Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered 7/20/02 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Abraham: Performing the Promise

Genesis 21:1-21

Today is the next to the last sermon in a series on Abraham. And then we begin another series in August.

Abraham was one hundred years old. They were childless. Then one morning Sarah felt different. Maybe it was morning sickness. I don't know what she was feeling. Maybe a craving for desert pickles. I don't know what it would b. She felt, "Something is different here. She thought, "I can't be pregnant! I'm too old." But new life was growing inside her body. She was ninety years old. That's pretty old. She said, "Abraham, I think I'm pregnant." What do you think he said? "Oh, no! We're too old for this." No! I think he leapt and jumped for joy probably. The best he could at that age. Imagine this old patriarch running around the tent, "I'm going to be a daddy. I'm going to be a father! It's going to happen!" He's clapping his hands, he's shouting the news to all the servant and all the people. Finally the day came that Isaac was born. How Abraham must have jumped for joy. Imagine the ancient patriarch running around the tent clapping his hands, shouting the news. "I'm a father! I have a SON!" Laughter and joy had returned to their camp.

Genesis 21:3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. Isaac was indeed a miracle child! But how many children are not miracle children? But Isaac was a miracle child. Suppose you had been retired and drawing your Social Security for 35 years and all of a sudden your wife says, "I'm pregnant." How would you feel? That would be amazing, wouldn't it. You've to change these woolen diapers. I guess they were made out of wool. That would be tough on a baby, wouldn't it. And they couldn't just dispose of them because the garbage service didn't collect them. This was going to be a challenge. John Jones, you're ninety seven, how would you in three more years like to be a father? It would be exciting, wouldn't it. It would be a little bit different.

I want you picture your great grandmother. Have you got her in your mind? She gets pregnant. Picture her pregnant. Have you got that in your mind? Some of you never saw your great grandmother, did you. Well, that's how old this would be. Three times in the first 2 verses of Genesis 21 it is stated that God did what God had promised. He did just what he said He would do. God keeps His promises. And Isaac was born. And God keeps His promises one hundred percent of the time. You can always count on God. He is One who performs the promise.

Genesis 21:4. When his son, Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him. Why on the eighth day? Now, why on the eighth day? Well, Leviticus 12:3 dictates that all circumcisions in Bible times should take place on the eighth day. Why was this? For years we could only guess, but now we know. Science has determined that on the eighth day the quantity of vitamin K in the body is the highest it will ever be. After that day it diminishes. Vitamin K is responsible for blood clotting. Now, God knew that , didn't He, because God made the body and so that's when you should do your circumcising. Even if we don't understand why, it is always best to closely follow God's will.

Who does the bible say circumcised Isaac? Who did it? Abraham, himself did it, didn't he. His ancient daddy, that old hand took the knife and circumcised Isaac. There on the desert floor the father painfully shed the blood of his only son. Observe how closely Abraham followed God's instruction. The circumcision was not done on the seventh day or the tenth day, but on the eighth day, the day of God's choosing. When God chooses a day we do not have the right to choose some other day. This surely includes the Sabbath, our day of worship. You can't choose Friday. You can't choose Monday or Sunday or some other day as your day of worship. If God has chosen the seventh day, you need to choose the seventh day. (Some early Christians said they worshipped on the eight day, but that is really the first day.)

Genesis 21:8. The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. Now this was a great day. You need to enjoy your babies while they are babies because they won't be babies very long. You know that, don't you. They soon become children. The baby stage is over so fast! So, enjoy them. Isaac was eventually weaned. They weaned them a little later than we do today. They weaned them, sometimes at the age of three or four years old in Bible times. What a great day it is when we can rejoice in their development when the child can get off of milk and can have solid food! That's a great day, isn't it. Isaac was ready for solid food. He was growing up. And His parents were proud of him. And they had a big party to honor this stage of Isaac's life. Everybody came to the feast to honor Isaac.

But Isaac had an older brother, Ishmael. Was Ishmael happy about this party? He was not too excited. He thought, "Did they hold a great big feast like this for me?" The Bible doesn't record it. And like the brother of the prodigal son, in Jesus' story in the New Testament, Ishmael's selfish spirit began to come up. He developed a jealous attitude that quickly surfaced. Bitterness began to spill over, and probably Ishmael was about fifteen years old. He was a teenager, a young lad. And he began to mock Isaac. He began to deride him and criticize him. "I'm the oldest, I deserve the best. I work hard around here with the sheep. I worked hard with the tent. I've done my part as a son. And look at how they treat my younger brother! They never did this for me. I'm the first born and this little brat is getting more than I ever got." So often the first-born feels slighted somehow when you begin to take pictures of the second-born. He said, "Look at how they are doting over him. It just isn't fair."

