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Gen 20-23: The Lord Will Provide Print E-mail
Genesis
Monday, 09 January 2006
When I was in college I came to know a missionary by the name of Paul Washer.  Paul is a missionary to Peru and is involved in training and supporting Peruvian pastors to minister in Peru.  On a couple of occasions he came and spoke to students at Union and I was able to attend.  Paul is one of those men that every time I am around him the Lord seems to bring conviction in my life.  He is extremely passionate about the Word of God and the work of missions in the world and he is not afraid to say things that are offensive and hard for us ‘comfortable American Christians’ to hear.  For that, I have much respect for his life and his ministry.

I remember one time when he came to Union he was talking about his work in Peru.  He told us that he wanted his life and ministry to be one that displayed the faithfulness and provision of God.  Thus, he was very careful with the finances and how the ministry was supported.  He told the story that on one occasion, his ministries’ finances were extremely low and he did not know how he was going to pay the pastors that he supported.  One of the guys who worked with him called a couple of people and let them know their struggles and they immediately sent a couple of checks to meet their needs.  When Paul found out what had happened he ripped up the checks and refused to take their money.  He told us that he believed that God would supply their needs without their own solicitation for money.  The next day some money came in that was unexpected, from people who had no idea what was going on.  In tears he concluded the story by simply saying that the Lord provided in that situation and in so many others in his life.

Now, we must be careful when we hear stories like that because sometimes we make wrong conclusions.  God is not a big genie in the sky who we simply come to when we have financial needs and He cuts us a check.  No, in fact, Paul also told stories when they had to go without for a season.  Yet, what we can conclude from the story is that our God is a God who will provide.  Not always how we ask or how we desire, but He is a God who meets all of our needs.

In our passage this morning we see this truth being demonstrated in a number of different ways.  It seems that Moses wanted his readers, including us, to believe that God is a God who will provide.  Thus, I just want us to look together at the ways in which the Lord provides for the people in these four chapters. 

The Lord provides Abimelech with life, children, and peace (20:1-18, 21:22-34).

Once again we see Abraham’s struggle to believe in God’s protection.  As he and Sarah travel through the Promised Land, he again has her tell another king that she is Abraham’s sister.  Thus, Abimelech takes Sarah to be his own.  We have at this point a ‘threat’ to the promise of God, but God intervenes and displays again His sovereign control.

We read in 20:3-7 that God warns Abimelech in a dream not to proceed in his relations with Sarah.  From their discussion we learn that Abimelech has not slept with Sarah because the Lord prevented it.  Look at verses 6-7.  The Lord explains to Abimelech that He has protected Him and that He will spare His life if the King will return her to Abraham.  In this way God provides life for Abimelech.

After Abraham tries to explain himself to Abimelech in verses 8-13, the King is obedient to the Lord and returns Sarah to Abraham and blesses them with sheep and oxen and servants and land and money.  Then, in verse 17, Abraham prays for Abimelech and the Lord heals him and his wife and his servants so that they can bear children.  In this way the Lord provides children for Abimelech. 

Later in our passage (see Genesis 21:22-34), a treaty is established between Abraham and Abimelech so that they will not war with one another over land and possessions.  Thus, at this point in the story, the Lord provides peace for Abimelech with His chosen servant Abraham.

In all of this, we see the Lord’s provision in the life of Abimelech.

The Lord provides Sarah with a child, namely Isaac (21:1-7).

As we read a moment ago, we see God fulfilling His promise to Sarah by allowing her to conceive and give birth to Isaac.  This is a long awaited answer to Sarah’s barrenness.  In fact, since Sarah was introduced in 11:29-30, the struggle with her inability to have children has been apparent.  This has been no easy road for our matriarch. 

Yet, the Lord turns her mourning into laughter with the birth of Isaac, whose name means “he laughs.”  Indeed, in just a couple of chapters the Lord has transformed Sarah’s laughter of doubt to a laughter of great rejoicing and praise.  Look at verse 6.

Our God is a God who brings joy from misery, hope from heartache, and life from death.  He is a God who meets our need with profound abundance.  Granted, because we struggle in really recognizing or admitting our need, we are often a people who miss God’s unbelievable provision in our lives.  And sometimes when we do recognize God’s provision for one of our needs, we only respond with a list of others that we would like immediately addressed.  Rather, we should be like Sarah in proclaiming, God has made laughter for me, and simply take time to recognize God’s gracious provision in our lives.

The Lord provides Hagar with water (21:8-21).

After Isaac is born, there is a growing struggle between the two children of Abraham.  We are told in 21:9 that Ishmael laughed at Isaac in mockery.  Obviously there is tension between Sarah and her son and Hagar and her son.  Paul will write of this in Galatians 4:21-31 noting the struggle between the physical son, or Ishmael, and the spiritual son, or Isaac.  Paul will use this to warn the Galatians against placing themselves back under the law, behaving like physical sons instead of spiritual sons.

