Abraham: A Journey of Faith: Go with A Name You Can Trust

Now rejoice with those who said unto me, let us go up to the house of the Lord for worship Amen Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, Apple or Android? Jeep Wrangler or Toyota 4Runner? CenturyLink or Suddenlink? Which name brands do you trust? Well you trust the brands that will deliver reliability In fact, you even willingly pay extra for that reliability You go with a name that you can trust In our ongoing sermon series about Abraham and following his journey of faith, we’re going to learn together this morning that we, too, will want to go with a name that we can trust on this journey of faith Listen to the words of our text as they’re recorded in Genesis. Chapter 17, So far, our text. So where are we at in our journey of faith with Abraham?

Well, last week we heard how Abraham or Abram and Sarai, as they were still known at this time, made a mess of things when they tried taking a shortcut They thought they needed to help God fulfill the promise where God had said that Abram and Sarai would have many descendants, and yet they had no children yet, so Sarai came up with this idea, which was only the tradition and custom of the day She gave to Abram her servant Hagar, and said, sleep with her and any child that is conceived, I will adopt as my own When the servant Hagar found out that she was pregnant, she despised, she looked down on her mistress And this caused Sarai to react poorly, so poorly that Hagar thought the best thing to do would be to run away This pregnant girl decided it would be better to run across a barren desert back to Egypt But the angel of the Lord, who was actually God himself, intercepted Hagar and said, Hagar, I know what’s going on I see and I will be with you But you need to go back, go back to Sarai To her credit, Hagar did In time she gave birth to a son whom she named Ishmael Today’s text takes place 13 years later Ismael is now a 13 year old And by this time, Abram may have been thinking to himself, well, maybe God has finally changed his mind Maybe he’s going to build a family through Ishmael But that wasn’t God’s promise God had said very clearly time and time again, no, Abram, it will be you and Sarai who I will make into a great family And so God appeared again to set matters straight He said to Abram, I am God Almighty, walk before me faithfully and be blameless Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers It’s a little hard to tell in the English translation, but we were just introduced to a new name for God Last Sunday, we heard how Hagar called God, El Roi, which means the God who sees me And indeed God was watching Hagar and saw everything that was going on and he was concerned But now, when God appeared to Abram, he introduced himself in another way, he said, I am El Shaddai That means I am God Almighty Why would God, at this point in Abram’s life, introduce himself as God Almighty? Well, think of the situation The Apostle Paul said of Abraham and Sarah, Abraham’s body was as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old and that Sarah’s womb was also dead And yet God appears to say, I am God Almighty I’m about to do something that seems inconceivable I’m going to give to you and to Sarai a son The God who had spoken whole galaxies into existence, would this be a difficulty for him, to give an almost one hundred year old man and an almost ninety year old woman, a child? This was no problem for God Almighty, or El Shaddai What comfort does the name Al Shaddai give to you this morning? Have you perhaps been praying for a loved one who is sick, praying that God will heal that individual? Or are you praying that God will stretch the budget and the paycheck this month so that you can make ends meet? You’re praying to El Shaddai, God Almighty, who can do that and so much more So what are you to think when he delays a response to your prayer? Well isn’t that what he had been doing with Abram and Sarai?

