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Faith When God Gets Specific

Genesis 17:1-27 Hope deferred makes the heart sick. Man can live for forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but he cant live 30 seconds without hope. Ill. . . Almost 50 years ago Elie Wiesel was a fifteen-year old prisoner in the Nazi death camp at Buna. A cache of arms belonging to a Dutchman had been discovered at the camp. The man was promptly shipped to Auschwitz. But he had a young servant boy, a pipel as they were called, a child with a refined and beautiful face, unheard of in the camps. He had the face of a sad angel. The little servant, like his Dutch master, was cruelly tortured, but would not reveal any information. So the SS sentenced the child to death, along with two other prisoners who had been discovered with arms. Wiesel tells the story: One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly place, three black crows. Roll call. SS all around us; machine guns trained: the traditional ceremony. Three victims in chains--and one of them, the little servant, the sad-eyed angel. The SS seemed more preoccupied, more disturbed than usual. To hang a young boy in front of thousands of spectators was no light matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his lips. The gallows threw its shadow over him. This time the Lagercapo refused to act as executioner. Three SS replaced him. The three victims mounted together onto the chairs. The three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses. "Long live liberty!" cried the two adults. But the child was silent. "Where is God? Where is He?" someone behind me asked. Total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon, the sun was setting. "Bare your heads!" yelled the head of the camp. His voice was raucous. We were weeping. "Cover your heads!" Then the march past began. The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue-tinged. but the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive...For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed. Behind me, I heard the same man asking: "Where is God now?" And I heard a voice within me answer him: "Where is He? Here He is--He is hanging here on this gallows.." Elie Wiesels God died with his hope that night. Elie Wiesel, Night, Bantam, 1982, p. 75-6, quoted in When God Was Taken Captive, W. Aldrich, Multnomah, 1989, p. 39-41

We must appreciate the importance of hope. So difficult to hang on to when God is late or moves in a way that we dont anticipate. Three things about God I have discovered in my study of the life of faith in Abraham: 1. God Works on His Schedule In your life sometimes seems Where is God? Never late. Seldom early. Doesnt help to look for models. Other people. Deals with each one differently. This is the only time in all the Bible it happened like this. 2. Gods Schedule Includes Your Problems Dont we do that. More difficult to believe in the God of the daily life than ElShaddai. But ElShaddai is the God of the daily grind. Has a plan. 3. Our Response in the Meantime must be Hope. Psalm 42:5 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence. We see this clearly in Abraham in Genesis 17. I. Our Hope in God is Not Conditional.

Easy to put a time limit on your hope. I will abide with the lord until this happens. Or until this date. Contractual language. Usually includes expectations and dates. God says, this isnt a contract it is a covenant. No time limit. Hope until he acts. Look at Abraham. When his dream of an heir was first given he was 75. Verse 1. Abram was 99. Repeated twice. Once mentions that he would be 100. Three times his age is addressed. Notice at the beginning and at the end. Verse 24. Thirteen years since Ishmael. Born of a servant Hagar. Life goes on. All but forgotten. God shows up. God is never in a hurry. Reminds Abram of who He is. ElShaddai. Name of God is who He will be to us when we need Him. Reminds Abram of what He expects. Walk before me blameless.

Abram07.doc Verse 2 Reminds Abram of What He would do. No conjunction here. Not and. Not a conditional covenant. Grace is unmerited. The walk is our responsibility not our attempt at earning his favor. Verse 3 Abrams response is worship. What would your response have been? Bitter. Anger. Complaints. Lord, Ive heard this song and dance before. Show me the Baby! Where does a man muster the will to worship the One who to this point has so deeply disappointed him? Those who Walk by Faith, Live by Hope. And that is what attracted God to this man in the first place. PS 33:18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness, Our hope is not conditional. Not dependent on deadlines and agendas. II. Our Hope is Often Scandalous.

