Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Sermon for first mid-week Advent service - Gen 12:1-8


Mid-Advent 1

                                                                                      Gen 12:1-8




St. Paul told the Romans, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”  The Scriptures have been given to us by God in order to instruct us.  They teach us to walk in endurance and to receive encouragement so that we may have hope.

Tonight we focus on what Scripture teaches us about Abraham, and specifically about the waiting that was present in his life.  Abraham’s life was filled with waiting as he continued to have faith in God’s promise.  We find in Abraham a model for our life as we must wait.  And this Advent season reminds us that we wait on the basis of the promise that God has already fulfilled.

God called Abraham when he was living in Haran – what is today southeastern Turkey.  We learn in our text that God called Abraham – then known as Abram – by saying, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.”  Yahweh told Abraham to leave everything that mattered to him and to go to a land he would show him.

Now we need to recognize that prior to this Abraham did not know God.  We read in Joshua: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods.” Like his father, Abraham served other gods.

Yet in God’s grace he called Abraham to himself with the promise, “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 promised to bless Abraham, and he promised that in Abraham all nations would be blessed.

Abraham listened to God. He believed. He left with Sarah his wife, and Lot his nephew and went to the land of Canaan.  We learn in our text that there God appeared to him and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.”

God had promised to make Abraham great.  He had promised him an offspring. He had promised that in Abraham all peoples would be blessed.  This was a lot to take in since Abraham was already seventy five years old when God called him, and he and Sarah had no child.  Yet he believed God’s word.  He believed the God who had called him.

Abraham waited. He waited. And nothing happened.  He and Sarah remained with no child.  Rather than giving him a son, God kept giving him promises.  On one occasion God took 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 learn that Abraham believed the Lord and God counted it to him as righteousness.

Abraham waited.  He waited for twenty five years without receiving an heir.  St. Paul tells us that during this time Abraham continued to believe.  The apostle says, “In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

Abraham waited in faith.  Sometimes we find it hard to do this.  We find ourselves waiting to see in what direction God is going to lead our life.  We wait to see what our future will be, and we get frustrated.  We grow impatient with God because things aren’t happening in the way we want or aren’t happening as fast as we want.

Abraham waited in faith for twenty five years.  And then God fulfilled his promise.  Even though Sarah was too old to have a child, God demonstrated that nothing is impossible for him.  Sarah gave birth to Isaac as God provided an heir.

Yet God wasn’t done fulfilling his promise.  He had told Abraham that in his offspring all nations would be blessed.  He had promised that the blessings of salvation would come through this One.  The Old Testament is the story of how God worked out this promise over time.  God gave numerous descendants to Abraham and among them he continued to designate individuals who were the bearers of his promise.  He gave Jacob, and Judah, and David.  In each instance he narrowed the focus of who this One would be – this One in whom all nations would be blessed.

During Advent we prepare to celebrate the fact that God fulfilled his promise to Abraham.  Matthew begins his Gospel by saying, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”  David descended from Abraham.  God promised that he would establish David’s kingdom forever. He spoke through Isaiah about the One who would reign over David’s kingdom as he said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

God’s people had to wait.  It was seven hundred years from the time of Isaiah until the first century A.D. when the virgin Mary became pregnant. Betrothed to Joseph, an angel announced to him, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 

Joseph learned that Mary had not been unfaithful.  Instead, the child in her womb was the means by which God would bring forgiveness and salvation.  Joseph took the child as his own and so included Jesus in the line of David. Because of Joseph, Jesus was born as the One who was the son of David.

Jesus the Christ was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. St Paul tells us, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.” Jesus came to bring blessing to all families of the earth by redeeming us.  He freed us from sin by means of his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.

Like Abraham, our life often involves waiting.  We too are called to wait in faith.  We believe and trust in God’s promise of love and care. But we wait as those who have seen more.  We wait as those who have seen God fulfill his promise to Abraham in Jesus Christ.  We know that God sent his Son into the world as the son of Abraham and the son of David.  We live knowing that our sins have been forgiven and our future secured by his resurrection.  We wait by faith in Jesus Christ. 


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