top Abraham #3 Friday, August 18, 2017
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A STUDY OF ABRAHAM, Part # 3
By James L. Thornton
In this Lesson we are continuing The Study Of The Life Of Abraham and will be covering the following Events.
A. Faith Conquering Fear
B. Faith Grows By Use
C. It All Depends On Me
D. An Angel In The Wilderness
E. Almighty God
F. The Covenant Of Circumcision
G. The Covenant Completed
H. Ishmael And The Heavenly Blessing
I. When God Comes To Dinner
J. Is Anything Too Hard For God
A. Faith Conquering Fear:
There is a rule used in Bible Study which says that the first time a word or phrase is used in the Bible, it is used in such a way as to fix it’s basic meaning throughout scriptures.
In the opening paragraph of Genesis 15, there are four such phrases which appear for the first time in the Bible. They are repeated many, many, times afterward in the Scripture. We will discuss each in turn.
Sometime after returning from the defeat of the Kings which had plundered Sodom, Abram was having a sleepless night.
Tossing and turning on his cot, burdened with fears and apprehensions. Fear of the return of The Armies. Fear of whether he did the right thing about wealth. Fear of whether he was too old now to have a son.
All these things, and more, weighed heavily upon Abram’s mind in the night hours.
Then he became aware of a presence with him there in his tent, and his heart quickened. Then a sense of relief flooded over him as he recognized the familiar voice.
Genesis 15:1. After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. (KJV)
"The Word of the Lord."
It’s the first occurrence of this remarkable phrase, afterwards so common in Hebrew Scripture. It appears 370 times in the scripture.
This was a personal designation of the pre-incarnate logos. The Lord manifesting himself by speech to Abram.
"Came unto Abram in a vision," A night vision, not a dream, or a trance. "Saying, fear not, Abram."
This is the second phrase which appears for the first time in scriptures, and which would be used by the Lord to alleviate the fears of his people, and to console them in times of trouble. It appears 385 times in the scriptures.
God knew the apprehensions of Abram’s heart, and He visited him in the night to let him know that He was watching over him.
"I Am Thy Shield,.."
This is the third phrase which appears for the first time.
"I Am Thy Protection." "You are under my care." "Fear not, Abram, I am watching over you."
God wanted Abram to know that none of the armies of the kings could do harm to him while He was watching over him.
"I Am... Thy Exceeding Great Reward."
"All the wealth of Sodom is nothing in comparison to the riches of My Grace."
God also wanted Abram to know that He did not make a wrong decision by not accepting the offer of the King of Sodom.
Here we have Abram, apprehensive of danger, disappointed in hope, anxious about the promise, the years are passing, and he and Sarai are old, and they have no child to leave their possessions to.
He wonders if God’s promise will be fulfilled. That’s the reason God came to his tent that night, to be a solace for his heavy heart.
"Fear Not, Abram: I Am Thy Shield, And Thy Exceeding Great Reward."
Happy as the birth of an heir in Sarai’s tent would make him, Jehovah wanted Abram to understand that it would not be his recompense for the trials he had passed through, the sacrifices he had made, and the feats he had performed since leaving Ur, but Jehovah Himself would be his reward.
God’s saints are prone to seek their happiness in God’s gifts, rather than in the Giver.
Genesis 15:2. And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?
3. And Abram said, behold, to Me thou hast given no Seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. (KJV)
We have a very pathetic utterance by Abram to call God’s attention to his longing to have an heir. In response to which he received an assurance that must have thrilled his anxious heart.
Genesis 15:4. And, behold, the Word of the Lord came unto him, saying, this shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.
5. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, so shall thy seed be. (KJV)
God told Abram to come out of the tent and look up towards the heavens, and count the stars.
I feel that God miraculously quickened his vision to penetrate the depth of space and gaze upon the vastness of the stellar world, since the stars visible to the naked eye would not represent an innumerable multitude.
Genesis 15:6. And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (KJV)
The substance of this chapter is the special intercourse between Jehovah and Abram. This may well be the most important event in Abram’s life, some say in the entire Old Testament.
In this chapter faith comes to full fruit in Abram’s life.
This is the fourth time that God has come to Abram, and this time reaffirming his promises.
