Sunday, March 05, 2006

 

Genesis 11:31 and 12 Father's Day 2005

Sunday, June 19, 2005
Sermon, First Draft

FATHER’S DAY SERMON
June 19, 2005

Good morning! And welcome to Father’s Day Sunday. It’s a rare honor enough for a son to be able to preach with his father present, and a special treat to be able to do it on Father’s Day. I’d like to tell a little bit about the holiday. Many people don’t realize it was not officially recognized in the United States until President Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring it as the 3rd Sunday of June. He did that in 1966 when I was 15 years old. In 1924 Calvin Coolidge announced it was a national event and said it should "establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations." In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson publicly approved of the idea.

But the origin of the idea goes back to Mrs. Bruce Johnson of Spokane Washington. In 1909 while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon, she decided there should be a special day to honor fathers. Her father, William Smart, was a civil war veteran who became a widower when her mother died given birth to her 6th child. Mr. Smart raised all six children by himself. Mrs. Johnson asked her preacher to give a special sermon on June 5th, which was her father’s birthday. That didn’t give him time enough to prepare so he agreed to be ready by June 19th. From then on the state of Washington celebrated the 3rd Sunday in June as Father’s Day. The idea spread and the rest is history. Originally people wore flowers on Father’s Day; red if their father was living and white if he was deceased.

I know I don’t have to convince anyone here how important fathers and fatherhood are. When Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them to pray, the first words he used were "Our Father." While we often say that our lives are the only Bible that some non-believers will read, it’s even more true that to a child his father is the only physical manifestation of who God is. A child turns to his father for the hugs he wants from God. As we grow up, our idea of God is first formed by what we see of Him in our fathers. I’ve shared with you before that research shows that if a child becomes a Christian, the chances the rest of his or her family will follow him into faith is less than 5%. If a mother becomes a believer the odds raise to 17%. But if the father of a family is saved, the chance the rest of his family will become Christians also jumps to 93%! That is why it is such a tragedy to see mothers bringing their children alone to church on Sunday morning while Dad is gone, or too busy. Statistics also show that a large number of male homosexuals had fathers who were either abusive, emotionally cold and distant, or not present. That is not always the case of course, but it greatly increases the chances.

I thank God for a father who raised me to believe in God and was active in the church and encouraged my brothers and I to be also. Not everyone is as fortunate to have a father obedient to God’s commands. If you’ll remember our last lesson from the book of Genesis, we talked about the father of Abraham, Terah. Let’s go back to that passage to get our context for today’s study:

Genesis 11:31,32. Read

You’ll remember that Scofield heads this passage: "Incomplete obedience: the wasted years at Haran." Terah had a chance here to show complete obedience to God and he failed. He also set an example for his son Abram to follow. For the rest of his life Abram would start out to obey God, and like his father, not always follow through or go off onto his own way. There are always consequences to our behaviors and we see those in the verses to follow.

Genesis 12:1. Read

God had a new land for Abram to live in, but he wasn’t already there with his father as he should have been so God had to declare a separation. First was from the old country, God said "Get thee out." Next was from his family, "thy kindred". Lastly he had to leave his father’s house. But there was to be a reward for this separation; the Heavenly Father was to establish a new covenant with Abram.

Genesis 12:2,3. Read

So God is making some promises to Abram:

A land – the land of Canaan. How big a space was that?, we’ll find out later as we study Genesis.
A great nation – the Jewish race, with it’s spiritual and material prosperity for the seed of Abram.
A great name – all would know who Abram and his descendents were.
A blessing – I quote MacDonald: they would be a channel of blessing to others; friends of Israel would be blessed and anti-Semites would be cursed; all the families of the earth would be blessed in Abram, pointing forward to the Lord Jesus Christ, who would be a descendent of Abram. In the margin of my old Bible by this passage I’ve written, "Fulfilled". You only have to look around the world today to see the evidence.

Genesis 12:4,5. Read

We see three things here. First, we see Abraham move out in obedience to God, second we see why Terah was in no hurry to leave Haran – he was getting rich there. Verse 5 tells us they had gathered substance there, possessions and riches. They had also acquired "souls", in other words, servants or slaves. Lastly we see determination. They set out or "went forth" to go to Canaan and the Scripture tells us… "and into the land of Canaan they came." They accomplished what they set out to do. But why is this significant?

