Will-I-(Abrah)Am (Genesis 25v1-10)


Leona Helmsley left behind an unusual will after her death in 2007.  The billionaire New York City real estate developer and hotel magnate had amassed a fortune estimated to be somewhere between $5 billion and $8 billion according to The New York Times.  She requested that the majority of this money be given to charity, including animal welfare programs, and gave other, smaller amounts to various relatives.  Helmsley left $12 million to her 8-year-old dog, Trouble, but no money for two of her grandchildren, directly specifying in her will that she had “not made any provisions in this Will for my grandson… or my granddaughter… for reasons which are known to them.”

At the time that this news was announced there were so many death threats against the dog that it began requiring $100,000 worth of security each year.

In 2008 a Manhattan judge reduced the $12 million figure to $2 million and the remainder was given to charity.  The two grandchildren left out of the will were awarded a total $6 million from their grandmother’s estate.

As we finish out the life of Abraham and come to his death we witness the apportioning of his worldly goods.  It’s more or less Abraham’s will.  He leaves everything to Isaac and gives gifts to the sons born to him by a second wife, then sends them far away.

Abraham’s will was certainly his to determine, but on the surface it doesn’t seem fair to us.

The ‘fairness’ of Abraham’s will is going to be our point of spiritual contact.

God has a ‘will’ for us.  In our case God’s will isn’t what He has for us after we die.  His will is the path He has us on right now.

God’s will for your life doesn’t always seem fair, especially when you compare it to His will for other people.

I’m going to say something that, at first hearing, may sound strange.  You may or may not agree with it.  Here it is: “God is not fair!”

We are fortunate, really, that God is not fair.  Fairness would mean that everyone receive exactly what he or she deserves.  If God were completely fair, we would all spend eternity in Hell paying for our sin, which is exactly what we deserve.

God’s will for my life, and for your life, should not be analyzed by its fairness.  Instead we should understand that God has custom designed a path for us to walk on by faith in order to experience spiritual fullness.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 God’s Will Is A Matter For Faith, Not Fairness, To Apprehend, and #2 God’s Will Is A Matter Of Fullness, Not Fairness, To Attain.

#1    God’s Will Is A Matter
    For Faith, Not Fairness, To Apprehend

I have to think that if you asked Abraham at the end of his life if God was ‘fair’ that he’d look at you like you were speaking a foreign language.  God had called him to turn to Him from idols and walk as a stranger and pilgrim by faith in promises most of which he would never receive in this life.  It wasn’t a matter of fairness or unfairness but of following God by faith knowing that God had a wonderful spiritual path for Abraham to discover.

As we begin chapter twenty-five Abraham has about thirty-seven years left to live.  Enter Keturah.

Genesis 25:1  Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Keturah.

Exactly when Abraham married Keturah is unknown, but the verb “took” and the adjective “another” suggest it was after Sarah’s death.

There’s also a discussion over her legal status because in First Chronicles 1:32 she is referred to as Abraham’s “concubine,” not as his “wife.”  One possible solution is that she had been his concubine and later became his wife.  Another is that these words were sometimes used interchangeably during the time of the patriarchs before the giving of the law to Moses.

We’re going to understand all this to mean that Abraham married again after Sarah died.

Genesis 25:2  And she bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
Genesis 25:3  Jokshan begot Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim.
Genesis 25:4  And the sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.

One objection people raise to these sons being born to Abraham in his old age is that the Bible indicates Abraham was as good as dead with regard to fathering a son at the time Isaac was born.  So how are we to explain this?

Vernon McGee said,

When God does something, He really does it.  This is the reason I believe that anything God does bears His signature.  Right here we see that this man Abraham was not only able to bring Isaac into the world, but he now brings in this great family of children.

The name we are most interested in here is Midian.  We will find later that Moses will go down into the land of Midian and take a wife from there.

Born from Abraham were Ishmael, Isaac and these six boys.  Eight sons to split the inheritance of their father.

Genesis 25:5  And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac.
Genesis 25:6  But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines which Abraham had; and while he was still living he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east.

You and I read this and think, “Of course Abraham gave everything to Isaac.  He was the son of the promise.”

Theologically, that’s great.  But on a family level, if you put yourself in that home, it wasn’t very fair to those other boys.

Your life is probably not going to be fair.  But, as we’ve seen, when it comes to a relationship with God, we don’t want fairness!  We want grace and mercy, forgiveness and acceptance.

God’s will for our lives, as it unfolds day-by-day, is to be apprehended by faith.  We can trust His will for our lives to be good and perfect in light of His promise to change us from glory to glory into the image of Jesus.

His work in each of our lives is going to be a little different.  God knows you intimately, knows what makes you tick, as it were.  You are unique.  He can’t do everything exactly the same in all of our lives and that sometimes leads us to conclude He is unfair.

In the Book of Acts, James and Peter were both imprisoned for preaching about Jesus.  James was quickly beheaded.  Peter, before he could be executed, was miraculously released from prison by an angel.  Was that fair?

Fairness shouldn’t come into our thinking about it.  God’s will for James was different than it was for Peter.

God’s will for Peter was different than it was for John.  After Jesus rose from the dead, as He and Peter were sharing breakfast on the beach, Jesus told Peter the manner of his death.  He would be crucified when he was old.  Peter then asked Jesus how John was going to die.  The Lord answered,  “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

I like that!  “What is that to you?  You follow Me.”  The Lord has His unique plan for each of us.

When I think my life is unfair, I am not trusting God to know what is ultimately best for me.

Thinking my “life’s not fair” can rush me into, or out of, a marriage.
Thinking my “life’s not fair” can rush me into, or out of, a job… Or a church… Or almost anything.

Walking by faith, however, will improve all of those circumstances because I am in a place spiritually where I can receive God’s grace, His mercy, His forgiveness, His acceptance.

One of the great animated villains is Scar in The Lion King.  He will ultimately be responsible for the death of his brother, King, Mufasa, as well as Simba’s flight into the wilderness and away from his calling.

The very first line of dialog from Scar establishes his worldview.  He catches a mouse in his enormous paw and says, “Life’s not fair, is it? You see, I… well, I shall never be king. And you… shall never see the light of another day.”

“Fairness” is a bad worldview to hold.  Instead walk by faith along the path God has set.

#2    God’s Will Is A Matter
    Of Fullness, Not Fairness, To Attain

It ought to be our goal in life to attain to a spiritual fullness:

Job 42:17  So Job died, old and full of days.

2 Chronicles 24:15  But Jehoiada grew old and was full of days, and he died; he was one hundred and thirty years old when he died.

These guys were “old” AND they were “full of days.”  I see a distinction.  Old age, by itself, is nothing to get excited about.  It is something exciting if when you get there you are experiencing being “full,” that is, spiritually satisfied.

Genesis 25:7  This is the sum of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived: one hundred and seventy-five years.

A century of walking with God was behind him.  Abraham had experienced much and not all of it was good.  He’d made a few mistakes, had some misunderstandings.  He’s experienced danger, disappointment, and the death of loved ones.

The most fantastic thing about that one hundred years was that God called Abraham His “friend.”  Isaiah 41:8, Second Chronicles 20:7, and James 2:23 all describe Abraham as the friend of God.

Charles Spurgeon had this to say:

I think I hear you say, “Yes, it was indeed a high degree to which Abraham reached – so high that we cannot attain unto it.  It would be idle for us to dream of being accounted friends of God.” My Brothers and Sisters, I entreat you, think not so!  We, also, may be called friends of God… Let me read to you the words of our blessed Lord in the 15th chapter of John – “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knows not what his lord does, but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you.” It is, then, within reach!  Jesus, Himself, invites us to live and act and be His friends!

Do you think of yourself as “the friend of God?”  If so, are you a good friend?

Spurgeon went on to say this:

There must be a continual communion.  The friend of God must not spend a day without God and he must undertake no work apart from his God.  You cannot be a friend of God if your communion with Him is occasional, fitful, distant, broken.  If you only think of Him on Sundays… you cannot be His friend!  Friends love each other’s society – the friend of God must abide in God, walk with God – and then he shall dwell at ease.

It’s not a rebuke; it’s a reminder.  Friendship closes any distance that might have developed between you and Jesus.

Today there is a trend within the church, among Christians, to create rather than close distance with God.  You’ll hear Christians talk about returning to a more formal worship service, adopting what they are told are the ‘ancient practices’ of the church.  If you’ve never experienced that kind of thing it can seem somewhat moving.  Well, it is moving – it’s moving you farther from the Lord!  He wants to be your friend.  Be a good one.

Genesis 25:8  Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.

Getting to a “good old age” is not something we have much say-so in.  None of us knows the number of our days – only that our days are numbered.  But whether we die “old” or young, we can be “full of years” if we are looking to the Lord to satisfy us.

Genesis 25:9  And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite,

Abraham lived before the law was given to Moses but we can suppose that burial customs didn’t change all that much.  We know from the law that burial was to take place within 24 hours of death (Deuteronomy 21:23). There was no time to send out notices of a funeral and no waiting for folks to arrive.

This tells us that Ishmael was already on scene.  His presence at the death and burial of Abraham indicates Ishmael had some sense of submission to God’s will for he and Isaac.  He didn’t hate his dad for having been sent away as a teen ager.  His dad loved him, and he loved Abraham.

Genesis 25:10  the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth. There Abraham was buried, and Sarah his wife.

This verse puts fullness versus fairness into its proper perspective. God had promised to give Abraham so much land!  In the end, Abraham had to buy a small field with a burial cave as his only real estate holdings.

Did he live a defeated life?  Did he wish he had remained in Ur and died a successful businessman rather than a nomad?  Did he look back over his life and wish he had done it his way rather than going God’s way?

No.  He just kept looking for that city whose builder and maker is God, eternal in the heavens.  He was full because he was fully satisfied in God.

Life is not fair.  It’s a matter of faith and of fullness.  Take with you these precious words of Jesus:  “What is that to you? You follow Me.”

Thigh Master (Genesis 24v1-9)


It’s been said that you should “pray as if everything depended upon God, and act as if everything depended upon you.”

It’s as good a practical summary of the Bible doctrine of God’s providence as you are likely to find.

Providence is defined by theologians as “that continuous agency of God by which he makes all the events of the physical and moral universe fulfill the original design with which He created it.”

A shorter summary of God’s providence would be to simply say, “God is in control.”

If “God is in control,” do I have free will?  The free will actions of human beings are part of God’s providence.  In other words, we are not robots simply playing out a predetermined script.  Within His providence God tells us to act in ways that can most definitely affect the world around us.

For example, God tells us to pray and we are taught in Scripture that the effective fervent prayer of the righteous has an effect on the world around us.

We have to say, then, that “God is in control AND prayer changes things.”

I may never fully understand the relationship between providence and free will, but I can enjoy and apply God’s providence everyday in my walk with Jesus.

Abraham is a great example of how I can enjoy and apply the truth of God’s providence.  When he sent out his servant to secure a bride for Isaac, Abraham was positive that God was in control and would provide the bride.  But simultaneously he believed that both he and his servant must act prudently within God’s providence.

The same should be true of us in our daily walk with the Lord.  I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 You Can Be Positive Of Trusting In God’s Providence, and #2 You Should Be Prudent While Trusting In God’s Providence.

#1    You Can Be Positive Of Trusting In God’s Providence

Tucked away in the middle of this text is Abraham’s great statement about God’s providence.  Let’s find it by reading the whole story through.

Genesis 24:1  Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.
Genesis 24:2  So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, “Please, put your hand under my thigh,
Genesis 24:3  and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell;
Genesis 24:4  but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”
Genesis 24:5  And the servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I take your son back to the land from which you came?”
Genesis 24:6  But Abraham said to him, “Beware that you do not take my son back there.
Genesis 24:7  The LORD God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.
Genesis 24:8  And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath; only do not take my son back there.”
Genesis 24:9  So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.

In the middle of his very prudent, practical, down-to-earth instruction to his servant, Abraham gave a very powerful statement of God’s providence in verse seven.

Without verse seven it sounds as if everything depended upon Abraham’s counsel being followed to the letter.  Even to the point that if the proper young lady refused to accompany the servant back, then the search was to be abandoned.

Yet at the very same time, simultaneously, Abraham could state with a positive certainty that God “will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.”

Abraham knew that God had a very definite plan and that God would see to it that His plan was accomplished.

Part of that plan is stated in the first part of verse seven.  “The LORD God of Heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land…’ ”

The promises that God had made Abraham were all dependent upon his son, Isaac, having a child or children.  There would be no “descendants” unless Isaac married and produced them.

Abraham was positive that God would see His plan through to the end.  He was positive that God was in control.  It was the context within which he lived his life and walked with the Lord.

You and I can be absolutely positive regarding God’s plan for our lives.  The broad aspects of His plan are already known to us all.  We live in an age in which the Gospel is to go out to the whole world, to the effect that “whosoever believes” will be saved.  We know that the Lord is coming to resurrect and rapture His church.  If we die before He comes, we will be absent from our bodies and present with Him in Heaven.  We know He is in Heaven right now preparing for each of us a mansion and that, when we see Him, He will reward us.

There are lots of other things we are positive about.  One author commented,

Providence in certain ways is central to the conduct of the Christian life.  It means that we are able to live in the assurance that God is present and active in our lives.  We are in His care and can therefore face the future confidently, knowing that things are not happening merely by chance.

Even when we can’t really make sense of our circumstances, we having a positive assurance that God is in control.

