1999-01-30 - Genesis
Genesis chaps. 12-13
- By his wife
Genesis chap. 16. Here we see conflict between the two sons, Ishmael (who
would be in his late teens according to 16:16), and Isaac (who was weaned
at about the age of 3). At first, Isaac's birth brought joy and laughter
compare 21:6 with 17:17 and 18:12) for the very name "Isaac" means
"laughter." But soon there was conflict as Ishmael constantly persecuted
his younger brother. There are some valuable lessons here:
- The flesh vs. the Spirit.
Ishmael was a child of the flesh (chap. 16), while Isaac was a child of promise,
born miraculously. Isaac's presence in the home was not due to Abraham's
strength (for Abraham was as good as dead, Rom. 4:19-20), but to God's
promise and power. There is always conflict between the flesh and the Spirit,
the old nature and the new, (Gal. 5:16-24). Salvation does not change
the old nature, nor can the old nature be improved or disciplined (see Rom. 6-7).
The only way to overcome the old nature is to accept God's estimate
of it and obey God's Word. Abraham loved Ishmael and longed to hold to him
(21:10-11, and see 17:18); but God said, "Cast him out!" Romans 6 informs
us that our only victory over the flesh is crucifixion-reckoning ourselves
dead. Christians who cater to the old nature (Rom. 13:14) will always have
conflict and trouble.
- The Old Covenant vs. the New Covenant.
Galatians 4:21-31 explains that these events with Ishmael and Isaac
are an allegory that symbolizes God's Old Covenant with Israel and His New
Covenant with the church. We may briefly summarize the main ideas as follows:
Hagar symbolizes the Old Covenant of law, identified with the earthly Jerusalem
in Paul's day. Sarah symbolizes the New Covenant of grace, identified with
the heavenly Jerusalem. Ishmael was born of the flesh and was the son of
a slave. Isaac was "born of the Spirit" and was the son of a freewoman. The
two sons, then, picture the Jews under the slavery of law and the true Christians
under the liberty of grace. Paul's argument is that God commanded Abraham
to cast out Hagar (the Old Covenant) because His blessing was to be upon
Isaac. All of this fits into Paul's argument in Gal. 3-4 that Christians
today are not under the law.
- Man's way vs. God's way.
The best way to solve any problem is God's way. Hagar had forgotten God's
promise in 16:10; otherwise she would not have lost heart. God did sustain
them and keep His Word. If we obey Him, He will always open the way and solve
- A Test from the Neighbors (21:22-34)
Believers must be careful in the relationship to "those who are outside" (Col. 4:5;
1 Thes. 4:12; 1 Tim. 3:7, NKJV). Abraham had a good testimony before his
unsaved neighbors, and the conflict over the well could have ruined it for
good. Note that Abraham agreed to settle the problem in a businesslike
way-"Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40). Abraham
and his neighbors exchanged the proper gifts and made the proper sacrifices
for sealing a covenant. The place where the covenant was made was called
Beersheba, "the well of the oath," and it became a place of prayer and communion
for Abraham. It is important that tests that we face in the neighborhood
or business be settled in a Christian way. See Rom. 12:18 for further
- The Test from the Lord (22:1-24)
Satan tempts us to bring out the worst in us, but God tests us to help bring out the best.
See James 1:12-15. The most severe tests do not come from people, but
from the Lord, and yet the greatest blessings always accompany them. God
never tested Lot in this way. Lot lived on such a low level that Sodom and
the world tested him. It is the saint that walks closest to the Lord that
God tests the greatest for His glory.
- The typical lesson.
This event is a wonderful type of Christ, the only Son who was willing to
give His life to please His Father. Both Isaac and Christ were promised sons;
both were born miraculously (of course, Christ was born of the Virgin Mary
and was sinless); both brought joy to the heart of the father; both were
born at the set time. Both were persecuted by their brethren and both were
obedient unto death. Christ was crucified between two thieves, and the two
young men went with Isaac (v. 3). Isaac questioned his father, and Jesus
asked, "My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46, NKJV) Of course,
Christ actually died, while Isaac was spared. However, in God's sight Isaac
had "died." Hebrews 11:19 says that "in a figure" (that is, symbolically)
Isaac was raised from the dead. Verse 19 indicates that Abraham returned
to the waiting servants, but nothing is said about Isaac. This too is a type;
for the next time we see Isaac, he is receiving his bride! (24:62ff) Even
so Christ gave Himself on the cross and went back to heaven, and one day
will come forth to receive His Bride, the church.
- The practical lesson.
True faith is always tested. Of course, God did not want Isaac's life; He
wanted Abraham's heart. Isaac was dear to Abraham, and God wanted to be sure
that Isaac was not an idol standing between Him and Abraham. It was possible
that Abraham was trusting Isaac to fulfill the promises and not trusting
God. How did Abraham go through this test? For one thing, he rested on
God's promises (Heb. 11:17-19). God had promised Abraham many descendants,
and this promise could not be fulfilled unless Isaac lived or God raised
him from the dead. Abraham knew that God would not lie, so he rested in His
unchanging Word. "Never doubt in the dark what God has told you in the
light." Abraham obeyed without delay. If we do the one thing God tells us
to do, He will reveal the next step when the right time comes. God's answers
never arrive a minute too late! God supplied a ram just when one was needed.
This is why Abraham called the name of the place "Jehovah-Jireh - the
Lord will see to it!"
- The prophetic lesson.
This event took place on Mt. Moriah (22:2), the place where the temple was
eventually built (2 Chron. 3:1). Isaac had asked, "Where is the lamb?" but
God had supplied a ram. The answer to his question came in the Person of
Christ: "Behold! The Lamb of God!" (John 1:29) Abraham had said, "In the
mount of the Lord it shall be seen" (v. 14); Christ was seen in the temple,
and then slain on Mt. Calvary. See John 8:56 also.
- The doctrinal lesson.
James 2:14-26 discusses the relationship between faith and works, and
James uses this event to illustrate his main point: true faith is always
proved by obedience. Note the accurate translation of James 2:21 - "Was
not Abraham our father justified by works in that he offered his son upon
the altar?" Abraham was not saved when he offered Isaac, for he had been
saved years before when he trusted God's promise (Gen. 15:6). James is not
telling us that we are saved by works or by sacrifices, but that the proof
of saving faith is an obedient life (see Rom. 4:1-5 and Gal. 3:6ff).
In His Service