But this time, after looking into the heavens at the innumerable multitude of stars, Abram’s faith grasped hold of the promises God had been making to him. His faith came to full fruit.
6. "And He believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness."
It was a faith in the personal, revealed, covenant Jehovah; not merely in a word, or in a sign, or in an expectation, but "In The Lord."
It was on that foundation Abram’s faith rests. "And he counted it to him for righteousness." In other words it was at this instance that Abram’s heart laid hold on God, and God put it into his account.
I feel that every true Christian can look back to a particular experience, a particular event, or a particular time, when your faith brought you to a full and true realization of God.
And you, along with Abram, believed in the Lord; and He counted it to you for righteousness.
On this incident, in the life of Abram, the entire Old Testament rests.
The Jewish nation, the Kings and Prophets, the Psalms and Words of Wisdom, the Law and Commandments, none of this would have existed in the manner in which we are so familiar, if it were not for Abram believing in the Lord.
All of this sprang from Abram, because, "He Believed In The Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness."
O yes, God would have fulfilled His promise to Eve and brought forth a Redeemer, but it would have come through a different family.
All the familiar names, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, would have been different, as these would have never lived if Abram had not "Believed in the Lord."
So it is simply astonishing to see how the history of the world was affected by one man’s belief in God. No wonder Abram is called the Father of Faith. No wonder God gave him such high honor.
The Apostle Paul tells us that this incident in the life of Abram also plays a significant part in our own salvation.
Romans 4:23. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
24. But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
25. Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
5:1. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Paul tells us that the same faith which imputed Abram, also imputes those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
B. Faith Grows By Use.
Faith is the gift of God, but it is given according to laws.
Romans 12:3b.,… According as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (KJV)
Sometimes it springs up suddenly, Like Nathaniel, or Paul, or the Philippian jailer. But usually it is like the growth of a seed, hardly to be traced, a gradual growth from efforts to live by faith.
Do not despise the training which prepares the soul to believe. It may seem to be labor in vain yet the Holy Spirit may be working unseen to prepare the soul for life and peace.
Jesus called twelve men to be with him. Each of these twelve had a measure of faith, some more than others. Day by day, for three and one-half years, Jesus worked and labored with them, teaching, and showing them the things concerning the Kingdom of God.
At times it would have seemed like His training of them was a fruitless endeavor. Like the time when Peter was sinking in the waves.
Matthew 14:31. And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him,
O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? (KJV)
This was after two years of following Jesus.
Then there would be times when they reached great heights of faith.
Luke 10:17. And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy Name.
Only to fall back into the depths of unbelief, like when a distraught father brought his afflicted son to them to be healed, and they could not help. (Matthew 17:16)
At this Jesus showed His humanity in his dealings with them.
Mark 9:19. He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him unto me. (KJV)
This continued for three and one-half years, their faith up and down, but all the time there was something taking place in them. A germ of faith was growing.
They witnessed the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of our Lord, then they experienced the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and somewhere, at sometime, that small germ of faith became a mountain, filling their lives completely.
And so it is with our own lives, faith cultivated, faith held on to, faith exercised, faith used, until we can say with Abram,
Genesis 15:6. And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness. (KJV)
God renews His covenant with Abram in this same chapter. (Genesis 15:18-21)
It seems that the vision and conversation with God lasted all-night and all through the next day.
(verse 12) God showed him that his descendants would be in bondage for four-hundred years, and that they would come out of that bondage to live in this land.
Genesis 15:18. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: (KJV)
C. It All Depends On Me:
Many times we think God is slow about answering our prayers, or coming to our aid, when we have a problem. We echo the words of Martha when Jesus lingered two days after she had sent word to Him that Lazarus was sick.
John 11:21. Then said Martha unto Jesus, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died”. (KJV)
So many times when God lingers, we take things into our own hands.
Abram had been in the land for ten years, and had, on several occasions, asked for a son, and had received the promise of an heir from God himself.
This was a well known fact in Abram’s household, and no doubt it had been discussed over and over, and as the years passed it seemed that God needed help in fulfilling His promise.
Sarai’s advancing age, now seventy-five, and her desire to please her husband, prompted her to initiate a plan to help God to fulfill the promise.
Genesis 16:1. Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
2. And Sarai said unto Abram, behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. (KJV)
We should note that as yet it had not been clearly intimated that Sarai was to be the mother of Abram’s child. This was stated thirteen years later.
