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Sep 13, 2015

Building the Faith of a Practical Man

Building the Faith of a Practical Man

Passage: Genesis 12:1-18:5

Preacher: Eric Stapleton

Series: The Story

Category: Old Testament, Faith, Christian Walk

Keywords: abraham, abram, egypt, faith, pharaoh, sarah, sarai

Summary:

"Father Abraham had many sons....I am one of them and so are you" by faith! By faith Abraham paved the way for not only a nation but for the redemption of the world. But how was that faith built?

Detail:

So, last week we talked about creation and the flood and a little bit about what God’s plan was for mankind. If you read the story version, chapter 1, you got a lot more detail but just to review those hand signals that John gave last week. We had, creation, the events, the fall, murder, genealogy, the flood, the water subsides, genealogy. So, God creates the earth and he makes everything perfect and without any flaws. He creates man gives man a free will of his own. Man sins and now everything isn’t perfect anymore. But God has a plan to redeem man. And he sets that plan in motion. Adam and Eve are fruitful and they multiply and fill the earth and the first sin gets worse and worse and it gets so bad that God decides to start over in a way. He floods the earth and destroys everything but Noah and his family and two of every animal.

Genesis 9:1–6 (NASB95)

Covenant of the Rainbow

    1      And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.

    2      “The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given.

    3      “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.

    4      “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

    5      “Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man.

    6            “Whoever sheds man’s blood,

By man his blood shall be shed,

For in the image of God

He made man.

God preserves mankind and promises never to destroy everybody like that again. He makes a promise and he gives an allowance that now they can eat meat and that they should be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. He doesn’t really give them a lot in the ways of divine revelation as far as how we are to live and such. He tells them don’t kill each other. Basically it seems to be the only rule going from this point out. He doesn’t give them a book of law, a bunch of rules, and a manual on how to worship. He is either going to approve of it or he is not going to approve of it like we saw with Cain and Abel. God’s just looking at people’s hearts at this point. Noah and his three sons are to repopulate the earth and so they do so and the sons of Noah become the table of nations. And we have a pretty good idea of where their descendants went after the Tower of Babel. This is one map that kind of diagrams it out. Japheth’s descendants went to the North filling up Europe and Asia. Ham went south into Canaan and Africa and Shem filled up the Middle East. Don’t know if exactly how that panned out since I wasn’t there and there isn’t a whole lot of history outside the Bible written about it but it’s fairly reasonable. They filled the earth after the Tower of Babel. See, God told everybody to spread out and fill the earth but the world was a very uncertain place maybe they were scared they figured if we just keep together and we stay united there’s no telling what we can do and so they decide they’re going to build this tower as high as they can.

Genesis 11:4–7 (NASB95)

    4      They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

    5      The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.

    6     The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.

    7      “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”

This is a bit troubling for me because I look at it and wonder: doesn’t God want us to succeed in what we set her hands to? Doesn’t God want us to be independent? Well, I suppose that would’ve been the case if we had done so poorly in the Garden of Eden. Once sin entered the world, it made us a lot more in need of dependence on God. And, he didn’t want man, I suppose, to have any illusions about how powerful they were apart from him. He told them to scatter and fill the earth and they said, now working to stay here around this here tower. So now they had a reason to spread apart, they didn’t understand each other.

 

And this is where we pick up chapter 2: God Build a Nation

 

[Read from the Story Page]