And so in Genesis 21:9,10, But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, "Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac." "It just isn't going to happen. Get rid of her. Heave Hagar."

Why did it happen? Isaac was already three or four years old. Why didn't it happen the day Isaac was born? It was because of the words that Ishmael spoke. When you reach the teenage years you need to be careful. What he did changed his whole life. He began mocking and so on. Uncontrolled teenage words or rebellion has treacherous consequences. Both Ishmael and Isaac grew up in the same godly home, they had the same godly patriarch as a father. They had the same training. And yet, look at how different they turn out. Ishmael had seen God's blessing many times in the life of his Father. Ishmael, undoubtedly witnessed the arrival of the angels at his father's tent. And also, Ishmael had ben circumcised. But I don't think he was circumcised in the heart. He was uncircumcised there, just in the flesh. He lived in a godly home but he was not acting godly. He was critical.

If you, like Ishmael, feel slighted, don't dwell on it. Try to appreciate what you do have. Try not to criticize others. The critical spirit is so bad, in fact, when Ishmael criticized Isaac, do you know what he was really doing? In criticizing Isaac he was criticizing Jesus because Isaac was chosen by God to become one of the forefathers of the Savior. Be careful who you criticize.

Genesis 21:9 says that Sarah "Saw" Ishmael's savage critical behavior. Don't you imagine that Ishmael's mother also saw it? I imagine Hagar was aware of what her son was doing. She did nothing to stop her son's jeering ridicule. Therefore, she also became guilty. Evil has to be dealt with. You can't just bypass it. Therefore Sarah told her husband in no uncertain terms, "You get rid of that slave woman, and you get rid of her son. We've got to get this malicious attitude out of our camp."

Now, is this what Sarah was like? It's interesting how the New Testament pictures her. I Peter 3:3-6. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided (Braided with wires of gold and silver and jewels) hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.

Then I go back to Genesis 21 and it is Abraham who is obeying Sarah's command. Once in a while a woman has to draw a line in the sand. Was Sarah's order good or bad? That had to happen. Sarah had to do that. Would Abraham ever have evicted Hagar and Ishmael? Probably not. Sarah drew a line in the sand. "This is going to happen." Was Sarah right? Well, it's pretty harsh treatment. Was her order good or bad? It sounds like she flew off the handle in a rage. "You're not going to have that boy. My son Isaac, he's the one." Actually the New Testament confirms her stand. Sarah and Abraham actually did the right thing in casting out Hagar and her son. Galatians 4:23,24 speaks of Abraham: His son by the slave woman (Hagar) was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman (Sarah) was born as the result of a promise.

These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. The old covenant and the new covenant. This is a new wrinkle here isn't it. This adds a new dimension to this story.

Basically, Paul says that Sarah was right. Galatians 4:30,31. But what does the Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son." Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

You see what is going on here? We are basically born with a sinful nature. Ishmael represents the sinful, carnal, wicked nature that we are all born with. That old nature must be harshly dealt with. Just as both Hagar and Ishmael were permanently cast out, just so our old selfish nature must be forever banished. You can not compromise with sin, with the flesh. You've got to make a clean break with evil. The two sons of Abraham represent the conflict between the flesh and the spirit. The inspiration of the New Testament shows that Sarah and Abraham did do the right thing in heaving Hagar. Who removed Hagar? Was it God? No, God did confirm it. God said, "You're doing the right thing." But they removed Hagar.

Which nature is controlling you today? Are you controlled by the old sinful, carnal nature? Or are you controlled by the new nature, the spiritual nature? Which nature do you have? You've got to follow the example of Sarah and Abraham if you are controlled by the old nature. You've got to get rid of it. You've got to cast it out of your camp. You've got to get it out of your life. It must be evicted. However painful, however bad that might be, you must quickly and fully remove evil from your life.

The old system of attaining salvation by works must be removed. You must come to the place where faith in the complete salvation of Jesus on the Cross becomes your guiding star. Then you will have abundant works. Those works will come as the fruit of the new birth, the new experience. That's how we get that fruit, the fruit of the spiritual nature. I want that kind of fruit in my life. We're all going to bear fruit, either good or bad.

Notice that after Abraham cast out Hagar, he had a new life. From that moment Abraham never failed God again. No more lies. No more faltering. By dealing with sin, he experienced new power. She was not his rightful wife. He had to break that off.

At first, I imagine Abraham was totally bent out of shape over the turn of events. He undoubtedly loved Ishmael. At one point he thought Ishmael was the son of the promise, but here he was at his wits end. He did not know what to do. He didn't know what to do. Sarah was demanding the he cast out Ishmael and also to heave Hagar. What should he do? Fortunately God stepped in to make His will known. Genesis 21:21. But God said to him, "Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. So, God is basically saying, "This is okay. Go ahead and do it."