So Sarai turned to the common practice of the times, and proposed to Abram that she give her handmaid to him, that maybe children would be born through her.
This is the first of only five times that Sarah spoke for our benefit.
"And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai."
Abram listened, with interest, to Sarai. The faith of both was low, with regard to the method in which they proceeded.
Genesis 16:3. And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. (KJV)
Hagar would have afterward been called a concubine, and could never have displaced Sarai as Abram’s wife. She is here improperly called a wife, which differed greatly from a concubine.
In power over the family. Which belonged solely to the true wife, Sarai. In the manner of espousal. Which, in case of the true wife, Sarai, was accompanied with solemn rites of espousal and liberal gifts of dowry. In privilege of children. The offsprings of concubine having no title to inherit.
Genesis 16:4. And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. (KJV)
Supposing she had won the favor of Abram, and would be elevated in his household above Sarai, Hagar became insolent towards Sarai. She, no doubt, began by being disrespectful, making slight remarks to Sarai, followed by arrogance and insults.
Sarai Complained To Abram.
Genesis 16:5. And Sarai said unto Abram, my wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the Lord judge between me and thee. (KJV)
"My injury is upon thee--thou art the cause of it."
It is the language of passionate irritation, indicating repentance of her previous action and a desire to impute its guilt to, and lay its bitter consequences, on her husband. But each of them, Sarai, Abram, and Hagar, were involved in the sin, and each would bear their own consequences of their part.
Though elevated to the role of secondary wife to himself, Abram still regarded Hagar as one of Sarai’s servants.
Genesis 16:6. But Abram said unto Sarai, behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face. (KJV)
The result was that the favored maiden was at once thrust back into her original condition of servitude, deprived of whatever tokens of honor and affection she had received as Abram’s wife, and subjected to injurious treatment by Sarai.
From all of this Hagar ultimately sought refuge by fleeing from Sarai’s tent.
Genesis 16:7. And the Angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. Hagar was clearly directing her flight back to Egypt when the Angel of the Lord came to her.
D. An Angel In The Wilderness:
Genesis 16:7. And the Angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
This Divine Being is recognized, as in other appearances in the Old Testament, as Jehovah himself. This is more than hinted at in verse 10 where this Divine Being assumes power which only belongs to the Almighty.
Hagar was on her way back to Egypt, and many miles from Abram’s tent, when she came upon a well of water in the wilderness of Shur. An uninhabited place, sandy country, desert-like.
The child which she was carrying would come back to live in this wilderness, and make it his land, and here he would be buried. (Genesis 25:12-18)
The Angel came to rescue her, as she stood little chance of reaching Egypt, considering that she was several months pregnant.
Why did the Angel come to rescue an Egyptian woman who was wandering in this wilderness? It was because of Abram. This woman was caring his child, regardless of whether it was right or wrong.
The Angel called her name. Hagar was no stranger to him because she was from Abram’s household.
Genesis 16:9 And the Angel of the Lord said unto her, return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
10. And the Angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
11. And the Angel of the Lord said unto her, behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. (KJV)
Ishmael = "God shall hear," or "whom God hears."
The first instance of the naming of a child before it was born.
Genesis 16:15. And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
16. And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram. (KJV)
There must have been great joy in Abram’s heart when Ishmael was born. That’s my boy! Abram took heed to what Hagar told him concerning the Angel.
The old man’s life was wrapped up in him. For as yet God had not told him different. And Abram must have been proud of Ishmael.
E. Almighty God: Genesis 17:1-27
It was thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael before Abram heard from God again.
At long last the Lord appeared unto Abram lest he should regard Ishmael’s birth as a complete fulfillment of the promise, and be satisfied with Hagar’s child as the expected seed.
The long delay on the part of God being probably designed as chastisement for Abram’s undue haste in providing for himself an heir.
Genesis 17:1a. And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; (KJV)
"The Almighty God;" (El-Shaddai)
This is the first time that God had given this description of Himself.
El-Shaddai is found in 57 verses in the Bible.
6 verses in Genesis, 31 verses in Job,
8 verses in Revelations, and in several other books.
Almighty--- Most powerful God.
