Sun, Oct 14, 2007

CAN GOD. . . ? GENESIS 18:9-15

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
CAN GOD . . .?
GENESIS 18:9-15
 

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Genesis chapter 18 as we look at the issue of God and what He can and can’t do. And as we look at that you will see emerge the faith of Sarah as God stretches her faith and helps it to grow. You see, you first need to believe in His promises to you and as you trust in Him, even though you may not see the results immediately, your faith will grow.

            Before we get to our text this morning, let me share with you this story of G. Campbell Morgan. We are told:

            G. Campbell Morgan already enjoyed some success as a preacher by the time he was 19 years old. But then he was attacked by doubts about the Bible. The writings of various scientists and agnostics disturbed him (e.g., Charles Darwin, John Tyndall Thomas Huxley, and Herbert Spencer). As he read their books and listened to debates, Morgan became more and more perplexed. What did he do?  He cancelled all preaching engagements, put all the books in a cupboard and locked the door, and went to the bookstore and bought a new Bible. He said to himself, “I am no longer sure that this is what my father claims it to be – the Word of God. But of this I am sure. If it be the Word of God, and if I come to it with an unprejudiced and open mind, it will bring assurance to my soul of itself.” The result? “That Bible found me!” said Morgan. The new assurance in 1883 gave him the motivation for his preaching and teaching ministry. He devoted himself to the study and preaching of God’s Word.

- Wycliffe handbook of Preaching & Preachers, Moody, 1984, p. 211

            You see, he let others influence him to the point of doubting God’s Word and it was not until he went back to the Word of God that his faith was restored.  Folks, by believing God’s Word, by trusting in His promises, it will strengthen our faith as we walk with Him just as it did in the life of G. Campbell Morgan and millions upon millions of others who have come to trust in the Lord and His Word and are walking by faith!

            To help set the stage for the events that are taking place here in Genesis chapter 18, let me fill in some of the details. God promised Abraham and his wife Sarah that through their seed they would fill the land of Canaan, the Promise Land, the land that God had given to them. Now that was a problem because Sarah was barren. So she came up with a plan to have a son through her maidservant Hagar, which was a common practice back then.  So Abraham had sexual relations with Hagar and she conceived and bore a son named Ishmael, which means “God hears.”

            But Ishmael was not the son of promise, he was the son of the flesh and thus, God did not recognize him as an heir to Abraham.  Well, 13 years have passed by since the birth of Ishmael and still no son for Abraham and Sarah and at this point it does not look good. Abraham is ninety-nine years old and Sarah is eighty-nine years old and still no children. And in Genesis chapter 17, starting in verse 18 we are told, And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!’ Then God said: ‘No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.’  Genesis 17:18-19.

            Now God has once again promised them a son by the name of Isaac, which means “laughter” and God has set a date for his birth, within the year she will conceive and Isaac will be born! As Genesis chapter 18 opens up the Lord and two angels appear before Abraham in human form and he prepares a meal for them and fellowships with them. Keep in mind that the events here are taking place less than 3 months after the events in Genesis chapter 17. That is where we will pick up our study this morning, in Genesis chapter 18, starting in verse 9 as the Lord is speaking to Abraham. Let’s read on and see what the Lord has for us this morning!

GENESIS 18:9-15

            As Abraham is entertaining the Lord and these two angels, the Lord questions Abraham regarding his wife, where she was. You see, she did not partake of the meal with them but she was in another part of the tent listening in on the conversation. Now, as I read through these verses I see four points emerge. First of all there is THE PROMISE found in Genesis 18:9-10.  From there we move to THE HUMAN PERSPECTIVE found in Genesis 18:11-12. From there we move to THE GODLY PERSPECTIVE found in Genesis 18:13-14. And lastly, as we conclude, there is THE RESULT found in Genesis 18:15.  Now, keep in mind that in this portion of Scripture God is dealing with the faith of Sarah, testing it and helping it to grow.  With that said, let’s begin looking at these four points and see what we can glean from the to help us in our own walk.

1.  THE PROMISE – GENESIS 18:9-10

            Now don’t get the idea that the Lord didn’t know where Sarah was, He did know. Then why did He ask Abraham where Sarah was?  I believe it was for Sarah’s sake. Think about it, you are at a party and everyone is talking and what happens when you hear your name mentioned? You start to listen closely to see what is being said, you are focused on what they are saying about you. I think that is what was going on here. Sarah may have been listening half-heartedly but now that her name is mentioned her ears perked up and she is listening to what is being said.

            Yes, the Lord was speaking to Abraham but again I believe this was for Sarah. You see, back in Genesis 17:19 we are told, Then God said: ‘No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.’ Now, less than 3 months have passed by since God told Abraham that Sarah his wife would have a son, and now Sarah hears it for herself from the Lord.  It is a promise of God to her!

            I don’t know if this figure is correct, but someone has calculated the number of promises that God has given to us in His word, the Bible and they came to about 30,000! That is a lot of promises.  Now here’s the thing, can we trust in just a few and as God is faithful, that number will increase in our lives! You see, God loves you and He died for you to pay in full the penalty for your sins, do you believe in these promises?  You need to for without that faith, it is impossible to please God, to have that intimate relationship with Him.

