonders done by His almighty hand (chapters 38-41). Let me quote from part of what the Lord said to Job:
(Job 38:4-12) "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. (5) Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? (6) On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-- (7) while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? (8) "Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, (9) when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, (10) when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, (11) when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'? (12) "Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place ...
The Lord goes on this way for four whole chapters.
Job listens to all of this and then he responds with this confession of faith: "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2).
The prophet Jeremiah comes to the same conclusion when he says to the Lord, "Nothing is too hard for you" (Jer 32:17). And the Lord replies to Jeremiah, "I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?" (Jer 32:27).
I've quoted once before a delightful children's song entitled "Anything":
You gotta believe God can do anything,Our God is so almighty. He can do anything, anything He wants to do. He can soften and bring into the Kingdom of His Son the hardest of hearts. He can bring light into darkness. He can open the wombs of barren women. He can make a virgin conceive and bear a son. In fact, there are only three things God can't do:
Anything He wants to do.
He can paint the sky a bright, bright green
And turn all the trees to blue.
You gotta believe God can do anything,
For everything is in His hands.
For everything is in His hands.
-He can't lie
-He can't hate the sinner
-He can't love sin
God is at work, and nothing is impossible for Him and with Him.
The promise of a child to Abraham and Sarah, the promise of the Child to Joseph and Mary, is the promise of our all-powerful God – a God Who can do anything, anything he wants to do.
III Faith in the All-Powerful God
A The children's song I just quoted tells us what ought to be our response to our all-powerful God:
You gotta believe God can do anything,We gotta believe, we have to have faith, in our all-powerful God. And, we need to have faith in him alone.
Anything He wants to do ...
You gotta believe God can do anything,
For everything is in His hands ...
Topic: FaithFaith in anything but an all-sufficient God is just as tragic.
In April 1988 the evening news reported on a photographer who was a skydiver. He had jumped from a plane along with numerous other skydivers and filmed the group as they fell and opened their parachutes. On the film shown on the telecast, as the final skydiver opened his chute, the picture went berserk. The announcer reported that the cameraman had fallen to his death, having jumped out of the plane without his parachute. It wasn't until he reached for the absent ripcord that he realized he was free falling without a parachute. Until that point, the jump probably seemed exciting and fun. But tragically, he had acted with thoughtless haste and deadly foolishness. Nothing could save him, for his faith was in a parachute never buckled on.
In the case of Abraham and Sarah, it can't be said that they initially responded in faith to God's promise of a child. This couple was childless for so long that, after the promise was given, they began to think God might want to count Abraham's descendants through the servant Eliezer (Gen 15:2). About this interpretation of the promise God said to Abraham, "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from you own body will be your heir" (Gen 15:4).
Even after this Abraham and Sarah did not respond with complete faith. They though God's promise might mean a son through the maidservant Hagar. About this interpretation of the promise God said to Abraham, "your wife Sarah will bear you a son" (Gen 17:19).
B Abraham still did not believe. Scripture says,
(Gen 17:17) Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, "Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?"And Sarah did not believe either. Scripture says,
(Gen 18:12) So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?"
Abraham and Sarah heard the promise of a child and they laughed. That's not the response the all-powerful God wants to His promises!
C And yet, somehow, in someway – by grace, of course – Abraham and Sarah did finally come to believe in God and His promises. The book of Hebrews tells us,
(Heb 11:11) By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.
The faith that Abraham and Sarah – by grace – finally ended up with is also the faith that God wants of us. God wants us all to have faith in His promises. God wants us to believe in the promises of Him Who is the all-powerful God.
D By grace, Abraham's and Sarah's laughter of unbelief was turned into the laughter of faith and joy. God gave them the child of the promise. Isaac was born to this elderly couple.
That name "Isaac" means "laughter." That name "Isaac" is a constant reminder of Abraham's and Sarah's struggle to believe as it recalls their laughter of unbelief. But that name "Isaac" is also a constant reminder of the all-powerful God's covenant faithfulness as it recalls Abraham's and Sarah's laughter of joy upon the birth of their impossible child.
Congregation, peek into Abraham's tent; see the child of the promise. Go into the stable and stop before the manger; see the Child of the Promise.
See and believe that our God can do anything. Anything? Yes, anything!!
He can turn your dreams into reality. He can change you bitterness into joy. He can remove your disease and make you whole again. He can take your wayward children and put them on the right path. He can take your flickering wick and use it to bring light to someone in darkness.
See and believe that our God can do anything.
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