Shaddai--- The Almighty (of God)
Description of God revealing Himself in His might.
This is the third name, or description, that God had revealed Himself by.
He had revealed himself as Jehovah, the God of Salvation, or God your Savior.
And as Elo-him, the God who creates nature as it is, and established, and upholds the laws it operates by.
And now as El-Shaddai, the God who compels nature to do what is contrary to itself, and subdues it to bow and minister to grace.
This characterizes Jehovah, the Covenant God, as possessing the power to realize His Promises, even when the order of nature presented no prospect of their fulfillment, and the powers of nature were insufficient to secure it.
Why did God, at this particular time, identify Himself as "El-Shaddai," or "God-Almighty?"
We will answer that question, and the answer will help explain some of the other things we have said.
God, in this chapter, was going to tell Abram something that was going to happen, which, according to the laws of nature, would be impossible to happen.
God wanted Abram to know that nothing was impossible with Him. (The All Competent God) (The God who Is Sufficient)
He was going to tell him that Sarai would have a son.
Sarai was 89 years old, many years past the child bearing age. It was impossible, according to nature, for her to bear children at her age.
El-shaddai would compel nature to do what is contrary to itself, and subdue it to bow and minister to Sarai and Abram, that the covenant may be fulfilled.
Genesis 17:1b. ......; Walk before me, and be thou perfect. (KJV)
This may have been a gentle rebuke for Abram’s lack of faith in God’s might which brought about the birth of Ishmael.
In chapter fifteen verse six, we talked about Abram’s faith reaching great heights and God counted it to him for righteousness.
In chapter sixteen Abram’s faith waned and he fell back from that exalted position, and walked through a period when he followed God "afar off."
It had been many years since we read about him building an altar. It was not God moving away from Abram, but Abram drew back from God.
Abram must have been satisfied with Ishmael, but Ishmael caused a distance to come between Abram and God.
Thank God for his mercy, and long suffering towards men. God waited thirteen years then came back to speak to Abram.
"Walk before me, and be thou perfect." "Be wholehearted" "Return to thy first faith; let it be perfect, not partial."
This is the condition which God set before Abraham in order for him to receive the promise. It was conditioned by obedience... Not faith alone.
Hebrews 6:15. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. (KJV)
A lesson for all believers. Watch lest faith grow cold. Watch lest God not be in our thoughts.
Proverbs 3:5. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (KJV)
We have here a perfect picture of God reaching down for one of His own, picking them up, and placing them where they once were.
Matthew 14:31. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? (KJV)
This is very much like our own faith, which at times we feel like we could move mountains, then we enter a period that our faith is weak, and we find ourselves walking at a distance from God.
Genesis 17:2. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. (KJV)
This is not a new covenant which God is making with Abraham, but God is declaring that He was ready to bring it to fulfillment, not through Ishmael, but by a son which would be born to Sarai.
Genesis 17:3. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, Saying,
4a. As for me, ...’’ (KJV)
God is saying, "As far as I am concerned,.." "I, for my part,.." "So far as relates to me,.."
Genesis 17:4b.. .., Behold, My Covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. (KJV)
5. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. (KJV)
This Covenant has great spiritual significance.
No more Abram, but Abraham. (Father of nations) with this God is saying, "My Covenant is not with Abram the Chaldaean chieftain, but with Abraham the believer."
This is a symbol of a new position before God which Abraham occupied, and a new nature, which as a believer in God, Abraham possessed.
This was to signify Abraham’s justification by faith, and regeneration as a Child of God.
Genesis 17:7. And I will establish my Covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting Covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. (KJV)
"To be a God unto thee, and thy seed after thee." This is God’s part of the Covenant.
To be their God means that Jehovah was making a commitment to Abraham and his descendants by giving him a son, and the land, and by being their liberator, their protector, and their sustainer in the land.
F. The Covenant Of Circumcision:
Abraham and his descendant’s part of the Covenant.
Genesis 17:9. And God said unto Abraham, thou shalt .... (KJV)
10. This is My Covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee; every man child among you shall be circumcised. (KJV)
"Thou shalt..." this carries the force of a command.
This was a commandment to Abraham and his seed. "every man child among you shall be circumcised..."
