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Covenant: God's Invitation to Partnership
01/15/2006
Scripture: Genesis 12
Track 3 of 27 in the Transforming Story As God Gave It series
Running time: 44 minutes, 23 seconds.


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


Sermon for Sunday, January 15, 2006
3rd sermon in a 27 part series covering the entire bible
"GOD'S INVITATION TO PARTNERSHIP"
The Transforming Story
As God Gave It
(Genesis 12)
Copyright 2006 G. Charles Sackett


In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And then He said, "In our likeness, let us make man." And then, "The serpent was more crafty than any of the other creatures that God had created." And so the story began. The creation, the fall, and we move toward redemption.

We come to Genesis 12 and we are struck by the fact that things have changed dramatically now in the story. If you watch carefully, the way this narrative unfolds, it starts out in rather universal and sweeping terms. All of the Universe is in view. God created the heavens and the earth. And then it begins to become more personal. He created man in his image and then it begins to narrow and slow down. The first several chapters of this particular book, Genesis, makes sweeping and un-timed comments. I have no idea how long it is prior to the coming of Abraham. We just don't know. There's nothing in the text to indicate it.

But when you come to Genesis 12, everything kind of slows down and now we start talking about a specific family. The father of whom is Abraham. His family will now occupy all of history until we come to his great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson - Jesus.

We want to come to that Genesis 11 and just set the stage for what's going to happen in the life of Israel, his grandfather, Abraham, and we're just going to spend a few minutes this morning kind of rehearsing a bit of the rest of the Genesis story as we understand how God begins to focus His attention on one particular group of people that He is in the process of creating into a nation. A nation through whom will come, ultimately the Messiah, that was announced in Genesis 3:15. Ah, start back just a little ahead of Genesis 12 which is really our primary beginning point. But back in Genesis 11, you'll notice this phrase. This is the account of Shem. We have come from Adam all the way to Noah; Noah's son Shem is now the character of importance. You come down to Genesis 11:26. One of the great, great, great, great children of Shem is a man named Terah. Genesis 11:26 says, After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And suddenly we have this person introduced. But there's more to this story that we have not yet been given quite as much insight into. Look at how this goes on. Now, This is the account of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife was Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah.

Look at Genesis 11:30. The narrator has inserted a very important comment here so that you won't miss it. Now Sarai was barren; (and as if you didn't understand what that meant he goes on to say,) she had no children.

Now come to Genesis 12:1 which is where the covenant story begins to pick up.

The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you."

"I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Now drop down to Genesis 12:6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land."

Now, wait a minute! If you didn't make the connection, do it now. In my Bible, it just coincidentally it happens to be directly opposite in the parallel column. I've drawn a line between the two verses. That way I don't miss it.

Genesis 11:30 Now Sarai was barren;. . . .Genesis 12:7 "To your offspring I will give this land." There is a major conflict going on here. That is an impossibility. She doesn't have children. And yet, to Abram's offspring, all of this land is supposed to be given. And so the tension of the story gets introduced in this chapter as we begin to try to see how this whole thing is going to unfold and God's going to accomplish what God needs to accomplish.

So if you will, just follow me for a little bit. The story goes that they've left Ur of Caldeans. Ur, would have been in that day, London or Tokyo or New York City. It would have been the major city of the world, complete with library and fortifications. It was the place to be. Canaan was Canaan, desert. Uninhabited, well, not totally uninhabited but not with major cities. It was a dry and desert place. And the call comes, leave the city. Leave this place that you have called home. Travel to this place that you don't even know where you're going and I'll take care of you on the way.

So they travel a thousand miles. On the way, they stop in Haran, which is up north just a bit. You've got to travel north to be able to get to Canaan because of the desert that's in the way. They lived there for awhile until Terah dies and then Abram takes his family and heads on down toward Canaan.

The text that was read earlier in Genesis 12, you'll notice those places where he stopped and built altars. It's almost as if God is marking out future territory. This will in fact, become the land of Israel. We're just given hints of it here in Genesis 12 as he begins to identify key places that outline where they're going to go. Now, the chapter starts with, I'm going to bless you. I'm going to make you a great nation, and; by the way, this all will belong to your children. That's the promise.

