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When You Wonder What to Do

Notes & Transcripts

Old Testament Encounters with Christ

Part 8: When You Wonder What to Do

Genesis 17:1-16

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - Jan. 12, 2012

INTRODUCTION:

*Did you ever say the wrong thing to your boss, and then wonder, “What should I do?”

-Did you ever say the wrong thing to your wife and wonder what to do?

-Did you ever wonder about the best thing to do for your children?

-How about the best thing to do for your parents?

*In any relationship sometimes you are going to wonder what to do.

-This is true even in our relationship with God.

-Some days you will find yourself asking, “What does God want me to do?”

*Abram’s meeting here with the Lord can help, because it shows us what to do in 3 situations we are going to face.

1. First: What does God want me to do when He is silent? -- The answer is: Learn to wait on the Lord. When God is silent, we have to learn to wait on the Lord.

*Vs. 1 tells us that “When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.”

-God spoke to Abram in vs. 1, but by the time God spoke here, He had been silent for a long time. The Lord was teaching Abram and us that we have to learn to wait on the Lord.

*Last week we saw the terrible trouble that can come when we refuse to wait on the Lord. God had promised a son to Abram and Sarai, but they got tired of waiting and decided to rush things up by having Abram also marry Sarai’s servant Hagar. The troubles we see in Genesis 16 have been causing pain in the world ever since.

*John Phillips explained that: “Abram’s trouble was that he could not wait. God had promised him a son and a seed. But in his anxiety to see that promise fulfilled, Abram decided to help God out and hurry things up by marrying Hagar.” (1)

*Have you ever tried to “help God out?” Have you ever tried to get ahead of God? -- It is always a mistake to try to rush the work of God.

*Phillips points out that the Lord has His own reasons for His delays. But Abram could not wait. “As a result of his impatience there followed a solemn silence in which, for 13 long years, he received no further word from God.” (1)

*John Hamby says: “Thirteen years earlier Abram had taken a wrong turn and for thirteen years there has been silence from Heaven. We have reason to suspect that these were years of unhappiness and unrest in the household of Abram.

*God used these thirteen years to teach Abram the cost of acting on his own. For 13 years he has lived with the fruits of his impatience.

-Many believers have had a similar experience: A time when God allowed us to go our own way with painful results. . .” (2)

*It may even seem like God has left the scene and given up on us. But what does God want me to do when He is silent? -- Learn to wait on the Lord.

2. And what does God want me to do when He speaks?

[1] Abram shows us, and the first thing to do is bow.

*Bow down before the Lord in worship. Abram shows this to us in vs. 1-3:

1. When Abram was 99 years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.

2. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly."

3. Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him. . .

*Abram fell on his face in worship to God. And we need to recognize more and more that the Lord is worthy of our worship. It helps to look at the 3 names God uses for Himself in these verses: “Jehovah,” “El Shaddai” and “Elohim.”

*In the first part of vs. 1: “When Abram was 99 years old, the LORD appeared to Abram.” The LORD -- that’s Jehovah.

*“Jehovah” is the name God uses most often for Himself in the Bible. It is used more than 6,800 times. It simply means “to be.” In Exodus 3, Moses asked the Lord what he should tell the people, if they asked who sent him. And in Exodus 3:14, the Lord replied, “Tell them ‘I AM’ sent you.” That is the essence of the name Jehovah: God self-existing in the past, present and future, depending on no one, or no thing outside Himself.

*In vs. 1 there is also the name “El Shaddai.” “When Abram was 99 years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.”

*“Almighty God” -- that’s “El Shaddai.” This name occurs 48 times in the Old Testament, and is always translated, “Almighty”

*John Gill explained that Jesus Christ is Almighty:

-As the Word of God.

-By His creation of all things.

-By His sustaining all things.

-By His redemption of His people.

-And by the everlasting preservation of His people. (3)

*In Rev 1:8, Jesus said: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,'' says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

-He is worthy of our worship!

*The third name God uses for Himself here was “Elohim” and we see it in vs. 3: “Then Abram fell on his face, and ‘God’ talked with him.” That word “God” is “Elohim.” This name is used in the Bible over 2,700 times. Elohim is a plural word, and so points us to the Trinity. It means “one who is great, mighty and dreadful.”

*These names all remind us that the Lord is worthy of our worship!

-When God speaks, we should bow down before Him in worship.

[2] But we should also believe.

*We should believe the things that the Lord tells us. We should believe the wonderful promises that He makes to us. The Lord made some amazing promises to Abram in these verses. For example:

2. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.

6. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

7. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.

*John Phillips summed up the importance of these promises with these words:

-“When God did speak at last it was to gather up the various threads of promise He had already made and to weave them into one great, comprehensive covenant. It is known as the Abrahamic Covenant, and it is one of the most important utterances in human language. It left its mark on all of subsequent history. -It rules the future with an iron hand. And it is the basis for all the blessings God has for mankind.” (1)

*What great promises we see here. And we can always lean on the promises of God! Take for example God’s promise in vs. 8: “Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession. . .”

*This verse highlights the greatest geo-political issue facing the world today.

