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The Two Jerusalems April 3, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Galatians, Hagar, Isaac, Palm Sunday, Promises of God, Sarah.
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Galatians 4:19-31

When Jesus rode the donkey on Palm Sunday, the people were celebrating because he was riding into Jerusalem. The Jews knew that Jerusalem, specifically the Temple, was where God had chosen to place His name. They knew that from Mount Zion the Messiah would set up the kingdom where he would rule in justice over Israel and that it is there where the nations would come and worship God and submit themselves to His Messiah. It is no wonder that they were so excited.

Yet Jesus on that first Palm Sunday did not set up a throne at the Temple but rather did a house-cleaning, driving the money-changers and the animal-sellers off of the Temple grounds. You see something had happened at the Temple. Money had become more important than prayer.

Later on that week Jesus was talking to the disciples. As they admired the Temple, Jesus told them that it would be destroyed and all of Jerusalem with it. This happened less than forty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.

When Paul wrote Galatians though Jerusalem and the Temple was still standing. It was a symbol for every Jew of their special relationship with God. In fact, the Jews had fallen into a special type of false worship. They had begun to worship their relationship to God as symbolized by the “present Jerusalem,” the place where God’s Temple had been built.

1. If we worship what we do to maintain our relationship with God; we are enslaved by those works (verse 21-25).

Paul uses two women to illustrate his point: Hagar and Sarah. Both had sons by Abraham. Hagar was a slave. The son she bore was not promised by God. Sarah was Abraham’s wife and bore a son because of God’s promise. Her son would carry the blessing that God had given to his father. Hagar remained a slave for the rest of the time she lived in Abraham’s household. She was probably a good mother but she remained a slave. Paul says that you who are trying to keep the Old Testament law to maintain your relationship with God are like Hagar. You are slaves.

There is probably no one here trying to keep the Old Testament law but there may be someone trying to maintain their relationship with God by works. We encountered this in Europe. There were people who refused to leave the state church they grew up in because they were afraid they would lose their relationship with God. This happens in America also though. This may be out of fear, that is, they have been taught that if they make a mistake or too many mistakes or too serious of a mistake then God will forsake them.

It may, however, be because of pride. Spiritual pride is often behind the works of the law. The people, who crucified Jesus, were a proud people. They were convinced that no one else could be as close to God as they were. They were quite convincing. All over the Roman Empire there were Gentiles like the Ethiopian eunuch and Cornelius who were longing for a God who they could respect and worship but they were shut off unless they were willing to undergo circumcision, to establish that special relationship with God.

These Jews were enslaved by their pride. We think of those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and we often think of them as enslaved by their addictions. Their addictions drive them to do irrational things. Some of the Galatians had become enslaved by the works of the law and it had caused them to do the most irrational thing of all, leave Christ for the works of the law.

Imagine that someone has been given an unlimited gift card for a five-star restaurant. They go in and they order the finest of food and drink but then they feel compelled to go out on the street and start cleaning the sidewalk in front so that they can earn their meal. Once inside they brag to everyone about how industrious they were and how they had earned this fine meal. We would say they are crazy.

Are you enslaved by the pride of your relationship with God? None of us can earn a relationship with God. God does not give away brownie points.

2. If we worship the God who promises spiritual freedom through Jesus Christ, we are free because He has kept His promise (verses 26-28).

Relationships can be joyous but they can be enslaving. There is no joy in enslavement but there is joy in a promise. When in Lynchburg, I looked for a souvenir because I knew that my daughter was rejoicing in the promise of one. Just because we have a relationship is not guarantee of joy. There are lots of daughters who dread their father coming home but she had received a promise and she rejoiced in that promise.

If you were to choose between your relationship to God and the promise you have in Jesus, which would you choose? If you hold to maintaining that relationship, you may miss out on the promise, on the Jerusalem that is above; but if you hold to the promise provided through Christ’s death on the cross, you will also have the relationship.

(Here is an illustration taken second-handedly through Ray Pritchard.) “It goes something like this. Consider for a moment the deeds of Jeffrey Dahmer…he was a pervert, a murderer, and a cannibal. After he was arrested, he professed faith in Jesus Christ. That is, he claimed to have seen the error of his ways, confessed his sins, and cried out to Jesus to save him. We’ll never know the full story of what happened because he was beaten to death in prison not long after that… [Does God’s promise of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ apply to Jeffrey Dahmer?] …When we think about Jeffrey Dahmer and the possibility that he might truly have been saved after those heinous crimes, our first response may be to say, “There is grace even for people like Jeffrey Dahmer.” That statement, true as it is, reveals at least as much about us as it does about him. All of us would like to think (and in fact do think) that we are “better” than he is. Or we’re not as “bad” as he was. I make no bones about the fact that I think I am “better” than Jeffrey Dahmer. I’ve never done the things he did. I’ve never even thought or dreamed or imagined about some of them. So when I say there is grace “even” for the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, while I’m willing to include him in the circle of those God might save, I’m not putting myself on his level. I truly believe I’m better than he is…But then (as you can tell I’m partly telling the illustration and partly thinking my way through it at the same time) the preacher said it’s not enough to say there is grace even for the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer. In truth, he said, there is grace only for the Jeffrey Dahmers of this world. They alone can be saved” (taken and slightly adapted from “Amazing Grace,” a sermon by Ray Pritchard, found at http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1999-10-03-Amazing-Grace/ ).