Now for those of you who have read through this particular chapter, you know what happens next in Genesis 12. There is a famine in the land and so everybody heads to Egypt. They get part way to Egypt, almost to the border and he (Abram) says, Sarai, you are absolutely gorgeous. Therefore, when we get there tell them you're my sister. cause if they think you're my wife, they're going to kill me and take you. And low and behold, they get to Egypt. Pharaoh's officers say, Wow, she's beautiful! And so they take her and they put her in Pharaoh's harem.

Then all kinds of trouble starts and there is a plague. And there are curses on his household. And so he says, "what's the deal with this?" "Oh, you're not really his sister. You're his wife." And God curses him because he's taken his (Abram's) wife. And so, he gives her back. Gives him all kinds of stuff and sends him on his way down the road.

Now the oddity of that story is that Abram comes out on the good side of the things. He lied, he cheated, and the next thing you know, he's blessed. Get used to it. That's the way the story unfolds all the way through.

But I want you to notice something, because something is extremely important in that story. We don't have time to unfold the whole thing. We won't go through the details. If you want to talk about it in detail, I'd be glad to walk you through how it all comes out. All you got to do is take a look at who the important character is in that story and it's not Abram. It's Sarai, except for one other character and, of course, that's God.

Have you thought about this? I'm going to give your offspring all of this land. I am going to make you an enormous nation and in fact, you're going to be the father of all nations. And the first thing that Abram does is, does what? Gives his wife away. Now there's a problem here. For those of you who haven't yet figured out how this works, you cannot have children without a husband and a wife. And if the wife is in Pharaoh's harem, she's not going to bear children to Abram. And it's as if God said, "Abram, do all you want to mess up this plan. I will make sure it works."

And what you will see in the rest of this story is how God often has to come back and intervene and keep the story going.

One of the things I'd like for you to keep in mind as you think about the story is that God never fails to keep His promise and He will do whatever it takes to see this covenant work out. Whatever it takes.

Well the story begins then to unfold in Genesis 15. We have this promise more fully defined. You come over to Genesis 15. We've got Abram back in Canaan. We've had the story of Lot and . . . . . the word of the Lord comes to Abram in a vision. "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward."

But Abram said, "O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" (A little side issue. If you didn't have any children of your own, you could take your favorite slave and he could become your inheritor, your heir.) Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir."

Then the word of the Lord came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."

Now that's got to be a troublesome kind of thing for Abram to understand. I don't have any children and yet you want me to count the stars--huh--and my children are going to number like that!!!

Look at Genesis 15:6 just as kind of a passing remark. Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. That, by the way, will show up in the New Testament.

It's here that we get introduced to the word "covenant". He's going to make a covenant with Abram. In fact, what's going to happen is, they're going to do what was typically done in that culture to make covenants. They are going to kill animals, divide them in two and it's going to be basically, as if they created this very aisle. Animals down this side, or half of the animals down this side, half of the animals down this side. The idea is, that when you walk through the animals that have been cut in half, you are saying, "If I break the covenant, the same thing should happen to me that happened to those animals." Okay?

So the covenant takes on enormous importance. Now what's fascinating in Genesis 15 is who walks through the animals. The covenant is between God and Abram and in a dream Abram sees a torch, a firepot, representing God walk between the animals. It's as if God has said, "I'm setting myself up in this covenant. I'm making the covenant and if I don't keep the covenant, the same thing should happen to me as has happened to these animals." He's not putting the onus on Abram. He's putting the onus on Himself. It's God's way of saying, "I will keep my promises."

It had to be tough for Abram. You notice that already, trust is an issue. Right? God says, "I'm going to give you a lot of offspring." The first thing he does is he tries to foul it up by going down to Egypt and giving his wife away. Then he wants to turn his slave into the son who is to be the heir, as if he just can't quite get his hands around the idea that God might actually give him a son through Sarai. Sarai has the same trouble keeping this idea alive in her mind. She's barren. They're old, for cryin' out loud. I mean, they're 99 years old by the time this thing gets resolved. He's 86 when he has his first child. Now, don't think 86 as in our age 86. Ah, 86 in his years would be, oh, only like 60 when he starts his family. But he starts his family, not with Sarai, but with Sarai's handmaiden, Hagar, because that was also a custom of the day. If you couldn't have children, you could actually have your handmaiden bear children for you.