At the same time…

#2    You Should Be Prudent While Trusting God’s Providence
    (v1-6 & 8-9)

“Prudent” means being wise in your practical affairs.  Providence should not lead me to a ‘let go and let God’ approach to living.  On the contrary, I should be all the more careful to walk properly knowing that God has a wonderful plan for my life, that He has goods works which He has before ordained I should discover.

In the context of God’s providence, Abraham acted as if everything depended upon him.

Genesis 24:1  Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.

It’s clear God had a plan for Abraham.  While it reads as a very dramatic plan, as we’ve seen in our studies, it’s pretty much the same plan God has for everyone.  He calls upon us to turn to Him from idols and walk on this earth as strangers, as citizens of another realm, looking for our heavenly home.

Genesis 24:2  So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, “Please, put your hand under my thigh,

Most commentators say this was Eliezer, who Abraham once thought could be his heir.  Not a lot is written about him but what is written is striking.  He was a servant, thought of more like a son, who could be trusted to carry out the will of his master.

That’s all I want to be!

This putting the hand “under” the “thigh” has lots of suggested meanings.  No one knows for sure why but this was the way they swore oaths in those days.  It’s their version of raising your right hand while putting the other on a Bible.

Genesis 24:3  and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell;

Generally speaking, we don’t need to go around swearing oaths or making promises.  We should simply act from integrity with honesty.  At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with commemorating especially important events with a promise.  I know, for example, a lot of parents encourage their kids to take purity vows.  Marriage vows are another important oath.

Abraham was prudent.  He didn’t just “let go and let God” when it came to raising his son.  He knew that God had promised descendants from Isaac, and that meant, on a practical level, it mattered who Isaac married.  The nonbelieving “daughters of the Canaanites” were off-limits to Isaac.

You know, it matters how you raise your kids.  You should raise them to know the Lord.  You should example for them a life of faith and trust in God.  They should know that it matters who they marry and should only marry in the Lord and not become unequally yoked with nonbelievers.

Genesis 24:4  but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”

Isaac would end up marrying the daughter of one of his cousins.  It sounds odd to us, but ‘cousin-marriage’ is something we are familiar with.  Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, was his fifth-cousin.

The point we are stressing is that within and because of God’s providence, we are to act prudently.  We shouldn’t ignore God’s Word and go about thinking “it will all work out in the end.”  Our free will actions matter within the providence of God.

Genesis 24:5  And the servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I take your son back to the land from which you came?”

Eliezer understood the priority of securing the proper wife.  Now he was concerned about where they ought to live.  Should Isaac move back to Abraham’s boyhood home?

Genesis 24:6  But Abraham said to him, “Beware that you do not take my son back there.

Wow.  Strong language.  But understandable since God’s promises to Abraham were tied so closely to the land He had brought him into.

We are not tied to any geography.  But we can “go back” to the world if we are not careful.  In our studies in the life of Abraham we’ve seen him stumble by going back to Egypt when he should have stayed the course in Bethel despite a famine in the land.

We’ve seen Abraham’s nephew, Lot, look longingly towards Sodom only to end up living a defeated spiritual life as one of its leaders.

God’s providence should amplify my carefulness rather than be taken casually.  God’s providence ought to encourage greater spiritual discipline and diligence rather than slacking-off.

Genesis 24:7  The LORD God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.
Genesis 24:8  And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath; only do not take my son back there.”

Abraham was positive God would provide Isaac a wife but he simultaneously understood that folks have free will to choose for themselves.  Man, that’s a mind-boggler!

How can God’s providence not cancel-out your free will?  Enter the theologians!  This is where theologians, who all agree on God’s providence, disagree as to its outworking in our lives.

A fairly recent book was published giving four major views on God’s providence with respect to man’s free will.  Without going into too much detail, these are the four views.1

God causes all things.  Period.  This view effectively cancels-out free will.
God directs all things.  This view accounts for free will by saying that not only does God know everything that will happen in the universe at all times, but He also knows what might happen given a certain set of circumstances.  Thus God controls all events while allowing spiritual beings complete free will.
God controls by liberating.  The proponents of this view argue that God acts before, in, through, and beyond our acts – even our evil acts – to accomplish His will.  Whatever my act truly and lastingly accomplishes is the will of God because it is an act of God.
God limits His control.  In this interpretation, God does not necessarily know or control all moral actions of His created spiritual beings.  Accordingly, although God knows all that might happen in the universe, He does not know with certainty what will happen within each person’s sphere of moral choices.

If I have to choose one of those, it’s gonna be Door #2, behind which God directs all events while allowing us complete free will.

The point I’m making today is that regardless your intellectual apprehension of the doctrine of God’s providence, on a daily, practical basis you are to proceed as if your choices and actions mattered… Because they do!

You are to pray, for instance, believing that prayer not only changes you but can actually affect the course of events.  There are definite examples in Scripture where prayer changed the course of events within God’s larger providence.

Genesis 24:9  So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.

Eliezer understood his charge and agreed to it by swearing an oath in the custom of the times.  He would go on to faithfully carry-out his assignment by securing Rebekah for Isaac.

When asked by a captain how the he could remain so calm “with a storm of shells and bullets raining about his head,” General Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson reportedly said, “my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed.  God has fixed the time of my death…”

We would agree – but also encourage him to duck when being fired upon!

Live your life in the context that God is in control, and precisely because He is in control, be disciplined and diligent in all your actions.

A Happily Buried Couple (Genesis 23v1-20)


I’d rather attend a wedding than a funeral, but I’d much rather officiate a funeral than a wedding.

A funeral provides the single most powerful context for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Solomon put it into perspective when he said,

Ecclesiastes 7:2  [It is] Better to go to the house of mourning Than to go to the house of feasting, For that is the end of all men; And the living will take it to heart.

Death is “the end of all men,” but only with regard to the life we are currently living on the earth.  All men will live on after death; all men will live forever.  Where we will live, and the quality of that life, is determined before we die.

If a person dies having never received Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of their sins, the Bible explains that, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).  The “judgment” is described in the last book of the Bible.

Revelation 20:12  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
Revelation 20:13  The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
Revelation 20:14  Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Revelation 20:15  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

What about the believer in Jesus Christ?  What happens when a Christian dies?

2 Corinthians 5:1  For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…
2 Corinthians 5:8  We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

When you see the contrasting destinations you can understand why the psalmist was inspired to write, “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).

Our text records the precious death of Abraham’s beloved wife, Sarah.  Abraham’s reaction to her death and the actions he takes to bury her reveal the hope of the eternal life with God every believer can and should hold on to.

With hope despite death as our theme, I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 You Can Shed Tears Of Hope At The Death Of A Believer, and #2 You Can Share A Testimony Of Hope At The Death Of A Believer.

#1    You Can Shed Tears Of Hope
    At The Death Of A Believer

“Do no harm” is an important ethical consideration for anyone dealing with a sensitive subject.  In my work as a law enforcement and fire chaplain I am sometimes asked to give a presentation describing what a chaplain does.  Since one of the things I do is deliver death notifications, I always ask if anyone in my audience has ever received a notification.  I do it to try to mitigate any possible reaction to the material I am presenting.  Just talking about a hypothetical death can bring a person back to their emotions to an actual death in their own experience.

Since probably all of us have some experience with the death of a loved one, I want to “do no harm” by reminding you it is normal to have an emotional reaction to our subject.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at death – especially the death of a believer – and about the supernatural hope God provides through His Son and in the Scriptures.

Genesis 23:1  Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.

And what years they were!  Author John Phillips writes of Sarah, almost as a eulogy,

She had begun her days in far off Ur, a… pagan… a worshipper of the moon.  She was born a poor,  lost sinner the same as anyone else.  She grew up a pretty little thing with a saucy tongue, and she met and married an energetic young man well on his way to making his fortune in Ur. Abraham had been a pagan, too, but with a restless, unsatisfied soul.  Well he knew in his heart that the moon, the queen of heaven, was no true god.  But out there, behind all those shining orbs and stars, behind the black velvet of the night, there must be a true and living God.  His secret doubts and heresies he had perhaps whispered to Sarah in the quiet security of their urban home in Ur.  Then came the blinding revelation of that true and living God and the long pilgrimage with all its ups and downs.  Sarah had shared it all.  Now she was dead, but she had died “in fellowship.”  She had died at Hebron.  To die in the place of fellowship is the next best thing to never dying at all.

Genesis 23:2  So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.

“Kirjath Arba” means something like the suburb of four.  According to an ancient Jewish tradition this name was given because four couples were buried there: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Leah, and Isaac and Rebecca.  It later came to be called “Hebron.”

Interestingly, the present Arabic name of Hebron is Al Khalil, meaning the friend, referring to Abraham as the friend of God.

When the text says that Abraham “came to mourn for Sarah” it doesn’t necessarily mean that he was away from her when she died.  It means he came to have a specific time of mourning and weeping for her.  We might call it a wake today.

There is nothing wrong with a believer shedding tears over the tragedies and heartaches of this life.  Jesus Himself, you remember, wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus – even though He knew that He would momentarily raise him from the dead!

Your tears are precious to God.  He saves them!  Psalms 56:8  reads, “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?”  God records your tears in a book and He reserves them in a special bottle.

I wonder if, in your heavenly mansion, there will not be on the bookshelf your book of tears?  If it is there for you to peruse, you’ll be able to see the faithfulness of God through every difficulty you experienced.  Since in Heaven every tear is wiped away, your book of recorded tears will tend to increase your joy.

Today you put perfume and precious ointments and fragrances in expensive bottles.  Some people even wear them around their necks.  I like to think you and I will be given our tears in God’s bottle as our own unique fragrance to grace us for all eternity.

Abraham wept, but not without hope!  He was looking for “that city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).  Sarah had died in faith believing the promises of God.  Abraham, his eyes wet with tears, nevertheless could look up through the heavens and, with the eyes of faith, see that city where sorrow and the shedding of tears are no more.  He knew he would see Sarah again.

#2    You Can Share A Testimony Of Hope
    At The Death Of A Believer

The opening phrase of verse three sets the theme for the remaining verses of chapter twenty-three.  “Then Abraham stood up before his dead, and spoke…”  A memorial, a funeral, or a graveside service for a believer is a time to “stand up” before the dead saint and “speak” about eternal issues.  It is a rare and special opportunity to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I want to look at this dialogue between Abraham and the sons of Heth with an eye towards the testimony he was able to share with them as he “stood before his dead.”

Genesis 23:3  Then Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying,
Genesis 23:4  “I am a foreigner and a visitor among you. Give me property for a burial place among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”

Abraham and Sarah were God’s “foreigner[s],” God’s “visitor[s].”  In other places they are called “pilgrims” and “strangers.”

It may sound obvious, but at the death of a believer you are able to share a testimony about the temporary nature of this life and our certain hope in the next.

Notice Abraham also says, “…that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”  He repeats this in verse eight.  “Out of my sight” gives a sense that the person is still there, still alive – just not where you can see them.

C.S. Lewis once said, “You don’t have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body.”

Abraham could no longer see Sarah in this life, she would be out of his sight – but only temporarily!  How did he know?  How could he be sure?

In Chapter twenty-two Abraham had come to the understanding that there would be a resurrection from the dead.  Abraham, on his way to offer his only son, reasoned that God would raise him from the dead. God prevented the actual sacrifice of Isaac, substituting a ram that was nearby, caught in a thicket.  Abraham had told Isaac, “God will provide Himself the lamb.”  But, on Moriah, God had provided not a lamb, but a ram.  Perhaps, in contemplating this, Abraham came to understand that on some future day on that same mountain, God would not spare His own Son – the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world – and that He would raise Jesus from the dead!

The resurrection of Jesus is a testimony to proclaim at the death of a believer.  It’s what Jesus did outside the tomb of Lazarus, proclaiming that He was and is the resurrection and the life.

Genesis 23:5  And the sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him,
Genesis 23:6  “Hear us, my lord: You are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places. None of us will withhold from you his burial place, that you may bury your dead.”
Genesis 23:7  Then Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the people of the land, the sons of Heth.
Genesis 23:8  And he spoke with them, saying, “If it is your wish that I bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and meet with Ephron the son of Zohar for me,
Genesis 23:9  that he may give me the cave of Machpelah which he has, which is at the end of his field. Let him give it to me at the full price, as property for a burial place among you.”

They had lived separated from the world and from worldliness.  He desired Sarah reflect separation in her burial, identifing with the promises of God and with the people of God.  He wanted her interment in death to preach about her choices in life.

Your choices in life are writing your eulogy.  Eulogies are notoriously false as people struggle to say only good and superlative things about a person.  Think about the honest eulogy that would be given at your funeral.  Would your walk with the Lord – your separated, pilgrim, stranger, sojourner walk – be the theme?  Or would it be something a little more worldly?

There’s still time for a rewrite or editing!

Genesis 23:10  Now Ephron dwelt among the sons of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the presence of the sons of Heth, all who entered at the gate of his city, saying,
Genesis 23:11  “No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field and the cave that is in it; I give it to you in the presence of the sons of my people. I give it to you. Bury your dead!”
Genesis 23:12  Then Abraham bowed himself down before the people of the land;
Genesis 23:13  and he spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, “If you will give it, please hear me. I will give you money for the field; take it from me and I will bury my dead there.”
Genesis 23:14  And Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him,
Genesis 23:15  “My lord, listen to me; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver. What is that between you and me? So bury your dead.”
Genesis 23:16  And Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out the silver for Ephron which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, currency of the merchants.