Notice that God does not call Hagar Abraham's wife. "Do not be so distressed about the boy and you maidservant." He calls her a bondwoman or servant. God does not call Hagar Abraham's wife. "She is not your wife, Abraham. Sarah is your wife. That other woman is not your wife." Isaac and Isaac only is the promised son. God told Abraham to listen to the godly advise of his spouse. And I think married folks need to do that.

Abraham needed to part with Hagar. He never should have taken Hagar in the first place. By doing so he manifested a distrust in God. We can't partner with the world. You can't take the world into your bosom. If you have a carnal partner in your business God may be calling you to make a change. Changes are painful. But until you totally and completely evict sin from your life and trust completely in God, you can't be fully in God's will. Abraham had to evict Hagar.

Now how did he do it? How do you cut off a dogs tail? A quarter of an inch every week? No. One big painful cut! How do you quit smoking? You've got to take decisive action when God tells you to do something. You sever the evil influence from your life immediately. You do it immediately and totally.

That's how Abraham did it. Look at Genesis 21:14. Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He was a man of action, wasn't he. He does not wait a few weeks to do God's bidding. He has instant obedience. I like that about Abraham. Bright and early the very next morning Abraham came out of his tent with some bread and a container of water. He gave them to Hagar and to Ishmael and sent them out of the camp. Only their bread and water were sure.

Continuing with Genesis 21:14-16. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bow-shot away, for she thought, "I cannot watch the boy die." And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob.

There they were, dying in the hot desert. Should Abraham have given her more? Did Abraham have more? Was Abraham poor? He was one of the richest sheiks in the eastern lands. Maybe he should have given her a tent or two and a couple camel, and a couple of servants, and some sheep, and goats, and cows and say, "I'm not going to send you away empty-handed." Are bread and water all he could afford? No. Did he want them to die? I can't imagine that.

So why would wealthy, generous, godly, Abraham send the castaways off with such meager rations? Maybe he knew that numerous possessions would draw bandits to rob the two defenseless wanderers. Or maybe Abraham inadvertently did something that pertains to a spiritual lesson for Don Gettys, for us here. I've thought about this. Is there a spiritual lesson that we need here? What do Hagar and Ishmael represent? They represent sin. Paul says in Romans 13:14 KJV, But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Now, you think about that. If you provide for the flesh, the flesh will soon return. It's going to come back. We are to make a clean decisive break with evil habits. Abraham must send them away. It has to happen. I must cut off anything from my life that will lead me into sin.

You know, Abraham never read one page of the Bible. Isn't it amazing that he could be so godly and never have read the Bible? But, he didn't have it. I can imagine him reading about his own life, and how embarrassed he would be. "I wish Moses would have left out several of these chapters. They're awful here." Did you know that there is a book being written today about you, up in heaven? And you've never read it? Well, I will tell you that someday soon many other just might read every word.

Hagar and Ishmael were cast out. Have you ever gone through some real hard times? Maybe you thought you wouldn't survive. You just sat down and cried. Our God can hear the fall of one tear. Quickly the water ran out. The hot sun was evaporating the life out of Hagar and Ishmael. Soon heatstroke and death would overtake them both.

But God sent an angel from heaven. Our God is very kind. It seems that when we arrive at the bottom of the barrel, if we look around, we will find God waiting for us there. And God was there. And He was there to take care of them. The truth is that we never face trouble alone. God is always there. The same God who notices when a sparrow falls also listens for our faintest cry.

Look at Genesis 21:19. Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She needed a drink. But what did God provide? God provided an entire well! God's overflowing resources always out-measure our limited needs. Hagar's tears prevented her from seeing the answer. Often the solution to our crisis is something that has been there all along. Maybe if we trusted more we would have to cry less. You can depend on God. You can have faith in the God of Abraham. He won't forsake you.

What ever finally happened to Ishmael? Like Cain, Ishmael became a hunter of wild game. The desert survival course made him into a mighty man. Eventually Ishmael married a heathen girl from Egypt which pretty well disconnected him further from the Bible record. The Ishmaelites grew into a great tribe of desert hunter warriors. His descendants still continue to mock and persecute the children of Isaac. How different the world would be. Maybe the Trade Towers would still be there. Maybe the world would be a lot different.

Ishmael did not die under that bush. God blessed and made a mighty nation of him despite his evil actions. God's mercies flow not because of our goodness but because of His goodness. What an awesome God we serve! How precious He is! You just hold on to the Lord. Hold on to God. Don't let go of Him. Hold fast until He comes.

Hymn of Praise: #334, Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:11-13
Hymn of Response: #600, Hold Fast Till I Come

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