Now this strikes me as really odd and kind of gross and I'm really glad we don't do it this way anymore, but in order for that to be lived out, when it came time for the handmaiden to give birth to a child, she actually sat in the woman's lap and gave birth in the lap of the wife. So that the child literally appeared to be her child. So Hagar gives birth to a child. They call him Ishmael. And Abram figures, okay, well it will be through Ishmael that my particular part of the promise gets kept.

Of course you know what happens, if you've read the story. God says, "NO, it is not going to be this son."

Come over to Genesis 17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers."

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.

And then he changes his name to Abraham. And He repeats the promise in Genesis 17, 18 You're gonna have a son and Sarai is going to be the mother and it's not going to be Hagar, and it's not going to be Ishmael. You're actually going to have a son whose name is Isaac. And low and behold he does.

A hundred years old and he finally bears a son. Genesis 21:1 Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac.

Now, that should have resolved the issue. Right? Look at Genesis 22:1. Again the narrator is going to insert a comment to help you, as a reader, understand what's going on. Genesis 22:1. Some time later God tested Abraham. What's about to happen is a test. "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, and kill him. Does this not make sense to you? Abraham, I'm going to make you a great nation and through you I'm going to produce offspring that are going to populate the earth like the sands of the sea or the stars of the sky. And it's not going to be through your slave. And it's not going to be through your handmaiden's son. It's going to be through your only son, your one and only son, by your wife Sarah. His name is Isaac. I'm going to use him to populate the universe. Now take him up on a mountain and kill him. And God tested him to see whether he had learned to trust.

Trust is a tough thing. When God doesn't make sense, trust is a really difficult thing. And, if you know the story, he does. He takes this young man. He's not a boy. He's a young lad, strong enough to carry the wood; strong enough to make a three day journey, probably a teenager. And together they walk up this mountain and they leave the slave at the bottom of the hill and they travel a bit further and they go to the mountain and he says, "I see the fire and I see the wood but where in the world is the offering?" And Abraham says, "God, himself will provide. . . . ." and as he raises the knife over his only son, God stops him and the story continues.

Well, that's the first installment, Chapter One of Abram. Now we move to Chapter Two fairly quickly. Cause the son is Isaac.

The interesting thing about Isaac is that he really hardly does anything in Scripture. He's just kind of here. He marries Rebekah. You remember the story of Rebekah? Abram wants to make sure that Isaac marries somebody that's appropriate from the family line. So he sends a slave to find his wife and there's this really fabulous story about feeding camels and all kinds of stuff and Rebekah shows up as the key person in Isaac's life. They get married and there's just one rather interesting little tidbit here.

Genesis 25 What's interesting is you notice that every major character is identified in a lineage. This is the account of. . . . . This is the account of. . . . .This is the account of. Ah, it's interesting that there is no "this is the account of Isaac". It's like he's a minor character. And yet in Genesis 25 there is this interesting remark. Genesis 25:19-21 This is the account of Abraham's son Isaac.

Abraham became the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean. . . . .

Isaac prayed to the Lord (Genesis 25:21) on behalf of his wife, because she was barren.

There is no accounting that lists Isaac as a key player, but in the accounting of his life, we are told again, she was barren. Sarai was barren. Now Rebekah is barren. In both cases, God intervenes and there is a birth. You remember the story of the birth of the children. Birth becomes a key issue in this whole lineage.

Isaac's story is very brief. There is no Abrahamic lineage to identify him in. Just as a bit of an aside, it's interesting to me that Isaac is a lot like his father. Remember? I didn't tell you this, but on two different occasions Abraham said, "This is my sister." He did that more than once. He did it twice. And now his son, Isaac, also does exactly the same thing. He says, "Tell them you are my sister" in order to save his own hide. Things run in families like that, you know. That's why it's important for those of us who decide to make some decisions in our life to realize that we can change things. We don't have to be whatever our parents were. We can make a choice and change things if we want.

