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Trusting the God for Whom Nothing Is Too Hard

September 2, 2018 Speaker: Mitchel Kirchmeyer Series: Genesis: Beginning the Journey Home

Passage: Genesis 17:1– 18:15

God asks us to be and do what is impossible without him.

I grew up out in the country in northern WI and we had lots of land. With lots of land comes lots of chores. My dad would give my sister and I jobs to do each day. Some jobs were pretty easy: weed the garden, pick the raspberries, trim the weeds around the trees, mow the lawn. Those would take time, but we knew how to do them and we knew we could do them. Then there were others that were really difficult: dig a 50 yard trench from the downspout on the house to the pond to put a corrugated pipe in for when it rains, stain the deck. One of the worst jobs was rock picking. If you have never experienced rocking picking, you don’t want to, unless you are a fan of bending over for hours to pick up rocks and throw them into the woods. My dad liked making little fields of clover in the woods for deer and he liked making roads to get around easy so every time he made one, we had to go pick all the rocks out of the field or the road. But it wasn’t only once. He would always dig up the field or grade the road multiple times and there were always more rocks.

My sister and I still remember one of the hardest jobs my dad ever gave her. We had this field near our house that was probably about the size of a baseball field. The only problem was that it was completely overgrown by yellow rocket - a really tough and tall weed. He gave my sister the chore of pulling ALL the yellow rocket out of the field. My sister went out and after several hours, my dad went to go check on her progress. After hours, she had cleared an area maybe about half the size of this room. My dad was very kind to say, “You know what, this is way too hard. You don’t have to do this.” That memory sticks in my sister’s head because the job was just so overwhelming. She was working hard and long but barely made any progress.

We’ve all had situations where we have been asked to do hard things and sometimes even things that seemed beyond our ability to do. How does it feel when someone asks you to do something that is beyond your ability to do?

Series Introduction
This evening we are continuing our series called Beginning the Journey Home in the book of Genesis after a two week break. As we follow the life of Abram, we heard right at the start in Genesis 12 that God is going to bring blessing back to the world through Abram and his family. But we have also seen that both Abram and his wife, Sarai, don’t have it all together. They are a mixed bag of faith and doubt, of obedience and disobedience, of trusting God and trying to do it their own way. And yet, God sticks with them. Their unbelief, sin, and mistakes don’t cancel God’s plan for them.

Sermon Introduction
Throughout Abram and Sarai’s story, a key issue for them is the fact that Sarai is barren so they have no children and yet God keeps telling them, “I am going to make you into a great nation. Your descendants will be like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.” God made that promise to Abram when he was 75 years old. In the passage we covered last week, Abram was 85 years old and they still didn’t have a child. In our passage this week, Abram is 99 years old. They have been waiting 24 years for God to fulfill his promise! We get impatient with God after a week sometimes! God makes it clear that he will keep his promise. But at this point, it seems impossible to both of them.

This week we aren’t doing a big question. We are doing a big idea that we will unpack as we go through this passage. The big idea for this passage is this: God asks us to be and do what’s impossible without him. God asks us to be and do what’s impossible without him.

We are going to cover this passage in two parts. The first part focuses on Abram and the second focuses on Sarai. Let’s look at part one in chapter 17, verses 1 through 15.

Abram to Abraham (Genesis 17:1-15)

Let’s reread verses 1 and 2:

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” (Genesis 17:1-2)

Again, Abram is 99 years old. It’s been 24 years since God promised him a child and yet Sarai has still not become pregnant. We can assume that Abram and Sarai are still doing their part by trying to get pregnant, but God has not yet given them a child.

Here, at 99 years old, God introduces himself to Abram for the first time with, “I am God Almighty.” He reminds Abram that he has all might, he is all powerful, he is all sufficient. Abram is going to need to remember that in a few moments.

Next, God calls Abram to walk before him and be blameless that he make make his covenant with Abram and multiply him greatly. “Walking with God” is a common expression in the Bible. We already saw it used with Enoch in Genesis 5 and Noah in Genesis 6. God is asking Abram to walk with him in a relationships - to commit to him, to love him, to obey him, to trust him. And he wants him to be blameless. Just like Noah walked with God and was blameless and God used Noah, God wants Abram to walk with him and be blameless so that he can use Abram. God wants Abram to live of a life of loving him and loving other people that has no blemish or spot of sin on it.