So, today were going to focus on the story of Abraham. And what I’m going to do is I’m going to play out the story in a drama. But before I do that I want to give a little perspective on things. Like I said before, God hadn’t really given man much to work with in terms of divine revelation. Most of the laws that man used at this point for living together, they pretty much figured out through trial and error. I mean, they knew that murder was a bad idea but man was made in God’s image and so it wasn’t very hard to figure out that stealing wasn’t such a good idea or that dishonoring one’s father and mother wasn’t a good idea or committing adultery wasn’t a good idea. By the time Moses received the 10 Commandments eight of those Commandments the Israelites had already known living in Egypt because they are part of Egypt’s 42 Commandments. So eight of those weren’t really divine revelation so much as they were divine codification. But were not there yet in the story we’re at the point where man is just figuring these things out. So when we talk about Abraham’s faith we're talking about a man who isn’t basing his faith on a bunch of Bible stories or written, divine revelation. He doesn’t know about the 10 Commandments. He doesn’t have many models of faith to go on except for Noah but by this point that was hundreds of years ago. And he didn’t get to see the movie. He is a pioneer of faith. Abraham IS the Bible story for everybody else to read. So the Abraham that I show today might be a little unsavory, crass, unethical but then what laws are we judging him by? For him to believe in an unseen God is amazing. It’s unbelievable. He doesn’t have a book of promises to reference…Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you…” He doesn’t have the Holy Spirit living inside of him like we do to convict him of sin or to lead the way daily. Most of his faith is worked out in the circumstantial. He paves the way for all of us. He doesn’t live by the law because there is no law. Abraham is a man, a very practical man that lives by faith. So I’m hoping that you can relate to Abraham and his journey and this is a piece called a practical man. Let me recap Abram’s Story. Abram is called by God to go to Canaan where he will be blessed. He believes God but when he gets there he finds famine, moves to Egypt, comes back to Canaan and all along God is reminding him of the promise of Abram becoming a great nation. The promise seems impossible though because Abram is already in his 70’s and his wife Sarai has not been able to produce a child. Abram continues to believe but takes matters into his own hands by having a child through the slave woman, Hagar.  That creates a lot of problems but God still reminds him of the promise that is still to come and changes his name to Abraham. At this point in our story, three mysterious visitors come to see Abraham. So, you can imagine that you are those three visitors and will imagine that I am Abraham.