In the culture of the times business was conducted openly in the gates of the city where the chief men and elders gathered each day.  Abraham and Ephron reached an agreement in the negotiating fashion of the day.

Abraham shocked everyone by agreeing to Ephron’s initial price.  It doesn’t mean Christians shouldn’t shop for bargains or haggle prices when possible.  In the context of Sarah’s funeral, Abraham’s lack of haggling over the price of the land indicated that his focus was on eternal things.  This worlds goods and resources were, in his mind, something that could be turned into ministry.

How does his agreeing to a higher price minister to Ephron?  One thing that comes to mind is that while Ephron was approaching the situation in the usual worldly sense, Abraham’s focus was on eternal rewards and in investing his monies for God’s purposes.

Let me ask you this.  Are you getting ready for retirement?  Or for your eternal rest and rewards?  Are you Ephron… Or Abraham?

Genesis 23:17  So the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, which were within all the surrounding borders, were deeded
Genesis 23:18  to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city.

God had promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit all of Canaan.  The only real estate he ever possessed (other than some water rights he acquired) was a wooded cemetery.

Earth can be thought of as a massive graveyard.  I don’t know how this figure was arrived at, or if it is accurate, but according to one source at least 12 billion people have lived and died in the history of mankind.

Whatever you and I think we own, in the end it’s all really a cemetery.  Our real inheritance is waiting for us in Heaven.

Genesis 23:19  And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan.
Genesis 23:20  So the field and the cave that is in it were deeded to Abraham by the sons of Heth as property for a burial place.

Since we’re talking about death and funerals, let me address a question you might have.  Is it wrong to cremate a body?

Cremation was practiced in biblical times but it was not commonly practiced by the Israelites or by New Testament believers. In the cultures of Bible times, burial in a tomb, cave, or in the ground was the common way to dispose of a human body.

Jewish burial customs in the first century included primary burials in burial caves followed by secondary burials in ossuaries placed in smaller niches of the burial caves.  An ossuary is a chest, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains.  They are frequently used where burial space is scarce.  A body is first buried in a temporary grave, then after some years the skeletal remains are removed and placed in an ossuary.

While burial was a common practice, the Bible nowhere commands burial as the preferred method of handling the remains of a body.  In all the very specific laws governing every aspect of life, there is simply no direct teaching about burial versus cremation.

Some argue that because the body will be resurrected, we ought to treat it with respect and bury it as opposed to cremating it.  Listen, the body is going to break down in burial – just not as fast as in cremation.  God will have no problem raising from the dead any person no matter the final disposition of their body.

It’s a personal decision.  Whatever you decide, the real issue is standing up  before your dead and speaking to those who have gathered about Jesus Christ.

In reviewing Sarah’s death and burial you may be wondering, “Where was Isaac?”  He’s not mentioned in the text.  Did he miss his mom’s funeral?

We don’t know if he missed it or not.  We can’t build an argument from silence.  But we can see a type.

The last time we saw Isaac he was being offered to God by his father as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah.
The first time we see Isaac after his experience on Mount Moriah is when he goes out to meet the woman chosen to be his wife, Rebekah.

It’s a type of the relationship between Jesus Christ and New Testament Christians.  We are sometimes called the Bride of Jesus Christ.  It’s interesting to note that Isaac is the only patriarch to have one wife.

Jesus died on the Cross in the same vicinity as Isaac’s near-sacrifice, only in His case God did not spare His only Son but offered Him up for our salvation.

The first time we will see the Savior after His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension is when He returns to claim His chosen bride at the resurrection and rapture of the church!

There are some people, some believers, who will never physically die.

1 Corinthians 15:51  Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed –
1 Corinthians 15:52  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Every week I say, in the Prophecy Update, “Get ready, stay ready, keep looking up.  Ready or not, Jesus is coming!”

It might be better to say, “I don’t have to get ready because I stay ready!”

Are you “ready?”

If you are a believer, it means to be in a state in which you will not be ashamed before Jesus at His coming.  It means you are in first-love with the Lord and can’t wait to see Him.
If you are a nonbeliever… There is only one way to get ready.  It is to receive the Lord as your Savior from sin.  Have you done that?

Altar Boy (Genesis 22v1-24)


The prophet Jeremiah went about for a time wearing a yoke upon his shoulders.

Hosea married a prostitute who was unfaithful to their marriage.

Ezekiel was told to build a clay model of Jerusalem outside his house.  He then lay on his side for 390 consecutive days laying siege to the model.

The Lord told Isaiah to remove the sackcloth he was wearing and to take off his sandals.  Isaiah obeyed and walked around “naked” for three years.  (Since the Hebrew word for “naked” can mean partial nakedness, let’s hope he wore a loincloth!).

What were these guys doing?

Jeremiah was representing the slavery that Babylon would impose upon the people of Judah.
Hosea was representing the Jews as being spiritual adulterers who were committing harlotry while God remained a faithful Husband to them.
Ezekiel was representing the siege of Jerusalem and its ultimate fall.
Isaiah was representing what it would be like for the people of Egypt when the king of Assyria led them away as prisoners

God’s prophets were, on occasion, called upon to become living representations of God’s Word so that others could not mistake or misinterpret the message God wanted to deliver.

Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac is described in a similar manner.  Commenting on it in the New Testament, in Hebrews 11:17 & 19 we read,

Hebrews 11:17  By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son…
Hebrews 11:19  concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.

The last phrase, “in a figurative sense,” is the Greek word from which we get parable.

Men of God like Jeremiah, Hosea, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Abraham became living parables of God’s Word.  Are we ever called upon by God to be living parables?

The apostle Paul had no problem describing Christians as living “letters” that are being “read” by all men (Second Corinthians 3:2).  I don’t see it as a stretch at all to say that, at least in certain circumstances, Christians are called upon to be living parables.

Two aspects of being a living parable are revealed in Abraham: testing and telling.  I’ll therefore organize my thoughts around two points: #1 The Parables You Are Called Upon To Live Are A Supreme Testing Of Your Faith, and #2 The Parables You Are Called Upon To Live Are A Superior Telling Of God’s Faithfulness.

#1    The Parables You Are Called Upon To Live
    Are A Supreme Testing Of Your Faith

Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac is perhaps the most intense living parable in our Bible.   For him, however, this was first and foremost a severe testing.

Genesis 22:1  Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

God “tested” Abraham.  We may not like tests in school, but if properly designed and administered they reveal what you know from having put in all the hard work of studying and preparing.  There were tests I looked forward to.  Tests can be a good thing.

Tests of faith are designed by God not so you will fail but so you will succeed.  They prove that you are walking with God, looking to Him, trusting Him.  Warren Wiersbe often says, “a faith that cannot be tested is not worth having.”

“Here I am” reads like a person volunteering for a mission.  It is reminiscent of Isaiah’s famous statement, “Here am I God; send me.”

We should have the understanding of Isaiah and Abraham that, in responding to God, we are offering ourselves to be sent by Him, to be used by Him.  When I meet with God it is to make myself available.

Genesis 22:2  Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

This was a supreme test of Abraham’s faith.  Calling Isaac “your only son” reiterated to Abraham that everything God had ever promised to him was wrapped up in that boy living and producing children of his own.  Were he to die, God’s very words would be dead.

Today whacked-out individuals kill people and say, “God told me to do it!”  We rightly judge their actions as something God would not request.  But four thousand years ago – and I say this carefully – everybody around Abraham was sacrificing humans.  The idea of sacrificing your firstborn son wasn’t really strange in the surrounding cultures.  In fact, some of the peoples Abraham was encountering were probably wondering what kind of God he was serving who wasn’t requiring the sacrifice of a firstborn child.

Still, Abraham didn’t know the outcome.  He only knew obedience.

I always think I would obey more if I knew the outcome!  But that’s not obedience at all.

Abraham knew God’s Word to him was true and, so, he reckoned that if he were to offer Isaac on an altar as a sacrifice, then God would raise him from the dead.

Abraham and Isaac were called upon to be a living parable of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead in victory over sin and death.  They represented that although blood and sacrifice are essential to the forgiveness of sin, no human sacrifice can avail.  Human sacrifice falls short of meeting the requirements.  As we will read in a moment, God must “provide Himself the sacrifice,” and He would in the Person of His Son.

God had promised Adam and Eve that He would somehow crush the devil but simultaneously He would suffer.  Exactly how much these Old Testament guys could have known about God coming in the flesh, born of a virgin, as a man, to die on the Cross, is debatable.

In the almost-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham everyone now had a living parable of God’s substitution and sacrifice.  God so loved the world that He would give His only begotten Son as a Sacrifice to Substitute for every lost descendant of Adam and Eve.  When the time came God would not withhold His Isaac.

Trials and testings are common to the Christian.  Remember that in them we are always living epistles and might sometimes also be called upon to be living parables.

#2    The Parables You Are Called Upon To Live
    Are A Superb Telling Of God’s Faithfulness

I want to shift our thinking to how this episode is a figure or a parable of Calvary where God did sacrifice His Son, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Genesis 22:3  So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

Abraham is a type of God the Father setting apart His only begotten Son for sacrifice.  In Romans 8:32 we’re told that God “did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.”

Isaac is a type of Jesus Christ.  We’ll see he was a willing sacrifice.  For one thing, he was no toddler.  He was in his thirties, probably thirty-three.  He had to willingly submit to being offered by his father.  In John 10:17-18 Jesus said, “I lay down my life… No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.”

Genesis 22:4  Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off.

Abraham and Isaac arrived at Mount Moriah “on the third day.”  Abraham left the day after God commanded him, and it took three days to get to Moriah, thus making a total of four days.  This corresponds perfectly to Exodus 12:3, where the Passover Lamb was to be kept and examined for four days before offering it.  Likewise Jesus Christ was examined for four days after He entered Jerusalem before being crucified.

Genesis 22:5  And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

Two men witnessed Isaac carrying the wood up the mountain but what took place between him and his father they were not permitted to see.  Likewise at Calvary there were two men, the two thieves on each side of the Lord, but like all the spectators of that scene they were not permitted to behold what transpired between the Father and the Son on Heaven’s altar. Three hours of darkness concealing from every human eye the divine transaction of the payment of our sins.

Genesis 22:6  So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together.

Isaac carried the wood and submitted willingly.  Jesus, carrying His cross down the Via Dolorosa, was in perfect, willful submission to His crucifixion.  His conclusion in the Garden of Gethsemane, that “God’s will be done.”

Genesis 22:7  But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

Not every detail of a parable should be forced to fit something.  Isaac was a type of Christ but he was still Isaac and he was starting to wonder what was going on.

Genesis 22:8  And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.

That was a bad translation!  The words should read, “God will provide Himself the lamb.”  Whether Abraham knew it or not, this was a prophecy.  Only God by coming in human flesh as a man could both satisfy the just demands of His holiness and simultaneously be a Substitute for the entire human race.  If sin is to be forgiven, if men are ever to be saved, God must Himself be the Lamb.

Genesis 22:9  Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.
Genesis 22:10  And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

Do not suppose that Isaac was bound so he would not escape.  No, he was in willing submission.  The Lord Jesus was likewise bound by soldiers even though there was no thought of His fleeing.

After his one question Isaac resumed the position and the character of the innocent, sacrificial lamb.

Genesis 22:11  But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.”
Genesis 22:12  And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Awesome!  What a rush of relief must have flooded their hearts.

Think, too, of the feelings of Jesus and His Father at that moment.  The “Angel of the Lord” –  that’s Jesus in a pre-incarnation appearance.  He and His Father were watching a living parable of what for them would be the reality.

Genesis 22:13  Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.
Genesis 22:14  And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

Why a “ram” and not a lamb?  Abraham’s statement that “God will provide Himself the lamb” carries more prophetic weight this way.  If God provided a lamb right then, we’d think this was a prophecy that was immediately fulfilled instead of one looking down through the centuries to the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

In other words, the ram caught in the thicket by its horns was not what Abraham meant by his earlier statement concerning a lamb.

Human sacrifice fell short.  It could not avail.  A sacrifice still needed to be made.  A substitute was still necessary.  Without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of your sins.

“The Lord will provide” is Jehovah-Jireh.

It commemorated the present in that God did provide a ram instead of Isaac.
It also contemplated the future when God would provide Himself the Lamb.

Geography is important here, too.  Mount Moriah is not a single peak but rather an elongated ridge with several peaks.  The place where Abraham offered up Isaac on Mount Moriah would later become the site of Solomon’s Temple where offering was made for sin.

Just above the place that Abraham offered Isaac and the place where the Temple was located is Calvary – the very place where God provided Himself the Lamb as the sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Genesis 22:15  Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven,
Genesis 22:16  and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son –
Genesis 22:17  blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.
Genesis 22:18  In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

God had already made these unconditional promises to Abraham.  They were not contingent upon his works.  His works were consistent, however, with his faith.  The test proved his faith, it showed it, by his works.

Genesis 22:19  So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.

Where was Isaac?  Obviously, Isaac also returned with Abraham and the two young men.  Hold that thought for a moment as we read the closing verses.

Genesis 22:20  Now it came to pass after these things that it was told Abraham, saying, “Indeed Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor:
Genesis 22:21  Huz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel the father of Aram,
Genesis 22:22  Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.”
Genesis 22:23  And Bethuel begot Rebekah. These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.
Genesis 22:24  His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore Tebah, Gaham, Thahash, and Maachah.