Genesis 12:6. Read

It was significant because the land wasn’t empty. The Canaanites were there. Those people were warlike. So we may be seeing another reason Abram’s father Terah was not in a hurry to get there. But Abram had something going for him more than just a desire to obey. He had faith.

Hebrews 11:8. Read

I hope you noticed, God didn’t tell Abram, "You’re going to travel 112 miles South and there’s the Land of Promise." He said, "Go and I’ll show you". And Abram went.

Hebrews 11:9. Read

Significant here is Abram didn’t have the permanent home he might have craved, he had to live in tents, as did his sons.

Hebrew 11:10. Read

He had faith in the city to come. We sing the children’s song about the wise man and the foolish man who built their houses on rock and sand. Abram was the wise man, he was willing to live by faith in the God who is Builder and Maker.

In response to his obedience something very, very special happened.

Genesis 12:7. Read

There are a few special places in God’s Word where a miracle occurs that overshadows almost all others. God in a recognizable form appears in person to one of his children. We call these incidents Theophanies. This is the first recorded, we will see the next in chapter 17. Abram is impressed, as well he might be. He stops on the spot and builds an altar. But he remains obedient and continues on to the South.

Genesis 12:8. Read

Now Abram has his priorities straight. He sets up camp, "pitches his tent" and builds an altar. The best think I see in this verse is that he did not just follow a ritual, put up an altar, sacrifice (I assume) and then go about his business, he entered into personal worship. He called upon the name of the Lord. He prayed to the God he now knew personally. I think that one of our biggest failings in the evangelism over the last couple centuries is that we bring unbelievers to Sichem, introduce them to the Lord, then don’t journey on with them by discipleship to the place of abiding and worship at Bethel, or on in their maturity in the land of promise.

Once again, Abram is not content to stay where he is. He continues on in faith.

Genesis 12:9. Read

But now we see that Abram is not perfect, nor is his faith. A test comes and we see how he scored.

Genesis 12:10. Read

I’ll share with you Scofield’s thoughts on this verse:

A famine was often a disciplinary testing of God’s people in the land. The resort to Egypt (the world) is typical of the tendency to substitute for lost spiritual power the fleshly resources of the world, instead of seeking, through confession and amendment, the restoration of God’s presence and favour

We have to have some sympathy for Abram here. At Sichem he had met God face to face. It was easy to talk to him and worship him at Bethel and as he continued South. When famine hit, God wasn’t there to talk to him. So what did he do? Remember, until the short Theophany at Sichem, he had a life time of seeing his father, Terah fall back on his own wisdom instead of faith and obedience. He reverted to the earlier example. You see it’s easy to be a good example to my sons and daughters when things are going well, it’s what they see in me when the going gets tough that will matter for their future.

Genesis 12:11-13. Read

So did Abram leave God behind when he turned toward Egypt? No, but he left fellowship behind. Just as we do when we turn toward the world. And when you leave behind fellowship with the Father of Truth, you enter a new fellowship with another father, the father of lies. Relying on his own wisdom he entered the world of half-truth. Sarai was Abram’s half-sister. I have a friend who says one of the things he has the most difficulty being powerless over is half-truths. And he is right. The seductiveness of telling part of the truth is one of the most difficult besetting sins to overcome. It seems to just flow out so naturally.

Genesis 12:14-16. Read

As often happens when we’ve aligned ourselves with the father of lies, things seemed to work out very well at first. Abram got very rich and became a favorite with Pharaoh. This is heady stuff for a nomad, suddenly he has wealth and is important. But he isn’t building his house on the rock here, he’s building it on the sand and the rains are about to come.

But I don’t want us to make the mistake here of thinking Abram is going along blissfully thinking everything is swell. He had to know he was sinning. He had to know he was selling out the woman he loved for possessions and safety. Night after night he went to bed alone in his tent while his beloved, the most beautiful woman in the world was in Pharaoh’s harem. He had to be painfully aware of what he had done. Now the consequences, beside guilt and loneliness were starting to pile up.

