[Calvary Chapel]1999-01-30 - Genesis

Genesis chaps. 12-13

  1. 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:

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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 the problem.

  2. 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 clarification.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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!"

    3. 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.

    4. 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).

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