-What about the Jews?

-Where do they belong?

-Does the Land of Israel belong to the Jews?

*The answer is absolutely, yes! The title-deed of their ownership is up in Heaven. That’s why anybody working against the Jews is working against God! That’s also why the Jews are a miracle people.

*The temple of Jesus’ day was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. Perhaps over a million Jews were killed and over the next years the rest were scattered all over the world. No other group of people has ever survived such a defeat in war. All others have been assimilated by the countries where they settled.

*But God miraculously maintained the identity of His people, -- even though many evil men like Hitler have determined to destroy them. Radical Islamists are trying to do the same thing today. They will fail, because they aren’t just fighting the Jews. They are fighting God Himself.

*The Lord is going to keep His promises to Abraham.

-And He is going to keep His promises to us!

-When God speaks, we should believe what He says.

[3] But also become. We should become the people we can be in the Lord.

*God had a great future planned for Abram & Sarai. We see it in the new names He gave to them both. In vs. 5&6, God told Abram:

5. “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.

6. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.”

*God changed his name from "Exalted father" to “Father of Multitudes."

-It was the promise of a bigger and better future.

*Then in vs. 15&16:

15. God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.

16. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.”

*God changed her name from “My Princess.” That was just a term of affection from Abram. Some of you men have probably said the same kind of thing to your wife. (If not, I recommend you do.)

*Sarai, “My Princess,” that was just a term of affection from Abram. But God changed her name to “A Princess,” -- the real thing!

*God had a great future planned for Abram & Sarai. And He has a great future planned for all of His people. He has a great future planned for you, if you have trusted in the Lord. That’s why 2 Cor 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

*The New Testament tells us many wonderful things that we are in Christ. But we have to grow up into these things. We have to become who we really are in Jesus. That’s why Phil 2:12-13 says:

12. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

13. for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

*And Eph 4:15 longs for us to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head, even Christ”

*What does God want me to when He speaks? -- Abraham shows us:

-Bow down before the Lord in worship.

-Believe what He says.

-And become all we can be in Him.

3. But there is one more question to see in the Scripture tonight: What does God want me to do when He asks me to give a sign? -- The answer is: Show your dedication to the Lord!

*When God asks you to give Him a sign, show your dedication to the Lord. That’s what Abraham did. And this is a little awkward to talk about, but in vs. 9-14, God commanded Abraham to give a sign of God’s covenant:

9. And God said to Abraham: "As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.

10. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised;

11. and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.

12. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.

13. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

14. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.''

*In response to this command, Abraham made sure that every man in his household was circumcised. Every Jewish boy was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, and on that day a boy received his name. Jesus was circumcised.

*Circumcision: We still do it today as a matter of custom and personal hygiene. But it seems like such an odd thing to do.

*John Phillips said it was “a symbol of the cross of Jesus Christ, because it cut across all that Abraham was by natural birth. For Abraham it was a sharp, unforgettable, painful, admission that he was unable to produce by natural means the kind of life that God desires. It was an agonizing realization that only through Christ can a person expect to bear real fruit for God.” (4)

*Here’s what I get out of it. Abraham’s circumcision was saying to God:

-“Lord that part of me that most defines me physically as a man, I give that to you.

-Lord I give you my hopes for a family, for children, for grandchildren.

-Lord I give you my hope for the future.

-Lord I am willing to be different from natural men.

-I want to be a spiritual man set apart for you.”

*At the same time, we must understand that circumcision had no saving power. God’s Word makes this clear several places in the New Testament. Abraham was saved by grace through faith in the promise of the coming Messiah Jesus Christ. God made this clear in Romans 4:

3. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.''

9. Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.

10. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.

11. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also.

*Through the cross of Jesus Christ, God is willing to make an everlasting covenant with us, a covenant where our sins are forgiven and washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. At the same time, we are given His righteousness and eternal life. We are saved by grace through faith in what the Lord has done.

*Circumcision then was not a sign of salvation, but of dedication to God. We can see this kind of dedication by looking at Timothy in Acts 16:1-3.

1. Then (Paul) came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.

2. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium.

3. Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.

*Think about Timothy’s circumcision. It was painful, inconvenient, even humiliating. But Timothy was willing to suffer all of that, so he could help fulfill the mission that God had given to him.

*And he didn’t have to do it. The ironic thing is that they were carrying letters to the churches telling them that Christians did not have to keep Old Testament ceremonial law. But Timothy was dedicated enough to go above and beyond for Jesus Christ.

*We all need more of that over and above dedication. I certainly do.

*So, what does God want me to do?

-When He is silent, learn to wait on the Lord.

-When God speaks, bow before Him in worship, believe what He says and become all we can be in Him.

-And when God asks us for give a sign, show your dedication to the Lord.

1. Adapted from “Exploring Genesis” by John Phillips - p. 142-143

2. Adapted from SermonCentral sermon “A Fresh Encounter with God” by John Hamby - Genesis 17:1-8

3. Adapted from John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible - Genesis 17:1

4. “Exploring Genesis” by John Phillips - p. 146

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