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?
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.
How can God be just while justifying sinners? this is the question of the reformation. Remember the misery Martin Luther experienced as a monk trying to attain a righteousness greater than the scribes and pharisees.
Luther found his answer as he studied the book of Romans. The book of Romans is basically an extended sermon, in which the apostle Paul unpacks for his readers that phrase in the prophets, “The Just Shall Live By Faith
Today we’re looking at a second truth to fix our life on, namely, salvation by grace alone. Ephesians 2:1-4 is one of the most beautiful passages of scripture. It speaks of our complete hopelessness in our state without God - we were dead, we were completely lost following the ways of this world and the desires of our flesh, under the influence of Satan and under the wrath of God. And you have that great contradiction in verse 14: But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, made us alive together - and the entirety of our hope is summed up at the end of verse 5: by grace you have been saved. What a passage! What a promise! What more needs to be said? We can go home!
Yet the powerful truth the resounded out of the reformation was not merely “salvation by grace” but “salvation by grace alone”, and so all week I’ve been trying to understand, what difference does that little word make? and does that little word still matter? And if it does still matter, what does that mean for us?