1. This was to distinguish the seed of Abraham from the Gentiles. (Exodus 2:6)
2. This was to perpetuate the memory of Jehovah’s Covenant.
3. It was to keep alive the hope of the Messiah in the Nation of Israel.
4. It was to remind them of the duty of cultivating moral purity. (Deut. 10:16)
5. It was to speak to them of the Gospel of righteousness by faith. (Romans 6:11)
6. It was to suggest the idea of a Holy, or a Spiritual, Seed of Abraham. (Romans 2:29)
7. It was to foreshadow the Christian rite of baptism. (Colossians 2:11-12)
Genesis 17:11b. ...; And it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. (KJV)
"A Token.." A visible sign, like the rainbow was a visible token of God’s covenant with Noah. (Genesis 9:12-13)
Genesis 17:23. And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
24. And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
25. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. (KJV)
There was no delay, no reluctance, no considering the question, but instantaneous compliance with the Divine directions... "The Selfsame Day."
And from that day forth the uncircumcised Hebrew, whether child or adult, forfeited his standing in the congregation of Israel.
Genesis 17:14. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. (KJV)
Among the Arabs the ceremony is usually delayed until the thirteenth year, because Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised.
G. The Covenant Completed
Genesis 17:15. And God said unto Abraham, as for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. (KJV)
Sarai, who had not been mentioned before in any of the promises, is now expressly taken into the covenant, and accordingly receives a new name.
Sarai, meaning, "My Princess, or Princely, Noble." Sarah, meaning, "Princess."
Whereas, formerly she was Abram’s Princess only, she was henceforth to be recognized as a Princess generally. Recognized as the Mother of the Church, and as the example of all women, in faith, in holiness, in submission.
1 Peter 3:5. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:
6. Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. (KJV)
Genesis 17:16. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a Mother of Nations; kings of people shall be of her. (KJV)
This is the first indication from God that the promised seed was to be born to Sarah.
From this let us note that the eternal never hastens. His plans are ever slow, gradual, progressive, and mostly regulated by the faith of the recipients.
God in his own good time, or, "when the fullness of time is come," He is able to be minute, explicit, emphatic, as He was in making known Isaac’s birth.
1. By the time... "a year from hence." (verse 21)
2. By the name... "Isaac." (verse 19)
The name change, along with the promise of a son, proclaimed that, like Abraham, Sarah was now a justified, and regenerated, believer in the Divine Promise.
Isaac was of Royal Blood, born of a princess, and forerunner of kings and priests, Including the King of Kings.
Genesis 17:17. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
We must not construe Abraham’s laughter as a laugh of unbelief, but a laugh of joy, a laugh of gladness. It was the joy of a husband in the happiness of a beloved wife, long tried, but at length, about to be rewarded.
Romans 4:19. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:
20. He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
21. And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, he was able also to perform. (KJV)
What reason declared impossible, was possible to faith.
Genesis 17:21. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. (KJV)
Within a year your son shall be born to Sarah. You shall name him Isaac... Or laughter.
Genesis 18:14. Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. (KJV)
H. Ishmael And The Heavenly Blessin: Genesis 17:18-22
Genesis 17:18. And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before Thee! (KJV)
Now that God had said that Sarah would have a son, and that the blessing of the promised covenant would rest upon him, Abraham expressed his concern for Ishmael.
For thirteen years he had no other thought than that Ishmael might be the promised seed, and now he cannot put aside the cherished hope without regret. (verse 13)
So Abraham breathes an earnest prayer on Ishmael’s behalf. Deeply concerned for the welfare of his son, Abraham was filled with longing that God would listen to his prayer.
He desired that Ishmael might not only live and prosper, but would share with Sarah’s son in the blessings of the covenant.
If there is anything about which a parent’s heart should be sincerely passionate, and filled with strong emotion about, it is when pleading for his children at the Throne of Grace. The chief ambition of a parent should be the conversion and spiritual advancement of his children.
Though Ishmael was to be denied the honor of serving as a medium for the transmission of the blessings of the Covenant to future ages, Abraham bought him exceeding great material blessings from Jehovah. (verse 20)
I. When God Comes To Dinner: Genesis 18:1-8
Genesis 18:1. And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; (KJV)
This was very soon after the incidents described in the previous chapter.
