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A Growing Faith Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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May 18, 2022 1:00 am

A Growing Faith Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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May 18, 2022 1:00 am

When God is silent, we often doubt His promises. After the birth of Ishmael, Abraham did not hear from God for years. In this message, we are going to look at the nature and participants of God’s covenant with Abraham. What happened when God called Abraham by name, the “father of many nations”? 

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. For 99 years he was known as Abram. Now he will be called Abraham, the father of many nations. Ishmael is a teenager. Isaac is not yet born.

We stand at a crucial point in history. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. We are in a series on strength for the journey, the story of a man named Abram, whose name God changed. Pastor Lutzer, why did God do this? God changed his name in anticipation of the fact that Isaac would eventually be born. You know, God made it very clear that it would be through Sarah that the seed would be born, from which, of course, we knew eventually a redeemer would come. So he was called the father of many nations, even before he was the father of many nations, because God knows exactly what's going to happen.

And as Paul says in the book of Romans, I love this, he calls those things that are not as if they are. What a God we serve. I'm so glad for the many of you who support the ministry of Running to Win. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Of course, the amount that you give is entirely your decision, and you need info.

So you can go to,, and when you're there, of course, click on the endurance partner button or call us at 1-888-218-9337. We've been following the life of Abraham, the pilgrim. God comes to him and says, Abraham, I'm going to give you the land and I'm going to give you a posterity. To your descendants, I'm going to give it to you forever. Abraham is obsessed, as we've learned, with how those promises are going to be fulfilled. On one occasion, he says, God, you have to understand, of course, the context is that I'm old.

Sarah is old. We can't bear children anymore. What about Eliezer of Damascus? He's my trusted servant. Could he be my heir?

Culturally speaking, it's possible. God says, Abraham, the answer is no. But the one who comes from you, your very own son, is going to be the heir of the promises. So then he and Sarah are having discussions, and God is saying that he's clarified it, that I'm going to be the father. But Sarah, you're too old to bear a child. And so as you know, Sarah makes a suggestion and says, take my handmade Hagar, have a relationship with her, and bear a child.

And she will bear a child, and that child will be considered to be mine, which also was part of the culture of the day. And Abraham listened to the voice of Sarah. And Hagar became pregnant, and she gave birth to Ishmael. So that's where we are when the 17th chapter of the book of Genesis opens. And I want you to turn to that passage, Genesis chapter 17. That's where we are, where God comes again and speaks to Abraham. Now, when the 17th chapter opens, Abraham has been in the land for 24 years. After the birth of Ishmael, Abraham doesn't hear from God for years and years and years. So that gives him lots of time to begin to doubt the promise. Is God worthy of my trust even after these years of silence?

That's the issue. God comes in chapter 17, ratifies the covenant, adds some new details. And what a chapter it is. What I'd like us to do is to look very briefly at the nature of the covenant. Then we're going to look at the participants. And then what we're going to do is to learn lessons that are going to change us forever. We'll never quite be the same because we've heard from God. Chapter 17 opens, the nature of the covenant or the agreement. It says, when Abraham was 99 years old, we'll call him Abram at this point. We've been calling him Abraham even though he has been Abram until this point.

99 years old, when the Lord appeared to him and said to him, I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless. Now notice that God comes with a new name. I am God Almighty. Three different names for God in the book of Genesis. Elohim, God Creator.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Jehovah, the covenant keeping God. Jehovah. And now we have El Shaddai, God Almighty, God of infinite strength, because Abraham has to be convinced that he has all the resources of omnipotent deity to see that these promises are fulfilled. And so God said, I am the Lord Almighty, walk before me and be perfect, be blameless, as my translation says. And that does not mean that Abraham has to live a perfect life, because none of us lives a perfect life. In fact, we saw that he lied when he went into Egypt. He did distrust God over the Ishmael matter, and he's about to lie again, believe it or not.

But the word does signify wholehearted. Walk before me wholeheartedly. And Abraham had an obligation to do that, just like we also have an obligation to walk before God with wholeheartedness. That's what God is asking Abraham to do.

And then God says this. He says, behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

Abram, exalted father. Abraham means the father of a multitude. Now you know that Abraham had hundreds of people as herdsmen. In fact, he took 318 of his own men to rescue Lot. So when he changed his name, he had to explain it to everyone. And I can imagine as he goes to a watering hole where the Perizzites and the Canizites and the other zites and the megabytes who are in the land.

And I can imagine him going to a watering hole and somebody says, what is your name? And he says, Abraham, father of a multitude. That's great. How many children do you have? None. Yes, I have one, but I'm waiting for another. Well, how old is Sarah?