            I think for many of us today we have a hard time believing in God’s promises because man has failed us so often with their promises. We want contracts, even in marriage where there are contracts to sign before you get married to ensure that when the marriage doesn’t work, one of the parties will not get cheated out of their resources. That is not marriage, that is a business relationship! Will man fail us?  You bet but don’t let man’s unfaithfulness to keep his promises confuse you with what God is saying and doing, for God is faithful. Remember what Balaam said in Numbers 23:19 as he reminds us, God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

A promise from God is a statement we can depend on with absolute confidence. Here are 12 promises for the Christian to claim.

  • God’s presence— “I will never leave thee” (Heb. 13:5)
  • God’s protection—”I am thy shield” (Gen. 15:1)
  • God’s power—”I will strengthen thee” (Isa. 41:10)
  • God’s provision—”I will help thee” (Isa. 41:10)
  • God’s leading—”And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them” (John 10:4)
  • God’s purposes— “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil” (Jer. 20:11)
  • God’s rest—”Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28)
  • God’s cleansing— “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)
  • God’s goodness— “No good thing will He withhold from them that work uprightly” (Psalm 84:11)
  • God’s faithfulness—”The Lord will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake” (1 Sam. 12:22)
  • God’s guidance—”The meek will He guide” (Psalm 25:9)
  • God’s wise plan—”All things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28)

Our Daily Bread, January 1, 1985

            God wants us to trust in His promises to us and then walk by faith, believing them. And folks, that means you need to read the Word of God because it is there we find the promises of God to us. Listen to this story of a woman who trusted in the promises of God all the way to the end of her life. We are told:

            Frances Havergal, the songwriter, lived and moved in the Word of God. His Word was her constant companion. On the last day of her life, she asked a friend to read to her the 42nd chapter of Isaiah. When the friend read the sixth verse, “I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee,” Miss Havergal stopped her. She whispered, “Called – held – kept. I can go home on that!” And she did go home on that.

- Pentecostal Evangel

            So here in Genesis chapter 18 God speaks and Sarah hears that she will conceive and have a son at the appointed time. Now, as Sarah listens to this she has two choices.  She can either believe and rejoice in God’s promise to her or she can laugh with unbelief wondering how God can even do something like this. Let’s see how she responds.

2.  THE HUMAN PERSPECTIVE – GENESIS 18:11-12

            Folks, when we look at things through a human perspective, it does seem impossible. But when you place God into the picture, when you put in the God factor, then nothing is impossible.  Imagine if I told you that a group of Golden Retrievers, which are very smart dogs, and they were going to put together a skyscraper, what would you think? You would think I have lost my mind, that I was crazy because dogs can’t do that. But what if I told you that God was going to step in and enable these dogs to do just that, can it be possible? You bet. I know, some of you doubt that but didn’t God enable a donkey to speak to Balaam in the Old Testament? You bet He did and even though through a human perspective it is impossible, God made that possible!

            For Sarah, she looked at this situation through human eyes, with a human perspective and it seemed crazy. She was past the age of child bearing, she went through menopause and in the eighty-nine years of her life she has never been pregnant, not even once! Thus, this is crazy, it is impossible and she has a laugh of unbelief!

            There is a poem by Norman Shirk that seems to fit what we are talking about here, doubting God’s promises to us. It goes like this:

            Let me meet you on the mountain, Lord,

            Just once.

            You wouldn’t have to burn a whole bush.

            Just a few smoking branches

            And I would surely be . . . your Moses.

            Let me meet you on the water, Lord,

            Just once.

            It wouldn’t have to be on White Rock Lake.

            Just on a puddle after the annual Dallas rain

            And I would surely be . . . your Peter.

            Let me meet you on the road, Lord,

            Just once.

            You wouldn’t have to blind me on North Central Expressway.

            Just a few bright lights on the way to chapel

            And I would surely be . . . your Paul.

            Let me meet you, Lord,

            Just once.

            Anywhere. Anytime.

            Just meeting you in the Word is so hard sometimes

            Must I always be . . . your Thomas?

- Norman Shirk, April 10, 1981, KQ (Dallas Seminary)

            You see, do we always have to see the miraculous to believe God’s Word?  Obviously we don’t! Has God failed at any of His promises? Absolutely not, thus, why not trust His promises because doubt is unbelief and trust equals belief!

            Remember those wilderness wanderings the children of Israel went through and how they doubted God; they did not believe God’s promises to them, that God would sustain them. In Psalm 78:17-22 we are told of this time, But they sinned even more against Him By rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness. And they tested God in their heart By asking for the food of their fancy. Yes, they spoke against God: They said, ‘Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? Behold, He struck the rock, So that the waters gushed out, And the streams overflowed. Can He give bread also? Can He provide meat for His people?’ Therefore the LORD heard this and was furious; So a fire was kindled against Jacob, And anger also came up against Israel, Because they did not believe in God, And did not trust in His salvation.

            You see, even when God did provide for them they wanted more and they doubted that God could do that!  That is a hard heart. God gave to them what they needed, He provided for them just as He promised them, and yet they were not satisfied, it did not meet their wants!

            I want to show you the downward transgression of unbelief. In John 12:37 we are told of the Jewish religious leaders, But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him. You see, it is not that they could not believe at this point, they just would not believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of what the Old Testament prophets spoke about regarding the Messiah, the Savior of the world!

