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Obstacles and Advancement

Genesis  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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This section covers the pre-Isaac years of Ishmael and the promise of a child to be born to Sarai.

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1. A Fateful Decision ()
Genesis 16:1–16 CSB
Abram’s wife Sarai had not borne any children for him, but she owned an Egyptian slave named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram, “Since the Lord has prevented me from bearing children, go to my slave; perhaps through her I can build a family.” And Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar, her Egyptian slave, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife for him. This happened after Abram had lived in the land of Canaan ten years. He slept with Hagar, and she became pregnant. When she saw that she was pregnant, her mistress became contemptible to her. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for my suffering! I put my slave in your arms, and when she saw that she was pregnant, I became contemptible to her. May the Lord judge between me and you.” Abram replied to Sarai, “Here, your slave is in your hands; do whatever you want with her.” Then Sarai mistreated her so much that she ran away from her. The angel of the Lord found her by a spring in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She replied, “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her authority.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “You have conceived and will have a son. You will name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your cry of affliction. This man will be like a wild donkey. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; he will settle near all his relatives.” So she named the Lord who spoke to her: “You are El-roi,” for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?” That is why the well is called Beer-lahai-roi. It is between Kadesh and Bered. So Hagar gave birth to Abram’s son, and Abram named his son (whom Hagar bore) Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him.
1. A Fateful Decision ()
a. While it may seem odd in our culture that a woman would turn to a slave to have children for her, in the ancient culture, it was perfectly acceptable and sometimes even contracted.
In ancient times, marriage contracts were drawn up and we have records in which stipulations were made in the event that the woman could not bear children.
b. Sarai, like Eve with Adam, offers Abram a way to circumvent the will of God.
c. Hagar is made Abram’s wife and becomes pregnant.
d. Hagar’s feelings of superiority would have been linked to the idea that bearing children is a blessing from God and not having children being seen as punishment from God.
e. Abram relinquishes his rights as Hagar’s husband, placing her back under Sarai’s authority.
f. Sarai mistreats Hagar driving Hagar to run-away.
g. The “angel of the LORD” appeared to Hagar and promises her blessings.
h. She is to name the child Ishmael, meaning “God hears”.
i. Ishmael (and his descendants) will not settle down and will be in a constant state of conflict with everyone.
Ishmael’s descendants would be the northern Arab nations and Islam links Mohammed to being his descendant. Perhaps the prophecy is fulfilled in that Islam is in constant state of conflict with all non-Muslims.
2. The sign of the covenant instituted ()
Genesis 17:1–27 CSB
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him, saying, “I am God Almighty. Live in my presence and be blameless. I will set up my covenant between me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell facedown and God spoke with him: “As for me, here is my covenant with you: You will become the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you. I will confirm my covenant that is between me and you and your future offspring throughout their generations. It is a permanent covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as a permanent possession, and I will be their God.” God also said to Abraham, “As for you, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations are to keep my covenant. This is my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you, which you are to keep: Every one of your males must be circumcised. You must circumcise the flesh of your foreskin to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations, every male among you is to be circumcised at eight days old—every male born in your household or purchased from any foreigner and not your offspring. Whether born in your household or purchased, he must be circumcised. My covenant will be marked in your flesh as a permanent covenant. If any male is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that man will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai, for Sarah will be her name. I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she will produce nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Abraham fell facedown. Then he laughed and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a hundred-year-old man? Can Sarah, a ninety-year-old woman, give birth?” So Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael were acceptable to you!” But God said, “No. Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm my covenant with him as a permanent covenant for his future offspring. As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will certainly bless him; I will make him fruitful and will multiply him greatly. He will father twelve tribal leaders, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will confirm my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year.” When he finished talking with him, God withdrew from Abraham. So Abraham took his son Ishmael and those born in his household or purchased—every male among the members of Abraham’s household—and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskin on that very day, just as God had said to him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when the flesh of his foreskin was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen years old when the flesh of his foreskin was circumcised. On that same day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. And all the men of his household—whether born in his household or purchased from a foreigner—were circumcised with him.
a. God appears to Abram and advances the covenant.
a. God appears to Abram and advances the covenant.
b. Several changes and new revelations are given.
· Abram’s name is changed to Abraham, meaning “father of many nations.”
· Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah, meaning “Princess”.
· Kings will descend from Abraham’s progeny.
· The covenant will be an everlasting covenant.
· The land is identified as an everlasting possession.
· Circumcision is designated as the sign of the covenant.
Why circumcision? The taking of the first portion of the bodily instrument used to fulfill God’s command to be fruitful and multiply symbolized the submission to God and his commands.
c. Abraham is concerned with Ishmael’s welfare because he now realized that the covenant would not extend to Ishmael.
Do not miss that Abraham, at this point has had Ishmael for about 13 years and believed that the covenant would be realized through Ishmael. Abraham was not looking for another son because he had one.
d. God promised to bless Ishmael by making him into a great nation.
3. The visitation ()
Genesis 18:1–15 CSB
The Lord appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent during the heat of the day. He looked up, and he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them, bowed to the ground, and said, “My lord, if I have found favor with you, please do not go on past your servant. Let a little water be brought, that you may wash your feet and rest yourselves under the tree. I will bring a bit of bread so that you may strengthen yourselves. This is why you have passed your servant’s way. Later, you can continue on.” “Yes,” they replied, “do as you have said.” So Abraham hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, “Quick! Knead three measures of fine flour and make bread.” Abraham ran to the herd and got a tender, choice calf. He gave it to a young man, who hurried to prepare it. Then Abraham took curds and milk, as well as the calf that he had prepared, and set them before the men. He served them as they ate under the tree. “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he answered. The Lord said, “I will certainly come back to you in about a year’s time, and your wife Sarah will have a son!” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him. Abraham and Sarah were old and getting on in years. Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. So she laughed to herself: “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I have delight?” But the Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Can I really have a baby when I’m old?’ Is anything impossible for the Lord? At the appointed time I will come back to you, and in about a year she will have a son.” Sarah denied it. “I did not laugh,” she said, because she was afraid. But he replied, “No, you did laugh.”
a. Abraham recognized that the three visitors were no ordinary men.
a. Abraham recognized that the three visitors were no ordinary men.
b. Abraham provided a generous meal for the LORD and his two companions.
Abraham is the one serving the visitors in keeping with cultural norms, specifically that a woman is not permitted to be in the presence of male visitors.
c. Why is Sarah reprimanded for her laughter, but Abraham is not in chapter 17?
Abraham’s laughter in chapter 17 was due to incredulity not lack of faith. Abraham would have relayed the covenant to Sarah. Her laughter was out of persisting in unbelief. Her denial and the explanation of fear indicate her guilt.
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