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Abraham and the God of Steadfast Love

September 30, 2018 Speaker: Mitchel Kirchmeyer Series: Genesis: Beginning the Journey Home

Passage: Genesis 22:20– 25:18

What do God's servants need to believe about him?

When you talk to your doctor about your health, there are often two basic lifestyle changes they will recommend to improve it. Whether you are having trouble with your weight of weakness or tiredness or high blood pressure or low energy, they will likely recommend two changes. What do you think they are? Diet and exercise. If you want to be healthy, you need to be putting the right things in your body and you need to be doing the right things with your body.

Series Introduction
This evening we are continuing our series called Beginning the Journey Home in the book of Genesis. Home is where we feel safe, accepted, loved, and cared for. Our “home” according to Genesis is with God. In Genesis 1 and 2, God created the world as a home for humanity where we would live under his protection, care, and guidance. He made us for a loving relationship with him.

But that got disrupted in Genesis 3 when the serpent, a creature in rebellion against God, deceived the first humans, Adam and Eve. The serpent got them to believe lies about God - that he was holding out on them, that he didn’t have their best interests in mind. He got them to believe God isn’t that good and sin - disobeying him - isn’t that bad. Believing these lies led to them rejecting God’s authority over them as Creator, King, and Father. Genesis 4 through 11 showed the devastating effects of this decision on the world and on all humanity. We all now live as exiles from home. And as long as we believe lies about God, we will never be able to return home to him.

Genesis 1-11 was a zoomed out view of how everything is supposed to be and why everything isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Before we headed in Genesis 12, we paused to remember what those 11 chapters taught us. In Genesis 12-50, have been and will be meeting a cast of characters who look a lot like us: sometimes they trust God and sometimes they doubt God, sometimes they make horrible and foolish decisions with painful consequences and sometimes they make great decisions in faith that bless others. They look a lot like us.

But if we didn’t have Genesis 1-11, we would be like doctors who never went to medical school. We’d have patient after patient coming into our office who are listing their symptoms and ailments but we would have no idea how to treat them. We would have no idea what the root cause of their problems are so we wouldn’t be able to offer any sort of treatment that would bring lasting change. We’d have a bunch of people walking into our office who look like this dead plant who want to look like this living plant but we would have no idea how to help them move from one to the other. We would have no idea how to bring health into their lives.

Sermon Introduction
Today, we are concluding the life of Abraham. Abraham is the most famous character in the Bible next to Jesus. He is known as a man of extraordinary faith - a man who had a deep trust in God. But we saw that he didn’t always trust God. He made a lot of foolish choices. He had times where he doubted. Sometimes, he looked like this dead plant - his faith was weak, his actions were questionable if not immoral, he was acting selfishly and not thinking about other people and God was the furthest thing from his thoughts. At other times, he looked like this alive plant - walking by faith, aware of God’s care and protection of him, obeying God no matter what. In many ways, watching Abraham’s life is like looking in a mirror. He is a man in process, learning to surrender his life to God in any and every circumstance.

Last week we covered chapter 22, which was a climax in Abraham’s faith. His faith had grown to be vibrant, unwavering, and steadfast. This week, we see Abraham getting his affairs in order as his life is winding down. In these last chapters of Abraham’s life, chapter 23 covers the burial of Sarah and chapter 25 covers the burial of Abraham. We are going to focus our time on the middle chapter - chapter 24. This chapter follows the journey of Abraham’s servant but the servant’s words and actions are a testimony of what Abraham has come to believe about God. How has Abraham come to the place of total surrender and mature faith that he is at the end of his life?

The big question this passage answers is: What do God’s servants need to believe about him? What do God’s servants need to believe about him?

Let’s look at Genesis chapter 24.

Bride for Isaac (Genesis 24)

Let’s recap what we already read in Genesis 24:1-28. Abraham wants to find a wife for his son from among his people. But back in Genesis 12, God asked Abraham to leave his people in Haran almost a 100 years ago. Abraham brings his servant close and has him put his hand under his thigh, which is like a really intimate and serious handshake. He wants his servant to swear that he will go to Haran to find a wife for Isaac. The servant recognizes the difficulty of this tasks and asks, “What should I do if the woman isn’t willing to come back with me? Should I bring Isaac there?” Abraham says, “Under no circumstances! This is the place God said he would give to my children. Isaac cannot go back to the place I left.” Then he tells the servant that God will send an angel before him to aid him.

The servant gets ready and sets out to complete his assignment. He feels how difficult it will be to complete it. So when he arrives in Abraham’s home country, he prays for help from Abraham’s God. “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham.” Then he designs a little test to ensure he has found the woman who will return with him to marry Isaac. He’s going to stand by a spring and the woman who offers to give him water and his camel’s water is the one.

Then he waits, but not long. Even before he finishes praying, the servant comes face to face with Rebekah. Rebekah does exactly as he had prayed then he learns that she is actually one of Abraham’s people! She’s the daughter of the grandson of Abraham’s brother, Nahor, that they had just heard about back in chapter 22! He falls on his face and worships the Lord, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master.” Upon learning he is a servant of one of her kinsmen, she runs to report to her family.

Let’s continue the story in verse 29 where the servant is welcomed into their home:

29 Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban. Laban ran out toward the man, to the spring. 30 As soon as he saw the ring and the bracelets on his sister's arms, and heard the words of Rebekah his sister, “Thus the man spoke to me,” he went to the man. And behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. 31 He said, “Come in, O blessed of the Lord. Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.” 32 So the man came to the house and unharnessed the camels, and gave straw and fodder to the camels, and there was water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 33 Then food was set before him to eat. But he said, “I will not eat until I have said what I have to say.” He said, “Speak on.” (Genesis 24:29-33)

So the servant tells his story starting in verse 34.

34 So he said, “I am Abraham's servant. 35 The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become great. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants, camels and donkeys. 36 And Sarah my master's wife bore a son to my master when she was old, and to him he has given all that he has. 37 My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell, 38 but you shall go to my father's house and to my clan and take a wife for my son.’ 39 I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’ 40 But he said to me, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and prosper your way. You shall take a wife for my son from my clan and from my father's house.41 Then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my clan. And if they will not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’

42 “I came today to the spring and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you are prospering the way that I go, 43 behold, I am standing by the spring of water. Let the virgin who comes out to draw water, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” 44 and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also,” let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master's son.’
45 “Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her water jar on her shoulder, and she went down to the spring and drew water. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ 46 She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I will give your camels drink also.’ So I drank, and she gave the camels drink also. 47 Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her arms. 48 Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to take the daughter of my master's kinsman for his son. 49 Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.” (Genesis 24:34-49)

The servant worshiped God in front of Rebekah for his steadfast love and faithfulness to Abraham but the worship hasn’t stopped. Now Rebekah’s family hears the whole story from beginning to end as he continues to testify about God’s steadfast love and faithfulness and by doing so is calling them into worship of the God of his master Abraham.

Laban and Bethuel’s response shows their assessment but they also don’t want Rebekah to leave quite yet Look at verse 50:

50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing has come from the Lord; we cannot speak to you bad or good. 51 Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master's son, as the Lord has spoken.”
52 When Abraham's servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the earth before the Lord. 53 And the servant brought out jewelry of silver and of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave to her brother and to her mother costly ornaments. 54 And he and the men who were with him ate and drank, and they spent the night there. When they arose in the morning, he said, “Send me away to my master.” 55 Her brother and her mother said, “Let the young woman remain with us a while, at least ten days; after that she may go.” 56 But he said to them, “Do not delay me, since the Lord has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master.” 57 They said, “Let us call the young woman and ask her.” 58 And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.” 59 So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham's servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
“Our sister, may you become
thousands of ten thousands,
and may your offspring possess
the gate of those who hate him!”
61 Then Rebekah and her young women arose and rode on the camels and followed the man. Thus the servant took Rebekah and went his way. (Genesis 24:50-61)

Rebekah is going to fit right in with Abraham’s family because in faith, she is willing to leave her home country and her family to follow God’s will. Verse 62 brings us from the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia back to Canaan.

62 Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb.63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. 64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel 65 and said to the servant, “Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. 66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother's death. (Genesis 24:62-67)

The big question this passage answers is: What do God’s servants need to believe about him?

I want to pass out a little slip of paper to you. These are all the different truths about God from the story of Abraham. Sometimes God says it about himself. Sometimes Abraham says it. Sometimes another character says it. God asked Abraham to be his servant for his purposes. God wants to bless the world through Abraham and his family. God wants to use Abraham to bring others home to him. Over the course of his life, Abraham matures as a servant as he believes the truth about who God is. He goes from this dead plant to this living plant. As he believes more truth about God, he loves God more, trusts God more, fears God more, obeys God more. He surrenders more and more of his life to God.

Truths about God Abraham has learned (Gen 12-25)

The last four on that list come in this chapter. The most repeated attributes in this chapter are steadfast love and faithfulness. The servant asks God to not forsake his steadfast love and faithfulness to Abraham. If you look through the Old Testament, you will find these two truths over and over again.

For followers of God in the Old Testament, God’s steadfast love is one of the most precious truths about him. It’s God’s reliable love, his devoted love, his committed love, his love that will never fail or leave us or forsake us, it’s his love that motivates him to come through in times of trouble and crisis. When everything else is chaotic and falling apart, we can depend on God’s steadfast love. When there is trouble and pain and confusion, we can depend on God’s steadfast love. It’s not because we deserve it. In fact, we so often prove ourselves completely undeserving of it. God’s steadfast love won’t fail, won’t run out, won’t waver, and won’t let you down. This is the special love he shows to his chosen people whom he adopts into his family.