Yet, the Lord does not abandon Hagar and Ishmael.  Ishmael is the son of Abraham, God’s chosen servant, and God has promised Hagar that many nations will come from her son.  Thus, when she leaves Abraham and Sarah and finds herself and her son in the dessert without water, we see the Lord providing water for them.  Look at 21:15-21.  God takes care of them and provides them with the sustenance they need to survive, once again demonstrating that He is a God who provides.

We should also note at this point that it is difficult for Abraham to be obedient to the Lord in giving up his son Ishmael.  After Sarah notices Ishmael’s mockery of Isaac and tells Abraham to send Hagar out, Abraham struggles with what to do.  Look at 21:11.  Yet, the Lord assures Abraham that He will take care of his son.  Look at 21:12-13.  Even though Ishmael is not the son of promise, the Lord still provides for him on account of him being Abraham’s son.  This sacrifice of Ishmael by Abraham points us to another sacrifice that the Lord will call Abraham to make.  We see this in chapter 22.  Yet, as with Ishmael, we see that the Lord will provide.

The Lord provides Abraham with land and a sacrifice (20:15, 23:1-20, 22:1-19).
 
God’s provision for land for Abraham is seen in a couple of places in our passage.  First, we see that God provides land for Abraham through Abimelech.  Look at 20:15.  Thus, Abraham is given land for living.  Yet, he is also given land for dying.  In chapter 23, we are told of the death of Sarah.  Sarah’s death introduces a problem for Abraham.  All this time, as Abraham has been following the Lord, he has been an alien and stranger and has procured no land in Canaan.  Yet, Moses tells us in chapter 23 that the Lord does keep his promise to Abraham by giving him land in Canaan to bury his wife.  God had promised Abraham land and we see the beginning of the fulfillment of that promise in chapter 23.  Thus, God provides land for Abraham.

Yet, the major conflict of Abraham’s life is found in Genesis 22.  All this time Abraham has waited for God to give him a child through Sarah and finally God provides Isaac in Genesis 21.  Only one chapter later we read God speaking these words to Abraham: Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you (22:2).  How can this be?  After all that has happened?  After all that waiting?  How can this be God’s plan?  Yet, Moses tells the reader that God is only testing Abraham to see whether or not he is willing to be radically obedient.  In the end, God is testing to see if Abraham is willing to give up the son he loves, which the text emphasizes over and over again, to be obedient to God.  Does Abraham love God or just His gifts?  That is the question of Genesis 22.  God is saying to Abraham: Do you really trust in my provision?

Have you ever found yourself in a difficult position wondering to the Lord, ‘Surely this cannot be for my good or for your glory?  Surely this death, surely this suffering, surely this waiting, cannot be part of your plan?’  Sometimes God calls us to go through a time of difficult testing to see if we really trust in his provision.  Do we truly believe that God will provide.  Can we say with Job and so many who have gone before us, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (see Job 13:15)?

Amazingly, Abraham trusts in the Lord’s provision.  Look at 22:6-8.  What a statement in verse 8!  Abraham has faith that however this situation works out, God will meet his needs and provide a lamb for slaughter.  The author of Hebrews tells us that Abraham believed that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead.  Here is a man who has battled through much to be at this point and be able to say, ‘The Lord will provide.’  This is a great example for us as we battle through the difficult times, as we struggle to believe that the Lord will pull us through.  As we consider all that the Lord has brought us through in the past and all that His Word teaches us about who He is, may we have the faith of Abraham to say, ‘The Lord will provide.’

And if you are wondering this morning, ‘Well, just what has the Lord provided for me,’ I think that there is a clear pointer in this passage to God’s greatest provision.  After preparing Isaac for sacrifice, look at what happens in 22:11-14.  God provides Abraham with a sacrifice in the place of His Son.  This is a clear pointer to Abraham’s greater Son, Jesus Christ.  In Christ, God has provided a lamb to sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Even at this point in the story we are introduced to the idea of a substitutionary sacrifice, an idea which will be clearly seen in Israel’s sacrificial system.  Although Abraham cannot see it at this point, the great hope of the Bible is that God will provide a sacrifice, He will pour out His wrath on His Son, who will die as our substitution.  This is the provision of the Lord in our lives.

And not only that, but God has given us the Church.  He has given us one another that we might labor for and fight for one another’s sanctification.  He has not left us alone to fend for ourselves but has provided a covenant community, whereby we are filled with life and sustenance. 

And going even further, we live this morning as believers with the hope of life eternal, with the hope that after our days are done on this earth we will depart to the city that God has prepared for His own.  Indeed, with Abraham, we are aliens and strangers in a foreign land, but God is preparing for us a heavenly country to call our own.

Thus, in light of such grace, in light of such mercy, in light of such provision, how can we not conclude with Abraham that the Lord will provide?  May we be a people who believe, even in the darkest of moments, that our God will provide.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 February 2006 )

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