Underline the name “Rebekah.”  This genealogy shows us where Isaac’s future bride is going to come from.

Isaac is curiously absent from Genesis from the time he was offered on Mount Moriah until he receives his bride.

Sound like anyone we know?  After He died on the Cross Jesus Christ rose from the dead, He ascended into Heaven, and will be physically absent from the earth until He receives His bride.

He will receive His bride, the church, when He comes to resurrect and rapture us just prior to the seven year Great Tribulation.

People still get upset at God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.  They try to twist it to show God is cruel and capricious.

No, it was a superb telling, on a very human level, of God’s plan before the foundation of the earth to save lost human beings.  A few centuries later John the Baptist would identify Jesus by declaring, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

He knew that in Jesus God provided Himself the Lamb.

It’s A Spiritual Life (Genesis 21v22-34)


It’s a Wonderful Life is usually chosen as the all-time favorite Christmas movie in America.  It chronicles the life of George Bailey who at first he doesn’t know that his life is wonderful.  In fact, try as he might, he can never escape the mundane.

On the night of his honeymoon, for example, his dreams are squelched as he must use his own money meant for his honeymoon to save the building and loan business.

In the end he is made to see that his life was used to help people.  He is shown by an angel that the effects of his everyday decisions starting in childhood reverberate with significance throughout the world.  Once he sees what he has accomplished in the midst of such a mundane existence, there is joy and a new passion for life.

In our text we find Abraham in a rather lengthy period of his life.  From the weaning of Isaac early in the chapter until he is called upon to sacrifice Isaac in the next chapter is a period of at least ten years and probably more like thirty years.

In those thirty years Abraham signed a contract with Abimelech regarding water rights.  Not too exciting.  O, and he planted a single tamarisk tree.

I want to show, however, that there was nothing mundane about these years.  Or maybe it would be better to say that in those seemingly mundane years God was still powerfully at work both in and through Abraham.

Our lives can seem mundane – especially compared to the Bible characters we read about.  I mean, when was the last time you were thrown into a fiery furnace?  Or into a lions den?

Your day-to-day life may seem mundane but if you are a believer it is not. Like with Abraham, Jesus is working in you and through you.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two questions: #1 Day-by-Day, Are You Revealing A Dependance Upon Jesus?, and #2 Day-by-Day, Are You Receiving A Discovery From Jesus?

#1    Day-by-Day,
    Are You Revealing A Dependance Upon Jesus?    

Devotional writer W.H. Griffith Thomas said this:

The ordinary uneventful days of a believer’s life are usually a better test of his true character than an emergency or crisis.  It is sometimes possible to face a great occasion with wisdom and courage, and yet to fail in some simple, average experiences of daily living.

For the most part we live in the “simple, average experiences of daily living.”  We get up; we go to work; we come home; we go to bed; we do it all over again.

Do we believe that God can just as powerfully be revealed in the mundane as He can in the miracle?

For thirty years Abraham went to work each day and did things like dig wells and sign treaties.  He came home each day and gardened – watering and tending his tamarisk tree.

Genesis 21:22  And it came to pass at that time that Abimelech and Phichol, the commander of his army, spoke to Abraham, saying, “God is with you in all that you do.

Both “Abimelech” and “Phichol” are titles, they are roles, not proper names.

Observing Abraham’s day-to-day life they concluded, “God is with you in all that you do.”  Really?  What was he doing?  Not much!

It wasn’t what Abraham was doing, it was how he was doing it.

Abimelech’s comments remind me of the great statement made by the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20,

Galatians 2:20  I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

The understanding I get from the Bible is that Jesus is such a part of my life, He is so present in my life, that I automatically do everything as if He really were “with me,” since spiritually speaking, He is.

I shouldn’t need to tell you that we all fall short revealing God in all that we do.  Mostly it’s because we still struggle with the flesh – that influence and inclination to sin that remains in my unredeemed physical body.

What did Abimelech and Phichol see in Abraham’s day-to-day living?  In the ensuing discussion between the three of them it is revealed that Abraham was patient in suffering wrong against himself.  Abimelech wanted to enter into an agreement with Abraham, but his people had defrauded Abraham.  Abraham, for his part, bore it with patience.

Genesis 21:23  Now therefore, swear to me by God that you will not deal falsely with me, with my offspring, or with my posterity; but that according to the kindness that I have done to you, you will do to me and to the land in which you have dwelt.”
Genesis 21:24  And Abraham said, “I will swear.”

It might sound like Abimelech was worried Abraham was not trustworthy but this is just standard language.  It’s like the stuff in contracts you sign that make you sound like a criminal.  We call it legalese.  “The party of the first part…” “Everything excluded is deemed included…”  Stuff like that.

Genesis 21:25  Then Abraham rebuked Abimelech because of a well of water which Abimelech’s servants had seized.
Genesis 21:26  And Abimelech said, “I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, nor had I heard of it until today.”

Please note that Abraham agreed to this contract, he swore to it, before resolving the issue of the well.  He didn’t immediately demand what he believed to be his rights.

Just because you are a Christian it doesn’t mean you must give up all your rights.  It doesn’t mean you can never complain or file a grievance.

But generally speaking, we are far too quick in demanding our rights.  Obviously we need the Lord to lead us in individual matters.  My only point is that we rarely think He will lead us to be defrauded or taken advantage of – even though He was when He walked the earth on His way to the Cross.

Genesis 21:27  So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two of them made a covenant.
Genesis 21:28  And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.
Genesis 21:29  Then Abimelech asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs which you have set by themselves?”
Genesis 21:30  And he said, “You will take these seven ewe lambs from my hand, that they may be my witness that I have dug this well.”
Genesis 21:31  Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because the two of them swore an oath there.

I’m not up to speed on ancient water rights but it seems to me that Abraham was exceedingly generous towards Abimelech.  Abraham had dug a well – no easy task in those days with their primitive tools!  Abimelech’s men had seized it.  Now he had dug another well.  You’d think Abimelech owed him, not the other way around.  Yet Abraham gives Abimelech seven ewe lambs as a token and a payment for it.
Not only had he met his being defrauded with longsuffering, Abraham gives generously to those who had defrauded him!

You see now why the only conclusion a person could come to when looking at Abraham was “God is with you in everything that you do.”  He didn’t just talk about Jesus, or do a few religious things.  No, he acted just like Jesus, or just as if the Lord was really there with him.

The most mundane, routine life ever lived may have been that of Jesus for His first thirty or so years on the earth.  There’s a lot of excitement at His birth, then an episode when He was twelve; but the rest of it is Him hanging-out in an obscure village learning the common trade of carpentry.

Thus it is amazing when, at His baptism, God the Father speaks from Heaven to declare, “this is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  It wasn’t what Jesus had done, but how He had done it.  God was with Him in everything He did, day-by-day.

You know what?  You and I are now God’s beloved sons and daughters by virtue of being in Christ.  Our obscure, mundane, humdrum lives are exciting to Him.  They give Him opportunity to declare He is well pleased.

#2    Day-by-Day,
    Are You Receiving A Discovery From Jesus?

The chapter closes with a picture of Abraham enjoying his tamarisk tree.

Genesis 21:33  Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.

The word for “tree” has been translated in some versions as grove.  Most likely it was a single tree meant to commemorate this experience.

More than just a memorial, it was where Abraham “called on the name of the Lord.”  It was a place of worship, of prayer.  It was Abraham’s closet, as it were, where he met with the Lord.

We call this time and place devotions.  Someone once said, “The Gospel brings man to God; devotions keep him close to God.”  In James 4:8 we read, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

I don’t want to say anything that would minimize the importance of daily devotions, but I feel I must mention that they are not to be observed simply out of habit or as a sort of religious duty.  If I miss my morning or evening devotions, God is not mad at me.

Here is how to understand devotions.  If you’ve ever been in love, you know the feeling of wanting to be with the person you are in love with.  You want to talk with her, walk with her, hang out with her.  Day-to-day living interferes with your desire to be together, but you are always thinking about her.  It’s as if she is with you the whole day even though you are apart and longing to be together.

How much more should we feel this way about the Lord!  There should be a passion associated with Him that far exceeds our other relationships.

Jesus expressed this kind of passion when He talked to us about our relationship to Him.  Writing to the saints He loved at Ephesus, He noted that they were doing everything Christians ought to be doing but that they were negligent in the most important thing.  Jesus said to them, “you have left your first love.”

Whether you have fallen short in your devotions for 2011 or are on track to finish strong, check your heart for “first love.”  It’s the love of engagement, the romantic love, between a Bridegroom and a bride.

On a human level we use the expression, “the honeymoon is over.”  One writer said, “the honeymoon can last five days or five years, but at some point the heat and the hormones subside.”

Here’s the thing.  We haven’t even had our honeymoon yet when it comes to our relationship with Jesus!  We are still in the engagement period when love ought to remain white-hot.

While Abraham was under his tamarisk tree Jesus revealed to him that He was “the Everlasting God.”  We should pause when we read that.  It was a brand new name for Himself that Jesus was giving Abraham.

In the context of the kind of love-relationship we are describing, think of this as a sort of pet-name for Jesus that Abraham was given.  A nickname that was intimate and endearing.

“Everlasting God” is a translation of El Olam.  Those are what the words mean.  What they reveal goes far deeper.

One Jewish writer said this about El Olam:

This name of God teaches us that God has no beginning, no end and stands outside of and beyond time.  God’s nature and purposes are  timeless, for God created time and is not limited by time in any way.  Before there was a universe and before there was time, God existed, without beginning and without end (Psalm 90:2).

The term Olam also includes the unchangeableness of God.  Everything we know changes, in some way,  over time; but God never changes.  His character, His Word, His promises, His purposes and His kingdom never change and never end.  For us, this means that God is constant, dependable, reliable and faithful!

Think about the episode with Abimelech and Phichol.  Abraham was going about his day-to-day business.  He was digging wells, tending his flocks and herds.  There were problems – like the time one of his wells was seized.  There were meetings and negotiations.

Behind it all and above it all God had His timeless purposes.  It was all working together for Abraham’s good.  No matter what happened day-by-day, the Lord never changed.  In fact, the conflicts and conversations Abraham were involved with only served to magnify God as eternal.

The same is true of us in our mundane day-by-day lives.  Our experiences can, if we let them, highlight aspects of the love and nature of God.  In fact, God designs our lives so that the episodes will reveal something of Him – if we are looking to receive it from Him.

Genesis 21:34  And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines many days.
This chapter marks the first mention of “the Philistines” in the Bible.  The origin and background of the Philistines had not been completely proven. Ancient Egyptian records include them as part of a larger movement of people known as the Sea Peoples who invaded Egypt about 1188BC by land and by sea, battling the forces of Ramses III, who, according to Egyptian records, defeated them.  These Sea Peoples originated in the Aegean area.

The Philistines were not Arabs nor even Semites.  They were most closely related to the Greeks originating from Asia Minor and Greek localities, like Crete.  They did not speak Arabic.  They had no connection, ethnic, linguistic or historical with Arabia or Arabs.

Besides the historic significance of including them in this narrative, we are being reminded that the world in which we walk with our Lord is a weird place.  It’s a dangerous place.  The Philistines would become the perpetual enemies of Abraham’s descendants.  They were marauders and raiders that never gave Israel a moment’s rest.

You really shouldn’t get too comfortable in the world.  It’s not your home.  You are just passing through.

Whether you love to travel or not, most people tire of living out of suitcases.  They long to get home where they can feel ‘at home.’

Do you have a sense you are living out of suitcases – longing for home?  Or are you looking to add more-and-more suitcases in an attempt to have this world’s goods?

You should have a sense that you’re getting ready for your honeymoon.  Pack light!  Just like the airlines have size and weight restrictions, you ought to keep your packing for Heaven to a minimum.

Instead of filling your house, fill your heart with revelations from Jesus about His love for you.

It’s a spiritual life you want.

Laughing Matters (Genesis 21v1-21)


According to some researchers there are more than fifty distinct types of laughter.

How you laugh can send very different signals.  Research for a TV comedy channel linked the following types of laughter with inward states of mind:

Belly-laugh: open and trustworthy.
Chuckling: kind and thoughtful.
Cackling: enjoying the misfortune of others.
Snorting: a snobbish expression of disapproval.
Sniggering: insensitive, unsympathetic and immature.

Laughter plays an important role in our text.  There are two very distinct types of laughter:

The first is pretty obvious.  At Isaac’s birth Sarah said, in verse six,  “God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.”  The name Isaac, in fact, means laughter.  Isaac’s weaning a few years later is also accompanied by a joyous laughter.
The second type of laughter isn’t immediately obvious.  It’s in verse nine where you read that Ishmael was “scoffing.”  It’s the same Hebrew word translated “laugh” in verse six.

This whole episode takes on more significance when the apostle Paul chooses it as an illustration comparing two ways of continuing in the Christian life.  Writing to the churches in the region of Galatia he compared believers who continue to depend upon the power of God to Isaac, while comparing those who live according to man-made rules in their own human energy to Ishmael.

The Christians in Galatia had a choice to make.  Believers in every geography and generation have that same choice to make.  As Warren Wiersbe puts it, “individual churches and Christians can make the same mistake the Galatians were making: they can fail to cast out Hagar and Ishmael… [giving] opportunity for the flesh to work.”