            It is out of this heart of unbelief that we are told in John 12:38-41, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?’  Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’  These things Isaiah said whenhe saw His glory and spoke of Him. Notice, because they WOULD not believe their hearts became so hard that they now COULD not believe, they had passed the point of no return in regards to their salvation. What a sad day for them and yet they did not even realize it because their hearts were so hard towards the truth, the promises of God!

            Now let me also say this, the Lord is patient, He is longsuffering and He will deal with our heart of unbelief until we turn things over to Him, until we walk by faith because we believe in God’s promises, that is what He wants. You see, we are His children and He will not give up on us! Yes, from a human perspective it was impossible for Sarah to conceive and have a son and that is where God wanted both of them, at the end of their resources so that they might look to Him.  At the end of their resources so that God can now work!

3.  THE GODLY PERSPECTIVE – GENESIS 18:13-14

            God must shake His head at how foolish we act towards His promises to us. Sarah laughed in unbelief because she just believed that some things are just too difficult for the Lord to do, they are beyond His ability. I know, that sounds ridiculous, the creator of heaven and earth not being able to do all things, that some things are difficult for Him to do. But folks, when we doubt God’s promises to us, that is exactly what we are saying about Him!

            Of course nothing is too difficult for the Lord. It is a rhetorical question. In fact, as we said on Thursday, that word hard can be translated, wonderful that is how a form of this word is translated in Isaiah 9:6. Thus, this verse can also read, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” I like that and I think both words fit perfectly in this verse!

            Now, in saying that, in saying that nothing is too hard for the Lord, let me also say this. There are some things that God can’t do. I know, that may be shocking to you, but let me explain.  Some of the things that God can’t do is sin, He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:13), He cannot be tempted by evil (James 1:13) and-so-on. Does that mean that this verse here in Genesis chapter 18 is not true? Absolutely not. Let me explain.

An attribute of God alone. It is the quality of having all power (Ps. 115:3). He can do all things that do not conflict with His holy nature. God has the power to do anything He wants to.

Does omnipotence mean that God can do literally anything? No, that is not the meaning. There are many things God cannot do. He cannot do what is self-contradictory or nonsensical, like squaring the circle. Nor (and this is vital) can he act out of character. God has a perfect moral character, and it is not in him to deny it. He cannot be capricious, unloving, random, unjust, or inconsistent. Just as he cannot pardon sin without atonement because that would not be right, so he cannot fail to be faithful and just in forgiving sins that are confessed in faith and in keeping all the other promises he has made. Moral instability, vacillation, and unreliability are marks of weakness, not of strength: but God’s omnipotence is supreme strength, making it impossible that he should lapse into imperfection of this sort.

The positive way to say this is: though there are things which a holy, rational God is incapable of intending, all that he intends to do he actually does. “Whatever the Lord pleases he does” (Ps. 135:6). As when he planned to make the world, “he spoke, and it came to be” (Ps. 33:9), so it is with everything that he wills. With people “there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip,” but not with him.

Your Father Loves You by James Packer, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986, page for May 7

            You see, God does what is right, what is holy, what is good and-so-on.  I look at this church and I see the unbelievable things that God has done and is doing, beyond our wildest dreams.  And folks, if you think about it, from a human perspective, this church should not have survived when the first pastor left, but it did!  No man can take credit for that but God held this body of believers together.

            And when you think about it, we are a church of about 60 people and from a human perspective, we should not be able to do too much, but look at what God has done and it is what He has done and all we have to take credit for is being available for God to use, He gets all the glory and all the praise.

            God has provided for us to meet in this building, to purchase it. God has provided for us the Calvary Satellite Network or CSN radio station. God has provided for us our own Low Power FM station and in His timing it will be up and running.  God has provided for us to be on television with our Sustaining Word program on Comcast Cable. God has provided for us to be on the radio with our Sustaining Word program in Madison and for a time in Appleton.

God has provided for us a web page that has all our studies on from Joshua through Revelation and now starting up in Genesis. God has provided for us to put our studies on a CD for people to use as a commentary on the Bible. And God has provided so much more with Bible studies, Youth Group, God’s Kid’s Club, Women’s Ministries, worship, outreaches and-on-and-on it goes. It is not because of us because from a human perspective, we should not be doing most of these things, but from a Godly perspective, God has enabled us to do these things. It is as Paul said in Philippians, more of those promises of God, I can do all things through Christwho strengthens me. . . . And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:13, 19.

            Now God told Sarah that she would conceive and have a son, but she laughed in unbelief. Thus, did God throw her away? Did God say that He was done with her since she laughed at Him?  Not at all as we shall see in our last point.  Just keep in mind that nothing is too hard for the Lord and nothing is too wonderful for the Lord, that is the Godly perspective to have!

4.  THE RESULT – GENESIS 18:15

            God is dealing with Sarah and at this point she denies she laughed in unbelief. Now, in saying that you would think God is going to give up on her, but not at all.  That is not our God.  Remember what Paul said in Philippians 1:6, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.God will complete the work He has started in us, He is not going to give up.

A few years ago, an angry man rushed through the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam until he reached Rembrandt’s famous painting “Nightwatch.” Then he took out a knife and slashed it repeatedly before he could be stopped. A short time later, a distraught, hostile man slipped into St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome with a hammer and began to smash Michelangelo’s beautiful sculpture The Pieta. Two cherished works of art were severely damaged. But what did officials do? Throw them out and forget about them? Absolutely not! Using the best experts, who worked with the utmost care and precision, they made every effort to restore the treasures.

