Sam was three years ahead of me in high school. He was in my youth group at church. He came from a very broken family. Although things like this weren’t talked about openly back then, I’m pretty certain that Sam’s father sexually abused him and his siblings. I know Sam was abused verbally and physically. They lived in what was basically a junk yard of trash, old equipment, in a broken down trailer. Sam was a nice enough guy. He came to church; he made reasonably good choices for a teenager. But as he grew into a man he seemed to become his father all over again. I remember when he introduced me a few years later to his wife and son. I’ll always remember his honesty. He said “this is my wife and my little boy. Our first date was in the back seat of my 1975 dodge and 9 months later, well, here is ‘Jr’.” And from here, Sam made a series of decisions that were devastating.
God created us to share relationship with Him. But God didn’t force himself on us, instead he gave us the freedom to choose. Adam and Eve made their choice and sin entered into their story and ours.
Through a series of events, included a world-wide flood, God launches his plan to restore us, get us back, and the first thing He does is reveal his heart toward us as a Father. It’s the whole purpose of what God does through the building of a nation called Israel. He wants us to know Him and choose Him.
In Genesis 12 we see God’s choice for building, populating, this new nation when he chooses a man named Abram and his wife Sarai, whose names would later be changed to Abraham and Sarah.
Now, that’s all good and fine, except for a couple of small details. Abraham was 75 and his wife Sarah, 65 when God said this to Him. Not only were they past their prime parenting years, they couldn’t even have children due to Sarah’s infertility. On top of that, we later learn in Joshua 24:2 that Abrahams father Terah was not only an idol worshiper, but an Idol maker. Abraham comes from a family where God isn’t even the focus of their worship. Why would God choose these two? It is the same reason God has chosen you and me today to be His! “Long before God laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, he settled on us as the focus of his love.” (Ephesians 1:4)(MSG)
I want us to see through Abraham and Sarah 3 things that God reveals about Himself as the One who settled on us as the focus of His love, and how we can respond to that love.
First: God is a Father who reveals my true identity.
Emma came downstairs to my office at home Monday morning to tell me goodbye before leaving for pre-school. I met here half way and picked her up to hug her and tell her I love her and instead of hugging me back, she started squirming. We got to the top of the stairs and I asked her what was the matter. She said “I don’t like it when you do that.” Why? “It scares me when you carry me up the steps….”
“Leave your country, your people, your father’s household, everything that is familiar to you…. Look up at the stars in the sky – that’s how many children will come from you, you young 75 year old.” I don’t know about you, but for me, that would be a little bit scary.
The bible says this about God: “Your eyes saw my unformed body. (before I was born, you knew me) All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.. (you scheduled each day of my life before I began to breath)” (Psalm 139:16)(NIV)
Now, if you know God, that can be reassuring, but if all you know is brokenness, dysfunction. Or maybe it’s not that way for you at all. Maybe you know just the opposite, God has blessed you and you haven’t given him any credit for it. You are in your sweet spot and you feel like you’ve accomplished it all without God. Either way, accepting the reality that God is a Father who knows your identity better than you do at the moment is like me picking Emma up on the steps and even though I’ve got her, she isn’t so sure.
Genesis 15:6 says “Abram believed the Lord…..” and he went. He took his first step toward his new identity by saying yes to God. And here Abraham and Sarah discover this second truth about God’s identity as a Father.
God is a gracious Father who deserves my trust.
So Abraham has this meeting with God. God reveals this identity change to Abraham. Abraham believed the Lord, packs up his wife and belongings and off they go. I can see them, Abraham and his walker, Sarah and her hover round, on their way to…. well, they don’t really know where, God hasn’t told them that part.
You may not be in exactly the same situation that Abraham is in, but the situation is familiar isn’t it guys? Ladies? When you begin to accept the reality of God being this father who loves you, who has plans for your life, and those plans involve your family, your spouse, the people you work with, sometimes a different identity than the one you seemed to be born with. That’s the next hurtle isn’t it? Trusting that God is working out the details that you seem to have very little control over at the moment…. Or do you?
So much of our story, our aligning our life with God’s good and perfect plan for us, comes down to our willingness to believe that God will do what He said He would do when He chooses to do it. That His plan and timing are perfect.
Look at what happens in Abraham and Sarah’s faith journey next in Genesis 16. They believe God, but God seems to be taking a little too much time. Sarah begins to believe that God needs a little help. Ever do that? Ever try to speed God up a little. And so Sarah decides to move things along. The plan? Verse 1 “Now Sarah, Abraham’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abraham, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abraham is now approaching 100, and what we read in verse 2 is that “Abraham agreed to what Sarah proposed.” (now, Abraham should have known there would be trouble – but he had hardening of the arteries – he wasn’t thinking clearly – obviously. On a serious note, same problem as Adam. He should have protected his family, his wife and said no)
Now, there are a lot of details to what happens next but here is what we need to see right now. Abraham and Sarah came to the same fork in the road choice that we all eventually come to. The choice was – “do we take our lives and our future back or do we leave it in the hands of God?” But it runs deeper than that. Underneath Abraham and Sarah’s choice, was a choice to continue in the same manner their parents had lived or to break the chain and trust God and the identity that He had for Abraham and Sarah. And what we see is that Abraham and Sarah hadn’t yet broken the chain of the sin of their fathers….they weren't completely convinced that God was moving fast enough. And the consequences are still impacting the world today. Ishmael is born to Hagar and Ishmael becomes the father of the Arab and Muslim Nation. Isaac, who would later be born to Abraham and Sarah would be the father of the Jewish and Christian Nation and the two would never get along. 4000 years later, turn on the tv and you see Ishmael and Isaac not getting along and it all began right here in Genesis 16.