She's about 90. And you're the father of a multitude. Good luck. Well, God not only says, I'm changing your name, I'm changing Sarah's name. For this, we have to go further in the chapter. Verse 15, God said to Abraham, as for Sarai, that's who she's been up until now, your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. Sarah means princess. And well, might she be called a princess because I will bless her and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her and she shall become nations.

Kings of people shall come from her. Well, no wonder Abraham falls on his face the second time. And this time he laughs because he's heard something that is impossible. Except for one fact, the person who is speaking is El Shaddai, God the Almighty. Now notice what the covenant says. We're back in the first part of chapter 17, where God says in verse seven, and I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession and I will be their God. Abraham, you're going to get the land. Your descendants will have it as an everlasting possession that is in perpetuity continuously. It's going to be yours.

Oh, there are going to be interruptions, but in the end, it's going to be yours and to your descendants. And God in this chapter also introduces circumcision. This is verse nine and following and circumcision is going to be a sign of this covenant because God has been talking to Abraham about the seed circumcision connected with the whole idea of seed and posterity and also the cutting away of that which is unclean. That's why it's used in the New Testament metaphorically as people circumcising their hearts. In other words, that that they are separated onto God. And so God says, Abraham, this is the covenant I'm entering into with you today.

That's the nature of it. All right. What about the participants of the covenant? Who is it now that gets the blessings?

Well, today, because we're covering a great deal of scripture, I'm only using certain portions. It's best if you read it all in context, but we're back in the verse 15 and following. You'll notice that God says, I'm going to give you a son.

Sarah is renamed and she is now Sarah. Verse 17, then Abraham fell on his face and laughed to himself and said, shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is 90 years old, bear a child? And Abraham said to God, oh, that Ishmael may live before you.

He says, God, you have just promised something that is beyond your limit to promise. I'm 99. Sarah is 90. We're well beyond the ability to bear children. Our bodies are dead in terms of their ability to reproduce. God, don't you know that I've already worked something out on your behalf?

I didn't want you to be embarrassed to make a promise you couldn't keep. And that's why Ishmael is here. As a matter of fact, I love him now. Oh God, oh that Ishmael may live before you. God, fulfill it in Ishmael.

Now the question for the next few moments in this message is, did God fulfill it in Ishmael or did he fulfill it in Isaac? And here we come to some conflict, conflict of discussion. Because followers of the Muslim religion have a different interpretation. So let me give you a little bit of background, a little bit understanding of history, and then we'll see what the differences are. In order to get some perspective, you have to realize that the book of Genesis was probably written 1400 years BC. I'm speaking roughly today in terms of centuries, in terms of hundreds of years. Some may say it is 1500 BC, but give or take 100 years. Written by Moses, inspired of God to tell us history, we couldn't know in any other way. Then centuries pass. You have the coming of Jesus and Muhammad who was born in 570.

He's born in 570. Let's say that the Quran is written about 600 years after the coming of Jesus. We have, minimally speaking, about 2,000 years, 20 centuries, between the writing of scripture, the account in the Bible, and 20 centuries later, you have the Quran being written by Muhammad. What the Quran does is it mentions Isaac 12 times. Excuse me, it mentions Ishmael 12 times, I should say. It mentions Ishmael 12 times, and it speaks of Ishmael as being an apostle and as a prophet. It relocates him to Mecca and says that Abraham takes him there to Arabia.

Abraham visits him and disapproves of the wife that he selected, and then Ishmael is remarried, and a second time then he is married, and Abraham likes the second wife. Regarding the sacrifice of Isaac, as recorded in the 22nd chapter of the book of Genesis, the Quran speaks about this as being a dream, and it does not name the son as to who was sacrificed. Although when the account is over, it does say, and God gave him a son by the name of Isaac, and there are passages in the Quran that speak about Isaac as being the one to be the child of promise. But that explains why Muslim interpreters in the early centuries believed that Isaac was indeed the child of promise. But by the 10th century, opinion was equally divided because the pendulum began to swing in the other direction, and the view was that Ishmael is the child of promise.

And today, the concise encyclopedia of Islam says it is accepted today in Islam that Ishmael was the favored son, and the argument would be that Ishmael was the first born. Now, I want us to see how that the Bible contrasts with that and how it faces this issue very directly and very pointedly. For example, we find that God names Sarah.

I've read the text already, but I need to read it again. As for Sarah, your wife, you shall now call her Sarah. Actually, she was called Sarai. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations, kings, and peoples. Abraham falls on his face and says, oh, that Ishmael may live before you. And God says in verse 19, no, but Sarah, your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac, and I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring and those who follow him. As for Ishmael, he's going to be blessed.

I've heard you. Behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply greatly. So there's a blessing here for Ishmael, but the child of promise is going to be Isaac, who is born of Sarah. Now take your Bibles very quickly and turn to Genesis chapter 21, where we have a very interesting story, where God explicitly excludes Ishmael as being the child of promise. In chapter 21, at last, Isaac is born. The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. She conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. And then it says that Abraham, verse 5, was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said, God has made laughter for me.

Everyone who hears will laugh over me. The name Isaac, by the way, means laughter. And she said, who could have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age. And now Isaac is about to be weaned.

He's about one or two years old. We know that Ishmael is about 15 or 16 because he was 14 when the covenant was ratified. And it says, and the child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham laughing.

Other translations says mocking. So she said to Abraham, cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac. And this was distressing to Abraham because he loved Ishmael. But God said to Abraham, do not be displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac your offspring shall be named. Wow.

Parenthesis, did you notice men? God says to Abraham, obey your wife. Now I might say that the first time he shouldn't have obeyed her when it came to the matter of Hagar.

But this time he should have. I don't know about you, but my wife has had a lot of good suggestions. And the Bible says that we have to honor our wives. And oftentimes, gentlemen, I wouldn't say this out loud, but this is just between you and me. Oftentimes they're wiser than we are.

That's been my experience. You say, well, when do we agree with them and when do we disagree? Now maybe you have this kind of marriage, like one person said to me, he said, you know, we've been married for 25 years and we've never had a disagreement. I said to him, my marriage has never been that boring. Where two people agree one is unnecessary. But God did say, Abraham, in this instance, obey Sarah.

Now that aside, what we have here is very interesting. Ishmael is cast out of the house. Hagar goes with him. God begins to provide for him. She finds herself beside a well, reminiscent of the previous instance when she was pregnant with him and found a well. He goes into Egypt, the Bible says, or at least he takes an Egyptian woman as his wife.

He becomes an archer. And Ishmael goes off and pretty soon he has his own posterity. And that's where a lot of the conflict that is mentioned in the Bible that still has some remnants today in the Middle East, all has its genesis, all has its beginning.

But what's going on here in the text? Why is it that Ishmael can't be in the same house as Isaac? First of all, because he can't be a threat to the promised seed. There can't be any rivalry. God says, I don't want any discussion of this point.

There's no possibility of that happening. But there's another reason. In chapter 22, the very next chapter, which comes in my Bible right after chapter 21. In chapter 22, Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son, the only one God recognizes, Isaac on Mount Moriah. And what God is saying is, he's saying, Abraham, I have to wean you of all possibility of thinking, yes, I can go ahead and I can kill my Isaac and then God will use Ishmael to fulfill the promises.

God says, I don't even want that as a fallback position. You must be willing to sacrifice your son, your son Isaac and believe even then that God will raise him from the dead because Ishmael will not inherit the promises. What's interesting is in the New Testament, this whole story is used as an allegory. That's what it says in Galatians chapter 4. An allegory because Ishmael is seen as a son. He's seen as a son of the flesh. Whereas Isaac is seen as a child of promise and the differences between law and grace.

And there it is for us to look at. I don't know about you, but one of the reasons I find that so interesting is because this is one of the reasons why there cannot be peace in the Middle East. Our Muslim friends believe that the land promises were given to Ishmael and not Isaac. So you can understand why we cannot resolve the issues of the Middle East. But at the same time, I need to rejoice in the fact that the ministry of running to win is going into Muslim lands.

For example, here's a letter we received from the Sudan. I cried asking the Lord to send me help and understanding. That night I found running to win and began listening daily.

I felt that God was really talking to me directly on how to manage my life, how to follow his word in every detail of my life and to glorify him. We are so encouraged. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who continues to help us spread the word of God all throughout the world, of course, by Internet, but also in four different languages in 20 different countries. Here's what you can do to get some information. Go to That's and when you're there, click on the endurance partner button. Now, perhaps I said that too quickly, so I'm going to give you an opportunity to find a pencil so that you can write it down.

I'll give you that contact info again, or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Nothing delights my heart more than the knowledge that running to win is going into Muslim lands. Muslims are coming to Christ.

We understand, of course, the conflict of conscience that many of them are experiencing, but at the same time, Jesus is proving his power and his ability to transform lives, and you, my friend, are a part of that. Consider becoming an endurance partner. Of course, the amount that you give is entirely your choice. Here is what you do. Go to That's When you're there, click on the endurance partner button, or call us right now at 1-888-218-9337.

You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Genesis 21 tells of the parting of the ways between the two sons of Abraham. Ishmael was cast out of the house along with his mother Hagar. God's clear intention was for Isaac to carry on the line of inheritance. Next time, why Isaac was the child of promise and the ancestor of our Redeemer. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-17 00:30:59 / 2023-04-17 00:39:36 / 9

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