By His sovereign grace, God can bring good out of our failures, and even out of our sins.

            J. Stuart Holden tells of an old Scottish mansion close to where he had his little summer home.

The walls of one room were filled with sketches made by distinguished artists. The practice began after a pitcher of soda water was accidentally spilled on a freshly decorated wall and left an unsightly stain. At the time, a noted artist, Lord Landseer, was a guest in the house. One day when the family went out to the moors, he stayed behind. With a few masterful strokes of a piece of charcoal, that ugly spot became the outline of a beautiful waterfall, bordered by trees and wildlife. He turned that disfigured wall into one of his most successful depictions of Highland life.

-Source unknown

            That is our God, He takes imperfect people and He is working on making us into His masterpiece. Do you think He can do that?  Most would say yes and yet, when they look at their own life and even sometimes the lives of others, they see it is impossible. Don’t ever look at it that way, for as we have seen, God takes the possible and makes it very possible!

            Now, How did Sarah do? Well, she did have a son at the age of ninety and they named him Isaac or laughter.  Thus, at some point in her life Sarah came to trust in the promises of God to her, to believe that what God has promised her He is more than able to bring to pass. How do I know that?  Because of what Paul tells us of Sarah in Hebrews chapter 11, that section that has been called the Hall of Faith as Paul speaks of the men and women of faith, those that trusted in the promises of God!

And in Hebrews 11:11 we are told, By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a childwhen she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. The Amplified Bible puts this verse like this, Because of faith also Sarah herself received physical power to conceive a child, even when she was long past the age for it, because she considered [God] Who had given her the promise to be reliable and trustworthy and true to His word. [Gen 17:19; 18:11-14; 21:2.] And The Living Bible puts it like this, Sarah, too, had faith, and because of this she was able to become a mother in spite of her old age, for she realized that God, who gave her his promise, would certainly do what he said.  You see, her unbelief was turned around and now she believed in the promises that God made to her. And I bet that the laughter of unbelief was now turned to laughter that is filled with joy!

            Years ago a young missionary had to flee from western China. An infuriated mob hotly pursued him. He hastily bordered a riverboat. The mob, too, came on the boat. Then he jumped into the river.  The mob began to throw spears at him. Miraculously he escaped, unharmed. When he was telling of the ordeal later, a friend asked him, “What verse from the Bible came to you as you were darting beneath the boat to escape the spears of the mob?” “Verse?” he asked in astonishment. “Why, the Lord Himself was with me!”

- Selected

            Don’t lose sight of the Lord. Folks, God wants us to grow in Him, to trust in Him, to have our faith stretched.  Can we trust in Him? I hope so. And we have seen how patient and longsuffering He was with Sarah and He is the same with us folks. We might give up on ourselves, but God does not give up on us!  I am so thankful for that.

            God gave to Sarah His promise and He has given to us His many promises that are found in His Word.  The question is, what are you going to do with those promises? You see, are you going to look at them through a human perspective and see them as impossible for your life? Or are you going to look at them through a Godly perspective and see them as possible for your life because God has promised them to you and He is faithful to fulfill what He has promised? You see, with God nothing is impossible and nothing is too wonderful for Him, may we believe it.  Let God have His way with you because the results He will bring to your life will be life changing as He stretches your faith and helps you to grow as He did with Sarah in our text this morning.

            Several years back there was a song that was titled, The Touch Of The Masters Hand. It fits in with what we are talking about here because when everyone else gives up on us, God doesn’t. The song goes like this:

            It was battered and scarred, the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his wild, to spend much time in with the old violin, but he held it up with a smile. What am I bid, good folk he cried who will start bidding for me? A dollar once and who’ll make it two, two dollars and who’ll make it three?  Three dollars once three dollars twice and going and gone but No!

            From the room far back a gray haired man came forward and picked up the bow.  And wiping the dust from the old violin and tightening up the strings he played a melody pure and sweet as sweet as an angel sings. The music ceased and the auctioneer in a voice that was quiet and low said what am I bid for that old violin and he held it up with the bow. A thousand dollars and who’ll make it two, two thousand and who’ll make it three. Three thousand once, three thousand twice and going and gone said he.

            The people cheered, but some of them cried we do not quite understand what changed its worth? The man replied, “It was the touch of the masters hand.”

            And many a man with life out of tune and battered and scared by sin is auctioned cheep by the foolish crowd, much like the old violin. A mess of pottage, a glass of wine, a game and he travels on, he’s going once, he’s going twice, he’s going and almost gone. But the Master comes in and the foolish crowd could never quite understand, the worth of a soul or the change that is wrought by the touch of the Masters hand.

- The Touch Of The Masters Hand

            Folks, that is our God, He wants to touch our lives, He wants to help us to grow, may we not get in His way and may we not look on the precious lives that are out there and cheapen them, for the Lord not only died for them, but He will make them into His masterpiece!

            As I close this morning, let me leave you with this thought to think about. Paul tells us in II Timothy 3:16-17, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. The Amplified Bible puts these verses like this, Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of errorand discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God's will in thought, purpose, and action), So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work. You see, So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  Romans 10:17.  Thus, may we apply the Word of God by the Spirit of God to our lives as we learn to trust in the Lord and walk by faith!