This is the promise we have of eternal life through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is by grace not by maintaining our relationship with God. Will you claim God’s promise as to you? A promise is no good if it is not claimed. It gives no hope unless you believe it.

Believer, are you living according to promise or in the pride of your relationship to God?

Christmas Question – Who was the first wise man to come out of the east? December 7, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Christmas, Religion, Sermons.
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Genesis 12:1-7


Last week we looked at the first promise of Christmas, which was made to Satan. This week we are looking at the second promise of Christmas in the Bible, the promise God made to Abraham. We want to compare Abraham to the wise men of the Christmas story and through five comparisons emphasize some important aspects of Abraham’s life.


1. The wise men (Magi) researched the mysteries of the universe. Abraham was a wise man because he believed, as evidenced by his obedience, the creator of the universe (Compare Genesis 12:1, 4).


Now when this story was first written down, it was written by Moses for the children of Israel. They had just escaped from Egypt as a new nation. They needed to know that God had a plan. That is what the story of Abraham is all about. God has a plan for Abraham, for Israel, and for the world. Abraham did not know all the details of that plan. In fact he did not know at this point all the details of that plan in his own life. But when God told him that he had a plan, he believed God and obeyed God. It was because he believed God that Abraham was righteous. Not because he was sinless. That he was not. Nor was his faith always strong. In Genesis 15:1-3 we find that Abraham’s faith was not always strong. He had questions. He wanted answers. God did not give him total answers. God simply said, believe me. I will make this happen (verses 4-5). Abraham’s faith proved itself to be real in spite of its weakness. Simply said, Abraham believed God. Because he believed God, when the time to make choices came, his faith, though it sometimes questioned proved itself real.


2. The Magi lived in the east in Persia (what is now Iran) and to their home they returned. Abraham, the first wise man, came from the eastern city, Ur of the Chaldees (what is now Iraq, on the Euphrates River) but he never returned (Compare Genesis 12:1 with Isaiah 41:2a).


Abraham left a city that was excavated almost one hundred years ago. It was a large and flourishing city with perhaps as many as 250,000 inhabitants. The average middle-class citizens lived in nice house containing ten to twenty rooms. It was a center of learning. Not only did the schools teach the four “R’s”: reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, and religion but it also was a center of higher learning, especially in the areas of mathematics and astronomy. It was a walled city of international commerce with two harbors. It was also a pagan city. Nanna, the moon goddess, had a huge center of worship there. Abraham’s family were idolators and it is likely that Abraham himself also worshiped Nanna. That was the life that Abraham left.


Hundreds of years later we find an evaluation of Abraham’s journey in beginning in Isaiah 41:2. Verse 1 introduces us to a courtroom. God demands that the nations be silent so that He can lay out His case. He asks the question, “Who brought Abraham out of the east? Who ordered his every step?” “I did,” says the LORD, “Abraham was no nomad. But I called him and he answered. He followed My word.”


“Who is it that made Abraham and his servants a mighty military force in a land which they did not know (verse 3), defeating the armies of the great alliance that invaded Canaan, as though they were nothing but dust and stubble?” “I did,” says the LORD.


“Who is it that makes the plan and then carries out the plan and will finish that plan (verse 4)?” “I am there at the beginning,” says the LORD and I will be there at the finish also.


3. The Magi were looking for the King of the Jews but did not know where to find him (Matthew 2:2a). Abraham, the first wise man, was seeking for a fatherland with which he was unacquainted.


Ur had been Abraham’s fatherland. He had left family there. He and some of his family had settled in Haran, like Ur, a flourishing city but God said to Abraham, you need to go further. I show you where to go and when you get there that will be your fatherland (Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16). Abraham recognized something that we often forget. God is our father if we trust Christ. In Him is our inheritance. In Him are all our dreams. In Him we have a homeland. As wonderful as the United States of America is, it is not my fatherland. I am a citizen of heaven. I, like Abraham, have turned my back on this world that I might have the world to come.


4. The Magi saw the sign of a star (Matthew 2:2b). Abraham, the first wise man, heard the Word of the LORD (Genesis 12:1, 4).


Because Abraham, when he heard God’s Word, believed God’s Word, he proved himself wise. 2 Timothy 3:15b tells us how to acquire this wisdom. It says, speaking of Timothy, “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The Magi were wise in many of the arts and sciences of their day but Abraham, like Timothy, was wise in the one field, the only field, that matters, the Word of the LORD.


5. The Magi came to worship the King (Matthew 2:2c). Abraham, the first wise man, also worshiped the King (Genesis 12:4-8).


Abram at the age of seventy-five goes to Canaan where God visually appears to Abram in 12:7 and tells Abram, “You’re here! This is the land that I am going to give to your descendants.” What does Abraham do? He builds an altar and begins to call on the name of the LORD.


To build an altar meant that Abraham intended to come to God. True worship is not waiting for God to come to you. True worship begins when we come to God. We present ourselves before Him. Most people wait for God to come down and then wonder why He does not come. God calls us to come to Him and worship. Abraham, though, like the Magi, came to God to worship.


What then are we to do when we come to Him? We are to call on His name. To call on the name of the LORD meant that Abraham depended on God. He submitted all his ways to God alone. He recognized no other authority in his life but God alone. That is worship. When you depend ultimately on someone or something rather than to depend on God alone, you cease to worship God. When God is not the authority figure in your life, as He was in Abraham’s life, then you cannot and you will not worship God. You may go through the motions of building an altar but you must call on God. Recognize Him as the one and only Lord God.