Focusing on their respective laughters, I’ll organize my thoughts around two questions: #1 Is Yours The Kind Of Laughter That Rejoices At The Power Of God?, or #2 Is Yours The Kind Of Laughter That Scoffs At The Power Of God?

#1    Is Yours The Kind Of Laughter
    That Rejoices At The Power Of God?

Abraham was 100 years old.  Sarah was 90 years old.  Besides that, Sarah had passed through the change of life and, naturally speaking, could not expect to become pregnant.  Her womb was dead.

But she did become pregnant and Isaac was born according to the power of God in fulfilling His promise.

Genesis 21:1  And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had spoken.
Genesis 21:2  For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

The phrases that jump out at us, that apply to believers in every generation, are “as He had said… as He had spoken… at the set time…”  The one that we struggle with is “at the set time.”  We generally believe God will do all He has “said” and “spoken,” but we don’t know His timing and, so, our faith struggles.

God had His own “set time” in order to accomplish something wonderful for Abraham and Sarah.

I wonder how many miraculous things we miss because we will not wait for God’s “set time?”

Many a young man or a young woman has grown impatient waiting for God’s “set time” to introduce them to their mate and have settled for their own choice.
Whole churches can make the mistake of growing impatient waiting for God’s “set time” by seeking to fulfill His promises by human energy using the techniques you find in the world – upselling, intimidation, heaping guilt on people, etc., etc.

Genesis 21:3  And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him – whom Sarah bore to him – Isaac.

When God had at first promised Abraham that Sarah would become pregnant and bear him a son, she laughed from a hiding place behind the tent curtain.  With a godly humor, the Lord told her to name the boy Isaac, meaning laughter.

Genesis 21:4  Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.

Circumcision of the flesh was always intended to be a reminder that a person must be spiritually circumcised in their heart.  The physical rite pointed to what was wrong with us – that we were born in trespasses and sins needing to be saved.  God wants to give us a new heart, and that is what He does when we are saved.

Isaac was circumcised after his miraculous birth.  If you’ve been born-again the Bible says “you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ” (Colossians 2:11).  The sin nature you were born with is spiritually cut away.

As long as we are in these bodies, our unredeemed physical bodies, we are subject to the vestiges of the influence and inclinations of our flesh to yield our members to sin.  But our sin nature has been cut-away and we have received a new nature and can therefore instead yield our members to serving God.

Genesis 21:5  Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

It had been twenty-five years since Abraham left his home to follow the Lord.  Twenty-five years to receive the promise of God for a son and heir.

Has God said something to you?  Has He spoken to you?  Then in His “set time” He will perform it by His power.  He’s preparing you to receive it.

Genesis 21:6  And Sarah said, “God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.”
Genesis 21:7  She also said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne him a son in his old age.”

God had made Sarah “laugh” many years earlier, but it was a snickering from her unbelief.  Now He had made her “laugh” again, transforming it into a laughter of rejoicing.

Not only that, her whole life would become a source of laughter for others.  They would hear the story of God’s promise, then see its fulfillment by God’s power, and laugh with the joy of the Lord.

Sarah’s womb was dead but from it God brought new life.  Do you realize that you were dead in your trespasses and sins?  Then, at God’s “set time,” you heard the Gospel and were born-again into newness of life.

If, like me, you were saved later in life and delivered from many terrible things and from life-dominating sins, you laughed with rejoicing in the joy of your salvation.

Probably everyone you knew could see the change in you.  They laughed, too.  Some with rejoicing; but others with scoffing.  Which brings us to Ishmael.

#2    Is Yours The Kind Of Laughter
    That Scoffs At The Power Of God?

Sarah probably thought everyone would laugh with rejoicing.  There was one person who did not.

Genesis 21:8  So the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned.

I’m not sure at what age a child was “weaned” four thousand years ago.  It doesn’t really matter, does it, when a child in the Bible was weaned?  It’s relative to your own time and culture.

Whenever it was, Abraham threw a feast.  Should we have weaning feasts?  We could call them “Weaning Roasts.”

I will suggest this.  Do everything you can to rejoice at the milestones – however small – in your family.  Make life fun.  There will be enough tragedy.

Genesis 21:9  And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing.

Big half-brother Ishmael was 16 or 17 years old at the time.  I think it’s safe to say there had been no ‘weaning roast’ for him.  Though Abraham’s son, his legal status was that of a servant in the household.

Genesis 21:10  Therefore she said to Abraham, “Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac.”

Sarah’s demand seems harsh.  We read into this our own culture and its values.  I’m not saying this was something to be taken lightly, or to base our own family discipline upon, but it was an acceptable discipline given the legal status of Hagar and Ishmael as servants.  This was more similar to dismissing a servant than disowning a son.  At least to Sarah.

Genesis 21:11  And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham’s sight because of his son.

Abraham was against this idea.  I don’t think it’s going to far to say that he loved Ishmael.  He was troubled until he heard from the Lord.

Genesis 21:12  But God said to Abraham, “Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called.
Genesis 21:13  Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed.”

Abraham could send Ishmael away with confidence God would be with the lad.

Genesis 21:14  So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water; and putting it on her shoulder, he gave it and the boy to Hagar, and sent her away. Then she departed and wandered in the Wilderness of Beersheba.

Again, this reads as harsh treatment.  Here’s the thing.  God knew what He was going to do for Hagar and Ishmael.  Abraham’s part was to obey and to trust God.

Genesis 21:15  And the water in the skin was used up, and she placed the boy under one of the shrubs.
Genesis 21:16  Then she went and sat down across from him at a distance of about a bowshot; for she said to herself, “Let me not see the death of the boy.” So she sat opposite him, and lifted her voice and wept.

It sounds like Abraham sent them out into the wilderness to die but I’m guessing he told them to make for one of the cities – maybe even Gerar where he had recently been treated with great hospitality.

Evidently Hagar made a wrong turn.  Lost, she thought they were going to die.
God sometimes deals with individuals severely in order to draw their attention to their true condition. They are lost and dying!  God’s mercies can seem severe mercies, and many times they are – but in the light of eternity they are really precious opportunities.

Genesis 21:17  And God heard the voice of the lad. Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her, “What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.
Genesis 21:18  Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation.”

I don’t know what Ishmael said.  I do know that people cry out to God when all hope is lost.  God hears those cries.

Genesis 21:19  Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink.

God wanted her to lead her son to the water that would give him life.  Not just in the physical sense, but spiritually, too.

Genesis 21:20  So God was with the lad; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.
Genesis 21:21  He dwelt in the Wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

Was Ishmael saved in this encounter?  After all, it says that “God was with the lad.”  I don’t know.  God is “with” everyone – in the sense that God the Holy Spirit is seeking to lead men, women, and children to faith in Jesus Christ.  All men benefit from the common grace of God without all men receiving salvation by grace through faith.  If Ishmael is an example of God’s dealings with the nonbeliever, it is a comfort to see how far God will go to reach even those who mock His power.

God promised Abraham and Sarah a son and heir.  Almost immediately, and for many years afterward, they set about trying to fulfill God’s promise in the energy of the flesh.

When the fulfillment of God’s promise seemed to be taking too long, Abraham suggested one of his servants, Eleazar, be his heir.
When it seemed to be taking even longer, Sarah suggested Abraham have a child by her maidservant, Hagar.
When it seemed impossible for God’s promise to be fulfilled, Abraham suggested the child of Hagar, Ishmael, be his heir.

All of that was the flesh at work seeking to help God achieve His spiritual purposes.  It resulted in the birth of Ishmael – described earlier as a “wild man.”  It was in that same attitude of trusting in the flesh that Ishmael laughed with scorn.

Whenever we put our flesh to work seeking to help God achieve His spiritual purposes, things that can only be achieved by His power, we are laughing like Ishmael laughed.

The very suggestion we are like Ishmael offends us.  Trouble is, we can be like him without even realizing it.  In fact, in some cases we’ve been taught that it is the best way to follow Jesus.  There are still legalistic churches and Christians who project extra-biblical, man-made rules upon you by which you are judged to be either more spiritual or less spiritual.

Your salvation was not obtained by any effort of yours and neither is it maintained by any effort of yours.  It all by grace from start to finish.

Writing to the Galatians, to whom he used the illustration of Ishmael and Isaac, Paul asked this question: “Did you begin in a spiritual way only to end up doing things in a human way?” (Galatians 3:3 God’s Word Translation).

In the case of the Galatian believers, most of whom were Gentile, they were being told that the way to continue in the Christian life was to add Jewish rites and rituals to their walk.  Only if they were circumcised and kept the Sabbath, they were told, would they be truly saved and spiritual.

They had begun “in a spiritual way,” but were now wanting to continue by “doing things in a human way.”  It is far too typical of us to be like them.

Scoffing at the power of God still takes that form today as we see many believers becoming more and more fascinated with Jewish rites and rituals – thinking it is the more ‘spiritual’ way to walk with Jesus.

Then there are many other additions to the Christian life made by scoffers, like the teaching that you must be baptized to be truly saved and spiritual, or that you must speak in tongues.

As you prepare to re-enter the world and effect the people God has sent you to minister among, listen to the laughter of your heart.  Are you scoffing or rejoicing?

Let’s be those who rejoice, who having begun in the spirit continue to walk in the spirit.

Sister Act 2 – Back To Old Habits (Genesis 20v1-18)


Dilbert is a comic strip known for its satirical office humor.  Its creator, Scott Adams, asked the readers of his blog to “describe your own job in one sentence, preferably in a humorously derogatory way.”

Here are a few of the responses he received.  Listen to the description then think (to yourself) what the job might be.

Be a human napkin: Stay-at-home mother of three
Talk in other people’s sleep: College Professor
Copy and paste the Internet: Student
Run away and call the police: Security Guard
Make food that is just as healthy before it goes in your body as when it comes back out: Fast Food Employee

We encounter a spiritual job description in our text.  It’s in verse seven where God says to Abimelech, “[Abraham] is a prophet, and he will pray for you.”

As a prophet Abraham was to speak to men about God.
As one who prayed Abraham was to speak to God about men.

The twist is that initially Abraham utterly fails to pray or to prophesy.  God sticks with him and Abraham eventually carries out his assignment.

This has application for us.  Part of our ‘job description’ as Christians is to pray and to prophesy.  Like Abraham, we can and we do fail.  But God sticks with us and we can be renewed to faithfulness.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 God Is Gracious In Your Failures To Pray & To Prophesy, and #2 God Is Glorified In Your Faithfulness To Pray & To Prophesy.

#1    God Is Gracious In
    Your Failures To Pray & To Prophesy

Prayer is communicating with and communing with God.  An important aspect of prayer is to intercede for others – to speak to God about them.  In his farewell speech the prophet Samuel said to the Israelites, “…far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you…” (First Samuel 12:23).  It was part of his job description as a prophet.

You may think I’ve gone too far by suggesting that you are to “prophesy.”  To “prophesy” means to speak for God, or to speak forth the Word of God.  The Bible describes the office of prophet, the gift of prophecy, and it describes every believer speaking for God or speaking forth the Word of God.

Certain individuals in both the Old Testament and the New Testament are identified as prophets.  It was an office of leadership and responsibility.  I said it was an office because the New Testament clearly indicates that once the apostles and prophets laid the foundation of the church their unique office ceased and the responsibility for leadership now rests in pastor-teachers, elders, and deacons.
The supernatural gift of prophecy is still given to individual members of the church.  You can read all about it especially in First Corinthians fourteen.  As long as the prophecy agrees with the completed revelation of Scripture we receive it as a message of edification, exhortation, and encouragement.
In a different but no less important sense, every believer is to speak for God and to speak forth the Word of God.  The apostle Peter, writing to every believer, says, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1Peter 4:11).  He is reminding you that all of your speech represents God to men and women – it is speaking for God.  Then he says,  “We have also a more sure word of prophecy…” (2Peter 1:19).  In other words, God’s written Word is inherently prophetic.  When you share the Word, you are sharing God’s written prophecy – speaking forth the Word of God.

You can’t hold the office of a prophet…You may not have been given the gift of prophecy… But you do speak for God and you do speak forth God’s Word.

Let’s see how Abraham handled his assignment to pray and to prophesy.

Genesis 20:1  And Abraham journeyed from there to the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and stayed in Gerar.
Genesis 20:2  Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.

At the very beginning of his walk with the Lord Abraham had told this same lie while in Egypt.  The Pharaoh, thinking Sarah was his sister, took her in to his harem with the intention of marrying her.  Now Abimelech does likewise.

By the way, just how attractive was Sarah?  We usually think of a trophy wife as being the very young counterpart to an older man.  Sarah was ninety years old when Abimelech went weak in the knees for her.

Abraham’s failure tells us a few things.

One thing it tells us is that as long as we are in these bodies we will contend with the flesh.  By the ‘flesh’ I mean that inclination, that influence, I find still at work in my unredeemed body that prompts me to yield myself to sin.
Another thing Abraham’s failure tells us is that there can be particular sins I am more susceptible to than others.  I should therefore know my weaknesses and strategize how to avoid putting myself into situations that might cause me to stumble.
Another thing I see here is that spiritual maturity does not come automatically with age.  Abraham had walked with God for a quarter century but was still at square one in his paranoia about being killed for Sarah.

Genesis 20:3  But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.”

God says to him, “you are a dead man.”  We take that to mean God was going to kill him.  Indeed, in a few verses we see that God had afflicted him in some way.  But in a spiritual sense “you are a dead man” is simply the declaration of a truth.  Abimelech was already a dead man.