CAN GOD . . .?
GENESIS 18:9-15
Listen to this study SM3012

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Genesis chapter 18 as we look at the issue of God and what He can and can’t do. And as we look at that you will see emerge the faith of Sarah as God stretches her faith and helps it to grow. You see, you first need to believe in His promises to you and as you trust in Him, even though you may not see the results immediately, your faith will grow.

            Before we get to our text this morning, let me share with you this story of G. Campbell Morgan. We are told:

            G. Campbell Morgan already enjoyed some success as a preacher by the time he was 19 years old. But then he was attacked by doubts about the Bible. The writings of various scientists and agnostics disturbed him (e.g., Charles Darwin, John Tyndall Thomas Huxley, and Herbert Spencer). As he read their books and listened to debates, Morgan became more and more perplexed. What did he do?  He cancelled all preaching engagements, put all the books in a cupboard and locked the door, and went to the bookstore and bought a new Bible. He said to himself, “I am no longer sure that this is what my father claims it to be – the Word of God. But of this I am sure. If it be the Word of God, and if I come to it with an unprejudiced and open mind, it will bring assurance to my soul of itself.” The result? “That Bible found me!” said Morgan. The new assurance in 1883 gave him the motivation for his preaching and teaching ministry. He devoted himself to the study and preaching of God’s Word.

- Wycliffe handbook of Preaching & Preachers, Moody, 1984, p. 211

            You see, he let others influence him to the point of doubting God’s Word and it was not until he went back to the Word of God that his faith was restored.  Folks, by believing God’s Word, by trusting in His promises, it will strengthen our faith as we walk with Him just as it did in the life of G. Campbell Morgan and millions upon millions of others who have come to trust in the Lord and His Word and are walking by faith!

            To help set the stage for the events that are taking place here in Genesis chapter 18, let me fill in some of the details. God promised Abraham and his wife Sarah that through their seed they would fill the land of Canaan, the Promise Land, the land that God had given to them. Now that was a problem because Sarah was barren. So she came up with a plan to have a son through her maidservant Hagar, which was a common practice back then.  So Abraham had sexual relations with Hagar and she conceived and bore a son named Ishmael, which means “God hears.”

            But Ishmael was not the son of promise, he was the son of the flesh and thus, God did not recognize him as an heir to Abraham.  Well, 13 years have passed by since the birth of Ishmael and still no son for Abraham and Sarah and at this point it does not look good. Abraham is ninety-nine years old and Sarah is eighty-nine years old and still no children. And in Genesis chapter 17, starting in verse 18 we are told, And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!’ Then God said: ‘No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.’  Genesis 17:18-19.

            Now God has once again promised them a son by the name of Isaac, which means “laughter” and God has set a date for his birth, within the year she will conceive and Isaac will be born! As Genesis chapter 18 opens up the Lord and two angels appear before Abraham in human form and he prepares a meal for them and fellowships with them. Keep in mind that the events here are taking place less than 3 months after the events in Genesis chapter 17. That is where we will pick up our study this morning, in Genesis chapter 18, starting in verse 9 as the Lord is speaking to Abraham. Let’s read on and see what the Lord has for us this morning!

GENESIS 18:9-15

            As Abraham is entertaining the Lord and these two angels, the Lord questions Abraham regarding his wife, where she was. You see, she did not partake of the meal with them but she was in another part of the tent listening in on the conversation. Now, as I read through these verses I see four points emerge. First of all there is THE PROMISE found in Genesis 18:9-10.  From there we move to THE HUMAN PERSPECTIVE found in Genesis 18:11-12. From there we move to THE GODLY PERSPECTIVE found in Genesis 18:13-14. And lastly, as we conclude, there is THE RESULT found in Genesis 18:15.  Now, keep in mind that in this portion of Scripture God is dealing with the faith of Sarah, testing it and helping it to grow.  With that said, let’s begin looking at these four points and see what we can glean from the to help us in our own walk.

1.  THE PROMISE – GENESIS 18:9-10

            Now don’t get the idea that the Lord didn’t know where Sarah was, He did know. Then why did He ask Abraham where Sarah was?  I believe it was for Sarah’s sake. Think about it, you are at a party and everyone is talking and what happens when you hear your name mentioned? You start to listen closely to see what is being said, you are focused on what they are saying about you. I think that is what was going on here. Sarah may have been listening half-heartedly but now that her name is mentioned her ears perked up and she is listening to what is being said.

            Yes, the Lord was speaking to Abraham but again I believe this was for Sarah. You see, back in Genesis 17:19 we are told, Then God said: ‘No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.’ Now, less than 3 months have passed by since God told Abraham that Sarah his wife would have a son, and now Sarah hears it for herself from the Lord.  It is a promise of God to her!

            I don’t know if this figure is correct, but someone has calculated the number of promises that God has given to us in His word, the Bible and they came to about 30,000! That is a lot of promises.  Now here’s the thing, can we trust in just a few and as God is faithful, that number will increase in our lives! You see, God loves you and He died for you to pay in full the penalty for your sins, do you believe in these promises?  You need to for without that faith, it is impossible to please God, to have that intimate relationship with Him.

