Theses two chapters concern the story of Sodom and Gomorah. Its one of those parts of the Bible the maybe you’ve avoided, particularly because we who live in Canada don’t know what to do with justice and judgement and wrath. Maybe we’re too polite. But judgement is a recurring theme in Genesis, from the warning taht in the day we would eat of the fruit of the tree we would die, to God wiping the earth clean in the flood, to the little phrases in Genesis 15 that foretold that God giving the land of Canaan over to the Israelites was also an act of judgement upon the people living there. It is really important to study out these passages and hear what they have to say, so that God’s character is not maligned, and our faith might not fail. Abraham asks God a very important question in this text: Should not the Judge of all the earth do right? This gets at the heart of the challenged posed by the newer movement of athiests: the challenge used to be that God was not true, now we here more often that God is unjust, a moral monster. God is immoral, therefore he is not true. This is exactly what Abraham is suggesting.
Have you ever had such a shock that you fell over? Fainted perhaps? Or ever been overcome with fear or anxiety that you collapsed? Or laughed so hard that you fell over? In this chapter, Genesis 17, Abram has an encounter with God that knocks him off his feet, not once, but twice. And it is a shocking encounter. In this encounter Abraham is shocked 1. That God reveals himself after 13 years, 2. That he will be a father of many nations, 3. That he will be assigned an awkward mark, 4. That Sarah will give birth to a son, and, 5. that Sarah’s son, Issac, will supplant Ishmael as the son of the promise.
In Genesis 16, Moses warns us that the potential to be the oppressor lay within us all. He does this by telling us Abram and Sarai's oppression of Hagar, their Egyptian maidservant, causing her to flee into the wilderness, just as the children of Abraham fled from their Egyptian oppressors. God reveals himself to Hagar in the wilderness through his angel, comforting her with the truth that He sees and hears her in her pain, before sending her back with a message to her oppressor that God also sees and hears them in their sin. The sermon concludes with a letter found at the Gospel Coalition Australia website of a word to perpetrators of domestic abuse (https://au.thegospelcoalition.org/article/a-letter-to-husbands-who-abuse-their-wives/).To understand this, story, I want to tell you another.
Tell the story of Israel’s oppression and God’s deliverance.
If Israel in the wilderness could go back and comfort the victims in their oppression, what truth would they desire them to understand? God hears. God sees.
If Israel in the wilderness could go back and confront their oppressor, what truth would they desire Pharaoh to understand. God hears? God sees.
We all have people that make promises but never come through. Maybe you’ve got that group of friends and that one guys says he’ll show up but never does, and pretty soon you just stop waiting on him. Now, what if that person is God?
It has been several years since Abram received the promises of God in Genesis 12. He has set out from Ur and Abram had travelled hundreds of miles, lost his father, survived famines, seen his relationship with his wife preserved when he should have lost her, separated from his his nephew who had been like a son to him, and watched that nephew drift further and further away until it was necessary to go after him with a small band of men and rescue him from the clutches of an army. At the same time he’s seen his household grow in wealth and in servants, set up alters to God in the land of promise, and made some key allies. God’s not been silent, but neither has life turned out the way Abram possibly expected it to. God’s been speaking to him for several years at this point, but really, what has God done? These years of God’s promises have produced no heir. Sarai is still barren. She was 65 when God called to Abram in Ur and she is not getting any younger. Abram has watched other children born to the servants in his household, yet he - the one to whom God has made the promise - remained childless. And it doesn’t really matter that God has blessed him with possessions and material goods, and allies and friends, for God has kept from him the one thing that he has promised, the one thing that Abram has desired, and it seems that Abram has nearly given up waiting on God.
And one night, while Abram settles into his tent outside of Hebron, Abram is visited by the Lord in a vision. While such visions are not unheard of to we who believe in God who reveals himself in such manner, what makes this vision unique is that Abram speaks back. And Abram does not just speak back to God, he pushes back, he presses God, calls Him out, saying in effect, God, I’m getting a little tired of you saying these things to me, but not really coming through on those promises. What are you actually doing here?
How and when to engage in the worlds battles. We are to be a people separated. To know when to engage in the battles around us takes a great deal of wisdom. Those from the political right and the political left want to drag us in to their battles. The world ever rages around us. What are some of the ways that the world rages around us, they all ultimately have to do with power.
Genesis 14 contains an account of this first and great war of the Valley of Siddom, as a continuing example of a great theme of Genesis: that the inhabitants of the world, having severed their ties with their Creator, rage against one another in cycles of violence and oppression. Chapter 13 ends with Abram settling by the oaks of Mamre, peaceful in worship, and we will find halfway through this chapter that Abram is living a life of peace and prosperity so that his household has continued to expand, yet during this period of peace in Abram’s life, the world is raging around him.
All in Christ have a calling to fulfill. So many people live live of purposelessness. If the universe is silent, if we are only here as a result of a random assortment of atoms colliding, if the human soul is an illusion generated by the firing of our brain, and no judge awaits after death, then its very difficult to scrape meaning and purpose out of the years of our lives. Yet there is a God, and therefore you’re not a mistake, you have soul, and a purpose to carry out.