QUESTION: Are you a wise person? (Romans 4:11-12, 16)


Romans 4 describes those who imitate Abraham’s walk of faith as children of righteousness. You can be wise like Abraham if you will…

…believe God’s promises, especially concerning faith in Christ, as given in His Word;

…turn your back on this world in exchange for the world to come;

…and come to God and call on Christ alone in total dependence and submission.

Next Week: CHRISTMAS IS OF THE JEWS (Genesis 28:10-22)


The Last Sermon in the Series on Abraham (Isaac Gets A Wife) June 24, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Faith, Genesis, Isaac, Prayer, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Will of God, Worship.
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Genesis 24 

Sometimes the best way to understand a person’s heart is through their reactions. The world of acting understands this very well. Think of those characters in movies and plays and TV shows who are supposed to not show emotion or are very constrained in their emotions. When Spock raises an eyebrow, it is enough to tell us that there is a deep emotion present. When Columbo stares at someone walking away from a conversation it is enough to tell us that he smells a rat.  This is true in real life also and especially in our understanding of God. Genesis 24 gives us a wonderful example of how the reactions of one man show the depth of understanding He has of God. 

As we begin this chapter we find that Abraham is old. He has walked with God for many years. His wife, Sarah, has died. He can look back on his life and see that God has always been actively involved. He has been blessed of God. This is clear from verse 1. Why did God bless Abraham? The answer we find in verse 27. God’s blessing in Abraham’s life was based on His mercy and His truth, i.e. His promises.      


God works in our lives in much the same way He worked in Abraham’s life. His blessing and working in our lives is based on His mercy and His truth, i.e. His promises.

We know nothing about Abraham’s life before God called him out of Ur of the Chaldees. We assume he feared God, that he lived a life of righteousness. That is, however, a big assumption. We make this same assumption about other characters in the Bible also. For example, in Genesis 6 God says I am going to wipe out the whole earth because of their wickedness. In verse 8, when Noah is introduced to the story, the Bible does not say, “Behold, there was one good man on the earth!” rather it says, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” Noah and his family deserved to die in the flood with the rest of the wicked world.

It concerns me when we get up and say God has blessed America because of its Christian influence or because we are good to Israel or because we have had compassion on the weak or because we have the Ten Commandments hanging in the Supreme Court. As if God is impressed with us! God has mercy on whom He will have mercy is the way He expressed it when giving the Ten Commandments. Even when we are obedient, it is still of God’s mercy that we are not consumed.


God’s work is not based solely on His mercy (verses 2-9). This misunderstanding of God is what causes many to turn from Him when bad things start happening. They feel betrayed by God. They do not want a God who allows bad things to happen. They want a God who makes them feel good. They want a God who winks at what they do and lets them get away with evil and then blesses them in spite of their evil. That is not the way God operates. His ways are mercy AND truth. When God called Abraham, He gave to him the way of truth. He said Abraham, “I am going to bless you. I am going to make from your seed a great nation. I am going to bless the world through your seed.” That was the way of truth for Abraham. What did Abraham do? He walked in the way of truth. He left Ur. He left his family in Haran. He went to a country that God would show him. He believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness when God told him that he would have a son. He believed God, when he was told that this son would come through his aged wife, Sarah. He believed God, when he was tested and commanded to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering. Abraham did many commendable things and he did them because he walked in the way of God’s dependable, faithful truth. In other words, Abraham believed God’s promises. The promises of God are what guided His life.

In verses 2-6 we see how that Abraham’s understanding of the promises of God guided His decision making. First, Abraham decided that Isaac must have a wife. Now to our knowledge God did not command Abraham to get Isaac a wife. Look at verse 7. In Abraham’s command to his servant, he gives the basis for his actions. “God has promised to give my descendants this land.” Up to now, Abraham does not have descendants (plural) to whom this promise applies. He has another son, Ishmael, but God has already made it plain that Ishmael is not of the chosen seed. God has also not promised another son alongside of Isaac. All of God’s promises and Abraham’s hope both earthly and spiritual are tied up in Isaac having descendants. God’s character is riding on the outcome of Isaac’s life. If Isaac does not marry and does not have children, then God’s way is not the way of truth. Therefore, Abraham does not have to wait for God to command him to get a wife. He already knows God’s will based on God’s word, God’s promises.   


Abraham also decided that Isaac’ wife must not be a Canaanite woman. Why? Was Abraham a racist? We find the reasoning behind Abraham’s decision in Genesis 15:16. John Piper writes, “God tells Abraham that his descendants will be oppressed 400 years in Egypt and then says, ‘And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.’ The Amorites here represent all the pagan peoples of Canaan. They are marked out for judgment because of their sin, but God will not drive them out until the history of their sin is so appalling no one will accuse God of injustice when he sweeps through Canaan destroying these nations. Now if God had said that to you about the people surrounding you, would you not hear a warning against forming marriage alliances? Abraham saw a trajectory in God’s Word that probably went something like this: ‘Through your son I will fulfill my covenant to be the God of his descendants and to bless all the nations through him. So take heed lest he marry a woman who worships other gods and could bring him into a snare.’ That’s the way Moses warned Israel hundreds of years later when they were about to enter the Promised Land: ‘You shall not make marriages with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons. For they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods’ (Deuteronomy 7:3, 4).”

