As we continue on in Genesis following Abraham, we find that after Abraham obeyed the Lord in circumcising both himself and Ishmael, who was now thirteen years old, along with all the men in his household (Genesis 17:26, 27), God once again appeared to him, this time with two Angels (Gen. 18:1, 2). This appearance of the Lord is what is known in theology as a theophany. In other words, an appearance of God to man in a form that is visible and seemingly physical.
To Abraham it seemed that these were three men, and it seems he didn’t recognize one of them as indeed Yahweh Himself until He moved to judge Sodom and Gomorrah. At any rate, the LORD and the two angels appeared as men. Any time in scripture that Angels are referenced they are always in the male gender. There are no female angels and no baby angels. Interestingly, the Bible says that Abraham washed their feet , killed a calf, Sarah cooked dinner for them, and “they did eat” (Gen. 18:1 – 8).
The Lord at this time reminded Abraham that Sarah would have a son. Sarah, who overheard what was being said, snickered at the thought of a 90 year-old woman having a baby. Think about it. Wouldn’t you have if you had been in her shoes? God heard Sarah laugh and spoke these tremendous words, “Is ANYTHING too hard for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:9 – 15)
The Lord also told Abraham that He and the Angels had come down to the Earth to destroy the cities of the plain, Sodom and Gomorrah, because “their sin is very grievous” (Gen. 18:20) The word translated, grievous, is the Hebrew, kabad. It is, heavy or weighty. This word can have either a positive or negative connotation. In this context obviously it is negative. There was a cry for vengeance and judgment coming out of these cities, and this cry had reached Heaven. Their sin was “grievous” to God. This is the only time this Hebrew word is translated, “grievous” in the entire Old Testament. The Literal Translation of the Bible renders this, And Jehovah said, The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and their sin is exceedingly heavy.[LITV]
The great sin of these cities, the sin that was so “heavy”, was homosexuality. I know it is not”PC” to say that, however I have no interest in being “politically correct.” I only want to be biblically correct. I find it interesting that lewd homosexual acts are still referred to as, “sodomy.” In fact, as recently as 2003 there were still sodomy laws on the books in several States. Keep this in mind however, the sin of homosexuality has never been tolerated by God, and has always brought the severest judgment of the Lord. Even today God will not tolerate this abomination that is spreading across our land. If you are reading this and you call yourself a Christian and at the same time “affirm” the so-called, “Gay” lifestyle, you had better examine your heart!
Abraham begged the Lord to spare the cities, for he loved his nephew Lot. God replied that if He could find just 10 righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah, He would not destroy them. Although God did spare Lot and his family, no other righteous people could be found. The wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah was so abominable, that the men of the city tried to assault the two angels of the Lord. Even after the angels smote them with blindness, the Sodomites were so persistent in their vile and perverted lust that they “wearied themselves to find the door” so that they could attempt their horrible acts with the men inside (Gen. 19:1 – 11).
The Angels rescued Lot, his wife, and their two daughters just in time for them to escape the destruction of the cities with fire and brimstone (Gen. 19:23 – 25). Unfortunately, Lot’s wife whose heart was still in Sodom, disobeyed the Lord, looked back toward the city, and became a pillar of salt.
We learn a great lesson from the tragedy which was Lot’s life. You cannot “camp” around sin and not have your life completely ravaged by it. Lot suffered miserably for “pitching his tent toward Sodom” (Gen. 13:12), for even his daughters were corrupted by the loose morals of that wicked society and committed incest with their father after making him drunk (Gen. 19:33 – 38)! This is the sad record of a family torn by the ravages of sin! It is true that sin will take you farther than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you wanted to pay.
Fourteen years after the birth of Ishmael, Sarah gave birth to the son God had promised, Isaac, which means “laughter”. Abraham prepared a feast on the day that Isaac was weaned, and Sarah saw Ishmael mocking and making fun of them. Therefore, she insisted that Abraham cast out Hagar and her son. God comforted Abraham, reminding him that he indeed would make Ishmael a great nation, but through Isaac would Abraham’s “seed be called” (Gen. 21:1 – 12).
From the very beginning Ishmael and Isaac were enemies, although they were sons of the same father. Their descendants, the Arabs and the Jews, have remained enemies even to this day! The Arabs claim the land of Israel due to Ishmael being the firstborn son of Abraham. The Jews claim the land due to the Covenant God made with Abraham. This rivalry will continue until God sets His people permanently in the land of their possession (Isa. 11:11 – 16).
As we come to Genesis 22, we read of the supreme test of Abraham’s faith. God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice before the Lord. To the natural mind this seems completely irrational. Abraham had waited all of these years for an heir to be born from the womb of Elizabeth according to the Promise of God. He had obeyed the Lord in sending away Ishmael, and now this command from the Lord that would have brought the Abrahamic Covenant to a grinding halt. Keep in mind that you and I have some 4,000 years of history to look back on. We have the perspective of Calvary, we are living this side of the Cross. Abraham did not have that. Imagine the inner turmoil he must have had to deal with. And yet, in the end he brought the imaginations of his head, he brought his reason,into the obedience of faith. The writer of Hebrews records Abraham’s resolute declaration of faith, concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. [Heb. 11:19 NKJV]
The faith of Abraham is demonstrated and manifested in the words he spoke to his servants and to Isaac himself. To his servants Abraham said: “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” [Gen. 22:5 NKJV] The most difficult part of this test must have come when Isaac asked: “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”[Gen. 22:7 NKJV] Abraham answered his son with words of faith: “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” [Gen. 22:8 NKJV Emphasis added]
This total and complete obedience on the part of Abraham was rewarded by the Lord. For when Abraham tied Isaac to the Altar and drew back the knife to slay his son, the Angel of the Lord called to him from Heaven and said: “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” [Gen. 22:12 NKJV]
The Lord did provide a ram for them to sacrifice, and what a time of worship they must have had! Abraham called the place Jehovah-Jireh, which means “the Lord will provide.”