It doesn't happen for another two or three generations, but it finally does happen. Isaac and Rebekah give birth to twins, Jacob and Esau. Esau being the older, the red haired one. The one who is the outdoors man. Jacob who's name means people person...the younger and the more deceitful of the two. Ah, you remember the story. Esau's out hunting. He gets hungry. He comes back. Jacob's made a pot of soup. Esau's really, really hungry. He says, "I'll tell ya what. I'll trade by birth right for the pot of soup." And so, Jacob takes advantage of that and he steals the birth right, making him the Number One son instead of the Number Two son, which means he gets double inheritance when the inheritance time comes. Later on when it comes time for Isaac to die and to give the blessing, mom and Jacob get into the story and Esau goes out to hunt and while he's out hunting, Jacob comes in covered with lambskin and smelling kind of like killed animals with his dad's favorite food and lies to him about who he is and Isaac blesses Jacob and the blessing is rather fascinating.

Come over here to Genesis 28. Listen to the blessing that is given from Isaac to Jacob. Genesis 28:3 May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land God gave to Abraham. Look at Genesis 28:14. This is a repeated promise now that Jacob is having a dream. We called it Jacobs Ladder. And in the dream, here's what he hears.

Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.

Do you hear this repeated promise of how God is going to blow this thing into an enormous nation.

Jacob, after stealing the birth right and then after stealing the blessing, runs because Esau's going to kill him. And he runs and he runs and he runs and he runs to his Uncle Laban's house in order to protect himself and there he discovers a "drop dead" gorgeous girl. Her name is Rachel.

And he says, "I'll be willing to work for seven years for her hand in marriage." And so the text tells the story. . . . .bam!. . . . .bam!. . . . .bam! Seven years go by quick. Wedding night. They turn out all the lights. They cover up the bride which was typical, traditional. Jacob wakes up in the morning. Discovers it's not Rachel at all. It's Leah, her older sister. The Bible says she has weak eyes. I don't know what that means. Translate that - ugly!

But there's some irony in this, isn't there? The previous story has blind Isaac blessing deceitful Jacob. And now deceitful Jacob has been deceived by Uncle Laban. And so he gets up and after the week long wedding celebration he says, "Wait a minute! You cheated me. I want her." Now all the Leah's in the crowd are going ohhhhh. And so he says, "I'll work for her for seven years." So he gets Leah as a wife. A week later he gets Rachel as a wife. He's worked for seven years. Now he works for seven more years and in the process he begins to have children. But he can only have children by Leah. And so, they pop out kids one right after the other. There are four of them. Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Rachel is barren. Does this begin to sound familiar?

So Rachel decides to get it in her head and say, "well, if Leah is going to have kids and I can't have any, then I'm going to use my handmaiden, Bilhah, to give him children." And so he now has four sons and then he has two sons by Bilhah. And

Leah says, "well, I've stopped bearing children, but if she can use her handmaiden, I can use my handmaiden and so now Zilpah comes along and she has two children. So he's now got a whole bunch of kids by a whole bunch of different wives and people. And then Leah has some more kids, a daughter names Dinah and then, finally, finally Rachel conceived. Favorite wife produces favorite son and favorite son is known as Joseph.

There's a lot of prosperity that goes on here in Jacob's life. He produces twelve sons. Count them! Twelve! You'll know that because that becomes an extremely important part of the story later because those are the twelve tribes of Israel through whom God carries out this great promise.

Now there is just one brief little thing that we need to think about here because we're about to turn the story even into slower motion. And we're going to focus it from the nations that Abraham is producing. Now we're going to come down to just one son Joseph. Except that's odd, because Joseph's not the primary character in the lineage of Jesus. In fact, he is very secondary.

Judah is the key son. He's son number four. But that's not where the story goes. There is only one chapter devoted to Judah at all in the rest of Genesis which is really rather strange.

So we're going to leave him for a while and we're going to come to the son who is the favorite son. The son of Joseph and see how he fits into this rather interesting story.

So come over to Genesis 35. You've got Genesis 35 where you have this bit of thing happening where God again is blessing and repeating the promise.

Genesis 35:9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. God said to him, "Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel. So he named him Israel.

Jacob means to be deceitful. Israel means to have to the strength of God or to fight with God. To have God fight for you, depending on how you translate it.

And God said to him, "I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you." And so you've got that repetition of the promise.

So then we come to Joseph. Joseph is the first son of his favorite wife, Rachel. The eleventh son in the whole lineage and he is the favorite son and you know the story. He gets an extra nice coat. Some people think it is extra long. Some people think it's multi-colored. It depends on how you translate it. If you've been to Broadway, you know it's "Joseph and The Technicolor Coat". So it's got to be like, multi-colored. Because that's what we all think. And he wears it everywhere. And he has dreams, and his dreams are really bizarre dreams, like all of you bow down and worship me, including you, mom and dad.