This is what the servant banks on to complete his assignment. Over the years, he has witnessed firsthand God’s steadfast love for Abraham and now he asks God to show it again as he tries to complete this huge task. And when God comes through for him, he is bursting with praise.

When Jesus comes into the world, sent as a servant of God, John 1 tells us he is full of grace and truth. This is an equivalent of being full of steadfast love and faithfulness. Jesus is the most clear picture of how much God is committed to meeting our greatest needs: our need to be saved from our sin and reconciled to him and be made new.

We are also called to be God’s servants - to be God’s ambassadors who show and tell the truth about him to others. So what we need to believe about him? Here’s how to sum up what Abraham has learned: God is BIG and God is NEAR. God is BIG and God is NEAR.

God is BIG means he is the transcendent, almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. He is beyond our imagination and is awe inspiring. God is NEAR means he hears us, he sees us, he looks after us, and is with us in all that we do. God is BIG enough to help us and NEAR enough to care.

For Abraham, I have a hunch that he started off with a BIG view of God. He is God Most High, Possessor of Heaven and Earth! But he struggled to trust him in his day to day issues. Over time, he learned that God is NEAR too. His love is steadfast. He is faithful. Abraham learned that whatever he is going through, God can be trusted.

Make a list of what’s stressing you out, creating fear and anxiety in you, etc.
Draw a box around it.
On top of the box, write: God is BIG enough to handle this.
On the side, write: God is NEAR me in this.

Some of you need to believe that God is BIG enough to handle these things. You need to believe that God is powerful and in control of your life. Maybe you even believe that God is NEAR, but really can’t do much to help. Some of you have no problem believing that God is BIG, but you need to believe that God is NEAR enough to care. You have no problem believing God can do anything, but will he do anything for you? Circle the one you need the most.

I’m challenged by the servant in the story. He is sent out on an assignment for his master and he is aware that he is completely dependent on God to complete it. How many tasks and assignments in life do I go through with no awareness of my dependence on God? When Larry and I read this in our Gospel Fluency Group, I shared how I can spend most of a day without depending on God moment by moment. My baby step to grow in my dependence as his servant is to write “Apart from you, I can do nothing” on every item in my schedule.

As I was thinking about this, I realized there are two people in our church who i see do this really well. Yesterday there were some guys hanging out at Larry’s and Josue was sharing about his life and I was admiring how deeply aware he was of God’s guiding hand on it all. I see Emma do this a lot too. She has little cards throughout their house that remind her how God is present even in the day to day things.

As God’s servants, we need to believe that God is BIG and God is NEAR. God is showing us steadfast love every single day. God’s steadfast love for us produces steadfast love for him. We become unwavering in our commitment to, love of, and trust in him as we experience his steadfast love, just like Abraham in Genesis 22.

So what’s the fertilizer that grows us to be healthy and vibrant in our faith? It’s the truth about God. We need to turn from lies about God to what’s true about him. And the truth about God leads us to live for the purposes of God.

When you go to the doctor and you are unhealthy, two basic lifestyle changes they will recommended are diet and exercise. You need to put the right things in your body and you need to do the right things with your body. In the same way, if you want to grow in your relationship with God, you need to put the right things in your life and you need to do the right things with your life. You need the right diet of truth about God so you are putting the right things in your life. You also need to exercise by living for the purposes of God which is doing the right things with your life. You need both. If you have diet without exercise, you won’t be healthy. Even if you eat all the right foods but never use your body and just sit on the couch 24/7, you will still be unhealthy. But if you try to exercise without the right fuel, you will have no energy for the activity. You need the truth about God to live for God’s purposes.

Look back at that list of truths about God that Abraham has learned. What do you have going on this week? What’s coming this week that has you feeling scared and anxious? What are you dreading? What’s burdening you? Now look at those truths. Which truth or truths about God do you need in that situation?

Talking about God’s steadfast love never failing us can make us think, “Well, I’ve had times that I’ve prayed and it didn’t seem like much happened. God didn’t come through for me. What gives?” I’ve had those prayers and I’m sure you have too. God does meet our deepest needs, but sometimes we don’t actually know what those are and he might withhold “wants” in order to fulfill our “needs.” At the same time, God shows his steadfast love to us through other people who are his servants, ambassadors, and image bearers. I have a journal with a list of ways God has blessed us financially and every item on that list came through other people. Nik and Emma let us live with them for 11 months which helped us buy a house and consequently save for adoption. I have a friend who bought expensive bible software for me while I was in seminary. I count those as expressions of God’s steadfast love for me but they were deliver through other people.

God forms us into a family where his steadfast love is expressed as we care for one another and he sends us as his servants to others. Each day, we go out as God’s servants with assignments from our master. Like the servant in this story, we need to go to our master for our assignments and be totally dependent on God to complete those assignments.

The bottom line is that we need to hear the truth about God. Our world is swirling with lies about him from the serpent and we need the truth to combat those lies. We need to hear the good news of what God is really like. It’s only with the truth that we will grow to be like Jesus as the perfect servant.

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