Refocus on Obedience

When April and I had a few years of marriage under our belt, we felt it was time to start our family. In my mid-thirties I didn’t want to be an Old Abe, rather I wanted to be done before 40. This meant children close together. So, I prayed. God answered my request instead of April’s. Having children back to back to back is not easy. When I told April I wanted to have our third she said YEAH—NO! So, I went back to the Lord and reminded him of His promise and shared how I felt He was going to have to let her know. As the Lord works, He came to her at our Tuesday prayer meeting and said that she would, and he would be a joy. You can see this in his personality. Why tell you this, perhaps you are trying, or maybe you need the reassurance that God has a plan in place. See the Lord planned Isaac’s birth just as He planned His only Son’s birth. Galatians 4:4~But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, (NIV) If we want the Walls of Despair Torn Down in our lives, then we must: Remember God can do anything, and Refocus. 

Refocus on obedience (Genesis 21:8-14). When Isaac is weaned (probably around age three), Abraham holds a celebration feast. Ishmael is now about sixteen, for you teenage parents this means there can be some pretty intense jealousy among siblings. Well, this must have been a case of hormones, with the fussy confluence of emotions mixed in a Malay would no doubt ensue. Ishmael is first born but not the child of promise and it would have been the attention given to Isaac that would tip this spear. Genesis 21:9~ But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. (ESV) We don’t know exactly what Ishmael did, but it so angers Sarah she says to Abe Cast them out! This makes Abe very grievous Genesis 21:11~And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. (ESV) Men, we must listen to our wives. Our marriage is about give and take. Did you know the Hebrew word here (יָרַע Yara`) grievous means broken up or to fear and tremble? Some of you fear your wives, that is not what I’m advocating. Marriage is a partnership where two become one, brought together by God, we must work together to keep our marriages healthy that means we can’t afford to just look the other way. Understand this breaks Abe’s heart. At times like this, we need to remember God’s promise of Psalm 34:18~The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (NIV) 

Abe doesn’t want to oust Ishmael. So, unlike last time when he just capitulated to Sarah’s suggestion to have a child with Hagar, this time he wants to be obedient to God’s will. He apparently seeks God, and God says to him in Genesis 21:12~But God said to Abraham, Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. (ESV) This seems unfair because Ishmael’s birth was the result of a lapse of faith by Sarah and Abe. Why then does God tell Father Abe to send Ishmael and Hagar away? I believe it’s because in the next chapter, perhaps a decade later Abe’s faith is going to undergo a test as God challenges Him to trust (22:2). If Father Abe still had Ishmael close to home, he might think that even if Isaac is lost, he’d still have a son in Ishmael. Thus, his sacrifice of Isaac would require a lot less faith and be less meaningful. Whatever the reason, the important lesson is God doesn’t explain why. 

Walls Torn Down

One of the most difficult obstacles for us in fulfilling God’s purpose is when devastating situations arise in our lives. Sometimes life seems so unfair, we wonder why God, why aren’t you doing something? Has this thought ever been a traveling companion of yours? At these difficult moments, we stand at a precipice, do we continue to trust God or go our own way. To trust God is to let go of our human desire to become bitter towards God, where we are unable to fulfill His divine purpose for our lives. Many believers today are on the sidelines, not fulfilling God’s purpose for their lives because they don’t know how to defeat despair. Defeating despair requires that we do four things: Remember, Refocus, Depend, Rely.

Remember God can do anything (Genesis 21:1-7). Abraham is now 100 years old and Sarah is 90. They have waited 25 years for a son, and finally, Sarah bears Abraham a son (21:2). God is always faithful, as stressed three times in the first two verses of this chapter: Genesis 21:1~The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. Genesis 21:2~And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. (ESV) He said, As He Promised, As Spoken. God was faithful in every detail of His promise, which reminds us of 1 Corinthians 1:9~God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (ESV) 

Listen how Abe immediately names him Genesis 21:3~Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. (ESV) Abe is again following God’s command from Genesis 17:19. To further show his obedience, Abe circumcises Isaac when he is 8 days old (Genesis 21:4). The name יִצְחָק Yitschaq means laughter, or he laughs which will remind Abe and Sarah, as well as all saints throughout history, how both Abe and Sarah laughed the year prior to יִצְחָק Yitschaq birth. (17:17; 18:12-13) Now Sarah says Genesis 21:6~And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” (EVS) Genesis 21:7~And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” (ESV). God turns their laughter of disbelief into laughter of great joy. 

Let it be known

Beware sin has consequences. Hebrews 13:4~Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (NIV) This means marriage partners are to remain faithful and monogamous as long as they both live. It had to be the fear of God that Abimelech didn’t prescribe the beatdown Abe’s deserving of. Adding insult, Abe adjudicates himself by continuing down the slippery slope of sin, saying in Genesis 20:12~she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. (ESV) Abe rationalizes his sin and says he just didn’t tell the whole truth. Listen, a half-truth presented as the whole truth is a whole lie. Abe is lying by omission and Solomon shares God’s position on this in Proverbs 12:22~The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. (NIV)

Abe isn’t proving to be trusting or trustworthy. I believe that two things break down the home and society more than any other, they are sexual immorality and lying. The Lord hates these two sins because they bring so much hurt and harm to people He loves. To Abe’s credit, he does finally admit to drawing Sarah into his deception, when leaving his father’s house in Ur, though still pointing a finger at God. Genesis 20:13~And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother. (ESV) This agreement was made between Abe and Sarah when they first left Ur and were truly spiritually immature. 

However, it’s 30 years later and they’re still struggling, God has proved Himself time and again to Abe and Sarah. They hold absolutely no excuse for this half-truth lie and sin. Their sin is compounded because it’s a premeditated reaction, which could even result in Sarah having sex with another man. Still to show there are no hard feelings, to honor the prophet of God, and because of Abe’s disgraceful but honest confession, Abimelech gives gifts to Abe of sheep, cattle, servants and a bag of silver, along with the unfettered access to the land to live where he chooses. 

With all his imperfections, the bottom line is, Abe confessed his sin with great shame. The Bible shares if we conceal our sins we’ll not prosper (Proverbs 28:13~Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (ESV)). However, when we confess our sins we can rely on God’s great promise to forgive. Genesis 20:17~Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. (ESV) Much fruit born to glorify God. God never ignores sin, and He may use an Abimelech to expose and rebuke. 

Our Takeaway: Share your whole life with God. We’ve all made some pretty poor choices, but God still loves us and He wants to be involved and engaged in our daily lives. Wise people learn from mistakes, those they make and those of others. Learn from Abe and avoid the weight of Sin: by identifying weaknesses, registering the hurts of others, and beware of the consequences. Has the Lord revealed an area in your life today that needs some attention?