Now you may be wondering, “Whoa, that sounds pretty hard. Be blameless? That sounds like God is asking him to be perfect. That sounds impossible!” And you may even remember back to Genesis 15 where God first made a covenant with Abram and he took full responsibility for fulfilling the covenant. We saw God’s amazing grace in that passage because he was going to give Abram a land and his very own son whether Abram deserved it or not. But doesn’t this contradict that? Now God is saying that Abram has to obey him and be blameless so that God can make his covenant with him? What’s the deal?

Genesis 15 expressed God’s side of the covenant relationship and Genesis 17 expresses God’s expectations for those in covenant relationship with him. Think of God’s covenants as one coin but two sides: privileges and responsibilities. There are immense privileges given by God totally from his grace - we don’t deserve them, we could never earn them. But then he also gives us responsibilities - he calls us to love him above all else and love others as ourselves. He calls us to obey him and submit to him. He calls us to surrender all of life to him.

Does this earn us the privileges? No. The privileges are a gift given out of his grace and generosity. But every relationship has something for both parties to do. God calls himself our King and our Father. If you are part of a King’s kingdom, that comes with both privileges and responsibilities. He is your King! So you submit to him and obey him. If you are part of a Father’s family, that comes with both privileges and responsibilities. He is your Father! So you submit to him and obey him.

But what happens when we fail to fulfill our responsibilities? What happens when we fail to obey God all the time? What happens when we aren’t righteous or blameless? What happens when we fail to walk with him and we wander? Or you could ask: what happens when our life looks like Abram and Sarai’s? A mixed bag of faith and doubt, of obedience and disobedience, of trusting God and trying to do it their own way? How does God respond to them? The answer is: with grace. God continually gives them what they do not deserve. God is eager to forgive us. God is eager to wash us clean of our sins. God is eager to wrap us in his arms when we come running back to him. God is eager to pour his undeserved, unconditional, unearned love out on us. Unconditional does not mean God doesn’t expect anything from us. It means that our failures to obey do not jeopardize our relationship with God.

Abram and Sarai’s lives show us that God is in the business of redeeming and restoring our brokenness. God enters into relationship with people whom he knows will fail and need help. Look at Abrams life. Isn't that how yours looks? And look how God remains committed to him and eager to bless him and reassure him and comfort him. That's what he wants to do for you.

The big idea for this passage is this that: God asks us to be and do what’s impossible without him.

It’s impossible for us to be blameless and righteous in God’s sight. We will never have an unblemished record with no sin or selfishness or disobedience. Remember in Genesis 15. When was Abram counted righteous? When he believed God! God gives us a spotless record out of his grace when we trust in him. He credits us with blamelessness as a gift receive through faith.

How does Abram respond to God’s introductory words? Verse 3 says:

3 Then Abram fell on his face. (Genesis 17:3a)

Abram responds by worshiping God in awe, reverence, humility, and surrender. How often do you fall on your face before God? We need to be people who respond to God Almighty by falling on our face before him, bowing down to him as our Creator, Father, and King.

Then God says in verse 4:

4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. (Genesis 17:4-5)

Again, we hear the big idea: God asks us to be and do what’s impossible without him. Abram is 99 years old. He’s been trying to have kids for a long time with Sarai and still doesn’t have any. But now God changes his name to Abraham, which means “father of a multitude.” That isn’t even true of Abram yet! But God gives him the name anyway. The reality is that he can’t be a father of a multitude without God. It’s impossible without God. God makes that clear in verse 6 when he says:

6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:6-8)

Whereas God told Adam and Noah to be fruitful and multiply, God tells Abram I will make you exceedingly fruitful. In verse 5 he said I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. God is going to do make this true of Abraham.

In verses 9 through 14, God instructs Abraham regarding circumcision. This was a common practice for others in Abraham’s time but God takes it and makes it a symbol of his relationship with Abraham. It’s similar to wearing a ring. Anyone can wear a ring on their finger. But putting a ring on a certain finger on someone else’s hand symbolizes you are married to them. God wants them to practice circumcision as a sign of their relationship with him. Jesus changed the ritual to baptism for those who trust in him.