Well, that made his really popular with his brothers, as you can imagine. In fact, he probably did nothing most of the time because he was the favorite son. And you can't take a chance on the favorite son getting hurt, so the favorite son gets all of the favorite treatment. And as you know, the boys are off, out there in the desert tending the sheep and Joseph is at home with his little brother Benjamin, and his mom and his dad and his dad says, "why don't you go see how the boys are doing." So he travels out there and they say, "lets just go ahead and kill him and get him out of the way cause we don't like the dreamer anyway." And then Reuben, the first born, says, "ah, let's not kill him, let's throw him in a pit." So they throw him in a pit. Well then, they also decide that the pit is not good enough so they sell him into Egypt. They sell him as a slave and as you know the story, he goes down to Egypt and he's really a pretty bright guy. And he ends up being sold to Potiphar. Potiphar is one of the king's"good guys" and Joseph does his job really, really well and the next thing you know he is, in fact, in charge of all of Potiphar's stuff, taking care of things.

Except that Joseph is a handsome lad and Potiphar's wife wants him. And so she comes in and the text says, she says to him, "Lie with me." And the text says, day after day after day she came in and said, "Sleep with me." And then one day he responds. I don't know if he just remains silent for a long time for some reason, but, it seems that it takes a while before he finally speaks up. But when he speaks up, there is this amazing thing that he decides to say.

If you come over here in this story, Genesis 39, listen to the voice of Joseph. Down here in verse 8 he refuses. He says, "my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?"

Do you notice that God hasn't shown up in that conversation yet? He says, my master trusts me, my master trusts me. I can't do anything that would go against my master. But when it comes right down to the bottom line for making his decision about how to be a moral young man, he says, "I could not sin against (not my master); I couldn't sin against God." Because he knew where his ultimate allegiance was.

Just this little brief aside. That's where morality finds its strength. We don't NOT sin because we might hurt our neighbor's feelings or we might hurt our spouse's feelings. That may be true, but our ultimate decision about life is what honors God and what keeps us from sinning against Him.

Well, you know what happens. She gets desperate. She comes in. She tries to take him physically. He runs off and leaves his coat. He can't keep a coat, by the way. Do you notice that? She cries rape. He goes to prison. While he's down in prison, the butler and the cupbearer show up. Ah the baker and the butler show up down there. They have dreams; he interprets the dreams. Both dreams come true. He says, "remember me when you go back upstairs." They forget him.

So for two more years he's down here in the basement in the prison. And then Pharaoh has this really weird set of dreams about scrawny little cows and big fat cows, and, nobody knows how to interpret the dream. Until, the cupbearer remembers. "Oh, there's a guy in prison. He knows how to interpret dreams. Bring him up." Joseph comes up. The text even goes so far as to say he took a bath first, before he came in. He came in and interpreted Pharaoh's dreams. And he said, "wow, that's really cool. I need somebody to help me accomplish that." And he puts Joseph in charge.

Joseph is second ruler in all of Egypt. For seven years he helps keep track of all the stuff going on. He gathers grain so that people will have food to eat during the famine.

Now there is a famine and guess who can't find enough to eat? Jacob's family. So they send the boys (ten of them). Joseph's already gone. Benjamin is not going anywhere because, Benjamin is the only son left of his mother Rachel, who died in childbirth and Jacob won't let him out of his sight. They send the ten boys down. Joseph is in charge. Joseph recognizes them; they don't recognize him. He sends them home with a bunch of grain but says, "the next time you come, you bring your little brother." And of course, Jacob won't let the little brother out of sight, except that they run out of grain and they're going to die, so they end up sending the boys, including Benjamin.

You remember how Joseph tricks them into making them think that Benjamin stole something and they bring him back and then he reveals himself to them and they have this grand reunion and then they go back and they get Jacob and they bring everybody down into Egypt where they settle in the land of Goshen, a great land for being Shepherds. Now I just said that really, really fast because this is, now like, a whole bunch of material all at once. But I want you to notice just two or three verses.

Look over here in Genesis 45. There are some things that occur in here that remind us of the power of what God is doing in the process of keeping his covenant.

Genesis 45. This is when Joseph makes himself known. Genesis 45:5 And now, do not be distressed (he says to his brothers) and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.

