Justifying Faith: Genesis 21:22-34

Justifying Faith: Genesis 21:22-34
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday May 21, 20

Notes/Not a Transcript

God, by his grace and mercy, gives us this massive narrative throughout Genesis documenting the Patriarchs, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob against the backdrop of the creation account – God’s Word gives us all we need.

2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness,

Thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and 27 books in the new testament are internally consistent with no error. The OT with books of the law, books of history, books of poetry, and books of prophecy (across Major and Minor prophets). The NT with The Gospels, Book of History (Acts), The Letters, and Prophecy (Revelation). This Bible was penned by over 40 different authors, inspired (breathed out, 2 Timothy 3:16) by God in the language and culture of men, but without error.

We can approach it rightly by understanding what The Word is and whose It is. We approach it as God’s Holy word and truth—all we need for teaching, reproof correction, and training in righteousness. And today, in Abraham, we see the lesson of a man of faith. To whom God shows Grace and Mercy, just like he does to us today – however, we can be encouraged by the witnesses of faith like Abraham in their journey of faith to power on through our own.

James 2:21–23 (ESV)
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar
22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;
23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

God allows us to see as a living illustration of Abraham, captured by Moses Justifying faith and is keeping His Word oriented on the Gospel promise we studied months back, the pre-gospel of Genesis 3:

Genesis 3:14–15 (ESV)
14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all, livestock
and above all, beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

God drew a clear line to his son Christ who would put enmity between the serpent and man, who would be injured slightly, but by reflection no with the damage that will come to satan Himself.

And so we know what comes, while in this life we may see death, the truth is in Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 15:55–58 (ESV)
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Knowing Christ is promised and will come, let’s look at the faith of Abraham and God’s drawing a line to justifying faith through him in Genesis 21:22-34

Genesis 21:22–34 (ESV)
22 At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army said to Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do.

“at that time” can feel like it is picking up from the immediate past section; some would hold that it is more likely from chapter 20, the first meeting with Abimelech. Some translators have gone with the construction “now it came (NASB )or “now it happened” (in the LSB to avoid an immediate connotation connection. We have Abimelech and Piccolo, the commander of his army who here could be a witness or bodyguard to the King. We’ll see him later one other time in chapter 26:26 Abimelech to meet with Issac.

Here Abimelech recognizes that God is with him in all he does. Perhaps he’s had some time further to observe Abraham after the wife/sister issue,

But seeing God’s presence in the life of this patriarchal line is a common theme from here on.

We see it spoken of Issac, just after he meets Abimelech and Phil in:

Genesis 26:28 (ESV)
28 They said, “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you. So we said, let there be a sworn pact between us, between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you,

We see it spoken of Jacob in:

Genesis 30:27 (ESV)
27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your sight, I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you.

We see it spoken of Joseph in:

Genesis 39:3 (ESV):
3 His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.

God is with Abraham; even this Philistine King can see it – a long shot from the earlier impressions of him after lying about who his wife was to now what we’d see in the following few verses.

23 Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my descendants or with my posterity, but as I have dealt kindly with you, so you will deal with me and with the land where you have sojourned.”

Perhaps Abimelech feels threatened. I mean, he must. He is coming to Abraham with a pro-active peace and friendly living treaty to extend multiple generations. We know Abraham’s wealth grew considerably, and his life stock and possessions quite the operation he must have been running. There were herdsmen tents, animals of all kinds entire families. In chapter 13, he and Lot had to separate because the operation was too big. We see glimpses of donkeys (Genesis 42) and camels in Genesis 24/31, sheep, and goats. It was so big that it caught the king’s eye and caused concern. Abraham was becoming powerful while grazing freely in the king’s land, as we saw in Genesis 20:15.

24 And Abraham said, “I will swear.”

The king didn’t ask anything a Godly man would struggle to deliver. Consider the principle in Romans 12:18. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. We should not desire contention or be people who look to pick a fight – if possible, live peaceably with all. However, there is room here saying “as far as it depends on you AND if possible.” There are times then when it is NOT possible. Consider the government reaching into churches and making a value statement that worship isn’t critical during the three-year COVID flu season. The church must honor the mandate not to forsake the gathering of the saints (Hebrews 10:25), and so where Governments levied injunctions against pastors and parishioners living outside of that ‘peace” wasn’t a) possible or b) dependent upon the pastors and parishioner.

Romans 12:18 (ESV)
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Hebrews 10:25 (ESV)
25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

And so, interestingly, in V 25, Abraham agrees to the terms, then immediately puts the king to the test with those terms:

25 When Abraham reproved Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized,

Consider Abraham, who in chapter 20 was fearful of the king,

Genesis 20:10–11 (ESV)
10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?”
11 Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’

It is an exciting juxtaposition in Abraham to see him now recognized as with God, a man who experienced visitation from God, God’s general provision in possessions, and now the promised son while delivering him (Abraham) through calamities. He is a man changed and marked by God and subjected to Him and His will over Abraham’s life.