We don't get too many visitors out here so excuse me for gushing so much. [Pause] Don't worry about it I know there hasn't been much rain lately. [Pause] Well, I figured we'll go somewhere else if it gets really bad. [Pause] Because we've done it before. Yeah, there was that famine 25 years ago and we just went down to Egypt. [Pause] stayed there for a little bit and we actually made quite a bit of money. [Pause] no, no. I don't think we do that again. We kind of wore out our welcome there. There was… a misunderstanding. [Pause] it's a long story and it doesn't exactly put me in a favorable light. Enough said that we did all right and I'm sure will do all right again. But please, help yourself, there's plenty and I have no reason at all to doubt God's faithfulness about wealth, protection, and reassurance. Yes, I've certainly experienced, in my 99 years, God's goodness. I've experienced his faithfulness in spite of a lack of my own. [Pause] which God? Oh, THE God. We call him Elohim. He created everything not just the thunderstorms, fertility, or any other created thing. [Pause] well, I don't serve the gods of this land because I'm not from this land. I'm a foreigner. My family comes from Mesopotamia, the old country. My dad, Terah, always had it in his mind to come to Canaan. He insisted that it was a good land, a land of prosperity. Personally, I think after my mom died he just wanted to start everything new. I was only about eight or nine at the time when he remarried. ...which is a good thing because that's how I met my wife. [Pause] my dad and his new wife, had a daughter named Sarai and I ended up marrying her. [Pause] Yes, I married my sister, technically speaking. There was no law against it back then anyway. That's one of the reasons I don't living in the city, too many rules. Too much law. You know Adam and Eve didn't even have to wear clothes. Speaking of...don't you think it's getting kind of hot in here? Don't worry; I'm not THAT free a spirit. So, he dragged us from the land of Ur but we didn't get that far, traveling with the family and all. That, and dad was just getting old. We only got as far as Haran. I was fine with that. I settled there with Sarai there but then the oddest thing happened. [Pause] Oh, God talked to me. That was the first time. [Pause] Oh, it's hard to explain. He doesn't talk to me that often. Usually, it's in a dream or something. You know it's funny, I don't always even realize its God talking until after the fact. For all I know, one of you could be God or one of His messengers. I won't know until later.[Pause] Well, God told me to come to Canaan; to leave all that knew to come to what I didn’t know. He said He would bless me something powerful and make me a great nation. [Pause]Why does God talk to me? I don't know. I'm nothing special really. Sometimes I wonder if it's really His voice I'm listening to. For instance, originally, it was my dad's idea to come here but he didn't make it. So you wonder, is that really God telling me I should go to Canaan or is it just the weight of family obligation, realizing my father's dream? And another thing, what if it's one of these other gods, some trickster god? One thing a trickster likes to do is convince you that if you trust him he's going to give you something you never thought you could have. Right? Well, this voice that I heard was telling me that I was going to father a great nation. I didn't even know what a nation was. AND, I was 75 when this happened and Sarah was 65 and we didn't have child one. She'd already gone through the change. So, I wondered but I really fancied the idea of Elohim talking to me so I just believed. [Pause] Well, I just agreed. I said, "OK" to God and then obeyed, Sarai, I mean Sarah. I keep on forgetting the name change there. Anyway, Sarah and Lot, my nephew, and all our hired hands and their families, and livestock, headed for Canaan. And this is where the question really hits you on whether something is God's will or not. We get here and there wasn't much here. So, Sarah and Lot look at me questioningly and I look to God questioningly and God says, "not only am I going make you a great nation, but I'm going to give you all this land." [Pause] Funny, you should ask. I still don't know for sure, but I get the impression that a nation is bunch of people, hundreds, maybe even a thousand or so, that all come from the same guy. So, you have the Canaanites, they all come from Canaan, the grandson of Noah. So, I guess my nation will be the Abramites, or Abrahamites, keep on forgetting the name change. So, I'm really excited that God talked to me again. Sarah got excited and Lot got excited and we went hiking built an altar on the mountain in Bethel. We wanted to build it in a high place, as close as we could get to God. We had a mountain top experience is what we had there, but down in the valley, there was no food. Famine... We couldn't live here. [Pause] Well, it wadn't like God was going to drop food from the sky. I'd have no reason to believe that anyways. Never done that before. I'm a practical man, I deal in livestock. Rain comes from the sky and food comes the ground. If the rain doesn't come, the food doesn't come. So I don't if it was that I stopped believing. I guess I still believed God's call to Canaan in the back of my mind somewheres but in the meantime, I had to be practical. I had my own to provide for. So, at that time, I suppose you could say I stopped believing, practically speaking, and moved to Egypt where there was food. [Pause], yes, the misunderstanding. You see, the women in Egypt are really ugly. I mean really ugly. We get there and Sarah, who was 65 at the time, was a looker compared to these heifers down in Egypt. So, I saw the writing on the wall right way. So, I says to Sarah, I says, "you just got to tell everybody that I'm your brother." It's not exactly a lie but this was Egypt and I didn’t want to be killed. [Pause] Yeah, but at the time, maybe I WASN'T trusting God so much. That trip to Canaan turned out to be lark didn't it? Anyway, get this; they leave me alone because of my ‘beautiful sister.’ [Pause] I don’t know. I didn’t ask. Sarah is a good woman and I don’t think she would ever do anything that desperate unless her life was on the line. But get this it must have been getting close to that though because God struck the Egyptians with a great plague. Pharaoh gets in a huff and says, “Why did you lie to us about your wife?” And technically, I didn't lie, she was my sister. It wasn't my fault that they didn't ask if she was also my wife. Apparently, in Egypt they have rules about such things. Did you know they have 42 rules/commandments for living there? One of them was 'don't lie.' Who has time to walk around with a scroll of 42 rules so they know what they can and can't do? Uggh. Them city folk. Anyway, we did really well there. We made a lot of money, acquired more livestock, and a very helpful slave girl, Hagar. [Coughs a bit] Yes, my son there Ishmael does resemble her a bit, yes. Could you pass me some water there? Thanks. So, the famine ended in Canaan and Pharaoh kicked us out of Egypt. And guess who started believing in God again. Well, we shouldn’t have made it out of Egypt alive. We wouldn’t have had it not been for God’s intervention. So, we packed up and came back to Canaan and soon enough though, I had so much and my nephew Lot had so much that our livestock were getting all mixed up and he's good kid and all but he just don't take care of his animals that well. He’s really more of city boy is what he is. So I says to him, I says, you go one and I'll go the other and we'll call her good. [Pause] Well, I figgerd it's all going to be mine someday anyways, right? Well, I was feeling a little cocky. I mean God stayed the hand of mighty pharaoh down in Egypt, so supposed that it didn't matter what I gave away, God was just to give it back anyways. [Pause] Yeah, I suppose that were an act of faith just telling Lot to have what he wanted. And you know something I found, is that whenever I acted in faith, God showed me a little something more of what he was talking about. At first, in Haran, God told me he was going to make me into a great nation if I went to Canaan. So, I went to Canaan, I acted in faith and God told me he was going to give that very land, Canaan to my descendants. All this is just a tad wonderful for me. I don't really know what a nation is and then I can't imagine Sarah and I having kids. So, then I have that little bout of doubt down in Egypt and we come back my faith renewed and I act in faith by giving Lot the choice and then God tells me something more...at that time God says to me, he says, "not only am I going to give this land to you and your descendants but I'm going to give it to you forever and your descendants are going to be numbered like the dust of the earth." I can't even imagine having one kid at this age, let alone hundreds of them. [Pause] Oh him. He would've done well I suppose, the land was good but the people in the twin cities there, Sodom and Gomorrah got themselves caught up in a civil war and Lot got caught in between, got himself and his family kidnapped so I had to take my trained men give the kidnappers a beat down. [Pause] Well, sure they outnumbered us but they were all a bunch of sissies of no account. And the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah tried to buy me off, give me a key to the city and all but I figured they really couldn't give me what's going to be mine anyway. And the whole thing grieved me it did. [Pause] Well, I have this great military victory over the five sissy kings with all my men around me. My men. Not one of them is my sons. Is this what God meant? Were these my descendants who are not my descendants? How can I have a nation of descendants when I don't even have one son of my own? Why, even my idiot nephew Lot gets a family. That fool doesn't deserve those two lovely daughters of his. I began to yelling and cussin' at the sky and wore myself out. And God speaks to me again reminding me of the promise. This time, I had a mind to talk back and I says to God, I says, "What can you do for me since you won't even give any children of my own? I mean, I don't know, maybe my head guy Eliezer of Damascus? I can like adopt him as my son or something." And God says to me, he says, "No. Not him. Your heir will come from your own body. Now Abram, look up in the sky. See them pretty stars? Can you count 'em? I says, "Can you count 'em?" No. I says. And God says, "Will that's how it's gonna be, you ain't gonna be able to count your descendants neither." [Pause] Well, what could I do? I believed Him, again. Call me a sucker. And he didn't stop there, he told me more. God told me that like me, my descendants were gonna go down to Egypt because of a famine, he was going to strike them Egyptians with a plague to two and they were going to kick my descendants out greatly increased and wealthy and then they were going do possess this land of Canaan. And as usual, I was in awe and humbled and all that but Sarah, Sarah wadn't all that impressed. I keep forgetting that having kids of her own was more important for her than for me. Time went on and on my 85th birthday, Sarah says to me, she says, "Abram, I want you to have my servant girl from Egypt, Hagar. You know, maybe God is waiting on us; maybe we have to be the miracle and act in faith. God did say the child would come from your body but who’s to say that it couldn't be through Hagar? And my shame would be taken away. We'd call the son ours. [Pause] That just about broke my heart. But I did as she asked. I went into Hagar and she conceived and we had a son, called him Ishmael. That's the teenager you saw when you came in. [Pause] It was messy and not without its problems. Hagar didn't take to kindly to it and tried to run off. It's my son though and she came back. And so there we was, a family of four, the beginning of the promise. Time passed, the boy has grown up strong, you can see that. But something didn't quite feel right. I didn't hear from God for quite some time that is until just a few weeks ago right after I turned 99. And God says to me, he says, "I made you a promise and now I'm gonna see it through. From now on your name isn't Abram, but Abraham and your descendants will be set apart through the covenant of circumcision. And I'm changing your wife's name from Sarai to Sarah because that woman IS going to be a mother. Yes, I'm going give you a son through HER." I couldn't even believe that one. I done laughed and I says to myself, I says, "Yeah right, I'm 99 years old and my wife 90." And I says to God, "I'm OK with Ishmael, he can be my heir. He ain’t pretty to look at but he’s strong." And God said, 'no.' You and Sarah are having a boy within the year and you will name him Isaac." Which is kind of a joke, you see. Isaac means laughter and I done laughed when God tole me about it. Never mind. [Pause] Well, I believed it of course. God ain't let me down yet and I'm a practical man so if you got something that works, well you stick with it. Whom have I in heaven but God and the earth has nothing I desire.