Let me get this straight. You want to do what to me with that sharp knife?! But the great humor is the name. Abraham. Father of many. At 99! Hope is scandalous sometimes. Because it doesnt make sense. Naming a 99 year old man married to an eighty something year old woman does not make sense. Verse 15 specific to Sarai. Sarai to Sarah. Name change. Sarai my princess. Belonged to her father. The man who named her. Sarah, princess, general. Belong to the ages. Become the mother of the royal family. Heirs to the kingdom. God is subtle. Verse 17 Abrahams response. He laughed. Laughter of disbelief. Said in his heart. Knew she had been through menopause. No way. God said OK name him Isaac, He laughs. ON the surface He refers to Abraham. No, it is a reference to God. Will see later that Sarah laughed when she heard. Abraham laughed, Sarah laughed, God laughs. He who laughs last laughs best. Point: When God tells you something you accept it despite the ramifications. 1. Dont consider the likelihood. Point: Abraham couldnt believe it when God got specific. All of that great plan man he was with God. Verses 5-8 General and large. Specific and small, Hey lord this is Sarah, get real. No way. Couldnt see it. Hope isnt tied to what you can see. 2. Dont consider the neighborhood. Easy to want to buffer this in the community. Play it down. But here is Abe, asked to tell everyone his new name. And circumcise his entire household. A lot of pained employees and relatives. And everyone will want to know why. Why are you having such a hard time getting around? Tell me that God doesnt have a great sense of humor. Whats wrong with you and your men? You did what? You think that you are going to be the father of many.

Verse 4-5 God begins to get more specific. Tells him his plan. Changes his name. Abram meant, exalted father. Abraham meant Father of many. Verse 6 Exceedingly fruitful. Catch the irony. Fruitful is used 6 times in the Bible prior to this. In every case it refers to having children. Adam and Eve. Noah and family. God is telling him he would have lots of kids. Verse 7 Everlasting Covenant. Verse 9 sign of the covenant circumcision. Removal of the flesh of the foreskin. We still do this to babies, whether they are Jewish or not. Very painful. Imagine the pain in a 99 year old man. The circumcision was a sign of the covenant. Unique to the Jews. Irreversible mark. Also a sign of the coming mark of the Holy Spirit. Paul said that those who are truly circumcised today are the ones circumcised in their hearts. And he was told to do it to every male in his house. Catch the humor in this. 99 year old Abraham has to go back into the house and explain to all of those adult servants and kin that God told him to do this and they had to participate!

Abram07.doc Following God is often scandalous. Cannot get too concerned with what everyone else is thinking. III. Our Hope is Transformational.

collided with the catcher at home just as the ball arrived. He was out. So was the catcher. The boy who hit the ball scored easily. We lost the game 14 12. But you would have thought we won. All of us agreed that the boys had learned far more about life and baseball in that defeat than they ever have in a lopsided win. Life is like that.

Transformed his name. See this in so many of the Bible. When God does a work he renames them. Name was so important. Today people name their children for a wide variety of reasons. My mother in law was a counselor in Beaumont. Two girls. One was named, Cherryjello. And the other was named Orangejello. Pronounce it. Then spell it. Names meant more back then. And when god did a new work he changed their name. No longer Abram. Now Abraham. No longer Sarai. Now Sarah. Did it with Jacob. Jacob got his name because he came out with a grip on his twin brother Esaus heal. Named him Jacob. The heel catcher. Trickster. The supplantor. When God spoke to Jacob he changed his name. Israel. He will rule as God. Jesus renamed many of his disciples. Most significant Cephas or Simon. Named him Peter, the Rock. Transformational. And you see in this the purpose of God. His desire isnt just to bless us. His desire is to change us. And in the process of blessing he transforms. When we do that we become useful. And unfortunately, transformation is a painful, slow and difficult process. Ill. . . Boys little league team. Great team. Strong. Batting average of 556 for the team. Never have I seen a group of kids love baseball more. One cold rainy afternoon the game was cancelled. They begged us to practice. Been whipping the opposition by 15 to 20 points. Then it happened. Ran into a tough bunch from Paradise. Got behind and were in danger of losing. Down 14 4 with one more at bat. Little league rule, max ten batters. Only hope all ten score. They put on the rally caps and started to bear down. Hit after hit. Few walks. Six runs. 14 10. Then it happened. One of the boys struck out. Best they could do was 14 13. No way to win. They knew it. But to their credit they stayed at it. No st more outs that inning. Runner on 1 with one batter left. He hit the ball deep into right and had a shot. Kid on first flew around the bases and

We often learn far more through defeats and failures and struggle than we ever do in victory. But one that brings long term rewards. Verses 18-19. God wants to do that same sort of thing through you. Faith and hope. Dont let the present circumstances cause Hebrews 11:1. What areas do you feel like it is difficult to believe God. He seems late. Situation is impossible. Conclusion: Got any rivers?