If you are not a believer God has said to you, at to everyone else, “you are a dead man.”  In the New Testament, in the Book of Ephesians, God explains that you were born dead in trespasses and sins.  You are born physically alive and soulishly active, but you are born spiritually dead.

You can, however, be born-again, born spiritually, by receiving Jesus Christ.

Genesis 20:4  But Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, “Lord, will You slay a righteous nation also?
Genesis 20:5  Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she, even she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this.”

Abimelech thought he and his nation were “righteous.”  He claimed to have “integrity” and pointed to his “innocence.”

His integrity and innocence among men, though commendable, did not render him justified before God.  These works of human righteousness were of no eternal value.  He must be declared “righteous” by God if he was to be saved.

“Abimelech,” by the way, is a title, like Pharaoh.  He is here representing his nation.  What was true of him was true of them.

You could therefore say that Abraham had been sent to Abimelech, to the people of Gerar, to reveal the grace of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  He was God’s missionary to them.  And it wasn’t a bad assignment because the people of Gerar were actually pretty good compared to their neighbors.

Abraham failed miserably in his mission.  He brought Abimelech and his people under even greater condemnation.

Genesis 20:6  And God said to him in a dream, “Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.
Genesis 20:7  Now therefore, restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”
Genesis 20:8  So Abimelech rose early in the morning, called all his servants, and told all these things in their hearing; and the men were very much afraid.

Was this the same “dream”?  I’m not sure.  It could be that Abimelech had to wait a night or two before he got this answer.

I know when I got saved there was a period of time, a couple days I think, that I was in an absolute mental funk about my sin and need for salvation.  It was all I could think about.  It was what the Bible calls conviction.

Abimelech had been convicted of sin.  He had been shown his own insufficient righteousness.  He was warned of coming judgment.   Now he had a decision to make.

It’s always that way in God’s dealings with sinners!  God the Holy Spirit is sent to convict men and women of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.    Then they have a decision to make.

Do you have a decision to make?

Although God can use dreams or whatever means He so desires, He has chosen in this church age to entrust the good news about salvation in Jesus Christ to you and I who have believed on Him for salvation.  We are sent to pray for laborers to go out into the harvest to speak the prophetic Word to them.

Abraham failed.  He not only kept quiet about God, he lied and concealed his own identity as a believer.  So did Sarah.

Do you and I ever fail, keeping quiet or even concealing our true identity?  Our reluctant but honest answer is, “Yes!”

The solution isn’t to try harder or make a bunch of promises to God.  It is to ask for His help.  You see, Jesus told His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit upon them, to baptize them, giving them the power they needed to be bold witnesses for Him.  In another place (Luke 11) He encouraged believers to ask and seek and knock for the gift of the Holy Spirit, promising that God would not withhold Him from you.

If you have been failing in your witness for Christ then ask Him for the help He promised and then, by faith, believe He has given you His Spirit.

#2    God Is Glorified In
    Your Faithfulness To Pray & To Prophesy

Any CEO worth his salt would have fired Abraham.  But God held him out to Abimelech as His go-to guy in Gerar.

Simultaneously, God used Abimelech to reprove Abraham.

Genesis 20:9  And Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? How have I offended you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done deeds to me that ought not to be done.”
Genesis 20:10  Then Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you have in view, that you have done this thing?”

Perhaps we would more easily receive reproof if we understood that it was from God’s abounding grace that it comes to us.  You think that it is coming from your spouse, or your spiritual leaders, or from some nonbeliever.  They are only the instrument.  God is the source.

Abimelech’s question, “what did you have in view?,” is insightful.  The thing Abraham had set his “view” upon was his own safety and longevity.

He ought to have set his view upon Abimelech’s lost condition.

Genesis 20:11  And Abraham said, “Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife.
Genesis 20:12  But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.
Genesis 20:13  And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is your kindness that you should do for me: in every place, wherever we go, say of me, “He is my brother.” ‘ ”

Abraham feared what man could do to him when he ought to have feared what God must do to Abimelech and his nation should they die apart from Christ.  Often it is some form of self-preservation that keeps us quiet.

Abraham indicated that everywhere they went they were in the habit of playing this sister act.  It is what biblical counselors would call a ‘life-dominating sin.’

These great men and women of the Bible, they were of like passions with us.  Be encouraged that God loves you every bit as much as He does them, and that there are no ‘super-saints,’ only saints.

Genesis 20:14  Then Abimelech took sheep, oxen, and male and female servants, and gave them to Abraham; and he restored Sarah his wife to him.
Genesis 20:15  And Abimelech said, “See, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.”

One reason I think Abimelech got saved was his generosity towards Abraham and Sarah.  To the couple that had almost cost him his life and the destruction of his nation he extended generous hospitality.  He gave them, as it were, the key to the city.  Abimelech was giving out of grace to those who had wronged him.  It was a God-thing.

Genesis 20:16  Then to Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; indeed this vindicates you before all who are with you and before everybody.” Thus she was rebuked.

There is a ton of disagreement as to how to properly translate verse sixteen.  With some translations it reads as a comfort to Sarah; with others, it reads as a rebuke to her.  In some – like the NKJV I just read – it sounds like both a comfort and a rebuke.

Let me give it to you in the KJV.

Genesis 20:16 (KJV) And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.

That last word, “reproved,” can mean to show to be right or to vindicate.  I think Abimelech was being used by God to exonerate Sarah because, even though she went along with this, it was her husband who was ultimately responsible.

Seeing it that way we can find a sweet marriage devotional in this verse.  The husband is to be “a covering of the eyes” of his wife.  What are the positive reasons why you cover someone’s eyes?

You cover someone’s eyes when you are about to surprise them.
You cover someone’s eyes when you want to keep them safe from being offended at something.

The husband’s role is to keep marriage safe and surprising!  This spills over into the family – “unto all that are with thee” – and is observed as a pattern for others looking on – “and with all other.”

We might note, too, that when Abraham was blowing it, Sarah’s eyes were covered in a different and negative way.  She was, essentially, kidnapped.

Husbands take heed and take heart!

God restored Abraham and Sarah despite their failure.  In some ways they were even better off than before their failure.  Should you fail so grace might abound?  No – God forbid!  But grace does abound when you return from failure to faithfulness.

Genesis 20:17  So Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then they bore children;
Genesis 20:18  for the Lord had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

God wanted to make it clear that when Isaac was born, he was not the child of Abimelech!  Even though Abimelech was supernaturally restrained from having sex with her, their relationship might give the appearance of evil.  No one would believe that they hadn’t slept together.  So God made it clear to everyone that Isaac was no child of adultery.  By closing up all the wombs.

Abraham “prayed” for the first time recorded in this chapter.  I say he also undoubtedly shared with Abimelech many things about the Lord.  Like, for example, how God had judged Sodom and Gomorrah.  We would say then that, in the end, he prayed and he prophesied.

It’s a picture for us of what, in the spiritual realm, prayer and prophecy accomplish.  They bring new birth to dead sinners!  God is glorified as men, women, and children are changed through their contact with His Word, delivered to them by His chosen instruments – you and I.

As you re-enter the places in the world you have been strategically placed by God, consider these two things:

God the Holy Spirit is available, by faith, if you will ask, seek, and knock believing God is a good heavenly Father Who does not withhold the Spirit from you.
Pray for those with whom you have contact and then look for opportunities to talk to them about God.

Sex And The Cities (Genesis 19v1-38)


I want to be certain we are not becoming spiritually desensitized.

Perhaps an example of being desensitized would help.  Let’s pick on television or, as some Christians like to call it, Hellivision.1

In a survey of scientific studies and findings, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation confidently stated the following in a report of the effects of television violence upon children.

Based on the cumulative  evidence of studies conducted over several decades, the scientific and public health communities overwhelmingly conclude that viewing violence poses a harmful risk to children.  Viewing television violence can lead to… increased antisocial or aggressive behavior [and] desensitization to violence (i.e., becoming more accepting of violence in real life and less caring about other people’s feelings)…

People were becoming spiritually desensitized way before television. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, may, in fact, be the poster boy for spiritual desensitization.  He had become so desensitized in Sodom that he had lost any real sense of being separated from the world.

For his part, Abraham was separated and refused to become desensitized.
Obviously we want to be Abraham’s and not be Lot’s.  Let’s therefore ask ourselves these two questions: #1 Are You Desensitized & Refusing To Be Separated?, or #2 Are You Separated & Refusing To Be Desensitized?

#1    Are You Desensitized
    & Refusing To Be Separated?
    (v1-14 & 30-38)

Our story begins with the evening arrival of two visitors to Sodom.

Genesis 19:1  Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground.
Genesis 19:2  And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.”
Genesis 19:3  But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

These two angels had been dispatched to deliver Lot and his family from Sodom on the eve of its destruction from Heaven by God.

Lot insisted that they receive his hospitality.  Abraham had done the same a chapter earlier.  Lot was acting just like Uncle Abraham.  He seemed every bit as spiritual.

It could be argued that Lot was far more successful than his uncle.  “Sitting in the gate” of a city was an indication that you were one of the leaders.  It was at the gates of the city where disputes were heard and decisions were rendered.  While Abraham remained an itinerant nomad, Lot had risen to a place of prominence.

Many Christians look like Lot.  They seem spiritual.  And they enjoy the outward success of the world.

Just beneath the surface we’re going to see that although Lot was certainly better than the world around him, he had become so spiritually desensitized that if we didn’t have the testimony of Abraham and the apostle Peter calling him “righteous” we’d conclude he was unsaved.

Genesis 19:4  Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house.
Genesis 19:5  And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.”
Genesis 19:6  So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him,
Genesis 19:7  and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly!
Genesis 19:8  See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.”
Genesis 19:9  And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door.
Genesis 19:10  But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door.
Genesis 19:11  And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door.

There can be no disputing that the men of Sodom were homosexual and/or bisexual and wanted to rape these two visitors.  Otherwise what was Lot’s point in offering his virgin daughters in their stead?

There can also be no honest disputing that homosexuality is condemned in the Bible as sin.  Any attempts to justify it as a behavior from the Bible involve denying and/or destroying the precise words of Scripture.

God intends sex to be celebrated and enjoyed in a marriage between one man and one woman for life.  Biblical marriage is heterosexual and monogamous.  Within those boundaries, “marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4).

God is no prude when it comes to marital sex.  One whole book of the Bible is dedicated to the romance of courtship and the consummation of marriage in the marriage bed.  God portrays marital sex as a joyous blessing without blushing.

Having said that, the men of Sodom are not the main characters in this narrative.  Lot and his family are the main characters.  So today I’m not talking to or about homosexuals.  I’m talking to Christians about becoming desensitized.
Honestly, the thing that strikes me most in this story was Lot’s willingness to offer them his two virgin daughters to be raped by them. Apparently he felt it was a lesser sexual sin.

If we are not careful we can become desensitized and think that there are lesser sexual sins we can commit while at the same time condemning others as heinous.

Any and all sexual activity that is outside the beautiful and protective boundaries of biblical marriage is sin.  That would include homosexuality, for sure, but also pornography and premarital sex and adultery as well.

Christians are adamant about making their feelings known regarding homosexuality.  Accurate or not, homosexuals who need salvation in Jesus Christ feel that Christian hate them.

But if studies and statistics are accurate, several other sexual sins listed in the Bible are pretty prevalent in the church among the saints.

Almost every poll taken shows that 50% or more of Christian men admit to viewing pornography on a regular basis.  And lots of women do, too.
Premarital sex is certainly not uncommon among believers.
According to The Journal of Psychology and Christianity, “an astounding 50-65 percent of husbands and 45-55 percent of wives have had extramarital affairs by the time they are 40.”

I’m not concluding anything or even suggesting anything.  I’m just wondering if we are not somewhat like Lot if we have become desensitized and only rail against certain sexual sins while committing others.  If that’s the case, we need to become separated again to God’s immutable standards.  We need to return to biblical sexual purity.  In plain terms, we need to see the porn and premarital sex and adultery stats go way down in the church.

Lot was also desensitized to what I would call spiritual urgency.

Genesis 19:12  Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city – take them out of this place!
Genesis 19:13  For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”
Genesis 19:14  So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking.

Besides his two unmarried daughters, Lot had at least two and maybe three married daughters.  When he went to warn them and their husbands, they thought it was a joke.  They scoffed at the thought of God’s impending judgment.

Apparently they had never before seen in Lot a sense of urgency with regard to spiritual things.  Lot had let at least twenty years go by living in Sodom putting God on the back burner, so to speak.  He had no conversions among the godless Sodomites and he had little conversation about God with members of his own family.

It’s easy to put spiritual things on the back burner, is it not?  In fact, the world designs strategies to keep you busy and get you doing anything besides prayer, the study of the Word, and attending church.  If you’re not careful you will give your children the impression that there is nothing urgent about seeking the Lord or studying His Word or joining with His people as often as possible.  They see by your example that it can wait.

If that is what you’ve done or are doing, then you are desensitized to the spiritual urgency of “redeeming the time because the days are evil.”

The angels are going to drag Lot, Mrs. Lot, and the two unmarried girls out of town and then the cities will be destroyed.  To follow our theme, I want to skip to verses thirty through thirty-eight.

Genesis 19:30  Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar. And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave.
Genesis 19:31  Now the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth.
Genesis 19:32  Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.”
Genesis 19:33  So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.
Genesis 19:34  It happened on the next day that the firstborn said to the younger, “Indeed I lay with my father last night; let us make him drink wine tonight also, and you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.”
Genesis 19:35  Then they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.
Genesis 19:36  Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father.
Genesis 19:37  The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day.
Genesis 19:38  And the younger, she also bore a son and called his name Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day.