            I think for many of us today we have a hard time believing in God’s promises because man has failed us so often with their promises. We want contracts, even in marriage where there are contracts to sign before you get married to ensure that when the marriage doesn’t work, one of the parties will not get cheated out of their resources. That is not marriage, that is a business relationship! Will man fail us?  You bet but don’t let man’s unfaithfulness to keep his promises confuse you with what God is saying and doing, for God is faithful. Remember what Balaam said in Numbers 23:19 as he reminds us, God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

A promise from God is a statement we can depend on with absolute confidence. Here are 12 promises for the Christian to claim.

  • God’s presence— “I will never leave thee” (Heb. 13:5)
  • God’s protection—”I am thy shield” (Gen. 15:1)
  • God’s power—”I will strengthen thee” (Isa. 41:10)
  • God’s provision—”I will help thee” (Isa. 41:10)
  • God’s leading—”And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them” (John 10:4)
  • God’s purposes— “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil” (Jer. 20:11)
  • God’s rest—”Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28)
  • God’s cleansing— “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)
  • God’s goodness— “No good thing will He withhold from them that work uprightly” (Psalm 84:11)
  • God’s faithfulness—”The Lord will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake” (1 Sam. 12:22)
  • God’s guidance—”The meek will He guide” (Psalm 25:9)
  • God’s wise plan—”All things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28)

Our Daily Bread, January 1, 1985

            God wants us to trust in His promises to us and then walk by faith, believing them. And folks, that means you need to read the Word of God because it is there we find the promises of God to us. Listen to this story of a woman who trusted in the promises of God all the way to the end of her life. We are told:

            Frances Havergal, the songwriter, lived and moved in the Word of God. His Word was her constant companion. On the last day of her life, she asked a friend to read to her the 42nd chapter of Isaiah. When the friend read the sixth verse, “I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee,” Miss Havergal stopped her. She whispered, “Called – held – kept. I can go home on that!” And she did go home on that.

- Pentecostal Evangel

            So here in Genesis chapter 18 God speaks and Sarah hears that she will conceive and have a son at the appointed time. Now, as Sarah listens to this she has two choices.  She can either believe and rejoice in God’s promise to her or she can laugh with unbelief wondering how God can even do something like this. Let’s see how she responds.

2.  THE HUMAN PERSPECTIVE – GENESIS 18:11-12

            Folks, when we look at things through a human perspective, it does seem impossible. But when you place God into the picture, when you put in the God factor, then nothing is impossible.  Imagine if I told you that a group of Golden Retrievers, which are very smart dogs, and they were going to put together a skyscraper, what would you think? You would think I have lost my mind, that I was crazy because dogs can’t do that. But what if I told you that God was going to step in and enable these dogs to do just that, can it be possible? You bet. I know, some of you doubt that but didn’t God enable a donkey to speak to Balaam in the Old Testament? You bet He did and even though through a human perspective it is impossible, God made that possible!

            For Sarah, she looked at this situation through human eyes, with a human perspective and it seemed crazy. She was past the age of child bearing, she went through menopause and in the eighty-nine years of her life she has never been pregnant, not even once! Thus, this is crazy, it is impossible and she has a laugh of unbelief!

            There is a poem by Norman Shirk that seems to fit what we are talking about here, doubting God’s promises to us. It goes like this:

            Let me meet you on the mountain, Lord,

            Just once.

            You wouldn’t have to burn a whole bush.

            Just a few smoking branches

            And I would surely be . . . your Moses.

            Let me meet you on the water, Lord,

            Just once.

            It wouldn’t have to be on White Rock Lake.

            Just on a puddle after the annual Dallas rain

            And I would surely be . . . your Peter.

            Let me meet you on the road, Lord,

            Just once.

            You wouldn’t have to blind me on North Central Expressway.

            Just a few bright lights on the way to chapel

            And I would surely be . . . your Paul.

            Let me meet you, Lord,

            Just once.

            Anywhere. Anytime.

            Just meeting you in the Word is so hard sometimes

            Must I always be . . . your Thomas?

- Norman Shirk, April 10, 1981, KQ (Dallas Seminary)

            You see, do we always have to see the miraculous to believe God’s Word?  Obviously we don’t! Has God failed at any of His promises? Absolutely not, thus, why not trust His promises because doubt is unbelief and trust equals belief!

            Remember those wilderness wanderings the children of Israel went through and how they doubted God; they did not believe God’s promises to them, that God would sustain them. In Psalm 78:17-22 we are told of this time, But they sinned even more against Him By rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness. And they tested God in their heart By asking for the food of their fancy. Yes, they spoke against God: They said, ‘Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? Behold, He struck the rock, So that the waters gushed out, And the streams overflowed. Can He give bread also? Can He provide meat for His people?’ Therefore the LORD heard this and was furious; So a fire was kindled against Jacob, And anger also came up against Israel, Because they did not believe in God, And did not trust in His salvation.

            You see, even when God did provide for them they wanted more and they doubted that God could do that!  That is a hard heart. God gave to them what they needed, He provided for them just as He promised them, and yet they were not satisfied, it did not meet their wants!

            I want to show you the downward transgression of unbelief. In John 12:37 we are told of the Jewish religious leaders, But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him. You see, it is not that they could not believe at this point, they just would not believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of what the Old Testament prophets spoke about regarding the Messiah, the Savior of the world!