From this focus on Abraham, next Sarai comes into focus.

Sarai to Sarah (Genesis 17:15-18:15)

Let’s reread verses 15 to 16:

15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” (Genesis 17:15-16)

Sarai gets a name change as well. Both mean “princess” but God changes her name to signify her changed future. Last week we saw how Sarah gave her maidservant, Hagar, to Abraham when she was impatient waiting on God. Hagar became pregnant and for thirteen years now, they have perhaps thought that her son, Ishmael, was the child that God had promised. Now God says specifically that Sarah will have a son. Look at Abraham’s respond in verse 17:

17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” (Genesis 17:17-18)

This time Abraham doesn’t fall on his face in worship, humility, and surrender. He falls on his face and laughs. “God, I’m a hundred years old and Sarah is ninety years old. How could we possibly have a baby now? Please let Ishmael be the promised child.” God responds in verse 19:

19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation.21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.” (Genesis 17:19-21)

Ishmael will be blessed, but the son born from Sarah will be the one with whom God will continue his plan of blessing for the world.

God tells Abraham his son will be named “Isaac.” Isaac means “he laughs.” When Abraham fell on his face, he “Isaaced” in Hebrew. His son will be named Isaac to remember that God Almighty did the impossible for him. God tells him that about this time next year, Sarah will be pregnant. After God finished talking, Abraham circumcised Ishmael and all the males in his household in obedience to God’s command.

Chapter 18 starts a new scene. God appears to Abraham again while he is sitting in his tent in the heat of the day. God has two angels with him and it seems that Abraham doesn’t realize that this is God at first. He shows generous hospitality, a key mark of good character for the Middle East. He offers the three visitors a rest under the tree, water for their feet, and a little bread. But then he cooks them a whole feast!

It becomes clear that God has visited Abraham when he starts talking about Sarah in verse 9. God asks, “Where is Sarah your wife?” Abraham says, “She is in the tent." Then the LORD repeats his words from before in verse 10:

“I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:10b)

It goes on:
And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.” (Genesis 18:10c-15)

Sarah is listening and responds the same way as Abraham: she laughs at the thought of being pregnant. She’s old. Her monthly cycles of stopped. Now that she is worn out is she to believe she will be pregnant next year?

God address Abraham then Sarah and goes straight to the heart of the matter with this powerful question in verse 14: is anything too hard for the Lord? Is anything too hard for the Lord? Is anything too hard for the Lord?

I wonder what we think is too hard for God. Grab a bulletin and find a blank spot. Write “too hard for God” and put a line under it. Now make a list of things you act like are too hard for God. Perhaps they are things that you never pray about because you don't believe God would or could do anything about them - relationship issues, money issues, parenting issues, job issues, attitude issues. Maybe you have sins in your past that you think are too hard for God to forgive. Maybe you have a habit or addiction that you think is too hard for God to free you from. Maybe you have a relationship that you think is too hard for God to heal. Maybe there is someone in your life that you’d like to be saved but you don’t pray for them or talk to them about your faith because you believe it’s too hard for God to save them.

Here’s the good news. Nothing is too hard for God. Nothing is too hard for God. He is God Almighty! There’s no wall he can’t break down, no chasm he cannot cross, no height he cannot climb, no depth he cannot reach. He is God of all strength, all power, all might. Nothing is too hard for our God! Our list of things that are too hard for God should be totally blank.

That means God is capable of taking our messed up, broken lives and making them whole. He is capable of taking ungodly, unrighteous people and making them blameless. He is capable of taking our debt against him and paying it all off. God is capable of freeing us from the penalty, power, and present of our sin. God can totally transform our lives!

Sarah looks at her barren, unproductive, fruitless womb and laughs at God. But God turns her attention off of her and onto him. "Is anything too hard for me, Sarah? Look at me, not you." That's repentance.  We may look at our barren, unproductive, fruitless life and laugh at what God asks of us.  But God is in the business of bringing dead people to life. He brought Jesus back to life and that same power that brought Jesus back to life is living in us. 

