At the end of Genesis 21 Abraham plants a tree, calls on the name of the Lord, and gives the Lord a new nickname. He does these things as an act of worship in response to the events of the chapter, which contains three seemingly loosely related stories of the life of Abraham. At first glance the stories don’t seem to have all that much of a common theme to them, except that the first two deal with two women and two sons and the last two stories deal with two wells, tying the stories together in theme. And to get at that theme this morning I want to tell you these three stories in full, so that you can appreciate what drive Abraham to worship in such a curious way of planting a tree and giving God a new name.
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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?
The personal journey of the apostle Paul begins in chapter 21 with Paul faced with a choice. You see, Paul knows precisely where the Spirit is leading him, yet all along the way strangers, friends, even his closest coworkers try to dissuade him from the path set before him. Even more difficult is that they seek to persuade him through so in very convincing, even spiritual means. And these first verses of chapter 21 are a bit foreign to us, a bit frightening to us, because they speak to a level of spiritual discernment, that quite frankly I don’t know how many of us would be well-prepared to sift through. What do you do when you believe the Spirit is telling you one thing, and everyone else - people you spiritually admire - is telling you something else?