Based on his understanding of God’s promises Abraham made the decision, “You will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites” (24:3). In fact, you will go to my people, to my relatives, to those who know and worship the true and living God.


Finally, Abraham decided that his son, Isaac, should not go to Nahor, where these relatives lived. There are really two parts to the promise God gives Abraham. I will give you seed and I will give you this land. For Isaac to leave the land was not against God’s law but it was against God’s promises. God promised in chapter 12 and chapter 13 and chapter 15 and chapter 17 that Isaac’s seed would inherit that land of Canaan. There was no reason to leave the Promised Land. In fact, Abraham seems in verse 7 to states this promise not only as the reason why he would not let Isaac go back to Nahor but also as the reason why he was confident that his servant would find success in finding Isaac a wife there. So we see that Abraham’s decision making and his confidence in his decisions was not based on his wisdom but on his knowledge of the promises of God.


Now if God works in our lives in the same way, then it will affect how we live. One way that it will affect us, is in how we pray. Our prayers will be based on God’s mercy and on God’s promises (verses 12-14).  The servant here is not bargaining with God. He is not asking for proof that God exists. He is basing His prayer on the mercy of God.

We sometimes have the idea that God only answers the prayers of good people. If that were true, God would never answer prayer. I know what some of you are thinking. David wrote, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me.” That is certainly true. God hates sin and one way that God deals with sin is by not answering the prayers of his children who tolerate sin but the answers to prayer come not because we have been good little kids but because he is merciful.

We are in the midst of toilet training our little girl. This has been a new experience for us because our son was relatively easy to toilet train. We have resorted to the “chocolate for poddy” method. We tend to view God that way, do we not? “Lord, come, see! Lord, come, see! Will you not now answer me?”

That is not what the servant is doing here. He says, “Lord, I know if you answer this prayer it will be because of your mercy! If you answer this prayer the way I wish, then I know it will not be because of my faith but because of your mercy.” Not that this was not a prayer of faith. It was but it was not based on the servant mustering up faith in God but on the promises that God has made to Abraham.

His confidence in God’s working, like that of Abraham, was based on God’s Word. How do we know this? When God answered his prayer, the servant’s response was worship.


Now we are primarily interested in the basis of his worship but I do want us to look a bit at form. Since I have known anything about Christianity, which is over thirty-five years now, the American church has been involved in the  “Worship Wars.” Hymns versus praise songs, liturgy versus spontaneity, congregational singing versus special music, the music of the older generation versus that of the younger generation, corporate prayer versus private prayer, a suit and tie versus casual wear, seeker services versus traditional services, three services a week versus one main service and small groups. I could go on and on.

Obviously form interests us very much, so let us look at the form of this servant’s worship. He bowed before God. In verses 26-27 we find he bowed his head before God. In verse 52 we find he bowed to the ground before God. Let me say this about form in worship. The “Worship Wars” are about us. True worship is about God.       


Now what is the basis of a worshipful response to God’s answers to prayer? There is recognition that God has not forsaken His mercy (verse 27). Worship is not making a connection with God. Worship is recognizing that God has made a connection with us and that connection is one of mercy.

A worshipful response is also based on the fact that God has not forsaken His truth, i.e. promises (verses 26-27). That is why the servant spent so much time retelling his story to Rebekah’s brothers. They needed to know that God was at work here and they recognized that God was at work (verses 48-52).

Now think about this. The brothers’ response was not based on any miracle that they could verify. It was somehow obvious to them though that God was working in the matter. They knew about Abraham. In fact, in verses 59-60 it appears they might have even known about the promises that God had made to him. Perhaps they had heard from traders about what God was doing in Abraham’s life or had even during some of the silent times in Abraham’s story had direct or indirect contact with them. What was obvious though to them and to Abraham’s servant and should be obvious to us is this:  God keeps His promises.

Last week I spoke about finding promises in God’s Word that we can depend on when the times get rough. Did you do that? Did you think on God’s Word, read God’s Word, meditate on God’s Word, memorize God’s Word and internalize a promise from God for your future or did you let it leave you like water on a duck’s back? One possible reason that we do not truly worship in our church services and in our lives may be because we live oblivious of what God has promised us. I understand that not every promise in the book is mine. I understand that God has not promised peace and prosperity to me if I keep the law. But I also understand that God’s Word was written that I might understand God’s working and that when I understand God’s working, I understand God’s promises and when I understand God’s promises I have a foundation in troubled times and guidance for the tough decisions of life. When I understand God’s promises, I have a reason to pray and a reason to worship when God answers my prayers. When I understand God’s promises, I have a motivation to tell others about those promises and how that God fulfills them.


Confidence in God’s working is strengthened by the telling of God’s works (verse 66). When the servant got home, he told Isaac not Abraham what had happened. He told Isaac about his prayer. He told Isaac about God’s answer. He told Isaac about Rebekah’s response and her brothers’ response. Why? Isaac needed to know that God was able to work in his life, just as He had worked in Abraham’s wife.

“Where did you get your wife, Isaac? Was she some beautiful slave girl that you took a fancy to? Is she the daughter of some rich Canaanite chieftain with whom you made a deal?”

“No, God in His mercy made a promise and this woman is the part of the fulfillment of this promise in my life.” 