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
We all have a calling. Not just pastor and missionaries. As Christians we are liked Abram, “blessed to be a blessing.” Yet like Abram, sometimes we may feel like we have squandered our calling, not lived a life worthy of our calling, made too many mistakes, wandered away from God, and now we don’t know if we can get back, or how to get back, or if God will accept us back. What do we do when we feel like we have lost our way?
Were starting a new series today, Patriarchs: the Faith and Failings of our Fathers.
I see a four-fold rationale for why this study will be beneficial to our church.
- Many in our church and culture suffer from “father wounds” - emotional or psychological distress stemming from the failings of parental figures in their lives. It is all too common to point to the past failings of others as being either an excuse for present behaviour, or to be determinative of future destiny, rather than to soberly examine how God has used both the good and wicked actions of our fathers to bring about His plan in our lives. This is a call to faithfulness rather than victimhood.
- Many parents in our congregation suffer from the fear that we will mess up our children’s lives or the guilt that we already have. Although God does not excuse wickedness and calls us to repentance of that which is wicked, we can be encouraged in our repentance that God will even use our failings as parents to bring out his purposes. In short, we can learn from the positive and negative examples in scripture, even while trusting God to bring good out of our failings.
- I have not preached through Old Testament Narrative for some time and thus it is my hope that through this series our congregation will be better equipped to understand how to read, study and teach the Old Testament narrative.
- We will grow in our appreciation of the glorious grace of our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ who is able to “draw straight lines from crooked sticks” through the providential working of His will in us.
Theological Rationale for Sermon Series: The book of Genesis ends with a statement that well sums up the theme of the book: the words of Joseph to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” The Book of Genesis is an account not only of the “precious and very great promises” God has made to mankind, but also the providential outworking of those promises through the faith and the failings of the family line of Abraham. Although the sermon series will highlight the faith and failings of our fathers, the theological principle underlying every sermon will be God’s providential outworking of his plan through these imperfect and at time corrupted vessels.
Welcome to Easter! This is the day that we celebrate that Jesus is alive! We make the unbelievable claim that Jesus lives. This is really what the while fo the sermon series has been building toward - for you can use the ancient and reliable sources to establish that Jesus really was a historical figure, you can read those sources and find that the thing Jesus was most noted for and disposed for was not his good works or his good teachings, but that his most notable claim was a claim that he made about himself, that he was divine, the only unique Son of God, and you can study both medical and historical accounts of the crucifixion and determine that there is no way that a man could survive the ordeal that is described in the historical records, and you could conclude with historian Gerd Ludemann (who happens to be an atheist) that “Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable”. Yet it is this last question - did Jesus really rise from the dead, that makes all the difference in the world.
Why is this even a question? Everyone dies. Death has a 100% success rate. Of course when we ask this question, we’re usually not asking “Did Jesus Really Die?” but, “Did Jesus Really Die at the hands of the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate on the day that we celebrate as Good Friday? Even then, one might say, why ask this question? After all, we have multiple early accounts of some of the most accurate and respected historians of the ancient world that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified during the reign of Tiberius under Pontius Pilate.
Generally speaking, when we have multiple, credible, consistent sources bearing witness to a fact such as the time and place and manner of a persons death, we tend to accept those sources unless there is significant reason to doubt the evidence. So why is the death of Jesus even in question?
The record of Jesus’ death is doubted by some because of two historical facts that have aroused great interest from nearly all who probe into the life of Jesus. The first is that Jesus’ body is never found, even by those who would have had knowledge of its location and motive to find it. And the second is that multiple people, both those who were followers of him during his life and those who were opposed to him during his life, claim to have had vivid encounters with him after he was supposed to have died; some of these encounters occurring in groups settings with multiple witnesses. Now obviously, the Christian explanation of these two facts is that Jesus really did die, really was buried, and then, to everyone’s astonishment, really and truly rose from the dead, leaving the empty tomb behind and revealing himself to a select group of people. Obviously, for many people, the idea that Jesus actually raised from the dead is so unbelievable that in searching for a more reasonable explanation, some find that the most plausible explanation is that Jesus did not in fact die at all, but that people only thought that he had died, which would explain not only the empty tomb, but also the appearances. So how do we go about establishing that Jesus’ death really occurred?
Did Jesus Really Claim to be God? This question flows out of the question we asked last week, because some people will grant that Jesus the man really lived, but that he perhaps lived as a itinerant teacher or a social trouble-maker, but that was it, and only decades after his death the myth of Jesus’ deity grew. It is sometimes claimed that Jesus would roll over in his grave if he found out that people were worshipping him as God. And so that is the next important question - did Jesus himself, really claim to be God? This is important, as one New Testament and ancient Judaism scholar, Brant Pitre, suggests:
The answer to this question has enormous historical and theological implications. If Jesus did not think he was God, then one of the central claims of Christianity, indeed, argueably the central claim - that the one true God became man in Jesus of Nazareth - comes crashing to the ground. But if Jesus did speak and act as if he were the one God, then we are forced to make a decision. Either he was a liar who knew he was just a man but spoke as if he were divine; or he was a lunatic who thought he was God but was grossly mistaken; or he was who he claimed to be - the one true God come in person. (“Case for Jesus: the Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ”, Pitre, 119)