The Lord Will Provide
Selected Scriptures from Genesis
We are gathered here today because we believe in God. I fear, however, that while we find it easy to believe in God, many of you find it very difficult to believe God. That is, you believe in a God who is out there somewhere, but you are not sure what He is doing or whether He has any interest or control over your life in the present.
We shall soon see that the God of the Bible has not left anything to chance or fate. Not even the will of sinful human beings can thwart God's purposes. God is in control, and the implications of this is spelled out for us in Romans 8:28,"God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God".
There are two things we should notice. First of all, I want you to notice that all things work together for good because God causes them to. Many people use the phrase, 'It will all work out' as if they believed that the laws of fate would always magically end up in our favour. No, the reason we are to believe that all things are working for our good is because we trust in an all-powerful God to make that happen.
The second thing we should notice here is that Paul does not call "all things" good. Paul does not say that 'God causes only good things to happen to those who love God'. Paul concedes, and he knows first hand, that God allows bad things to happen to us. This might cause us to question God or to despair except for the fact that we have a promise: "God causes all things", even bad things, "to work together for good to those who love God". And as we turn to the life of Abraham we will see this promise at work.
We first read about Abraham, then named Abram, in the 11th chapter of Genesis. We learn that Abraham's homeland was Ur of the Chaldeans (11:28), and that his wife's name is Sarah (11:29). And, in order that we might understand the extraordinary nature of God's promises to Abraham, we are told that "Sarah was barren"(11:30).
Chapter 12 begins with the Lord speaking to Abraham, "Go forth from your country, and from your relatives, and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great"(12:1,2).
From a human standpoint, this commissioning makes no sense. Ur was a flourishing port city and the land was luxuriant (Boice, Genesis, vol.2, 439). Why would Abraham want to leave the comforts of his homeland to travel across the Arabian Desert to an unknown, and presumably less desirable, land? What advantage could be gained by leaving behind friends and family? Yet, this is what God commanded, "so Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him"(12:4).
Keep in mind that Abraham is 75 years old at this point. Abraham and Sarah are beyond childbearing years and they have no children. How could it be that Abraham would become a father of "a great nation"?
This commission makes no sense on the level of human reasoning. But this is the beauty of God's providence. God's providence does not always follow patterns of reasonableness and predictability.
This is what we mean when we say that God is sovereign; we are saying that God is free to do as He pleases. This is considerably different from human freedom. Our freedom is limited by our power. We may have the freedom to do something, but we do not necessarily have the power to do it. God, on the other hand, not only has infinite freedom, but He also has infinite power to execute His freedom.
Abraham obeyed, not because the commissioning made sense, but because He believed God had the power to fulfill His promise. Abraham, not only believed in God, but he also believed God.
In Genesis 15, however, we learn that Abraham, like most of us, experienced seasons of unbelief, "O Lord God, what will You give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? . . . You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir"(15:2,3).
And what is God's response to Abraham's doubt? God repeats His promise, " (Abraham), this man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir"(15:4). The text then says that God brought Abraham outside and said to him, "Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them . . . So shall your descendents be"(15:5). What a gracious God we have! Knowing that our faith is weak, God graciously repeats his promise.
After Abraham hears the promise repeated, we read in verse 6, "And (Abraham) believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness"(15:6).
Do you see the significance of this statement? Abraham believed the Lord. There was no question that Abraham believed in the Lord--he had spoken with the Lord many times. Abraham had built altars to the Lord many times. The question was never, 'Did Abraham believe in the Lord?'; the question was, 'Did Abraham believe the Lord? Did Abraham believe that God would do what He promised?'.
We would be wise to consider the same. Sure, you believe in the Lord--that is why you are here this morning--but, do you believe the Lord? Do you trust God to do for you what He has promised in His Word? Do believe God's promise that, "(He) causes all things to work together for good to those who love (Him)"?
For those of you who struggle with doubt, be comforted by the fact that Abraham, who "believed the Lord", also struggled with doubt. After 10 years of living in the land of Canaan, Abraham and Sarah became increasingly impatient for the fulfillment of God's promise. Still childless at 85 years of age, I am sure that Abraham's prayer would have sounded something like, 'Lord, what are you waiting for?! I've been on a senior's pension for 2 decades, most of my friends are sending their great grandchildren to the University of Jericho, and we are still waiting for the son you promised us 10 years ago!'.
Unwilling to wait any longer, we read that Sarah gave their maid, Hagar, to Abraham to be his wife(16:3). And, at the end of chapter 16 we read that when Abraham was 86 years old, Hagar bore Abraham a son, and they named him, Ishmael (16:15,16).
However, not even Abraham and Sarah's sin could prevent the Lord from fulfilling His promise. When Abraham was 99, the Lord appeared to him and said, "Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendents after him"(17:19).
In Genesis, chapter 21, Isaac is born (21:2). God promised Abraham a son, and God delivered on that promise. But I want you to note how much time has passed between God's initial promise and the fulfillment of that promise. Abraham and Sarah had to wait 25 years for the birth of Isaac!
After the birth of Isaac, Abraham must have rested for many years knowing that his life was unfolding just as the Lord said it would. That is, until that day when God made that terrifying request of Abraham, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you"(22:2).
Amazingly, we do not see any hesitation on the part of Abraham. We are told that he rose early the next morning, split some wood for the offering, and traveled to the appointed mountain. When they arrived, Abraham said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you"(22:5). Was Abraham trying to disguise his intentions from his servants and his son? Or did Abraham truly believe they would worship and then return?
And when Isaac asked where the lamb was for the offering, Abraham's response was, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering"(22:8). You know how the rest of the story goes: Abraham binds his son and lays him on the altar, and just as Abraham stretches out his hand to slay his son, the Lord orders him to stop. Then Abraham raises his eyes and notices behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; so Abraham takes the ram, and offers him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. And Abraham calls the name of the place Jehovah Jireh, which means, "The Lord Will Provide"(22:9-14).
If you were to read only the account of God testing Abraham, and Abraham readying to sacrifice his son, you might be tempted to conclude that God is cruel and that Abraham was crazy. But since we have studied the previous ten chapters, we know better than that. God made a promise to Abraham to provide a son, and He fulfilled that promise 25 years later. I am of the conviction that, with the birth of Isaac, all doubt was removed from Abraham's mind.
I don't think Abraham was playing mind games with his servants, or his son. Abraham had seen, first hand, that nothing was too difficult for the Lord (18:14), and I think he truly expected the Lord to provide once more.
Many of you here today are waiting for the Lord to provide. Some of you are waiting in vain because you want the Lord to provide something that He has not promised. Some of you are waiting for God's provision according to promises made in Scripture. The account of Abraham's life should encourage you. God always delivers on a promise. In the 25 years of waiting, Abraham threw his share of monkey wrenches into God's plan, but none of these could prevent God from fulfilling His promise.
In the life of Abraham, we see the promise of Romans 8:28 come true, "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love (Him)". Thanks be to God. Amen.