God has made a lot of promises in His Word. The most important one has to do with the promise He made to Abraham and to Isaac, “In your seed will the nations of the earth be blessed.” The New Testament explains to us who that seed is and how through Him the nations will be blessed. The seed is Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, the son of Isaac. God became the seed of Abraham and Isaac and lived blamelessly on this earth and died for your sin according to the Scriptures and was buried and rose again and ascended to heaven. In Him is eternal life. In Him is forgiveness of sin. In Him you can be transformed from death to life. This only applies to you though if you believe God’s promises. Will you believe Him, trust Him today?

Links to Sermons on Abraham Getting Isaac a Wife June 22, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Genesis, Prayer, Sermons, Will of God, Worship.
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John Piper


Ray Pritchard


Charles Haddon Spurgeon


Abraham Sacrifices Isaac (A Father’s Day Sermon) June 17, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Faith, Father's Day, Genesis, Isaac, Sermons, Will of God, Worship.


Genesis 22

Oftentimes when God evaluates a father, the evaluation shows great shortcomings in the father. I think of Eli, of whom God said in 1 Samuel 2:29, ‘‘Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?’’ This is a sad commentary on a man who should have known better.

(For more on this story see The Father Who Would Not Say No)

How much better it is to be like Abraham. This is what God said of him in Genesis 18:19, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

In Genesis 22, we see the ultimate example of a father, whose worship of God and testing by God, allowed his son Isaac to practice the righteousness and justice of God in his life.

God tested Abraham by commanding an act of seemingly foolish, submissive worship (Compare Genesis 22:2 with 21:12). Why then would God want to kill Isaac? God did not want Isaac killed but rather wanted to test Abraham.


There are at least two types of tests with which God tests believers. There is the test of authenticity. That is the type of test where it is proven that someone really is a believer. That is not the test here. This is a test of quality. God was not testing to see if Abraham’s faith was real or not. That had already been established. God was testing Abraham to show the quality of his faith in God. This is an extreme test. This is not a test where you determine whether you have fool’s gold or real gold, this is a test to determine the purity and the quality of gold that you already know is real. This is a more precise test. This is a more exacting test. This is a test, not whether you have real faith but rather what will your faith withstand.

Perhaps we should look at this test a little closer. This test seemed to be contradictory. God had promised in 21:12 that Isaac’s seed or descendant would be the promised one through which all nations of the world would be blessed. It is hard to see how that could happen if Abraham offered Isaac as a burnt offering.

Secondly, this test was extreme. Isaac was to be offered as a burnt offering. Abraham was to take his son to Mount Moriah, where he was to build an altar and lay wood for burning on the altar. Then he would tie his son up and lay him on the altar. Then he would take a knife and cut his son’s throat. After his son had died, then he was to set the wood on fire and burn up the body of his son.

“This is what God told Abraham to do. At that point the man of faith only has two options. Either you obey or you don’t. If you stop to argue, that in itself is a form of disobedience. If you try to talk God out of it, that too is disobedience. If you offer an alternate plan, that is also disobedience.” Ray Pritchard


Abraham was willing to obey God because he had concluded that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead so that the promises of God might be kept (Hebrews 11:17-19). He believed God’s promise as well as God’s ability (inherent power) to keep that promise. When Abraham believed God, it was accounted to him for righteousness. In other words God tallied up the books and found Abraham righteous. In this situation we see Abraham tallying up God’s books and when he looked over God’s books He found that God had the ability on the books to raise Isaac from the dead. Remember, there had never been a resurrection of any kind before. Abraham had no biblical accounts of a resurrection but He did know a God of great ability and power who was more than capable of bringing Isaac back to life even after being offered as a burnt offering.

This willingness to obey had been shown repeatedly over the past thirty or so years. Abraham had seen God’s blessings in his life. He had seen God visually several times. God had enabled him to win battles. He had seen God’s power in destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. God had opened up the womb of his ninety year old wife and given them a son. He had seen God protect them when they were in the foreign lands of Egypt and Gerar. In all of these things Abraham was willingly obedient to God.


This willingness was revealed by Abraham’s statement in verse 5. They were going to worship God, i.e. bow down before Him in submission. Abraham was not just going to fulfill the letter of the law. He was going to bow down to the ground in worship before God during this great test. He was going with an attitude of submission to God’s will.

Verse 5 also tells us that Abraham said they both were going to return. God had not said that Isaac would return. We know what Abraham thought God might would do according to Hebrews 11 but God had not promised a resurrection. What God had promised, however, is that through this son there would be a great nation through whom the whole world would be blessed. He based his obedience during the test from God on the promise of God.

We know that Abraham trusted God because of what Abraham did when he was tested (James 2:21-24). By revealing his faith through his works in this test, his faith was made perfect or was completed. His faith was not maintained by works but was brought to its logical end by works.

Abraham began his journey of faith in Genesis 12. God repeatedly confirmed His promise to Abraham. God made an unconditional promise but faith in that promise still demanded works. That is what faith is. It is a belief that demands action. That is why the journey of faith was not completed when Isaac was born but rather when Isaac was rescued from death. Faith and works are inseparable. If you have faith and no works, your faith is dead. You never had true faith to begin with. If you have works and no faith, your works are dead. There is no salvation in works. There is, however, completion of faith in works.


God provided a ram as Isaac’s substitute and He reconfirmed His covenant with Abraham emphasizing the obedience of Abraham. (Genesis 22:7-14). The word “provided” is literally “sees.” When Abraham named the place of sacrifice, “Jehovah provides”, he was saying, God sees what is going on. He is actively involved in my test. He is actively involved in my obedience. There is no test that God is going to put me through in which he is not active in my response to that test.