The king responds:

26 Abimelech said, “I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, and I have not heard of it until today.”

Fair. He didn’t know that this had gone on. He’s a king over lands. He has people out doing their thing. There was some strife between Abraham (and perhaps his people) and the King who stole a well a) he dug (we’ll see in verse 30) and that he had a rightful claim to (recall the king gave him those rights in chapter 20). Abraham thusly makes a legal argument against this new treaty they’re making now to keep the peace,

Some Christians would have us take no stand ever and be door mats. I do not see that here in Abraham. I am hearing a bold demand from a man whose God is the Lord for his rights extended to him by the Government decree or law. We, too, for now, have those rights. The government is to reflect the people it represents, not their ruler but the enforcement of the people’s will, which prayerfully would be an extension of Godly people. As the populous becomes evermore open to anything BUT Godly living, it is essential and even critical for Christians to interject back into a lost and dying public square with Godly principles while always ready to back those up with life-giving Gospel truth. Why? Because arguing for the faith is critical, but also inroads to the gospel and not a replacement FOR the gospel. That is the Biblical balance of:

Matthew 5:13–16 (ESV)
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Abraham exemplifies the balance that Jesus later talks about in Matthew 5, SALT AND LIGHT. Truth and winsomeness neither exist in a void of the other, and because we live in a fallen world, sometimes striking this balance requires a sliding scale approach, and with a desire for both can orient more to one or the other – this is a broken-world living.

Imagine being just salt as a congressperson debating Abortion. Truth MUST be shared. Abortion is Murder. The world would claim injury and stake a claim against your winsomeness and, therefore, your Christian faith. The world would be wrong. Increasingly “moderate Christians,” perhaps Jesus would call lukewarm, would say similar – they too would be wrong, both should repent and turn to the Word for truth and Christ as Lord and head of the church.

Abraham brings up the issue of the well. Abimelech claims no knowledge until right now.

27 So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a covenant.
28 Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock apart.
29 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?”

Abraham swore an oath and made a covenant, Abraham unprompted made a gift to the King for the rights to the well, which he already rightly had, but consider the wisdom to gift the king in their culture would be common:

Proverbs 18:16 (ESV)
16  A man’s gift makes room for him
and brings him before the great.

We do this. Consider super PACs and political giving, many thousand dollar plate dinners, and it’s all about gifts and access by another name.

30 He said, “These seven ewe lambs you will take from my hand, that this may be a witness for me that I dug this well.”

Abraham clarifies that his intentions are tied back to the mention of the well. Beersheba comes up frequently in this family’s line and history, it’s contended over, and we see that with a meeting of Isaac, Abimelech, and Phicol in chapter 26, as we mentioned earlier. He re-digs a well in the region as the Philistines fill those of his father after his death. So they swear an oath there. The words themselves include some word play on the promise and the seven that are sworn as the word “to swear.” Moses is making sure this Biblical number of completion, 7, catches our eye – we see in 28, 29, and 30 that point to 31 where the wordplay on seven and the oath exists in the Hebrew.

31 Therefore that place was called Beersheba, because there both of them swore an oath.
32 So they made a covenant at Beersheba.

Beersheba is the well of seven or oath of seven, you may have that as a footnote on Beersheba in your Bible. The careful Bible students’ eye may have noticed that Genesis 21:14 referred to the place where Hagar went with Abraham and her son as the wilderness of Beersheba. Remember this; Moses is penning Genesis to tell a people who, as we see, know precisely what Beersheba is, where the sons of Samuel judged the people in 1 Samuel 8. It’s like how sometimes we’ll talk about Abraham in stories where at the time he was named Abram, no alarm; the Word is not broken. Moses was born after Joseph died, so there was plenty of distance between Abraham, Issac, and Jacob to all know about Beersheba.

Then Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army rose up and returned to the land of the Philistines.
33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.
34 And Abraham sojourned many days in the land of the Philistines.

Abraham in his now very advanced years, was able to settle some. Not chasing water, enjoying perhaps the trees he’d planted, he is, for many years, wandering with the Lord setting down roots and calling on the name of God, the everlasting God. But keeps us aware that Abraham’s faith is in the future. His trust and hope are in God’s provision and future promise for the land.

Saving faith and justifying faith is the same root, founded on the promise of God’s word. Church be encouraged by this book and its demonstration over and over that God is sovereign and sees His promise of Grace through Faith in His Gospel through His son.

Be encouraged by Abraham’s faith, yes. But more than that, God’s plan, salvation, and grace powers Abraham. If you’re on the fence this morning, stop. Trust God’s offer of grace in Christ and trust Him; anything less is damning pride.

Perhaps you need encouragement to power on in the broken grey world that calls you to balance salt and light, be encouraged by Abraham, whose trust was in God – and you do the same. Seek peace where possible and where it depends on you, but stand for truth. How do you know the truth? These 66 books, treasure them because we should be about understanding what The Word is and whose It is.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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