            It is out of this heart of unbelief that we are told in John 12:38-41, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?’  Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’  These things Isaiah said whenhe saw His glory and spoke of Him. Notice, because they WOULD not believe their hearts became so hard that they now COULD not believe, they had passed the point of no return in regards to their salvation. What a sad day for them and yet they did not even realize it because their hearts were so hard towards the truth, the promises of God!

            Now let me also say this, the Lord is patient, He is longsuffering and He will deal with our heart of unbelief until we turn things over to Him, until we walk by faith because we believe in God’s promises, that is what He wants. You see, we are His children and He will not give up on us! Yes, from a human perspective it was impossible for Sarah to conceive and have a son and that is where God wanted both of them, at the end of their resources so that they might look to Him.  At the end of their resources so that God can now work!

3.  THE GODLY PERSPECTIVE – GENESIS 18:13-14

            God must shake His head at how foolish we act towards His promises to us. Sarah laughed in unbelief because she just believed that some things are just too difficult for the Lord to do, they are beyond His ability. I know, that sounds ridiculous, the creator of heaven and earth not being able to do all things, that some things are difficult for Him to do. But folks, when we doubt God’s promises to us, that is exactly what we are saying about Him!

            Of course nothing is too difficult for the Lord. It is a rhetorical question. In fact, as we said on Thursday, that word hard can be translated, wonderful that is how a form of this word is translated in Isaiah 9:6. Thus, this verse can also read, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” I like that and I think both words fit perfectly in this verse!

            Now, in saying that, in saying that nothing is too hard for the Lord, let me also say this. There are some things that God can’t do. I know, that may be shocking to you, but let me explain.  Some of the things that God can’t do is sin, He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:13), He cannot be tempted by evil (James 1:13) and-so-on. Does that mean that this verse here in Genesis chapter 18 is not true? Absolutely not. Let me explain.

An attribute of God alone. It is the quality of having all power (Ps. 115:3). He can do all things that do not conflict with His holy nature. God has the power to do anything He wants to.

Does omnipotence mean that God can do literally anything? No, that is not the meaning. There are many things God cannot do. He cannot do what is self-contradictory or nonsensical, like squaring the circle. Nor (and this is vital) can he act out of character. God has a perfect moral character, and it is not in him to deny it. He cannot be capricious, unloving, random, unjust, or inconsistent. Just as he cannot pardon sin without atonement because that would not be right, so he cannot fail to be faithful and just in forgiving sins that are confessed in faith and in keeping all the other promises he has made. Moral instability, vacillation, and unreliability are marks of weakness, not of strength: but God’s omnipotence is supreme strength, making it impossible that he should lapse into imperfection of this sort.

The positive way to say this is: though there are things which a holy, rational God is incapable of intending, all that he intends to do he actually does. “Whatever the Lord pleases he does” (Ps. 135:6). As when he planned to make the world, “he spoke, and it came to be” (Ps. 33:9), so it is with everything that he wills. With people “there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip,” but not with him.

Your Father Loves You by James Packer, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986, page for May 7

            You see, God does what is right, what is holy, what is good and-so-on.  I look at this church and I see the unbelievable things that God has done and is doing, beyond our wildest dreams.  And folks, if you think about it, from a human perspective, this church should not have survived when the first pastor left, but it did!  No man can take credit for that but God held this body of believers together.

            And when you think about it, we are a church of about 60 people and from a human perspective, we should not be able to do too much, but look at what God has done and it is what He has done and all we have to take credit for is being available for God to use, He gets all the glory and all the praise.

            God has provided for us to meet in this building, to purchase it. God has provided for us the Calvary Satellite Network or CSN radio station. God has provided for us our own Low Power FM station and in His timing it will be up and running.  God has provided for us to be on television with our Sustaining Word program on Comcast Cable. God has provided for us to be on the radio with our Sustaining Word program in Madison and for a time in Appleton.

God has provided for us a web page that has all our studies on from Joshua through Revelation and now starting up in Genesis. God has provided for us to put our studies on a CD for people to use as a commentary on the Bible. And God has provided so much more with Bible studies, Youth Group, God’s Kid’s Club, Women’s Ministries, worship, outreaches and-on-and-on it goes. It is not because of us because from a human perspective, we should not be doing most of these things, but from a Godly perspective, God has enabled us to do these things. It is as Paul said in Philippians, more of those promises of God, I can do all things through Christwho strengthens me. . . . And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:13, 19.

            Now God told Sarah that she would conceive and have a son, but she laughed in unbelief. Thus, did God throw her away? Did God say that He was done with her since she laughed at Him?  Not at all as we shall see in our last point.  Just keep in mind that nothing is too hard for the Lord and nothing is too wonderful for the Lord, that is the Godly perspective to have!

4.  THE RESULT – GENESIS 18:15

            God is dealing with Sarah and at this point she denies she laughed in unbelief. Now, in saying that you would think God is going to give up on her, but not at all.  That is not our God.  Remember what Paul said in Philippians 1:6, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.God will complete the work He has started in us, He is not going to give up.

A few years ago, an angry man rushed through the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam until he reached Rembrandt’s famous painting “Nightwatch.” Then he took out a knife and slashed it repeatedly before he could be stopped. A short time later, a distraught, hostile man slipped into St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome with a hammer and began to smash Michelangelo’s beautiful sculpture The Pieta. Two cherished works of art were severely damaged. But what did officials do? Throw them out and forget about them? Absolutely not! Using the best experts, who worked with the utmost care and precision, they made every effort to restore the treasures.