Fathers, those of you who are believers, what do you love? What is it or who is it that is so important to you that you would take off work to give time to that person or thing? What is it that receives the best of your spare time, spare money, and spare strength? If God was to take it from you, what promise would you fall back on?

Let’s slow down. Think about this question. What promise would you fall back on? What has God promised you that commands immediate, unquestioning obedience when the test comes? Do you have such promises?

If not, then you need to get alone with your Bible and with your God and establish some promises that will hold you up when the test comes. Your faith is only as good as the promises you depend on. You need some promises that will produce quality when you are tested. You need some promises that will produce works that will complete your faith.

If you have not put your faith in Christ, the quality of your faith cannot be tested. Whether you even have faith in Christ can be tested, however. What is the test? Are you trusting Christ alone for salvation? Are you trusting His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins? Or are you trusting something or someone in addition? Are you, sinner that you are, hoping that you will be good enough to please God? It will never happen. God cannot tolerate sin. If you have sinned once, someone must die. Jesus died for your sin, if you will trust Him and Him alone, but as long as you are trusting your good works, there is no hope for you. Will you trust Him today to save you?



Links to Sermons on Abraham’s Sacrificing of Isaac June 15, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Child Rearing, Faith, Father's Day, Genesis, Sermons, Suffering, Worship.
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http://www.biblebb.com/files/whitefield/gw003.htm George Whitefield

http://www.pbc.org/library/files/html/3671.html Ray Stedman

http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermons/read_sermon.asp?id=315 Ray Pritchard

Look at Lot and then Compare Him to Abraham June 10, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Faith, Genesis, Judgment, Lot, Sermons, Worship.


Genesis 19 with chapters 13-14 and Luke 17:28-33 and 2 Peter 2:6-9


I believe I should explain my title this morning. I think it is obvious from the text what I mean by an impure heart. Lot chose because of the sinfulness of his heart to love Sodom. He did not necessarily love the sin of Sodom as we will see later but he certainly loved the world as represented by Sodom. That is not what I feel like I need to explain. I think I need to explain the phrase “true worship”. You might ask, when did Lot worship? He did not sing or praise the Lord in passage that we have read this morning. What did he do that could be called worship? The Bible does not give us a definition of worship but one thing is clear, “Worship is an acknowledgement of the Lordship of God. Based on that description, we find that Lot grudgingly but truly worshiped when he fled in obedience from Sodom. This is not a commendable form of worship but worship it truly is.


The main characters in Genesis 12-24 are Abraham and God. Lot is but a bit player provided to our story to tell Israel from where the Moabites and Ammonites came. For our purposes today that is unimportant but it is very important to the understanding of other passages in the Old Testament. There is another reason though that Lot’s story is told in the midst of the story of Abraham. Abraham’s character and relationship to God is highlighted through the contrast between Abraham and his nephew, Lot.

We meet Lot at the same time that we meet Abram in Genesis 11:27-12:4. Except for Sarai, Abram’s wife, Lot is the only one of Abram’s family who went with him to Canaan. Why would Lot do such a foolish thing? I suspect it was because he believed in God and believed in the promises that God made to Abraham.

Think about it. Your uncle comes to you and says, “I am moving. Want to come?”

“Where are you moving to?”

“Oh, I don’t know. God is going to show me where he wants me to go. He has promised that he would make a great nation from my seed, a nation in which the world would be blessed.”

Now if you are Lot, you have a choice. You can believe the promise of God or you can stay with the rest of the family. Lot’s initial decision was a good one. He chose to believe God’s promise to Abraham.


We don’t know exactly if this was the way Lot made his decision but we do know that he was a believer. Let me read to you from 2 Peter 2:6-8, “(God) turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)…” So we see, Lot was a believer.

Later, however, Lot made a fatal choice. He chose a close relationship to the world over a close relationship with God (Compare Genesis 13 with Luke 17:28-33). As Abraham and Lot traveled together, God blessed them both. They both became so rich in cattle and sheep that they had to come to a parting of their ways. Abraham gave Lot first choice of the area around them. Lot lifted his eyes toward Sodom and saw a well watered plain there. Lot made his choice and moved towards Sodom. Abraham moved to where we saw him last week at Mamre near Hebron. Lot’s mistake was not when he moved near Sodom. In fact, his mistake was not when he moved to Sodom. His mistake was when he fell in love with prosperity as represented by Sodom. He began to worship the things of this world.

Yet Lot was a righteous man. He believed in God (compare 2 Peter 2:6-9 with Genesis 15:6). According to J.C. Ryle, Peter gives us three indications that Lot was a believer.

  1. “…(H)e lived in a wicked place, ‘seeing and hearing’ evil all around him (2 Peter ii. 8), and yet was not wicked himself. Now to be …a righteous man in Sodom, a man must have the grace of God.”

  2. “…(H)e ‘vexed his soul with the unlawful deeds’ he beheld around him. (2 Peter ii. 8.) He was wounded, grieved, pained, and hurt at the sight of sin…”

  3. “…(H)e ‘vexed his soul from day to day’ with the unlawful deeds he saw (2 Peter ii. 8.) He did not at length become cool and lukewarm about sin, as many do. Familiarity and habit did not take off the fine edge of his feelings, as too often is the case. Many a man is shocked and startled at the first sight of wickedness, and yet becomes at last so accustomed to see it, that he views it with comparative unconcern. This is especially the case with those who live in towns and cities. But it was not so with Lot. And this is a great mark of the reality of his grace.” By the way, being shocked by sin does not mean you are serving God. If you are serving God, you will be shocked by sin but that alone does not mean that your loyalty is to God alone.


