Matthew begins his Gospel by writing, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” He then proceeds to lay out the genealogy of Jesus which ends with the words, “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.”
Matthew gives us the family line that led to Jesus – and wow, it is impressive! I mean, we are talking biblical blue bloods here. You have Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You have Judah, and the kings David, Hezekiah, and Josiah. There are the patriarchs of the nation of Israel. There are the kings of Israel beginning with David.
But what Scripture tells us about some of these individuals reads more like an insider “tell all” book written about some European royal family. Actually, it’s worse than any book like that could be. In fact as we dig a little into Jesus’ heritage we find ourselves asking: “A Savior came from this family?!?
Tonight we look at the patriarch – Abraham. Things begin very well with Abraham. Abraham’s father had been taking the family from Ur in what is today Iraq in order to go to the land of Canaan – what we now know as Israel. But for some reason they didn’t complete the trip. Instead, they stopped in Haran, what is now Turkey just north of Syria, and settled there.
But God had plans for Abraham, and so in our text we hear: “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”
God told Abraham to leave everything – to leave his home and extended family, and to go to a new land that he would show him. But God also made incredible promises to Abraham. He promised to make Abraham into a great nation. He promised to bless Abraham and make his name great. And he promised that in Abraham all families of the earth would be blessed. He promised that the Savior – the seed of the woman who would defeat the devil – would come forth from his family line.
Abraham believed God. He believed his promises and he headed south into Canaan. While there the Lord appeared to Abraham and said “To your offspring I will give this land.” God promised to make Abraham into a great nation, and he promised to give Canaan as the land in which they would live.
God had identified Abraham as the unique individual through whom he would work to create a nation and bless all people. He had said, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse.” Yet immediately after this we learn that a famine in the land of Canaan prompted Abraham to travel to Egypt. When he arrived there Abraham feared that the Egyptians would find Sarah beautiful and kill him in order to have her. Abraham convinced Sarah to claim that she was his sister. Pharaoh, the leader of Egypt took an interest in Sarah. He paid a dowry to Abraham and took Sarah as his own.
Only after God afflicted Pharaoh with great plagues did he become aware that something was very wrong. Eventually he learned who Sarah really was. He summoned Abraham and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.”
You can’t get much worse than this! Not only had Abraham failed to trust God’s promise, but in order to save himself he had done something absolutely appalling to Sarah. Right out of the gate, after God calls Abraham, this is very next thing we learn about him. Frankly, it is shocking. This guy is going to be the source from whom the Savior of the world will descend?
God had promised to make Abraham into great nation, but Sarah had not given birth to child. Later, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” Abraham protested that he was in fact childless and said, "Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”
But God replied, “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” God brought Abraham outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” We are told that Abraham “believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” He believed God’s promise, and because of this faith God considered Abraham to be righteous in his sight.
Abraham was a sinner, just like you are. There have been times in your life when you have have failed to trust God. There have been times when you have used and taken advantage of other people. But the apostle Paul tells us that in his faith Abraham is a model of how God deals with us. He told the Romans “But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,
who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
Abraham had displayed great faith in God’s promise to give him descendants. But then in the very next chapter we learn that Sarah continued to be barren. So she told Abraham to take her servant Hagar, and to have a child with her. Sarah ignored God’s promise, and Abraham went right along with it as he ignored the promise too. Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, and as always happens when you ignore God’s word, there were great hardships for everyone. If you think back at your life, you will find the same thing is true for you.
Finally, when Sarah had entered into menopause and was no longer capable of having children God came to Abraham and said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” Sarah was listening from behind the tent and laughed at the idea that she would have a child. Yahweh said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”
As we learn about Abraham’s life, we see failure to trust God and shocking sin. We are in the season of Advent preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ – the Savior. The truth is that we see in Abraham, the very same thing we see in ourselves – we see the reason that the Son of God had to enter into our world as the Savior. We see sin.
We see that God worked through sinners as he began to fulfill his promise to bring forth the Savior in whom all nations – all sinners would be blessed. We also see that God always remained in control, because nothing is impossible for God. He worked a miracle – he used the barren and dead womb of the elderly Sarah in order to give Abraham a descendent; to give him Isaac.
And in this action we are reminded that while God worked through the line of Abraham – through a bunch of sinners - to bring forth the Savior, he gave us a sinless Savior. He did so by another miracle as he used the womb of a young woman, Mary who was a virgin. When Mary asked how she as a virgin was going to have a child, the angel Gabriel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God.”
Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, Jesus Chris was the sinless Son of God. True God and true man, he came to be the Savior of sinners by dying for us. And this returns us to Abraham one last time. Yes, Abraham was a sinner. But Abraham was also a man of faith. In Genesis chapter twenty two Yahweh said to Abraham, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
Abraham was faithful. He was ready to obey God and sacrifice his only beloved son, when the angel of God stopped him, and in his place a ram was provided as a sacrifice. Yet this event in the Old Testament points forward to what God has done for us. Born in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ grew up to be the sinless sacrifice for us. God the Father offered his beloved only begotten Son in our place. He the sinless Son bore our sins – be became sin for us – in order to win us forgiveness.
But as Yahweh told Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” And so on the third day God raised Jesus from the dead as he defeated death. This is what God had done through the line of Abraham. As the apostle Paul told the Romans, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” This is how God has fulfilled his promise to Abraham: “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”