By His sovereign grace, God can bring good out of our failures, and even out of our sins.

            J. Stuart Holden tells of an old Scottish mansion close to where he had his little summer home.

The walls of one room were filled with sketches made by distinguished artists. The practice began after a pitcher of soda water was accidentally spilled on a freshly decorated wall and left an unsightly stain. At the time, a noted artist, Lord Landseer, was a guest in the house. One day when the family went out to the moors, he stayed behind. With a few masterful strokes of a piece of charcoal, that ugly spot became the outline of a beautiful waterfall, bordered by trees and wildlife. He turned that disfigured wall into one of his most successful depictions of Highland life.

-Source unknown

            That is our God, He takes imperfect people and He is working on making us into His masterpiece. Do you think He can do that?  Most would say yes and yet, when they look at their own life and even sometimes the lives of others, they see it is impossible. Don’t ever look at it that way, for as we have seen, God takes the possible and makes it very possible!

            Now, How did Sarah do? Well, she did have a son at the age of ninety and they named him Isaac or laughter.  Thus, at some point in her life Sarah came to trust in the promises of God to her, to believe that what God has promised her He is more than able to bring to pass. How do I know that?  Because of what Paul tells us of Sarah in Hebrews chapter 11, that section that has been called the Hall of Faith as Paul speaks of the men and women of faith, those that trusted in the promises of God!

And in Hebrews 11:11 we are told, By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a childwhen she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. The Amplified Bible puts this verse like this, Because of faith also Sarah herself received physical power to conceive a child, even when she was long past the age for it, because she considered [God] Who had given her the promise to be reliable and trustworthy and true to His word. [Gen 17:19; 18:11-14; 21:2.] And The Living Bible puts it like this, Sarah, too, had faith, and because of this she was able to become a mother in spite of her old age, for she realized that God, who gave her his promise, would certainly do what he said.  You see, her unbelief was turned around and now she believed in the promises that God made to her. And I bet that the laughter of unbelief was now turned to laughter that is filled with joy!

            Years ago a young missionary had to flee from western China. An infuriated mob hotly pursued him. He hastily bordered a riverboat. The mob, too, came on the boat. Then he jumped into the river.  The mob began to throw spears at him. Miraculously he escaped, unharmed. When he was telling of the ordeal later, a friend asked him, “What verse from the Bible came to you as you were darting beneath the boat to escape the spears of the mob?” “Verse?” he asked in astonishment. “Why, the Lord Himself was with me!”

- Selected

            Don’t lose sight of the Lord. Folks, God wants us to grow in Him, to trust in Him, to have our faith stretched.  Can we trust in Him? I hope so. And we have seen how patient and longsuffering He was with Sarah and He is the same with us folks. We might give up on ourselves, but God does not give up on us!  I am so thankful for that.

            God gave to Sarah His promise and He has given to us His many promises that are found in His Word.  The question is, what are you going to do with those promises? You see, are you going to look at them through a human perspective and see them as impossible for your life? Or are you going to look at them through a Godly perspective and see them as possible for your life because God has promised them to you and He is faithful to fulfill what He has promised? You see, with God nothing is impossible and nothing is too wonderful for Him, may we believe it.  Let God have His way with you because the results He will bring to your life will be life changing as He stretches your faith and helps you to grow as He did with Sarah in our text this morning.

            Several years back there was a song that was titled, The Touch Of The Masters Hand. It fits in with what we are talking about here because when everyone else gives up on us, God doesn’t. The song goes like this:

            It was battered and scarred, the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his wild, to spend much time in with the old violin, but he held it up with a smile. What am I bid, good folk he cried who will start bidding for me? A dollar once and who’ll make it two, two dollars and who’ll make it three?  Three dollars once three dollars twice and going and gone but No!

            From the room far back a gray haired man came forward and picked up the bow.  And wiping the dust from the old violin and tightening up the strings he played a melody pure and sweet as sweet as an angel sings. The music ceased and the auctioneer in a voice that was quiet and low said what am I bid for that old violin and he held it up with the bow. A thousand dollars and who’ll make it two, two thousand and who’ll make it three. Three thousand once, three thousand twice and going and gone said he.

            The people cheered, but some of them cried we do not quite understand what changed its worth? The man replied, “It was the touch of the masters hand.”

            And many a man with life out of tune and battered and scared by sin is auctioned cheep by the foolish crowd, much like the old violin. A mess of pottage, a glass of wine, a game and he travels on, he’s going once, he’s going twice, he’s going and almost gone. But the Master comes in and the foolish crowd could never quite understand, the worth of a soul or the change that is wrought by the touch of the Masters hand.

- The Touch Of The Masters Hand

            Folks, that is our God, He wants to touch our lives, He wants to help us to grow, may we not get in His way and may we not look on the precious lives that are out there and cheapen them, for the Lord not only died for them, but He will make them into His masterpiece!

            As I close this morning, let me leave you with this thought to think about. Paul tells us in II Timothy 3:16-17, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. The Amplified Bible puts these verses like this, Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of errorand discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God's will in thought, purpose, and action), So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work. You see, So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  Romans 10:17.  Thus, may we apply the Word of God by the Spirit of God to our lives as we learn to trust in the Lord and walk by faith!

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