Abraham now stands on a higher plane of spiritual life. Endeavoring to fulfill the commandment given to him by Jehovah. "Walk before me, and be thou perfect." (17:1) The appearances and communications are more frequent, and more full.
So it is in our own lives as we consecrate ourselves to "Walk before Him," He comes more often and speaks more comfortingly.
Abraham had pitched his tent in the shade of the oaks of Mamre. It was high noon and the heat bore down from the sun.
He had, no doubt, dined and was resting after dinner, looking out his tent door, maybe thinking on the promises the Lord had made to him.
Genesis 18:2a. And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: .. (KJV)
Seemingly three men, they were in reality, Jehovah accompanied by two celestial attendants, who, at this moment, were making their way towards Abraham’s tent. Three persons, yet one having the preeminence.
Think of this very gracious and condescending act, God visiting with a man in his desert home.
They did not come in angelic glory with shining halos over their heads, but in human form. They came as guest at an unexpected time, and in an unexpected form.
So are the homes of saints oftentimes visited by angels unawares, and greater honor still, by Him who claims the angels as His ministers. (Hebrews 13:2)
Genesis 18:2b. ..: And when he saw them, ... (KJV)
This last expression, translated, "When He Saw Them," in the (KJV), implies a mental perception.
The first part of the verse, "He lift up his eyes and looked," is a normal sight with his bodily vision, or eyesight.
In the last expression, He Saw Them," his mental perception recognized that one of them was Jehovah.
Genesis 18:2c. .., He ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, ... (KJV)
Recognizing Jehovah, Abraham fell on his knees, and bowing till his head touched the ground, in reverential self-abasement before God, offering an invitation to him to stop and spend some time with him.
Genesis 18:3. And said, my Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: (KJV)
"Stay, My Lord, Stay," with this request Abraham begins to offer his hospitality to them.
Genesis 18:4a. "Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet,.." (KJV)
In Bible times it was considered a necessary part of hospitality to wash the feet and ankles of those who came as guests in their tent or home.
Abraham was quick to offer this hospitality, and we must believe that he himself performed this service for his Lord.
Genesis 18:4b. .., And rest yourselves under the tree: (KJV)
They were invited to relax under the cool shade of the oak tree, and refresh themselves as much as his well furnished tent might be able to afford.
Genesis 18:5a. And I will fetch a morsel of bread, ... (KJV)
This was a modest description of what proved to be a sumptuous meal.
Genesis 18:5b. .., And comfort ye your hearts; ... (KJV)
Literally, strengthen yourselves by eating and drinking.
Genesis 18:5c. ..; After that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. .. (KJV)
Abraham felt that God had ordered this journey so as to give him the opportunity to minister to them.
Genesis 18:5d. ... And they said, so do, as thou hast said. (KJV)
Therefore we must believe that Abraham washed their feet, and they did eat. (verse 8)
Here is one of those great mysteries of the spirit world, that they partook of natural food, even as the resurrected Christ broke bread, (Luke 24:30) And ate a portion of fish, and a honeycomb.
The next three verses, (6,7,8,) are among the grandest of all the Old Testament which tell of Abraham making a feast for Jehovah, and His Ministers. Gabriel? Michael?
Three things in this story should be studied by all who would practice hospitality.
First it was done cheerfully, willingly, and eagerly.
The Patriarch’s invitation was no mere passing remark which was meant to pass unheeded by those to whom it was addressed.
There was no reluctance or half-heartiness with Abraham in the work of kindness which God had offered him. So ought all Christians to manifest a spirit of cheerfulness and promptness in doing good. (2 Corinthians 9:1-15)
Genesis 18:6. And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. (KJV)
"Three Measures" = 1/3 of a bushel. This would make quite a large batch of bread.
"Fine Meal," probably wheat or barley, as corn was unknown in the ancient world, having come from the new world after the discovery of the Americas by Columbus.
This was to be kneaded by Sarah’s own hands. Kneed it and bake it.
It was not a job assigned to Hagar, or any other servant, but to Sarah alone was this task given.
Abraham wanted the touch that he knew only she could give. Maybe add a bit of her homemade preserves, or honey, with it.
Second, it was done with unstinting liberality.
Genesis 18:7. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. (KJV)
"Abraham ran..." "A calf tender and good,.."
This showed the greatness of the honor done to these heavenly visitors, by Abraham’s personal activity, and the preparation of fresh meat which was not a common part of a meal among the people of those days.
