Cultivating a Life of Faith:  A Man of Obedience – Genesis 21.22-34 (Pt 12)

It seems apparent that the Abimelech is very powerful.  He controls Gerar, and he has his own commander of his own army.  He acknowledges that the presence of God is with Abraham and that God is blessing him.  But he is also aware of Abraham’s penchant toward dishonesty, Abraham’s power rivaling his own, and the need for both of them to peacefully coexist.

Abraham promised that he would live at peace with Abimelech, but there remained a difficulty between them that needed to be cleared up.  A well of water had been seized from Abraham by the servants of Abimelech.  Abimelech claims he didn’t know about it until that very day when it was finally brought to his attention.

Then something very strange seems to happen.  It seems unusual for Abraham to give sheep and oxen to Abimelech before the covenant is made.  Clearly Abimelech was in the wrong.  Yet Abraham gives seven ewe lambs to Abimelech for a well that was already his in a land that was given to him by God.

It just seems Abraham would live as a nomad in a land that was rightfully his and never personally realize the promise of receiving it.  He would have it only through the eyes of faith.  Which appears to be enough for him.  He plants a tamarisk tree, and calls on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.

Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive via his descendants and not receive personally.  “By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents …he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11.8-10).

Think back to the beginning of our study of Abraham’s life.  God found him in Ur of the Chaldees.  He commanded him to leave that country, his family, and all familiar to him for a land that God would show him but not give him personally (Genesis 12.1).  What makes this so amazing is that Abraham didn’t even know where he was going.  If Abraham was my brother, I’d tell him he was crazy.  I’d also be hurt and wonder why he’d forsake me and our family and all the while not even know where he was going.  But Abraham went; he obeyed.  No complaints.

Now God does not leave Abraham without hope.

“I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12.2-3)

Abraham believed in the Everlasting God…

[W]ho gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.  He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Romans 4.18-21).

Abraham traveled to a land of promise in a foreign country.  He had Sarah.  He had Lot for a little while.  He left his father and brother in Haran.  But he never found a permanent home in this promised land.  He was always the stranger in this land.  Buying wells that were his.  Coexisting with rulers that shouldn’t be ruling.  He looked for a city with foundations …a city whose builder and maker is God. “Here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Hebrews 13.14).  The eternal hope and promise led to Abraham’s eternal rest.  Isaac and Jacob were heirs with him of the same promise.  The favor and blessing of God in this life and the next was the anchor of Abraham’s hope.

We tie Hebrews 11.8-10 to Genesis 21.22-34 very appropriately.  We are not asked to leave our family, our country, and all that is familiar to us in the way Abraham did.  However, there are two very clear parallels.  We serve the same Everlasting God and live the same everlasting life.

Everlasting God

God is the Everlasting God; therefore, He has all authority over me.  I don’t see Abraham arriving at his decision through some kind of consensus.  Once he knew the will of God, he obeyed the will of God.  So the real question for us is, “Why are we trying to explain away clear Scriptural commands?”  If we trust in the Everlasting God, we obey the Everlasting God.

We want the fulness of God; therefore, we must obey the will of God.  Jesus said that we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him.  We must do this daily.  We shouldn’t ask, “Well, Lord, how far do you expect us to go with this self-denial thing?”  We dare not complain about the weight of our crosses.  However heavy it is, God will strengthen us to carry it.  Our will is do His will.  The goal is that our love for our Lord is so deep that our relationships to family, and even our own lives, seem like hate in comparison.

Everlasting Life

Set your affections on above things.  Set your eyes on a continuing city.  Abraham never personally realized the promise concerning the land, but his seed will.  Abraham reached the heavenly city.  No earthly possession could compare to everlasting life.  Our hope is tied to the coming of Christ, who is our life.  It is not so much the destination as it is the quality of life He gives to us.  It is everlasting life.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4.17-18)

It matters not what I have here in the material, temporal world.  As a matter of fact, God may ask me to give up what I have here.  We must be a people joyfully accepting the plundering of our goods, knowing that we have a better and an enduring possession for ourselves in heaven (Hebrews 10.34).  So we live as fellow-travelers here, and find rest only in eternity.  This is everlasting life from the Everlasting God.

Are you submitting to the Everlasting God?

Jewish Pharisees once proclaimed that Abraham was their father.  Jesus responded, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham” (John 8.39).  But the Pharisees were not cultivating a life of faith with God.  So, it is a fair question for all of us to confront:  “Are we cultivating a life of faith as Abraham did?”  Remember that Abraham is the father of many nations.  He is “the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised” (Romans 4.12).

What authority does the Everlasting God have when it comes to His words preserved for us in the Scriptures?  Do you seek to submit to His authority through the indwelling Holy Spirit?  Do you follow His leading?  Are walking in the steps of faith?  Is it your will to do His will?

Perhaps the world itself crowds into your life and steals away your allegiance to the Lord Jesus.  If you belong to Jesus Christ, you are in this world but not of it.  Jesus prayed to the Father, “They are not of this world, just as I am not of this world” (John 17.16).  “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2.15-16).  We ought to despise that which enslaves and energizes our world.  We ought to find it wholly unsatisfying to live for the world.  Friendship with the world is committing spiritual adultery on God.  It makes us at enmity with the God who gave us peace.  “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4.4).

We walk in the steps of faith by coming out from among those who are of the world and becoming separate from them (2 Corinthians 6.17).  If we fail to stand against the infiltration of the world in our lives, there is the great danger of conformity to it instead of the transformation to Christlikeness by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12.2).  “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6.14).

Are you really walking in the steps of faith?  What about your children?  Are you content when it comes to your example of cultivating a life of faith before them?  Do they see you submitting to the Everlasting God and living everlasting life?  Walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5.7).

But it is only children of our Heavenly Father who walk by faith.  If you are not sons and daughters of God …if you are not walking in the steps of Abraham’s faith, then perhaps you have another father, namely the devil.  This is what Jesus said of the religious Pharisees.  He declared to those who refused the authority of His word:  “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” (John 8.44).  If you abide in Christ then you must “walk just as He walked” (1 John 2.6).  Are you submitting to the Everlasting God?

Are you living everlasting life?

Abraham’s faith led to Abraham’s justification before God.  It is the same for us.  We are justified before God by faith.  Our trust in the Father leads to the outworking of righteousness that we already have in the Son enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit.  These works of righteousness are Christ at work in and through us, but we are not passive.  We are working because He is first working.  So when Paul says that we are to work out our own salvation, he means that we ought to be producing fruit from righteousness that we already have.  We must live an eternal quality of life.  We are children of God by faith.  We live to glorify God by faith.

But we do not shelter ourselves from the world.  If we did, how would the world see the righteousness of Jesus Christ?  Our faith is in Christ’s precious blood as the propitiation for our sins, and not our sins only but also for the sins of the whole world.  Faith truly is the victory that overcomes the world.  Our obedience does not provide eternal life.  Eternal life is a free gift of God made available through the work of Jesus Christ.  It is His perfect redemptive work that saves.  By His death, our sins are gone.  Through His resurrection life, we have the righteousness of God.  Therefore, let us live righteous lives for the glory of God!

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