This is ugly and vile.  Without overlooking or minimizing the sin of incest, Lot’s problem on these two nights was that he got drunk.

We’ve talked about alcohol many times.  I always point out that the Bible does not condemn drinking, only drunkenness.  Then I ask if someone can actually determine for me what it means to be “drunk.”  Is it the first sign of a buzz?  Or is it when you finally pass out?

I’m just speculating here, but I don’t think Lot was a regular drunk.  He drank, that’s clear; and he got drunk – blind drunk.  What I’m getting at is that drinking alcohol is the best way I know for a person to become desensitized towards getting drunk!

If you drink, be very careful you are not becoming desensitized to getting drunk.  Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit!

The world is out to desensitize you.  If you are not careful, you’ll become like Lot – and I know none of us want that!

#2    Are You Separated
    & Refusing To Be Desensitized?

Let’s get back to the angels dragging Lot out of Sodom.

Genesis 19:15  When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, “Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.”
Genesis 19:16  And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.
Genesis 19:17  So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”
Genesis 19:18  Then Lot said to them, “Please, no, my lords!
Genesis 19:19  Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die.
Genesis 19:20  See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.”
Genesis 19:21  And he said to him, “See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken.
Genesis 19:22  Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.
Genesis 19:23  The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar.

By telling Lot to flee to the mountains the angels were encouraging him to become spiritually separated from the world.

Lot lingered, then balked, at the idea of fleeing to the mountains, wanting instead to go to one of the other cities of the plains.  If he couldn’t live in Sodom, he’d live in Zoar.  After all, it was only a “little” city.  In other words, it wasn’t big, bad Sodom and, since God wasn’t going to rain fire down on it, he could live there, couldn’t he?  Yeah, he could, but he shouldn’t.

Genesis 19:24  Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens.
Genesis 19:25  So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

Modern archaeology has unearthed Sodom and Gomorrah, only the scientific communities call them Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira because they are reluctant to admit the Bible is the Word of God.

“By 1924 [archaeologists] became convinced of the possibility of some ancient inhabited area near the barren eastern bank of the Dead Sea.  [An] expedition had found some meager remains of an early Bronze Age structure assumed to have been a fortress or temple.  It was located on a mound, known as Bab edh-Dhra…

“In the 1960s, a large cemetery was discovered near Bab edh-Dhra.  Archeologist Paul Lapp spent three seasons excavating the area where he unearthed a great number of shaft-tombs – possibly as many as 20,000.  (A shaft-tomb is a vertical hole, about 3 feet in diameter, dug into the rocky ground to a depth of approximately 6 feet.)  At the bottom of each shaft were 1-5 horizontal shallow shafts, each containing between 1-6 bodies.  In addition, there were a number of mud-brick buildings, charnel houses that are repositories for bones or bodies of the dead.  Each charnel house contained the remains of several hundred people.

“Current estimates of the number of bodies occupying that cemetery is about a half million!  The great number of corpses in a single burial ground is evidence of a major population.

“Between 1973 and 1979, four more “cities” to the south of Bab edh-Dhra were found.  Their Arabic names are Numeira, Safi, Feifa, and Khanazir.  The surrounding area has been thoroughly explored and no other cities have been found, only these five [just like the Bible says].

“Numeira was excavated for two seasons…  Perhaps the most interesting find was the remains of a winery with 4000-year-old whole grapes were still there, preserved by the arid desert climate.  [This validates] Moses [reference] to the vineyards of Sodom, “For their vine is of the vine of Sodom and of the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter” (Deuteronomy 32:32).

“The entire areas of Bab edh-Drha and Numeira are covered with a spongy ash.  These two cities show clear signs of utter destruction.  The layer of ash ranges from 4-20 inches in depth.  Parallel to these five cities is fault line where two large plates of earth are exerting great pressure on each other.  This tectonic feature has caused a number of earthquakes in the region.  The pressure can also force subterranean matter, such as magma, or, in this case, bitumen into the air.  Geologists suggest that… the earth spewed forth flammable hydrocarbons high into the atmosphere.  These were ignited by lightening or some other natural source and the flaming debris fell back to earth.”2

Genesis 19:26  But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

“Looked back” is believed by some to mean returned or lagged behind.  Her heart was in Sodom.

We refer to people as ‘pillars’ sometimes.  Salt is a preservative and, in the Bible, it symbolizes the effect a believer ought to have on the surrounding culture.  We are to preserve godliness and prevent spiritual decay.  Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt was a monument to what she ought to have been but was not – God’s pillar of salt in that lost society.

Lot was desensitized and, in the end, refused to be separated from the world.  Abraham remained separated, refusing to be desensitized.

Genesis 19:27  And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord.
Genesis 19:28  Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.
Genesis 19:29  And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt.

Earlier in the story Abraham had rescued the inhabitants of Sodom and refused to take any of the spoil.  He made a conscious, willful choice to remain separated.  It meant nomadic living in tents – having no lasting possessions or any position in this world.

But it ‘positioned’ him with God in such a way that his prayers were heard and he was spared the vexing of his righteous soul.  And instead of accumulating a few possessions, he would have a vast spiritual inheritance.

As you get ready for re-entry to the places God has strategical scattered you in the world:

Choose daily to remain separated.
Be extra sensitive to becoming desensitized.

Occupy All Streets (Genesis 18v16-33)


C.S. Lewis called it ‘the problem of pain.’  One author captures the sense of the ‘problem’ in the following description of our world:

We live in a world in which a child dies every five seconds of starvation. Every five seconds.  Every minute there are twenty-five people who die because they do not have clean water to drink.  Every hour 700 people die of malaria.  Where is God in all this?

We live in a world in which earthquakes in the Himalayas kill 50,000 people and leave 3 million without shelter in the face of oncoming winter.  We live in a world where a hurricane destroys New Orleans.  Where a tsunami kills 300,000 people in one fell swoop.  Where millions of children are born with horrible birth defects.  And where is God?

That particular author goes on to describe how he abandoned his faith.  Others raise the specter of pain and suffering to keep them from having to think about God, reasoning that if there was a God, He would intervene to stop pain and suffering.

By the way, I don’t see how eliminating God helps resolve the problem of pain.  If there is no God, the problem remains and it is squarely on us.  It’s not only our fault as human beings but without God there is no reasonable hope we will ever resolve it because there is no power greater than ourselves.  Take God out of the picture and all you do is magnify the problem of pain.

For me, the answer to the problem of pain is captured in one word from one verse of the New Testament.  The word is “longsuffering” and the verse is Second Peter 3:9,

2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

The bigger context of that word and that verse is that judgment is coming, judgment from God, upon sinners who perpetrate the evil that gives rise to pain and suffering.  The apostle Peter describes how God has intervened in history before in judgment and that He will do so again in the future.  Mean time He is longsuffering, giving men and women opportunity to repent and receive eternal life.

One of the times God intervened in history, in judgment, was at Sodom and Gomorrah.  We’ll see it in chapter nineteen.

First, at the end of chapter eighteen, we get a lesson on how we ought to live in a world filled with pain and suffering as we await the judgment of God upon sinners.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 If You Listen With The Lord You Will Hear The Outcry, and #2 If You Are Likeminded With The Lord You Will Influence The Outcome.

#1    If You Listen With The Lord
    You Will Hear The Outcry

Sodom and Gomorrah were real cities.  Archaeologists have found them, only they call them Bab edh-Dhra, thought to be Sodom, and Numeira, thought to be Gomorrah.  Both places were destroyed at the same by a catastrophe.
What brought about this awful calamity?  Startling discoveries in the cemetery at Bab edh-Dhra revealed the cause.  Archaelogists found that buildings were burned by a fire that started on the roof.  Fire rained down on those cities!

We will get an insider’s view of the destruction next week.  Mean time, as Abraham looks down upon those cities with the Lord, we are being instructed how to look upon our world – a world very much like those cities.

Genesis 18:16  Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way.

You learn in the first part of chapter eighteen that one of them was Jesus Christ in a pre-incarnation appearance.  In chapter nineteen you’ll see that the other two were powerful angels.

Genesis 18:17  And the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing,
Genesis 18:18  since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
Genesis 18:19  For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

Jesus gives two reasons why He revealed to Abraham what He was about to do.

The first reason has to do with Abraham becoming a great nation that will bless all the nations of the earth.  It was part of the unconditional promise God had made to Abraham that theologians call the Abrahamic Covenant.  But these two ‘nations,’ Sodom and Gomorrah, were going to be removed.

Did that nullify God’s promise?  No, it put Abraham on notice that the ultimate blessing was yet future.  Abraham’s descendants, the Hebrew people, would produce the Savior of the world Who would ultimately be the fulfillment of the promise that all nations would be blessed.

The second reason God gave for revealing to Abraham what He was about to do was so that Abraham would include it in his homeschool curriculum.  While God’s promise to Abraham was unconditional, his descendants would enjoy the blessings of it only if they kept “the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice.”  They weren’t going to get a pass.  God would judge them, too, if they sinned, although ultimately He would preserve a remnant throughout history.

Genesis 18:20  And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave,
Genesis 18:21  I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”

Twice the Lord used the word “outcry.”  It may be the most important word in this section.  He doesn’t just say, “their sin is very grave,” though it was.  No, Jesus was personally aware of the effects of sin upon individuals.  He heard their “outcry.”

Have you ever been oppressed?  Have you ever been abused?  Have you been a victim of violence?  Has evil been perpetrated upon you?

If so, it generated an “outcry” and Jesus Christ heard it from Heaven.

This is where it gets difficult for some.  Some respond to the fact Jesus hears the “outcry” by blaming Him for doing nothing when He could have intervened.

The best way I know of putting this into perspective is to encourage a person to look at their own life.  Somewhere along the path of your life you caused someone to suffer.  You perpetrated some violence – either great or small.  You oppressed someone.  You abused someone.

If those words seem too harsh, look at it this way.  Somewhere along the path of your life you lied or cheated or stole.  At the very least, you coveted something or someone.  Doesn’t matter how minor; it was wrong, it was sin against someone.

If God had immediately intervened, judged you for your sin, you’d have died before having the opportunity to have yours sins forgiven at the Cross of Jesus Christ.  God’s longsuffering with you was so you would repent and not perish.
The problem of pain and suffering is our fault.  It’s because Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden.  Like it or not, when he sinned he represented all his offspring.  You and I have sin imputed to us, we inherit a sin nature, and we commit individual acts of sin.

God immediately resolved the sin issue.  Right there in the Garden, while Adam and Eve were yet sinners, He promised to come and to take their place and bear the judgment for their sin and the sin of the entire human race.

But it would take time for the Lord to be born into our history, die on the Cross, rise from the dead, and return.  Mean time, yes, there is incredible pain and suffering.  But it’s not to be compared with the suffering of eternal torment in Hell.

Pain and suffering are our fault.  It doesn’t help to blame God and eliminate Him because He should stop it.  He will stop it, one day.  The judgment that rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah is coming to the entire earth.  Just like the Lord told Abraham what He was going to do, He has told us.

2 Peter 3:12  … the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?

What should we do about it?

Like Abraham, we ought to understand that it is God’s desire to bless all the nations of the world with a knowledge of their Savior.  Thus we want to be about the spiritual business of building His church, making disciples, and evangelizing the nations.
Like Abraham, we want to raise a godly offspring.  As one author put it, we want to raise right-way kids in a wrong-way world.

#2    If You Are Likeminded With The Lord
    You Will Influence The Outcome

Abraham seems to bargain with the Lord.  As we read it, note Abraham’s familiarity with Jesus.  He was indeed God’s friend.
Genesis 18:22  Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.
Genesis 18:23  And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
Genesis 18:24  Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?
Genesis 18:25  Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Genesis 18:26  So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”
Genesis 18:27  Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord:
Genesis 18:28  Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?” So He said, “If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.”
Genesis 18:29  And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose there should be forty found there?” So He said, “I will not do it for the sake of forty.”
Genesis 18:30  Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
Genesis 18:31  And he said, “Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.”

On what basis would he think there could be fifty, forty-five, forty, thirty, or twenty believers in Sodom and Gomorrah?

Lot was a believer.  We see him as carnal, as fleshly, as backslidden.  Nevertheless the apostle Peter three times describes him as “righteous.”  Even in his carnal condition Lot had a testimony in Sodom.  In chapter nineteen, at one point, the men of Sodom will say to Lot, “… This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge…” (v9).

The men of Sodom were convicted by Lot’s witness – even though by any reasonable standards Lot was blowing it!

It isn’t to be used as an excuse for living carnal, selfish, materialistic lives, but even the marginal believer can have an effect on the nonbeliever.
Perhaps Abraham was giving Lot the benefit of the doubt by thinking he had converted folks in those cities.  “Love believes all things.”

Genesis 18:32  Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.”
Genesis 18:33  And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.

Why stop at “ten”?  Some have suggested that Abraham knew there were ten members of Lot’s family:

Lot and Mrs. Lot make two.
Their two unmarried daughters make four.
Scholars claim that when, in chapter nineteen, we read of Lot’s “sons-in-law,” it is a kind of plural form that indicates more than two and probably three.  So that would mean three more daughters and their husbands, six people, bringing the total number to ten.

