Monday, November 16, 2015

Keeping His Promise

My Life Group lesson for Nov. 15, 2015, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

What kind of promises do we make to people? What are the differences in who you are promising – family, friends, work, kids?

Have you ever made a promise you couldn't keep?

(A big promise, not just pinky-swearing that you wouldn't tell everyone who your friend has a crush on in 8th grade.)

Is it ever appropriate to break a promise or not keep your word?

(Note that a child perceives even casually uttered words as promises.)

What happens when we fail to come through with our promises?

There are over 6,000 promises in the Bible, and God has come through on all of them. Today we'll talk about how God's promise to Abraham and Sarah came through.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
Genesis 20:1–21:34

*** After Sodom and Gomorrah got the fire-and-brimstone treatment, Abraham moved a little into what became Philistine territory.

--- Chapter 20 describes how Abraham told some white lies just as he did in Egypt about Sarah, telling the king she was his sister. Just as God told Pharaoh to leave her alone in his harem, God told king Abimelech to keep his hands to himself.

--- Remember, God had just promised in chapter 19 that Isaac would be born in one year, so if Sarah conceived while she was in Abimelech's harem the child wouldn't be Abraham's heir. And if she was pregnant before, the child would be raised as Abimelech's kid.

*** Abraham stumbled in his faith at times. It had been 25 years since God had made His promise to Abraham. But His promise wasn't contingent on Abraham being perfect.

*** Chapter 21 tells us of Isaac's birth, fulfilling God's promise to Abraham and Sarah.

GOD’S PROMISE REALIZED (Gen. 21:1-2)

1 The LORD came to Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what He had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time God had told him.

*** A promise kept.

--- For 25 years and from chapter 12 of Genesis until now, God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son:

--- 12:2 - “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you."

--- 17:19 - But God said, “... Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his future offspring."

--- Through the ups and downs, God kept reminding Abraham of His promise to give him a child, while urging him to walk faithfully with Him and believe (17:1-2).

--- Now He delivers. Literally!

--- Think about the physical and emotional differences that take place in our lives over 25 years. For example, compare and contrast the life of a 25-year-old with that of a 50-year-old.

*** God is punctual.

--- 18:10 - The LORD said, “I will certainly come back to you in about a year’s time, and your wife Sarah will have a son!”

--- Abraham tried to create his own timeline with Hagar and Ishmael 15 years earlier, but God made good when it was the right time in the right way.

--- Within the year specified, Sarah became the mother of Abraham’s son.

*** Question - Do you have an example of how God's timing turned out to be better than yours?

(For example, perhaps God did not provide the new job asdesired but another, better position came along.)

*** Likewise, the birth of the Messiah would occur at the time established by God:

--- Galatians 4:4-5 - But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

GOD’S PROMISE REMEMBERED (Gen. 21:3-7)

3 Abraham named his son who was born to him—the one Sarah bore to him—Isaac. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Sarah said, “God has made me laugh, and everyone who hears will laugh with me.” 7 She also said, “Who would have told Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne a son for him in his old age.”

*** Abraham's obedience.

[Abraham’s journey began when he obeyed God by departing Haran for an undetermined destination (12:1). Abraham was circumcised in obedience to God just a year before Isaac’s birth (17:24).]

-- Note the two ways that Abraham obeyed God: by naming his son Isaac (Genesis 17:19 - Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac) and by circumcising him on the eighth day (Genesis 21:4 - When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him.).

*** God is capable.

--- Abraham was 100 years old. Sarah was 90. It is not biologically possible. God can do anything He chooses.

*** Laughter is the best medicine.

--- Genesis 17:17 - Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”

--- Genesis 18:12 - So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

--- Sarah's laughter here in verse 6 is probably a joyful chuckle at an act of grace, whereas when God told her in chapter 18 it was more of a skeptical snicker.

--- Genesis 17:19 "Isaac" means "he laughs." Isaac’s circumcision and name would be a constant reminder of God’s covenant and faithfulness.

--- Her lack of children fostered a lifelong stigma (see 16:2). Deep inside, she harbored a sense of great personal failure. Not only did motherhood satisfy her inner aspiration for children, it gratified her desire to please her husband.  

*** God is bountiful. (Gen. 21:6-7)

--- God lavished blessing after blessing on an elderly couple: land, wealth, and now a son in their old age!

--- Put yourself in Abraham and Sarah’s shoes. Imagine you are holding Isaac, a child you thought you would never have. (We certainly have experience with that in our class.)

What emotions would accompany that experience? What kind of impact do you think the birth of Isaac had on Sarah’s faith in God?

(Every time they reflect on Isaac, they would know that nothing is impossible with God.)

GOD’S PROMISE REJOICED (Gen. 21:8)

8 The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham held a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned.

*** Party time! Excellence!

--- Nowadays we celebrate potty training as a rite of passage, but back then they celebrated when toddlers were no longer nursing.

--- This could be anywhere from age two to five years old, as cultures of the day varied.

--- Infant mortality was high in ancient days, so this was a big milestone to make it thus far, plus Sarah didn't die in childbirth, which was also a big possibility in those days.

--- One thing it marked was the beginning of Isaac's independence. He no longer depended on his mother's milk.

--- I don't know about you guys, but at 40 years old and two kids under 7, I'm exhausted. Abraham was 100! Sarah was 90!

*** Salvation is not a funeral, but a feast!

--- The Bible is a continual feast from Genesis right through to Revelation. Covenant meals and meals of fellowship are frequent occurrences in Scripture.

--- Thankfully, Christianity is not a religion for eating at a table alone. Think about the hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers," where it says "We have Christ's own promise, and that cannot fail."

We're here to stick together and win the battle together!

*** Question - How does our church celebrate God's faithfulness?

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Who has done trust falls? Either at work, at church camp, anywhere?

What is the importance of having a good track record when it comes to trust?

God’s past track record serves as a source of confidence for us and Abraham learned that the hard way.

If we believe that God doesn’t keep His promises, then we believe God is a liar just like us.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:20 - For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.

Christ fulfills all the promises of God to us, and all our confidence in God’s promises must come from our trust in Jesus Christ as a person whom we know and can rely on.

*** God asks us to trust Him with our lives. He is strong enough to take care of us. His Word is dependable and trustworthy. Be patient and confident.

*** We have an obligation to go with God's promises. We are to be obedient, and we are to trust in Him. Our faith should be easy to see.

*** We should delight in God’s character. We discussed today four things about the character of God: He is reliable, punctual, capable, and bountiful. (What a mighty God we serve!)

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