Another evidence Lot gave of his righteousness is his willingness to submit to God’s warning (verses 12-17). Now you might say, “Of course, he responded to God’s warning. Look at what the angels did to the men of the city, striking them with blindness.” Let me remind you though that as often as not, miracles in the Bible are seen and rejected, not because men had an explanation for them but because they had rejected God.

John 10:24-26, “Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep,’ ”

The final evidence of Lot’s righteousness was the favour (grace) and mercy of God (Genesis 19:17-22). Jeremiah in the book of Lamentations put it this way, “It is of His mercies that we are not consumed; great is His faithfulness.” Peter, speaking of God’s mercy in His deliverance of Lot, wrote, “…–– then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment…”


You have heard God’s warning today. I do not know if God will deal with you believer as He dealt with Lot. Lot did not deserve to be delivered but God was merciful to Him and Lot responded to that mercy. How will you respond? God in His mercy has pointed out to you this morning how that what you truly worship is not God but the things and the people of this world. Will you repent, Christian? Will you turn to God as Abraham did? Will you trust Him no matter what the circumstances may be or will you look out for your own interests? Will you be a friend of God or a friend of this world? Will your family get closer to God because of their relationship to you or will they die in Sodom because your testimony is not believable?



Patrick Morley tells about an acquaintance of his. “He wanted to be rich. He also wanted to be a Christian. Bible study interfered with selling time, and church came at a time when he needed to recover from the exhaustion of the week. In the end, rich was more important, and he walked away from God. ‘Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs’ (1 Timothy 6:10).”


Some of you, when I pray for you, my prayer is that you would get your eyes off of the world. You may yourself come out okay but your influence on others will be lost. You need to take a stand, evaluate your priorities from the Word of God and decide to serve God. It is easy to think we are okay but the world is subtle. It seems that Lot’s destruction was gradual. He did not lose his family in a day. It started with a relatively little harmless decision that cost every member of his family and perhaps even cost the city of Sodom itself.



Perhaps you are an unbeliever. This sermon should be of great comfort to you. God’s grace and mercy is boundless and eternal. Christ died for you so that you like Lot and like Abraham could become righteous. Does it matter how you live after you trust Christ? Absolutely, but you can only come to God based on His mercy through Jesus Christ. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy, he saved us…” That does not mean that your sin goes unpunished. God’s mercy works like this. You have sinned. Someone must be punished. Jesus took your punishment when He died on the cross. If you will trust Him today, you will be saved from that punishment that you so richly deserve. That is mercy. That is grace. It is only available though by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for your sin.

Links to Sermons on Lot June 8, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Genesis, Jonathan Edwards, Judgment, Lot, Personalities, Sermons.
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I am preaching on Lot this Sunday. Perhaps you would like to see some other sermons about him.

http://www.biblebb.com/files/ryle/remember_lot.htm (J.C. Ryle)

http://www.pbc.org/library/files/html/3667.html (Ray Stedman)

http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermons/read_sermon.asp?id=311 (Ray Pritchard)

http://www.biblebb.com/files/edwards/sodom.htm (Jonathan Edwards)

First in a Four Part Series from the Life of Abraham June 3, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Faith, Genesis, Sermons.


GENESIS 11:27-21:7

What are the most important traits you want in a friend? A lot of money and a generous spirit? A listening ear? Self-sacrifice? There are a number of possible answers to that question. We want to look at the friendship between Abraham and God.


We often evaluate others by their friends. What we want to do this morning is evaluate God by His friend, Abraham. We do not want to just pick out a little bit of the story. We want to look at the twenty-five year long friendship between Abraham and God and evaluate God by His friend, Abraham.

The first time we meet Abram in Genesis 11:27-12:3, he has received two things: a command from God to move thousands of miles away to a different land which God would show him and a promise from God to make of Abram a great nation in whom all the world would be blessed. In obedience, he and much of his family including his father moved to Haran. After living a while in Haran, his father died and Abram at the age of seventy-five went to Canaan where God visually appeared to Abram in 12:7 and told him, “You’re here! This is the land that I am going to give to your descendants.” There was just one hitch, Abram did not have a son.


I can imagine that after some time, Abram began to wonder if he had made the right decision. At that time (Genesis 15:1ff) God appeared to Abram in a vision and assured him that the promise would be kept through His biological son. Abram still did not have a biological son. His heir was a servant of his named Eliezer. Abram was getting on up in years. His wife Sarai was getting up in years. Verse 6 tells us that Abram believed God anyway and that it was accounted to him for righteousness. God then said, “By the way, not only are you going to have a son who is going to become a nation like the sand of the sea and the stars of the heaven but I am going to give you this land.” Interestingly, Abram believed God about the son and the great nation but when God promised him the land he asked, “How do I know?” It is at that time that God with great ceremony established a covenant with Abram and told him what his earthly inheritance was to be.

In Genesis 16, we find that Abram still had a problem. Eleven years after obeying God’s command he still did not have a son. He was 86 years old and his wife did something that appears very loving but was very foolish. She gave Abram a night with her servant girl. A child was born – Ishmael. For thirteen years, it seems that Abram thought that perhaps he had solved God’s problem! He had a son. An angel had appeared to Hagar, Ishmael’s mother and had told her that this son would become a great nation.