In all, they would have to wait twenty five years before God fulfilled that promise to give them a son What was he up to during those twenty five years? He was training Abram and Sarai to trust in him, not in their own plan And God does the same thing with us as well He’s not always quick to answer our prayers with a yes because he wants us to keep relying on him instead of on our efforts But what about when El Shaddai, God Almighty, answers our prayers with a no, the loved one that you are praying will be healed, doesn’t recover Does God not care? Of course he does, he’s El Roi, the God who sees you and he knows your circumstances Well maybe he cares, but perhaps there’s some things that he can’t do anything about No, this is El Shaddai, God Almighty When God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we would like, one thing that we should be reminded of is that we live in a sin fallen world When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, they introduced the poison into this world, which has infected us all, and it’s slowly killing each one of us So why doesn’t God do something about it? Well he has, in the person of his son, Jesus, who came into the world to absorb that poison to himself You might think of Jesus in that way like a clean sponge that you take to wipe off that oil that dripped onto the garage floor The sponge becomes dirty, but that spot is now clean Jesus absorbed our sins Died our death Served our sentence in hell that we may be left clean And so while it’s important that we pray for family members who are sick, what’s even more important? That we pray for their faith We pray that God would give us the words, the courage, to share with them so that even though they may be facing death, they know that through Jesus, death is nothing to be feared because their sins have been taken care of But let’s get back to Abram and his conversation with God To bind himself even more tightly to that promise he had made to Abram, God said this Your name will no longer be Abram, which means exalted father, but Abraham, father of many Do you suppose that Abraham went out and changed his business cards right away? What would the reaction of his business associates be when he handed out that new business card and he said, oh, no, don’t call me Abram anymore, I’m Abraham, the father of many You can imagine the reaction as his business associates stood before this almost one hundred year old who had no children Was Abraham delusional, a bit like that rookie athlete who enters into the NFL or the NBA and he not only buys himself a nice sports car, but he gets these personalized license plates, which say MVP, even though he hasn’t played a game in the league A guy like that is setting himself up for ridicule, especially when he doesn’t deliver on his boast Is that what Abraham was in danger of doing as he told people about his new name? No, because Abraham knew and trusted that he was the servant of El Shaddai This was a name that he could trust This was God Almighty And if he had promised to do the inconceivable, he could do it As if to up the ante, God continued to say to Abraham, and your wife will no longer be Serai, but Sarah Both Sarai and Sarah seem to mean princess, but the spelling change would have reminded the couple of this other facet of God’s promise He had not only said, Abraham and Sarah, you’re going to have a son, and from that son, you’ll have many descendants

God also repeated in the text that we read that from those descendants would come kings, royalty, including the King of Kings, Jesus their Savior How did Abraham react to the news? Well, first of all, he put his nose in the dust He was overwhelmed at God’s generosity and he felt humbled How could it be that the God Almighty, who has so many other things to think about, would come again to reiterate the promise that he had made? Another reaction was that Abraham laughed to himself He laughed and he said, will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety? This was not a laughter of scorn, as if he doubted God’s promise This was a laughter of delight, the same way you laugh when you stick your hand in your coat pocket that you haven’t worn for a season and you find a twenty dollar bill there God, too, was amused at Abraham’s reaction, and he added this yes, and your son’s name will be Isaac, which means what? Laughter God wasn’t done with Abraham yet, though He went on to say, you are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you For the generations to come, every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant By now, on our journey of faith with Abraham, you should realize that our God never deals with his people on the basis of minimums He’s already come again to reassure Abraham of the promise that he has made and he has now changed Abraham’s name so that every time someone called him, he would be reminded of that promise But now God goes even further We already saw how he did this two weeks ago when Abraham was doubting whether or not he would really have a son and God said him to what? Let’s put this into writing, let’s make this a legally binding promise And remember what he told Abraham to do? Go get those animals, a cow, a ram, a goat, split them in half, we’re going to make a blood covenant You remember how that covenant was signed, only God walked between the carcasses, it was a one way covenant, God was saying, Abraham, this depends on me fulfilling the promise You’re just the recipients of all the blessings Well, now, with this thing about circumcision, God was doing something similar You see, when you go to the lawyer’s office or when you go to a government agency to get an official piece of paper, some document that you need to assure everyone that is genuine, there’s often that raised seal on it It’s a visible reminder that this thing is real It’s genuine God now was going to give a seal to Abraham regarding his promise, only this seal would not crinkle a piece of paper, it would mark Abraham, a tattoo of sorts, that very few people would see But why circumcision? God never explains why he chose that as a seal of his grace, but maybe his point was this, Abraham, it’s time to cut away from yourself all reliance on your way of doing things I am going to give you a descendant, because I promise This sign of grace was not just for Abraham, it was for every male in his household and every one of Abraham’s descendants, beginning with eight day old babies In fact, if anyone would not be circumcised, God went as far as saying this, that they would be cut off from his people, he has broken my covenant It’s not unlike what would happen if a woman rejects the marriage proposal from some guy

