Waiting on the Promises Genesis 12-16

Genesis 12-16

Introduction: we all know about standing on the promises, but today I’ve picked the title “waiting on the promises” as we look at the first half of Abraham’s life.

Remember our aim in this series is to get a “big picture” understanding of the Bible—kind of a bird’s eye view of God’s redemptive character by looking at some of the major events in his word

  • One reason for this is that it helps us to gain proper application from God’s word
  • We first ask, what does the passage mean, then what did it mean to the first audience, how does Christ fulfil this, and then we ask what does it mean for me

As far as the Old Testament saint is concerned, is doesn’t get much bigger than Abraham.

  • His name appears 75 times in the NT
  • Paul appeals to Abraham over and over again as the picture of God’s promise of grace
  • From our NT reading
    • Gal. 3:15-18  To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
  • Romans 9:16, the father Abraham passage, “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
    • Not by merit but by grace through faith

The Quick overview of chapters 12-16

  • 12—the promises given, then a mini-exodus from Egypt
  • 13—Lot moves, God’s promises reaffirmed
  • 14—Lot is rescued, we meet Melchizedek
  • 15—covenant ceremony
  • 16—the Hagar method for helping God’s promises

All of it is important, but for our purposes we’re going to focus on chapters 12, 15 and 16

Chapter 12 we meet Abram and God gives him a four-fold promise that doesn’t just show us the forward movement of the Bible, it also shows us that the story of redemption is firmly rooted in creation

  • The promises:  people, place, presence, and program
  • Looking forward—they’re all fulfilled in Jesus
  • Looking back
    • Remember Gen. 3:15  I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
    • Comparing this with Abrham’s promises we can see how they all speak to creation’s original order and the fall somehow
      • People Adam and Eve were commanded to fill the earth with people, and even after they sinned, the gospel promise was that one of Eve’s children would destroy the serpent.   Look around.
      • Place, the garden was their place but it was lost when they sinned.   Jesus said “I go to prepare a place for you” and in our exile the place is with each other, Jesus’ body.
      • Presence Adam and Eve were evicted from the garden and lost God’s presence.  Jesus came as God Incarnate.
      • Program, the redemption of the world, “all the nations will be blessed through you”, is promised to come thru Abraham.  This is, of course, the promise for Jesus to come as the salvation for Jew and Gentile, which makes sense, since Israel is Abraham’s grandson, and Judah, who Jew refers to, is his great grandson.
    • Then the second half of chapter 12:  Famine, Egypt, Abraham lies about Sarah, promises endangered
      • Don’t get hung up on Abraham leaving the promised land—remember he’s “waiting on the promises” to be fulfilled and he needs to feed his family
      • What we should get hung up on:  allowing Sarah to be taken into Pharaoh’s house
        • Gen. 3:15 makes it clear that the gospel would come through Eve’s offspring
        • And the people part of the promise came to Abraham when we was already a married man
          • 1 Cor. 7:17, 20  “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches… Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.”
          • When God calls us to a specific task, job, ministry, whatever.  When he calls us, he does so with all of your current responsibilities in mind.  Some of those responsibilities can be given up, like a job, but you should resign with honor, bringing glory to God in how you quit.
            • Others can’t be given up, like being married. 
            • Abraham hadn’t quite figured  that out yet.  He didn’t quite grasp that Sarah was essential to God’s plan.
            • As a side note:  God cares about women, don’t let anyone tell you he favors men, or that God is a misogynist.  Just look at
              • Sarah
              • Moses’ wife
              • Ruth and Naomi
              • Esther
              • And Mary, the mother of God
    • This becomes the big theme through Genesis:  God preserves his gospel promise even though his people keep endangering it
      • Here with Abraham
      • Again with Abraham in ch. 20
      • Isaac and Rebekkah in ch. 26
      • Judah and Tamar in ch. 37 because of his wicked sons
    • Before we move on to chapter 15 notice two things:
      • Abraham became a curse instead of a blessing to Pharaoh because he sinned
        • God’s people aren’t in the right just because God has blessed us
        • So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.”
        • The truth is that sometimes we can cause pretty terrible things to happen.  The church isn’t without her share of guilt, but that’s not God’s fault.
      • When Abraham and family left Egypt, they were actually kicked out and Pharaoh gave them a bunch of stuff to leave
        • In Exodus 12:33-36 The same thing happens for Abrahams descendants
        •  The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
        • This is a foreshadowing of God’s grace to come to the people he’s promised to Abraham

Chapter 15—this is a covenant ceremony like when you sign all 3413 pages of a mortgage for buying a home, but it’s from ca. 2500 BC. 