Isaac had two sons and named them Esau and Jacob. Esau, who was the firstborn son, foolishly sold his birthright to Jacob (Genesis 25:27 – 34). After a life of deception and fraud, Jacob had a change of heart, and learned a total dependence on the Lord. God changed his name from Jacob, which meant “deceiver”, to Israel, which meant “prince of God” (Genesis 32:24 – 32).
Jacob had 12 sons from whom came the Twelve Tribes of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher (Gen. 35:23 – 26). As we read through biblical history, it seems as though there was a lessening of spiritual values from Abraham to Isaac and from Isaac to Jacob, but even more so from Jacob to his 12 sons. Still Joseph maintained his integrity before God. Because of its purity, Joseph’s exemplary life has been compared to that of Christ.
Because of the jealously in their heart toward Joseph, some of the brothers plotted to kill him and sold him into Egyptian bondage (Gen. 37:11 – 34). It is really fascinating to read through this account with the historical hindsight that we have today. It is pretty clear that Joseph, though he lived a life of integrity and consecration to God, needed to mature and have pride worked out his heart. God in His foreknowledge, I believe, put it into the heart of Reuben to cast Joseph into a pit rather than kill him. The Lord then in His Sovereignty moved on the hearts of his brothers to sell Joseph to Midianite merchantmen for 20 pieces of silver. The merchantmen carried him into Egypt. Why would the Lord allow this?
God will, if we will consecrate ourselves to Him, have us in the right place at the right time to accomplish His purposes. Because He does not live in time and space like we do, He can see the “big picture”. He knows what the future holds, because He is already there! In His mercy, He doesn’t reveal all of it to our finite minds, but requires us to walk by faith trusting Him step by step. The Lord knew what the future held for His people the Jews.
Thirteen years after Joseph ended up in Egypt, after enduring an unjust stay in Potiphar’s prison house, a famine came to the land of Israel, and all the people from all around came to Egypt to obtain food, which they had in storehouses due to a plan that the Lord gave Joseph in interpretation to the Pharaoh’s dream (Gen. 41:57). All of Jacob’s household, 66 of them, came to Egypt where they discovered that Joseph was the prime minister (Gen. 46:27 – 34). God’s blessings rested upon Joseph because of his faithfulness to Him.
Shortly thereafter Jacob died. Fifty-four years later Joseph died also, and a Pharaoh “which knew not Joseph (Ex. 1:8) came to the throne. This Pharaoh discovered that the children of Israel were stronger and mightier than the Egyptians, for there were about 2,000,000 Israelites by this time. Fearing that the children of Israel would cause a National upheaval and bring his throne into jeopardy, the Pharoah issued a wicked decree that all of the male Hebrew babies should be thrown into the river. Moses was born during this time, and was hidden by his mother in the bulrushes (Ex. 2:1 – 10). Pharaoh’s daughter found him and had compassion on him. Moses was reared in Pharaoh’s palace and received the finest education. God was preparing him for a special task (Acts 7:20 -22).
Life for the Children of Israel was extremely difficult, for they lived as Egyptian slaves. The purpose of God in allowing them to go into Egypt was twofold: 1) to judge them for their rebellion and 2) to allow them to multiply and become a great nation. When this was accomplished, the Children of Israel cried to the Lord for deliverance! The scripture declares:
So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them. [Ex. 2:24, 25 NKJV]
It was at this point that God raised up Moses to lead the Nation of Israel out of Egyptian bondage (Ex. 3:1 – 12). Moses went before the Pharoah, with Aaron his brother, and said: “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’ ” [Ex. 5:1 NKJV]
Pharaoh refused to listen to the voice of the Lord, as had already been told Moses. It was not until God brought a variety of Judgments upon the nation of Egypt that Pharaoh finally consented. These plagues included water turning to blood (Ex. 7:14 – 25), frogs (Ex. 8:1 – 15), lice (Ex. 8:16 – 19), flies (Ex. 8:24), a disease upon the cattle (Ex. 9:1 – 7), boils (Ex. 9:8 – 12), hail (Ex. 8:13 – 35), locusts (Ex. 10:4 – 15), darkness (Ex. 10:21 – 23), and finally the death of the firstborn (Ex. 11:4 – 7). The Passover was instituted by God at this time and observed for the first time by the Children of Israel (Ex. 12:1 – 17). To every household that had obeyed this commandment of the Lord, God promised:
And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.[Ex. 12:13 NKJV] That night the firstborn of all of the families of Egypt was killed. It is recorded: there was not a house where there was not one dead.[Ex. 12:30b NKJV]
When this occurred, Pharoah commanded the Children of Israel to depart from Egypt. Although there were only 70 Israelites when they first entered Egypt, there now existed a mighty nation of over 2,000,000 men, women, and children, along with the flocks and herds, silver and gold, and all that the Egyptians had heaped upon them in their fear that God would bring more judgment upon them (Ex. 12:33 – 36).
God had brought blessing out of adversity! Israel was finally free from the bondage of Egypt, and God had great plans for His people. Thus, the Dispensation of Promise ended in Judgment as the other Dispensations before. But there was also the continued Promise of a coming Redeemer who was mighty to save!
The Covenant that God made with Abraham is just as true today as it was the day God made the Promises! God has blessed those who have blessed Israel, and He has cursed those who have mistreated Israel. The mighty defeat of Hitler’s regime and the Blessings of God upon America (although as we as a nation increasingly turn against Israel, that is rapidly changing), but these serve as constant reminders that GOD KEEPS HIS PROMISES TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE!
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson