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Christmas in Genesis (Part 6 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 25, 2020 3:00 am

Christmas in Genesis (Part 6 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 25, 2020 3:00 am

God’s promises are guaranteed—even if they seem impossible. His purposes were inconceivable to Abraham and Sarah. Yet God’s declarations in Genesis are what we celebrate on Christmas and throughout the year. Hear more on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



Music Playing God's people, for generations, had been waiting for the arrival of the Messiah. They believed in faith that he would come. They trusted God that he would keep his promises to Abraham even if it seemed impossible. Today on the Christmas Day edition of Truth for Life, Alistair Begg highlights the miraculous fulfillment of God's covenant promise to Abraham and what it means for us.

We're in Genesis 17. Now, the promise of God to Abraham is that in his seed all the families of the earth will be blessed—will be blessed. What is being proclaimed here is that through the seed of Abraham, from whose seed will come the Lord Jesus, the promise is of knowing God, is of having our sins forgiven, is essentially the reality of salvation. Your father Abraham, says Jesus to the Jews, rejoiced that he would see my day, and he saw it and was glad.

And people say, Well, how could he see your day? Well, he saw it in the fulfillment of the promise in the gift of Isaac. Now, what we're trying to say here is that here we are in Genesis.

Is it shooting us forward into the Christmas experience? You say, Well, I can see you're trying your very best to make that point, but keep going. You haven't quite got me there.

Well, for example, what about the magnificat? What about Mary when she sings? It's fascinating, isn't it, that in that little poem that is hers, in that little song that is hers, what does she refer to? He has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his offspring forever. So she realizes what is going on here is tied directly to Genesis 12, Genesis 15, Genesis 17. In the same way, Zechariah, who has a wife who can't have a baby, she's barren.

Her name is Elizabeth, Mary's cousin. And when Zechariah gives voice to these things, he says, And, O God, you remember your holy covenant, the oath that you swore to our father Abraham. And if you want the details of that oath, read the second half of Genesis chapter 22.

Now, all this and more besides is there, which you're going to discover in your homework. It is a significant plan. It is a picture of God's plan from all of eternity. It is the story of God's—the eternal counsel of God's will, as Paul writes of it in Ephesians chapter 1. So what I'm saying to you is that although this idea of Christmas in Genesis may seem far out and gone from you, think only this, then—that in this promise, God is assembling a great company.

He is calling out individuals by name. In the same way that was happening four thousand years ago and two thousand years ago and is happening now. And in the midst of all of that, the questions are inevitable. And I want to show you three, all from the text. Genesis 17 and verse 17. Adam fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Well, it's an amazing story, because it begins when he is seventy-five years old. When God calls him, he's seventy-five. And interestingly, he doesn't call him because he's a peculiarly righteous fellow. He doesn't call him because he's identified the fact that he's a fairly pious chap or that he would be the kind of person that was interested in these things.

No! He worships pagan gods. He's the least likely person. God draws him out of the hour of the cold he is, and he says, Hey, you're my man. God still does that.

It's an amazing and a surprising choice. By the time you get into chapter 16, he's eighty-six years old. And it is at that point in the story that we have this remarkable little tete-a-tete between he and his wife Sarai. And Sarai says to him, Listen, Abram, I don't think this promised thing is working. I don't think there's ever gonna be anything here.

We're gonna have to take care of this ourselves. And that is why she sends him in to her servant maid Hagar, and that gives birth then to Ishmael. And in the context of the day, that was standard form.

If you did not have an heir, then it was legitimate to engage in such a process. And yet, God says, Ishmael is not the man. And as he comes to him in chapter 17, he confirms what he said to him before. In chapter 15, you will find a dark passage that describes a flaming pot and the cutting of creatures and pigeons laid side by side. And you look at all that, and you say, What is this about? Well, it is God establishing his covenant. In 17, the covenant, again, is put out there. And in this establishing of the covenant, God gives to Abraham a sign. Now, you remember, he gave to Noah a sign that was a big sign, could be seen universally.

And it was a sign, he said—it was the bow in the sky—and when he saw it, he would be reminded of the fact that he had made a covenant to put together a people. Now he gives to Abraham a sign. This sign is not universal. This sign is personal.

This sign is small. This sign will be a sign every time Abraham has a bath. He will remember, God has marked me with this sign of his covenant promise.

And it is in light of that that God now speaks to him. But it's a laugh, isn't it? What a laugh! We laughed. Now, we like to laugh, but you gotta laugh at the right time. I will bless Sarah. She will have a baby, and out from her will become nations, kings, peoples shall come from her. And Abraham said, That's an excellent plan.

Thank you very much indeed. No! No! Then Abraham fell on his face, which is the second time in the space of just a few verses he's fallen on his face, because that's how it begins at chapter 17.

He fell on his face, and he laughed, and he said to himself, Shall a child be born to a man who's a hundred years old? And the obvious answer to the question is, Absolutely not. No. No, it won't. It doesn't.

It can't. Go into the next chapter, and Sarah's laughing too. More laughter. She overhears the conversation. She's in the tent.

The LORD said, I will surely return to you about this time next year. And Sarah your wife shall have a son. And Sarah says, What?

She's listening at the tent door. And Abram and Sarah were old, they were advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. We get it. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, After I am worn out and my LORD is old, shall I have pleasure? We get it. The answer is, categorically, no. No. Shall we have a child?

He's a hundred, I'm ninety-nine. Now what's the answer to that? Well, the answer comes in the form of our second question, which is the second to the end. In verse 18 and in chapter 14, the LORD said to Abram, Why did Sarah laugh and say, Shall I indeed bear a child now that I am old? Here's the question. Is anything too hard for the LORD? Is anything too hard for the LORD?

That's the question. There is nothing that God has purposed to do that he cannot do. We didn't start at the very beginning. The beginning is actually in the final—in the thirtieth verse of Genesis 11, where it says that Sarah was barren, she had no child. Why do you say she had no child? Why do you just say she was barren? We've got that figured out.

We understand what barren means. Why is there a repetition? For emphasis. There's no underlining.

There's no capitals. She was barren, she had no child. So the whole thing is a nonstarter right from the beginning—unless God, by the promise of his Word, fulfills his purposes.

And actually, that's what we read in Hebrews 11. By faith Sarah herself—listen to the language—received power to conceive. She had no power to conceive. Neither did Abraham have power by means of his own. She received power to receive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. So in other words, the answer is simply this—that it is only by God's power that God's purpose is ever fulfilled. He spoke the world into being by his power. He who has created the universe is able for circumstances like this.

And the point is so very obvious. If salvation is going to come through the seed of Abraham, then it is going to come solely on the basis of God's supernatural, sovereign power. Now it is at that point that some of you are already getting off the bus. Because you're saying to yourself, Well, I don't even believe in a god to begin with. And even if I do believe in a god, I believe in a cosmic force, or I believe in an inner impulse, or I believe that God and the earth are interwoven—I'm really a pantheist. So you can't take me along this line, because I can't come with you. Well, my friends, what is being conveyed here is not actually irrational. It is suprarational. In other words, you cannot get to it on the basis of intellect alone.

It is only by God's enabling power. Now, when you think about that and you continue through the story of the Bible, you say, But this is a kind of repeating story, isn't it? We started for Samuel, and what did we start with? We started with a lady. And what was her problem? She was barren. She couldn't have a child. God gave her a child. He enabled her. You get to Zechariah's wife, Elizabeth.

She's barren. God enables her. And she produces John the Baptist. And then, of course, he takes it up a notch, doesn't he, in Mary? Because in both of those cases, they had a husband.

They could make a go of it and find out they couldn't. But in Mary's case, there's nobody even to make a go of it. She has no husband, and she is a virgin.

And so she's asking the same question as Sarah. Will I be able to do this? She says to the angel, How will this be since I am a virgin? It is impossible, apart from the sovereign, supernatural power of God. The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The power of the Most High will overshadow you. And interestingly—just as an aside, and we come to the end now—but this is how it is not only with the gift of physical life as comes to Mary, but it is the same process in relationship to spiritual life. The Bible's description of us is not a group of well-meaning people, vaguely religious, who are trying to do their best, and if they can keep it up, they will eventually be welcomed into his eternal glory. No, the Bible is a much tougher picture than that. The Bible says that we are not only wanderers, and we're wayward, and we're selfish, but we're also dead—dead! So what is the possibility, then, of being made alive, outside of the sovereign, supernatural power of God?

When Paul writes to the Ephesians, he says here, God who is rich in mercy, with the great love with which he has loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. I say to you again, this is not irrational. It is suprarational. You will not come to it by reason alone.

That is not to say it is unreasonable. But it is to say that there is ultimately no intellectual road to God, for it is only God who wakens us up and grants to his life and gives to us this enablement so that we find ourselves saying, I don't know quite why it is or how it is, but I've started to listen to this. I've started to believe some of this. I believe that I am the person that is being called out here.

It's an amazing thing. And you can read of it in relationship to this in Romans chapter 4. But our final question—and this I will just raise and leave with you, because it is, if you like, the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question, which comes after the fulfillment of the promise and after the arrival of Isaac.

All right? Abraham sees Jesus' day in the birth of Isaac. He's been given the name Isaac, chapter 17 verse 19, "'You shall call him Isaac.'" Which sounds a little bit like, "'And you shall call his name Jesus.'"

Not everybody gets their name given to them by somebody else before they're actually born. But you will call his name Isaac, which means, he laughs. He laughs.

That's funny in itself, isn't it? So here comes he laughs. Hey, he laughs.

Have you made your bed? Hey, he laughs. Every day, the two of them would look at one another, and when they looked at their boy, they said, You know, we laugh too. But then you come to chapter 22, you say, What in the world is God doing? You can't wait for all this time to fulfill the promise and give me a son, and then I wake up one morning, and he says, This is what I want you to do. Take your son, your only son, the son you love, and take him to a place that I'm telling you and sacrifice him there. What? But I thought we had a promise. I thought we had a plan. I thought through the seed that you have given me, we would lead to the one who would provide salvation.

How can this be? Now, when you read Old Testament narrative, often we as readers know more than what is being discovered by the actual participants in the event. We've seen that in Samuel. And so here we know from the opening verse that God sets out to test Abraham. He's setting him out on a test. The test is not to see if Abraham has faith. Abraham has faith.

He's giving Abraham an opportunity to show that the faith that God has engendered in him is the same faith that will enable him to be obedient even in the midst of all of these trials. And the command of God is unvarnished. It is straightforward. This is what you're to do.

No benefits attached to it, no explanations given. Just simply do it. Take your son, your only son—you'll read the story for yourself—early in the morning they set out. Early in the morning, do you think he was keen? No, I think he couldn't sleep.

It was one of those times where you look at the alarm three or four times, you go, Well, I might as well get up. We're going to have to go anyway. And as they put things together and they begin to look ahead, they can see nothing.

Forty-five miles. On the third day, he will look up, and he will see the mountain to which he has been sent—the same mountain on which the temple would be built in the days of Jesus. And as they move towards that, with Isaac, with the burden of the sticks on his back, and with Abram holding the flint and the knife in his hand, he knows this question is coming. Father, we've got the fire, we've got the stuff, but we don't have the lamb. And Abraham says, God himself will provide the lamb, my son. And then it says, And there was a ram caught in the thicket. That's always troubled me. I said, Well, he said he would provide a lamb, then it says a ram.

And I know, you know… You know what I think? I think his prophetic word goes beyond Moriah. His prophetic word goes right into the cradle in Bethlehem, when the shepherds come around and they look in, and they see, and their wizened faces are looking in at this scene.

And one says, He just looks like one of our little lambs. Little did they know it would take John the Baptist to stand up on the stage of history and say, If you will look over there, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Here's the story—it's the story in sketch form.

It's a charcoal sketch of a dramatic picture. It has happened in real time. Abraham has survived. Isaac has survived. But it is pointing us to the day when God will do with his son what Abraham did not have to do with his son, because there was a substitute who died in Isaac's place. And on that day, God will lead his son out. He will lead his son up the hill. It will be on that son's shoulders that the wood for the sacrifice is born, and it will be in the hands of Almighty God, because it was the will of God to bruise him and to crush him.

What is this? Loved ones, this is the story of salvation. This is the reality of what is happening in that manger can only be understood in light of the cross.

Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, would die for me when I survey the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride? Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. A powerful reminder of God's amazing love, promised to Abraham, fulfilled in Jesus, and given to us. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg in a message called Christmas in Genesis.

It's part of our series called Christmas in the Beginning, and Alistair will be back in just a minute with a closing thought, so please keep listening. Here at Truth for Life, we teach the Bible every day of the year with the desire to be both clear and relevant. We do this so that unbelievers can come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, so that those who already believe will gain a deeper understanding of the Scriptures, and so that pastors and church members will be encouraged in their ministry.

When you donate to Truth for Life, that's the mission you're supporting. And when you give a gift of any amount, we want to invite you to request a copy of a devotional book called Exploring the Bible Together. This is a 52-week family worship plan that will help your family establish the regular practice of family devotions. Teaching the Bible even to our children can be challenging.

It can be difficult to find the right resource and then to stick with it. It's one of the reasons we love the book Exploring the Bible Together. This is a one-year plan that takes you through selected readings from Genesis all the way to Revelation.

Now don't get nervous. The plan calls for reading just a few verses each day, and it combines the Scripture reading with discussion questions, a key spiritual lesson, and then there's a closing prayer. Exploring the Bible Together helps you lead your kids through God's word, and it's perfect if you're a busy parent and you're looking for a way to have quality time in daily worship.

Now our offices are closed today. Our staff is home celebrating the birth of Jesus with family, but you can request your copy of Exploring the Bible Together when you make a donation online at slash donate or by tapping the image you see on the mobile app. And with the weekend just ahead, keep in mind you're invited to watch Alistair teach from Parkside Church each Sunday when the service is being streamed live.

To find out if Alistair is teaching this weekend, check the schedule at slash live. And now here's Alistair with a Christmas greeting. Well thank you. I think all that remains for me to say is essentially this is good news of great joy for all the people into which we enter personally and which we want to share as widely as we can. And so on behalf of all of us here, I want to wish you a very blessed Christmas. Wherever you are right now, particularly perhaps if you find yourself alone, how good to be reminded that Emmanuel is God with us, promising never to leave us or forsake us. True Christmas joy. Thank you Alistair. I'm Bob Lapine. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-11 11:06:14 / 2024-01-11 11:15:22 / 9

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