It could also be argued that the number “ten” represents completeness or fullness.  In the New Testament parable of the ten silver pieces, a woman loses one of the ten.  She searches for it until she finds it.  This is numerical symbolism which shows the believer’s search for lost souls representing those who are to be saved.  When we have found what was lost, the batch will be a full or complete treasure.  The number ten signified the fullness of believers.

I don’t know why Abraham stopped at “ten.”  More to the point was his understanding that God would not “destroy the righteous with the wicked.”

The “righteous” is a synonym for “believers.”  They are all those whom God declares “righteous” based on their believing in Jesus Christ.

That is not to say that the “righteous” do not or will not suffer.  Of course they do; of course we do.  Jesus Himself told us in the world we would have trouble.

Think of the context.  God was about to totally destroy everyone in these cities.  He was about to judge them for their sin.  Now in that context, where the righteous are living alongside the wicked, He must first do something to deliver the believers.  Believers have already had their sin judged and God’s wrath against them poured out upon Jesus on the Cross.

In our future God will remove the church before He brings the Great Tribulation to bear upon this planet in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ.  We cannot be the subjects of His wrath since Jesus has already born it for us.

The thing that really gripped me in reading this text this week was the realization that I might have prayed very differently from Abraham.

Here are two ways I might have prayed:

“Lord, deliver Lot and the believers from Sodom and Gomorrah before you rain fire down upon their heads.”
“Lord, strengthen me go get Lot and the believers out of Sodom and Gomorrah before you rain from down upon their heads.”

Christians tend towards the kind of praying I just described.  I’ve heard more than once in messages about Sodom and Gomorrah that “if God doesn’t judge America, then He owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology.”  It presumes that we see others as ripe for judgment.  Every natural disaster, e.g., a tsunami or earthquake, some Christian leader will proclaim is God’s judgement upon the wicked.

Is that how Abraham prayed?  Here is what he said: “…would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?” (v24).

Abraham was willing for God to “spare” the cities for the sake of the “righteous” that were in them.  Spare the wicked!  That’s amazing to me.

I suggest that he was likeminded with the Lord.  He was not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance and be saved.  He understood that a final judgment would eliminate all possibility for those wicked men to receive eternal life, and it concerned him more than the “outcry” from their victims.
Was Jesus longsuffering with those cities?  Those cities had a long testimony of His love, mercy and grace.

In an earlier episode, Abraham – the man of God – had rescued the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.
At their rescue we were introduced to Melchizidek, a priest of God.  We know, therefore, that Sodom and Gomorrah were familiar with him.
And as I just pointed out, Lot was living in Sodom and provided a witness to them.  We think Lot had been there at least twenty years.

Jesus was, indeed, longsuffering with them, not willing any should perish.

The application for our lives is two-fold:

First, hear the “outcry” just as the Lord hears it and act to do something about it.  What did the Lord do?  He came to live among us, amidst the pain and suffering, in order to minister salvation.
Second, we should be longsuffering with sinners believing that they may repent and be saved before the longsuffering of God ends and He returns to resurrect and rapture the church prior to the Great Tribulation.

There is an “outcry.”  What part of it do you ‘hear?’  What touches your heart that makes you want to help in any way you can to bring the Gospel to bear upon it?

Womb Service (Genesis 18v1-15)


I’m not revealing anything you don’t already know when I tell you that I can be pretty dense.

A few years ago Geno and I were in SoCal at a Peet’s Coffee Shop.  We just so happened to be talking about movies and, at the time, some new animated feature written and directed by Tim Burton was about to be released.

As we were talking about it, a guy walked in.  He overheard us and casually mentioned something about the film.  Something along the lines of having just seen the final pre-release copy.  We acknowledged him, exchanged a comment or two, but I didn’t give it much thought.

It should have been a clue when the barista called him, “Tim.”  But not to me.  Only later did I think it might have been Tim Burton.  Then I found a picture of him and, yeah, it was him.

He wasn’t trying to hide his identity so much as I just didn’t recognize him.

In our text three “men” suddenly appear in the vicinity of Abraham’s tent.  It’s pretty clear that Abraham doesn’t immediately recognize them.  They are strangers to whom he shows incredible hospitality.

Later in the story one the “men” will reveal Himself to Abraham and Sarah as the Lord.  A little later still you find out the other two “men” were really powerful angels who go on to deliver Lot before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Lord hid Himself from Abraham, then He showed Himself to Abraham and Sarah.  I hope to be able to show you that Jesus loves to hide and then show Himself.

Why?  There are lots of reasons the Lord hides, then shows, Himself.  We’ll deal with the two in our text in Genesis as I organize my thoughts around two points: #1 Jesus Will Sometimes Hide Himself To Elicit Your Hospitality, and #2 Jesus Will Sometimes Show Himself To Elucidate His Impossibilities.

#1    Jesus Will Sometimes Hide Himself
To Elicit Your Hospitality

Jesus loved to hide Himself in order to elicit a response.  I’ll give you an example before His resurrection and one after.

There, resting alone at the well, Jesus engaged a Samaritan woman who had come out to draw water.  He kept His identity a secret.  He spoke to her in cryptic clues about Himself.  Only after He told her some things that no man could have known about her did she understand He was no mere man.  She returned to town and told everyone, saying to them, “Could this be the Christ?”  Many Samaritans believed in Jesus that day.

After Jesus rose from the dead He suddenly appeared with the two disciples returning from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  He hid His true identity from them until they urged Him to stay with them and share a meal.  When He was breaking bread their eyes were opened to know Who He was but Jesus vanished from them.
You could make the point that hospitality was involved in both of those stories:

At the well Jesus asked the Samaritan woman to give Him a drink.
In Emmaus the Lord hesitated until the two disciples invited Him to eat and stay with them.

Our story in Genesis is one in which Jesus initially hides His identity and Abraham shows He and the other two “men” with Him immense hospitality.  In other words, Abraham shows hospitality to strangers and ends up entertaining angels unawares!

That sounds like a Bible verse:

Hebrews 13:2  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

Suddenly this showing hospitality is pretty important stuff!  Let’s follow Abraham as he entertained the Lord and two angels unawares.

Genesis 18:1  Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day.
Genesis 18:2  So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him…

It was “the Lord” and angels but to Abraham they appeared as “men.”

Genesis 18:2  …and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground,

Abraham was looking to serve, and he was ready to do so.  Everything behind him, so to speak, in his tent, in his household, was in order.

Let’s realize something.  When we use the word ‘hospitality’ in our study today, we’re not strictly talking about entertaining folks.  We’re not talking about having full pantries and spotless homes.  There’s nothing wrong with that!  But ‘entertaining’ isn’t always done with real spiritual hospitality.  And hospitality can exist even when you have very little to share.

For our purposes we’re using ‘hospitality’ in the sense that we are willing to share what God has provided us, whether it be spiritual or material, in order to minister to a person in such a way that it refreshes their heart (v5).

I can do that with much, but I can also do it with little.  I can do it by giving something to someone – something material like food, clothing or shelter.  But I can also do it by giving someone ‘Someone’ spiritual – by sharing the Gospel of Jesus, or by praying with them, or by laying hands on them, or by weeping with them.

Genesis 18:3  and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant.
Genesis 18:4  Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.
Genesis 18:5  And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.” They said, “Do as you have said.”

I’m not interested in footwashing but I will tell you something I think is fantastic.  On Japan Airlines, just before you’re going to land, the stewardesses bring you a hot, moist towel to put on your face.  Man!  It’s like going to a spa at 30,000 feet.

It must have brought Jesus immense joy to have Abraham offer to wash His feet when Abraham thought Him a total stranger.  Some four centuries or so later Jesus’ own disciples, knowing who He was, would refuse to wash one another’s feet.  Jesus then stooped to do it to teach them what it truly means to be a servant.

Again notice that the great lesson of servanthood was in the context of withheld hospitality!

Abraham twice refers to himself as their “servant” and he lived it.  He didn’t just serve.  He wasn’t on the clock.  This wasn’t his week on the schedule.  He was a servant through-and-through.

Genesis 18:6  So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.”
Genesis 18:7  And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it.
Genesis 18:8  So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.

Abraham promised them a “morsel of bread.”  He delivered far more than he had promised!

Part of showing the mercy of hospitality is sacrificing more than the “morsel.”  I’ve found, too, that when folks give more than the “morsel,” it becomes the new minimum standard.  The next time hospitality is elicited they have an opportunity to give more than the “morsel” again.

Abraham literally entertained Jesus and angels.  We may entertain angels unawares.  But what is perhaps even more amazing than actually entertaining Jesus or angels is the biblical fact that the way you treat others is seen by Jesus as exactly how you would and therefore do treat Him.

In the famous passage at the end of Matthew twenty-five Jesus talked about the treatment of those who were hungry, thirsty, naked, strangers, sick and in prison.  It’s the passage where the Lord divides nonbelievers from believers at His Second Coming.

To those who fail to show mercy and hospitality Jesus will say, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
To those who show mercy and hospitality Jesus will say, “’Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

On what does Jesus base His judgment and invite some into the Kingdom of Heaven on earth while others go to Hades?

Matthew 25:40  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Matthew 25:45  Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

“You did it to Me.”  “You did not do it to Me.”  Jesus considers your behavior towards others as if you were dealing directly with Him.

There are many exhortations in the New Testament to practice hospitality.  How, exactly, we do this is left open-ended.  Albert Barnes writes,

To what extent this is to be done, is one of those questions which are to be left to every man’s conscience and views of duty.  No rule can be given on the subject.  Many men have not the means to be extensively hospitable; and many are not placed in situations that require it.  No rules could be given that should be applicable to all cases; and hence, the Bible has left the general direction, has furnished examples where it was exercised, has recommended it to mankind, and then has left every man to act on the rule, as he will answer it to God…

Jesus, in a very real sense, hides Himself in every such encounter to elicit the mercy of showing hospitality.  The way you treat others, the mercy you either show or withhold, reveals the character of your love for Jesus.

#2    Jesus Will Sometimes Show Himself
To Elucidate His Impossibilities

The Lord was on a mission to announce the birth of Isaac.  He showed Himself to Abraham and Sarah and gave them the good news.

Genesis 18:9  Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” So he said, “Here, in the tent.”
Genesis 18:10  And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)

“According to the time of life” refers to a normal 9-month pregnancy.  It would be a miracle for a ninety-nine year old man and an eighty-nine year old woman to conceive, but the pregnancy would otherwise be natural in every sense.

Genesis 18:11  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.

To remove any doubt about the miraculous nature of the conception we are told that Sarah had already gone through the change of life.  What the Lord was declaring was therefore physically impossible.  He would bring a child from a dead womb.

Genesis 18:12  Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

Abraham had laughed when the Lord had told him in chapter seventeen that Sarah would get pregnant.  Now Sarah laughed.

Jesus was cracking them up with His promises!  Have the Lord’s promises ever cracked you up?  Or are we always so rigid that there’s no room to see that the Lord has a sense of humor?

Genesis 18:13  And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’
Genesis 18:14  Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”
Genesis 18:15  But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh!”

Commentators are generally hard on Sarah for both laughing in her heart and then denying it.  Let’s cut her some slack.  Just short of her ninetieth birthday she’s told that she will get pregnant and deliver a son.  I don’t know about you, but I’d initially crack-up, too.

Besides, she’s in the Hall of Faith, and in Hebrews 11:11 we read,

Hebrews 11:11  By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.

She got busted and her first response was to deny it.  Okay, that’s not the most spiritual thing to do, but it was a very unique situation.

For the Lord’s part He doesn’t really rebuke her.  He doesn’t withdraw His promise.  If and when we are faithless in the face of His promises, He remains faithful!
“Is anything too hard for the Lord?”  The answer, of course, is “No.”  It doesn’t mean that all the things we want the Lord to do will come to pass.  The context is that God had promised something and, even though it was humanly impossible, it was not too hard for Him.

If you are a believer, you have already experienced God doing what is humanly impossible.  He has acted in human history in order to save you for eternity.  Salvation is humanly impossible; the forgiveness of your sins is humanly impossible.  But what is impossible for you is possible for God.  Jesus came as a man, God in human flesh, so that whosoever will believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.

What other promises of God’s are you secretly laughing at?  What other promises of God have you abandoned because they seem impossible?

The Lord wants to show Himself to you and elucidate the impossible.  Whether you are young or old, strong or infirm, and even when you present yourself to be somewhat faithless, Jesus remains faithful to bring to pass the impossible.

Adam Clarke, in his commentary, writes,

It was to correct Sarah’s unbelief, and to strengthen her faith, that God spoke these most important words; words which state that where human wisdom, prudence, and energy fall, and where nature herself ceases to be an agent, through lack of energy to act, or laws to direct and regulate energy, there also God has full sway, and by his own omnific power works all things after the counsel of his own will.  Is there an effect to be produced?  God can produce it as well without as with means.  He produced nature, the whole system of causes and effects, when in the whole compass of his own eternity there was neither means nor being.  He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.  How great and wonderful is God!

You know that saying, “I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you”?  Abraham and now Sarah were laughing at Jesus but the Lord would graciously change their hearts to be laughing with Him.

Their laughter of fear would give way to peels of joy at the birth of Isaac – whose name means laughter.

The Lord is probably trying to show Himself to you in some area of your life that seems, for one reason or another, impossible.  Laugh with Him, not at Him, as He does what only He can.

Then go out and treat others with merciful hospitality, knowing that the way you treat them is received by Jesus as if you were doing it directly to Him.