  • (Describe the ceremony)
  • Abraham is in a deep sleep,
  • God alone passed between the pieces—
    • Flaming torch and smoking fire pot
    • Points forward to the pillars of smoke and fire that led Israel through the wilderness after the Exodus
    • And another promise (statement) that points forward to the Exodus, 15:13-16    Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
    • What an encouragement to the first audience!  To know God’s plan had been fulfilled just as he decreed!  This isn’t one of those Egyptian gods that might be able to do something, this is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who speaks and acts, always does what he has planned. 
  • In 15:1, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield”
    • Jesus the protector
    • Jesus the one who suffered the consequences of sin
  • Why a ceremony?  Weren’t the promises good enough?
    • God’s word is always faithful but his people aren’t
    • The ceremony was added for the benefit of his people, to confirm God’s commitment to them
    • To reassure Abraham that God meant what he said

But there’s Genesis 16—the Hagar method of helping God’s promises

  • You’d think a thing like Gen. 15 would have had a lasting effect on Abraham
  • Gen. 16 Sarah and Abraham are getting old—they were already pretty old when God made his promises in chapter 12, at that point he was at least 75 and she was ten years younger.
  • Sarah suggests to Abraham that her maid, Hagar an Egyptian, could produce an heir for Abraham.
  • Not uncommon for their time and place, but God’s ways don’t conform to culture, he commands his people to do our best to conform culture to his ways.  At least our own micro-cultures of our families and churches.
  • So, yet again Abraham puts the promise of Eve’s seed at risk
    • I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
    • This promise was for Abraham and Sarah, not Abraham and Hagar

What can we learn?

  1. Waiting on God
    1. Abraham waited about 25 years for Isaac
    1. Original audience waited 400 years in Egypt and then 40 more in the wilderness
    1. Principles for waiting on God
      1. God exists outside of time, but he made time for us, our existence is bound to time.  We, therefore, experience God in time and time means waiting.  Waiting on God is how we get to know him and understand him—waiting isn’t a punishment or a rebuke, it’s a necessary function of the simple truth “we aren’t God”
      1. Godly waiting is focused on God’s presence and God’s answer, not necessarily God giving me my answer.  This means those dreaded “p” words
        1. Patience—in our world waiting is thought of as a bad thing.  We don’t like to wait to be seated, we pick something else from amazon if it doesn’t have two or even one-day delivery.  You can go to an amusement park and pay extra for the express  pass and skip the lines. 
          1. Be patient in God’s work, a lot of his answer comes in the meantime—the waiting when you thought he wasn’t answering, he actually was and only in hindsight do you see his providence.
        1. Perseverance—continue to hope, to pray, to exert your effort for godly goals. That’s the story of the Christian life—we long, yearn, and wait for our sinful natures to be finally and fully put to death, and in our waiting we work towards that end in the power of the Holy Spirit.
    1. Abraham waited, but impatiently—which gives us hope!
  2. God persevered perfectly with his imperfect people
  3. God preserved them in spite of themselves
    1. In Abraham’s waiting we’re reminded this is God’s story before it’s ours and we should be thankful for that.
  4. Working for God
    1. Don’t leave your responsibilities behind while you pursue new callings
      1. Remember what 1 Cor. 7:17 says “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”
      1. God doesn’t call you away from righteousness to pursue other righteousness.  Abraham should never have put Sarah in the danger of being taken by Pharaoh, and then later he did it again with Abimelech
    1. Working for God has to begin with worship, because worship is really the only thing we can offer him
      1. Worship in the narrow sense—commit yourself to the means of grace
        1. We live in a time of instant gratification and the simple, quiet, slow, means of grace isn’t emphasized enough, don’t let the world drown out the truth.  God has made an appointment with his people and he always keeps those appointments, to meet you in the means of grace.
        1. Show up, be ready and rested, engage your minds and your hearts will come as the Spirit works
      1. Worship in the broad sense—don’t abuse this notion to make you believe corporate worship or church membership isn’t important, but as 1 Cor. 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
        1. Work for God by doing so with a heart, mind, and body that aims to give him glory.
        1. Prioritize people over tasks. (Hagar was essentially a task to fulfill the goal, but God’s goal was Isaac through Sarah, Abraham’s wife, a person.)
    1. Work means doing—in the broad place between what’s required and what’s forbidden there’s a lot we can do
      1. Lawn schedule
      1. Building upkeep
      1. Sunday School teachers, or just willing substitutes, nursery workers
      1. Souper Sundays—move some chairs and tables (but don’t move them back!)
      1. Wisdom dictates much of these things—when we need it? What we need? Why is it a good thing?
        1. Like Abiding Believers has gotten too large be considered a small group so it’s being divided!  This is a good development!  There’s no place in the Bible atht dictates how large a small group can be, we let our wisdom guide us.
        1. Or Coffee for the Neighbors, is a great example of work that requires waiting.  We set up the coffee and wait for people to stop by just so we can introduce ourselves and hopefully begin a relationship of sorts.  Ultimately, I would like to see us ministering to our neighbors in necessary ways, but we need to meet them first.  It’s gotten a slow start, but we wait.
    1. Don’t making waiting on God an excuse not to work and don’t make working for God an excuse not to be patient, because God will work in his providence which isn’t bound to our time.  Work for God, worship God, wait on God.


705  I know whom I have believed

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.