But Genesis 21:1 says that “God was gracious to Sarah and did for her what he had promised. She became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. And Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.”
God is a gracious father to you and I today, even when we sin… Even when we stumble in those fork in the road defining moments in our marriage, our child rearing, our purity, our recovery, our commitments, He is there to grant us mercy and grace. We and the people around us suffer the consequences – some which some to never go away like the consequences of Sarah and Abraham’s choice. But Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)(NIV)
I think many of us find ourselves here this weekend….. before the throne of God and we just can’t comprehend the grace. We can’t comprehend it because we struggle so much in not only granting it to others, but also to ourselves. Some of this comes from our upbringing…. It’s difficult to find that line between punishment and discipline. Many of us felt the pain of punishment but received very little discipline and it is in discipline that grace is revealed. Grace is driven by love. And it is in Love that God chose us to be the recipients of His grace, over and over again. Why would He love us that way? Because He wants the best for us. Everything He has done or will do He has done with your relationship with Him in mind. And I think it is here, we discover that He deserves our trust.
Romans Chapter 4, verse 18 makes this statement about Abraham after it is all said and done. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good and dead – since he was about a hundred years old and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” (Romans 4:18-21)(NIV)
And this is where we wrap things up this week. God is a Father who always keeps his promises.
Genesis Chapter 22, verse 1: “Sometime later, God tested Abraham.. (we know it is a test from the beginning, but Abraham doesn’t know this is a test at the time)…take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
Verse 3: “Early the next morning they head out together and in Verse 5 they arrive at the foot of this mountain and Abraham says to the servants. “You stay here and we will go and worship and we will return.” Notice the words… “we will worship and we will come back to you..”
Abraham doesn’t know what’s going to happen on that mountain, but he says “we will come back” “my son and I together”. He knew something about God. He knew that God is a promise keeper. Now, I'm pretty sure Abraham had no idea how God would work this situation out, but he knew he could trust God.
Verse 6, “As the two of them went together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “yes my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Can you imagine how difficult the discussion would be? Unfortunately, many of you can. My friend has heard the question from both of his boys – “why did mommy drown after getting me to safety?” Another friend hears from their daughter – “why does mommy hurt so much? Why is she sick? Why can’t she hold me right now?” Many of you parents have heard your children ask “why doesn’t mommy or daddy come to church with us? Why doesn’t daddy live here anymore? “Why is mommy so skinny and have needle marks on her arms?”
You know it’s one thing to trust God when it’s just you. But when family is involved, when people you care about or love are involved, it is extremely tough, unless they share your faith. It’s just a side note, but one that is always worth mentioning. Isaac could have resisted his father. Abraham is 100 +. Isaac is in his prime as a teenager. But Isaac accepts his father’s answer in verse 8 “God will provide the lamb for the burnt offering”. Isaac is taking his first steps in faith – trusting God even when it doesn’t make sense, believing God no matter what.
Verse 9. “When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an alter, bound his son, put him on the altar, drew his knife and as he was about to slay his son, the Angel of the Lord called out to have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a him from heaven. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns and took it and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide.”
And provide He did. Isaac grew up to marry Rebecca. They had a set of twins – Jacob and Esau. They have their own stories and their own set of struggles. But God continues to keep his promise to build a nation and reveal himself as the Father not only of that nation, but to all who would call on His name. To all who would accept His invitation for relationship with Him. 2 Corinthians 1:20 says “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)(NIV) Amen? "may it be in my life as you have said."
Our hope for you here at MCC can be summed up with 4 words. We believe this is God’s hope for you. That you Discover the God of the Bible, the one who wants you to call Him Father. That it is in this discovery that your true identity is revealed, that you know that you are a child of God, that you are the focus of his love. That you will Connect with others who share your discovery. His church is where we find out that we aren’t alone in the fork of the road choices. That you Grow. We have this saying, “Come as you are, but expect to be changed.” God wants you to know that you can trust Him and the only way to experience this is by saying yes to his Love, the love of a father that lives in us, a love that changes everything.
Remember Sam, the guy that was in my youth group? He went on to make many other fork in the road choices. He had three children of his own. He divorced their mother, he molested his boys and his boys molested their little sister. Today Sam drives around town in that same old dodge but a different woman, more lost that ever.
For Sam’s brother and sister, it’s a different story. They all came to that fork in the road where they had to choose. They chose the love of a heavenly Father, A good Father. Today, both families are committed to God and his church and have raised healthy children who serve in their community. One leads a successful recovery ministry, the other preaches at a church in the country. They made the choice. They were chain breakers. They both said Yes to God and His promises for their life and they discovered how One God can be such a good good father..
God invites you to do the same.