Genesis 12:17. Read

Have you ever wondered why God did this? Why did He punish Pharaoh and his household instead of Abram? After all, Pharaoh went into this innocently. I think part of the answer goes back to God’s creation of Eve as a helpmeet to Adam. Abram and Sarai were one flesh, anything done to her would be done to Abram and verse 3 makes it plain that anything evil done to Abram and his seed would bring a curse on the one that did it. To give just one modern example; their were no doubt many Germans in the city of Dresden during World War II who had nothing to do with what Hitler was doing to the Jews. A goodly number were certainly Christians. But when the great firestorms of the Allied bombing melted that city in a fervent heat, all paid the price.

I should point out at this point that the word translated Pharaoh here is not a proper name such as we will see in the time of Moses. It is a title that means leader, so he might have been anything from a mayor or tribal chieftain to a king or governor. But whoever he was, he behaved better than Abram had. He verbally took Abram to the woodshed and sent him back where he belonged.

MacDonald says of this passage:

This incident reminds us that we should not wage a spiritual warfare with carnal weapons, that the end does not justify the means, and that we can’t sin and get away with it.

Genesis 13:1-4. Read

The first thing that this passage teaches us is the difference between confession and repentance. Confession is agreeing that we’ve sinned. Abram could hardly do otherwise. He had been found out. But confession is only the first step. What must follow if fellowship is to be restored is repentance. Now we’re talking a marching term. Repentance means "about face" – turn in the opposite direction. Abram did just that. He walked all the way back to Bethel, the house of God and again, he did not just sacrifice on the altar, he reentered fellowship. He called on the name of the Lord.

Were this a fair tale, it would now end with: "And they all lived happily every after." But they didn’t, did they? There are still a number of things to look at. The first is, what happened to the famine that was so terrible that Abram had no choice but to disobey God and go to Egypt? It suddenly wasn’t so bad, was it? They all at once were able to survive in Canaan. A cynic might point out that things had gone pretty well for Abram. He got to get his cake from Pharaoh and eat it too. Sarai was back with him and never had to wed the king and he got to keep all the riches he was given? What could be better?

It would have been better not to have sinned. Let me assure you, God is not mocked. Sin always has its consequences. Abram had entered into the fellowship of the father of lies and a remnant of that alliance was going back to the Promised Land with him. In that big caravan of Abram and Lot and their wives and cattle and riches and slaves was one little slave girl, part of Abram’s ill gotten gains. She was certainly sweet and pretty and hard working and loyal. Sarai chose her to be her personal servant. She had a lovely Egyptian name: Hagar. You see, the Enemy had his plans too, and a seed he wanted propagated also and Abram’s disobedient trip to Egypt made it all possible. That one little, insignificant slave girl made all the difference in the world. The sands of the Middle East are soaked in blood because of that sin. Two towers in New York came crashing down because of it. Right now as we sit here American soldiers are fighting on the other side of the world because of the consequences of Abram’s sin. He confessed. He repented. But the scars remain.

I seem to have wandered far afield here. We started off talking about Father’s Day and how a father is the example of what God is to the children entrusted to him. But we’re closer to completing the circle than you think. A number of us here are fathers… and grandfathers… and great grandfathers. All of us can look back at the times we served well as an example of the Heavenly Father to our "seed" and the times we didn’t do so well and the times we failed miserably. I only need look at myself. My children grew up in the home of a secret alcoholic and drug addict. There were times they lived in terror of me. That’s they example they had of what the fear of God should be. I lied to them on a regular basis. That is the example they had of His faithfulness. Money that should have been for their benefit went to feed my habits. That was what they saw of God’s provision. Jesus asked, "…what man among you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?" I know what man. I know him well.

But like Abram, I turned my back on that sin and walked away from it, and like Abram I again called on the name of the Lord. And I hope I continue to do my best to reestablish that example to them I should be. But just as the father of lies had Hagar hid away in Sarai’s entourage, he has a temptation hidden away for each of us. It might be to tell a half-truth or be greedy or to be disobedient to those in authority over us or any other sin. My prayer for all of us today is that we stay vigilant against the idea that we know better than God how to live our lives and solve our problems and that we become men who show our "seed" daily lives resting not on the sand, but on the foundation made by the builder and maker, God our Father.
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