The big idea in this passage is that God calls us to be and do what’s impossible without him.

When men start working out, one of the exercises they immediately want to do is bench.  It feels impressive to be able to bench a lot.  If you have a workout partner, they may "spot" you as you bench.  If they are spotting you right, you can lift more weight and do more reps than you would be able to do if you were lifting it yourself because when you are unable to do more, they help you finish off the rep.  With a good workout partner, you can lift more weight than you would be able to lift by yourself and you can trust that they won’t let you fail.

With God, you might feel like he keeps putting more weight on the bench for you to lift.  You read commands in Scripture and it feeels like another 25 lbs added with each one or he keeps giving you hardships in life and you protest, “No, God! I can’t handle that much! I can’t lift that much!” To which he will respond, “I know.”  God doesn't expect you to lift it yourself.  He wants you to depend on him.

When we believe that God calls us to be and do what’s impossible without him, we can rest. If we know it’s impossible without him, we can stop putting on a show for me. We can stop pretending we’ve got it all together. We can stop trying to perform to prove ourselves to him. He already knows we can’t do it! He already knows we are going to fall short! It’s safe to be weak and needy with God.

That means it’s safe for us to be weak and needy with each other. We can live as God’s family and stop putting on a show for each other and trying to convince other people that “I’ve got this.” Nobody's "got this." God calls each and every one of us to be and do what is impossible without him and that's the point. We aren't supposed to do it without him. But we wear ourselves out pretending and trying to convince each other that we do.

Knowing we don’t have it all together and acknowledging that we need God and other people frees us to love others as servants. Isn’t it easy to compare ourselves to others in need and look down on them and get annoyed with them? If we know that nobody’s got this and that we are still safe and secure with God, then we can be a safe place for needy people. The church should be the safest place for people who don’t have it all together.

If God can do the impossible to us, that means he can do the impossible through us. If you believe in Jesus, you are a walking miracle. God can do miracles through you to bring others to believe in him.

Growing up, my dad believed God existed and taught me to thank God after we were successful hunting, but God was not a central part of his life.  He said he didn't have time for church and sometimes didn't get why youth group or church stuff was a priority for me.  Sometime in college, I began praying that my dad would come to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  I prayed for probably five years and my mom was probably praying longer.

When I came back from a mission trip to Brazil, I asked my family if I could show them what i did instead of telling them.  I walked them through a little booklet that shares the gospel and asked if they had ever prayed to God and gave their life to Jesus.  My mom and sister said yes and my dad said he has prayed but hasn't prayed that. 

I continued to try to have conversations once and a while with him, especially after he started going to church services with my mom.  We were out grouse hunting and I asked, "Dad, why have you started going to church?"  His answer was, "Well I guess I have to make your mom happy."  I wasn't sure how to respond.

Maybe a year later, in the summer of 2012, my mom called me in tears and told me that my dad wanted me to baptize him.  They were picking raspberries and talking and in tears, he shared that but wanted my mom to call me.  I said I'd need to talk with him about it because baptism is for people who have trusted in Jesus.  We talked on the phone shortly after.  I reviewed the gospel with hima nd asked if he believed Jesus was his only way to God and that he was trusting in him to save him from his sins.  He said, "Absolutely."

I baptized my dad that summer and have seen God transform his life.  God is working on him.  It's evident that the Lord has come into his life.  When I prayed those years, I didn't know if God would save my dad.  It was perhaps something I would be on a "too hard for God" list.  But I'm amazed at what God has done in my dad's life!

Go back to the list you made of things “too hard for God.” Write “NOT” in all capital letters in front of “too hard for God” at the top of that list.

What would happen if we lived a life that could only be explained by the power of God? God waited 25 years to fulfills his promise to Abraham and Sarah so that there was no doubt that it was his power that did it.  God does he same thing in our lives. He brings the dead back to life!

More in Genesis: Beginning the Journey Home

December 9, 2018

Jacob and the God More Powerful Than Him

December 2, 2018

Jacob and His Sons Fail to Walk with God

November 18, 2018

Jacob's Search for Acceptance