This was given to a servant in attendance to dress, which was done in haste.
Genesis 18:8. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. (KJV)
Abraham set before them the best that he could offer, which was a sumptuous banquet. Fresh baked bread with butter, fresh milk, Veal roasted over the fire, and served by the host himself.
There was no stinginess, or grudgingness, but, Abraham was more than liberal in his hospitality.
All saints are urged to practice such hospitality, with diligence, by our Lord Himself and by His Apostle. (Luke 14:12-14; Romans 12:13)
The third thing we learn is the personal activity which Abraham involved himself in this hospitality.
Though the master of a large household with more than 300 trained servants, with the noble Eliezer at their head, Abraham does not think of relegating the important work of preparing the entertainment to his subordinates, but himself attends to its immediate execution.
In all the bustling activity which pervades the scene his figure is always, and everywhere conspicuous, and when the meal is ready he reverently serves it with his own hand.
This is a true pattern of humility and followed the pattern which was latter enjoined by Jesus himself to His Disciples.(Matthew 20:25-28)
Every Christian should learn that in God’s work personal service is ever better than laboring by proxy. This is especially true in the Ministry.
Genesis 18:8b. ... And he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. (KJV)
Abraham stood by to wait on them as they ate, thus proving to him that their visit was not a dream or a vision.
J. Is Anything Too Hard For The Lord? Genesis 18:9--15
Genesis 18:9a. And they said unto him, where is Sarah thy wife? ... (KJV)
At the end of the meal Jehovah asked Abraham, "where is Sarah thy wife?" thus indicating that their visit had a special reference to her.
Genesis 18:9b ...And he said, behold, in the tent. (KJV)
To this point, Sarah, according to the custom, had stayed hidden in the tent.
Genesis 18:10a. And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son... (KJV)
Then once again Jehovah informs Abraham that he would return within the allowed time and Sarah would have a son. More than likely in nine months.
This announcement was specially intended for Sarah who was listening behind the fold of the tent door.
Genesis 18:10b. ... And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
11. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. (KJV)
Naturally speaking both Abraham and Sarah were much too old to have children. Sarah realizing this, could not, at this point, muster enough faith to believe it would come to pass.
Genesis 18:12a. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, ... (KJV)
The laugh of Sarah was altogether different from that of Abraham (Genesis 17:17). While Abraham’s was the outcome of faith, her laugh was the fruit of doubt and disbelief.
Even though not outwardly expressed, latent doubts and unbelief, which may be lurking in our own hearts, are a hindrance to God fulfilling His Promises in our own lives.
Genesis 18:12b. .., Saying, after I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my Lord being old also? (KJV)
Sarah laughed because she had the disposition to judge the Divine Promise by a human, or earthly standard.
Genesis 18:13. And the Lord said unto Abraham, wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? (KJV)
Not only had He heard the silent, inaudible, laugh of Sarah’s, but had read her thoughts, and revealed her reasoning behind her laugh.
Then Jehovah directed her attention, along with her husband’s, to the Divine Omnipotence as the all-sufficient guarantee for the accomplishment of the promise.
Genesis 18:14a. Is any thing too hard for the Lord? (KJV)
The question was directed to Sarah and Abraham, and to let them know that the thing promised was not beyond the resources of Jehovah to accomplish, then the Lord repeated the promise to them.
Genesis 18:14b. ...At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. (KJV)
Sarah, who had overheard the conversation, at this time probably came out of the tent, to defend herself.
Genesis 18:15a. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And He said, nay; but thou didst laugh. (KJV)
Sarah’s conduct can only be explained by what the scripture tells us. "For She Was Afraid."
By this time Sarah must have realized that this was Jehovah who was speaking to them. When even her secret thoughts were revealed, a sense of guilt, which arose in her conscience, began to assail her. The result was that Sarah’s unbelief was transformed into faith.
Then her silence was an evidence of her conviction; her conception was a proof of her repentance and forgiveness.
Hebrews 11:11. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. (KJV)
This is the end of Study #3.
We hope you gleaned something from reading this study #3 of Abraham.
We will continue the Study Of the Life Of Abraham in Study #4.
We invite you to read the other studies on this web site.
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By James l. Thornton