Thirteen years later at age 99, according to Genesis 17 God appeared again to Abram, who He renamed Abraham. God told Abraham three things concerning the promised son: first, that Ishmael was not the promised son; secondly, that Sarai, now called Sarah, would be the mother of this promised son; and thirdly, that it would happen in about a year. At that time, Abraham would be 100 years old and Sarah would be 90. Abraham fell on his face before God and laughed in his heart at the impossibility of the situation. (Genesis 17:1-21:7 covers approximately a year in the life of Abraham). Now when this story was first written down, it was written by Moses for the children of Israel. They had just escaped from Egypt as a new nation. They needed to know God’s power. God revealed His power through the ten plagues and the drowning of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. They also needed to know how God wanted them to live and we find that in the giving of the Ten Commandments. What they also needed though, as much as the knowledge of the power of God and the law of God, was a revelation of the plan of God. That is what the story of Abraham is all about. God has a plan for Abraham, for Israel, and for the world.


Sometime shortly thereafter according to Genesis 18, God appears for the third time to Abraham. We have a picture here of the relationship of Abraham and God that has developed over a period of 25 years. Twenty-five years of promises but no fulfillment. Twenty-five years of waiting and believing God but seeing nothing to show for their faith. Twenty-five years of following God’s plan and not seeing where it is that God is taking him. Twenty-five years of occasionally getting pertinent information from God, followed by long years of silence. Before when God appeared to Abraham, it appears that he immediately recognized God but this time, God comes thinly disguised as man. Abraham, as was customary in that day, shows great hospitality to the three men who have come to visit him. It is not 100% clear when God reveals himself to Abraham but by verse 10 of this chapter it is pretty certain that God has come to visit Abraham.

God has come to do two things. He wants to confront Sarah (18:9-15). She is doubting. You would also if you were ninety years old and your husband came to you and said, “I believe God wants us to start a family.” Even if you believed in the power of God to pull such a thing off, you might doubt the wisdom of God in such a matter. Sarah is not, however, doubting God’s wisdom. She is doubting His power, she is doubting His ability and so she laughs in disbelief. Her response was not any different than that of Abraham but God felt the need to confront Sarah about her disbelief.

“In Genesis 21:1–7 we find Sarah’s laughter of joy at her son’s birth replacing her laughter of disbelief (18:12 ). God, of course, got the last laugh when Abraham followed God’s command (17:19) and named the boy ‘Isaac,’ which means ‘laughter.’ The delightful pun highlights God’s faithfulness to accomplish promises even when He seems to be slow in doing it.” (Steve Mathewson)


God then sends the other two fellows off and has a private conference with Abraham. He says, I want to let Abraham know what I am going to do to Sodom and Gomorrah. He has family there. He has a nephew, Lot, that also believes in me and Abraham is not only an important part of my plan but his character is such that I can surely entrust him with some vital information about my plans for Sodom and Gomorrah. God was not disappointed. Abraham began to worship or serve God in prayer. Abraham showed hospitality when he fixed a great feast for his guests. Now he is showing humility before God in pleading for the city of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is interesting that he is not pleading just for Lot or for Lot’s family. He is interceding for cities whose names are synonymous with wickedness. Abraham knew His God. He knew the compassion and the mercy of God. What he did not know was how vexed with wickedness Lot’s family had become.

This is the story of the friendship between Abraham and God. For twenty-five years God has been visiting Abraham off and on. Abraham was a friend of God.


Hundreds of years later we find an evaluation of God through His friendship with Abraham in 2 Chronicles 20. Jehoshaphat is king of Judah and the armies of three nations have come out against him and his people. The Bible says…

5 Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court,

6 and said: “O LORD God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?

7 Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?

8 “And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying,

9 ‘If disaster comes upon us––sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine––we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’

10 “And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir––whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them––

11 “here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit.

12 “O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”

13 Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the LORD.

Jehoshaphat had learned two things about God from His friendship with Abraham. He does not break His promises and he has the power to fulfill every promise that he makes. The next day they went down against the three nations with an army. In the front lines of the army were not the generals or the best soldiers but the sweetest singers, singing “Praise the LORD, For His mercy endures forever.” When they got down to the battlefield, they found the battle was over. The Ammonites and the Moabites had turned on the army of Mount Seir and after they had slaughtered that army, they destroyed each other. The kingdome of Juday saw that God has the power to fulfill His promises.


What are you facing that can only be handled through the power of God? What promise is there in Scripture that you refuse to grab hold of because you have no confidence in the power of God? He is able. There is one other passage in the Old Testament that speaks of Abraham as the friend of God. It is found in Isaiah 41:8-10 “But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, The descendants of Abraham My friend. You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its farthest regions, And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away: Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

What are you afraid of? If you have trusted Christ as Savior, there is no reason to fear. If you have a relationship with Him, He will uphold you by His power, He will fulfill every promise He makes to you.


God made a promise to Abraham. He promised that all the nations would be blessed through his seed. Galatians 3 explains how that became a reality, through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Ga 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” {#Ge 12:3 18:18 22:18 26:4 28:14}16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” {#Ge 12:7 13:15 24:7} who is Christ.

You can partake today in the promise to Abraham through faith in Christ. Would you become an heir of the promise today?