When she walks away from that proffered ring, she’s saying, I don’t want your attention, I don’t want your love, I don’t want anything that you would have to offer me Now leave me alone It’s one thing for a woman to say that to a man, but it’s quite another thing for sinners to say that to their God I don’t want your attention I don’t want your love I don’t want anything that you have to offer me Leave me alone And of course, God’s response would be, have it your way, which is the worst thing that God could ever say to us This is how serious circumcision was It was a seal of God’s grace, and to reject it was to say, I don’t want your grace God God has replaced circumcision with another seal of his grace, baptism Baptism is an outward sign that God has done and is doing work inside our hearts Through baptism, God does offer us the forgiveness of sin And this is not just for adults, it’s for everyone of all ages Just as eight day old baby boys were to be brought to be circumcised, God wants us to bring our infants to the Lord to be baptized And it’s not a waste of time because also in baptism, they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, whose job is what? To create faith in hearts, not just in the hearts of adults, but also in the hearts of infants And through baptism we also have received a name change, haven’t we? We were once enemies of God, but through baptism, God calls us his children Do we always live up to that new name? We don’t, do we? We continue to hold grudges, we speak poorly of others, we focus on the things of this world instead of the glories of heaven And then we make excuses for these by saying, well, what do you expect? I’m a sinner It’s true, that’s the way that you were, but in baptism, you were changed You’re now a saint God is your father, and heaven is your home I want to encourage you brothers and sisters, to learn these three statements and every morning when you get up to remind yourself of these truths, I am baptized and therefore I’m a saint What does that mean? That you are forgiven for the sake of Jesus But you’re not only forgiven as a saint, you also have the power to live as God wants you to live You don’t have to keep holding that grudge, you can be patient Oh, I’m not saying that as a saint, you’ll stop sinning, that’ll never happen this side of heaven But through baptism, God has gifted us with the Holy Spirit, who does empower us to live as God wants us to live So even though you can’t trust yourself to be patient in a difficult situation, remember who you’re traveling this journey of faith with, El Shaddai, God Almighty, and that’s a name you can trust A name who through baptism has given you this virtue of Christian patience and love and grace What did Abraham do after God finished speaking with him? Our text tells us on that very day, Abraham took his son Ishmael, and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household and circumcised them, as God told him Don’t you love Abraham’s immediate and complete obedience? But did it really make sense? I mean, circumcision, that’s a minor surgery that is going to leave all the men, all the boys of Abraham’s camp incapacitated

Would it really be wise, who is going to look after the sheep, who would guard the camp against raiders? Abraham didn’t worry about that because he was traveling with a name that he could trust, El Shaddai, God Almighty, would take care of those things His business was to obey And he did so completely and immediately Fellow believers, how does your faith compare to Abraham? Is your obedience complete and immediate? What about that grudge you’ve been holding on to? What about that addiction you’ve been meaning to get some help for? Stop making excuses and remember that you are not traveling this journey alone, you do so with El Shaddai, God Almighty He will equip you to do that which needs to be done I started this sermon by asking whether you’re an Apple or Android fan And you Apple fans out there, the reason that I often hear you give for while you’re an Apple fanatic is because, well, the iPhones are so sleek and they’re user friendly But even the most ardent iPhone fan would have to admit that they’re not perfect There’s things that go wrong with them There’s things that aren’t quite the way you would like them to be But we have come across a name today that we can trust with absolute certainty, El Shaddai He is the God Almighty who can do anything and in fact, he is the God who has done everything for you To prepare heaven and to prepare you for works of service Keep traveling with him Amen