Genesis 45:7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

Do you hear, first of all, Joseph's absolute confidence in what God is doing in his life? Even when he's been spending most of his time in prison. When nothing seems to make sense, Joseph has absolute confidence.

Secondly, do you notice how this comes back to that basic statement? God will keep His promise. He will keep His covenant no matter what.

You come over here in Genesis 50. Come to the end of the book, Genesis 50:20. Again, Joseph is speaking. This is after Jacob's death and now the boys are afraid that now that their dad's dead, Joseph won't be kind to them. He says in Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Genesis 50:24. Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

And this story ends on that future look to when Israel is going to get back to Canaan. Remember that's part of the promise.

So we walk through this story and it sounds a lot like this. God created the Universe.

He created man; man fell apart and God started a process of redemption. Redemption came through Abram, Isaac and Jacob but they end up in Egypt for 430 years. The reason this story shifts from Judah to Joseph is to prepare us for the book of Exodus because Exodus becomes the story of redemption. How does God redeem His people? We'll get there in a couple of weeks.

Here's the question. What in the world do we learn looking at this rather quick view of Abram, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph? We learn at least this. God will do anything to protect the covenant; absolutely anything. God will do whatever it takes to keep His promise. That includes, if He has to curse Pharaoh in order to get Sarai out of the household. He will do that. If He has to miraculously bring children to those who have been otherwise barren, He will do that. If He has to take Joseph down into Egypt as a slave in order to keep the family alive during a drought; He will do whatever it takes to keep His promise.

We learned this. Trust is an extremely difficult discipline. When God does not make sense, it's hard to keep trusting. And when God has made promises like; I'm going to make you a great nation, but you can't have any children, it gets really tough to be able to trust Him.

But listen to the language of the New Testament. Hebrews 11 is that Chapter that wraps all of the Old Testament history up under this one idea; faith. Listen to how often that occurs in this text. Hebrews 11:8. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. Hebrews 11:9. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; . . . . .as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. Hebrews 11:11. By faith Abraham, even though he was past age and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.

You come down to Hebrews 11:17. By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. Hebrews 11:20. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. Hebrews 11:21. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons. . . . . . Hebrews 11:22. By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. . . . .

In order for you to trust when God doesn't make sense, it takes faith. Absolute confidence that God will keep His promise and He will always do what He says.

The other thing we learn about this is, this has nothing to do with either lineage or land. Even though there was a great deal of emphasis upon the fact that they were going to inherit the land and even though it has a great deal to do with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and down through the lineage we go. And that, in fact, shows up in the New Testament in the birth lineages of Jesus, the real issue shows up in Galatians 3.

In this rather enigmatic passage about the law and the promise in Galatians 3:16. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say, "and to seeds" meaning many people. But, and to your seed, meaning one person, who is Christ.

When Paul looks back on this experience of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and nations and lands and children as numerous as stars in the sky, he says, "that's not the point." That was to bring us to one person, the seed of Abraham.

Now drop down again to Galatians 3:26. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Everything in Genesis is to come from creation to one fundamental place. We are all children of God by faith in Christ. Just as Abraham believed God and it was counted to Him for righteousness, we have that same option of believing God and having it count as our righteousness. In Jesus day, the big problem was, the Jews thought that you had to be the son of Abraham in order to have the blessing. And so, they believe that if you weren't Jewish, you had no hope. And Jesus came along and said, "this is not about lineage. This is about Me. This is about a relationship with Me."

So, we can make you that same promise today. That you can be an heir of the promise of God, not because you were born into a certain tribe or you lived in a certain place, but because you are related to the right person--Christ.

Everything about this story points us in one direction. Know Christ. Have a relationship with Christ. Be a child of God through Christ and how does that happen? According to Galatians it's by faith which gets lived out in obedience. He says, "by faith you are all sons of God because you have been baptized into Him and therefore clothed yourself in Him." You've identified with Him and become one in Him and that has made you an heir. It makes you part of the family. We want you to be part of the family.

If you're not a part of the family, then that's why we're here. Not just to tell you the story, but to call you to the family that by faith, you might too, walk in relationship with Christ.

We're going to stand and we're going to sing together, and if you have a decision that you need to make this morning about that, please make it known. If you have questions, please, don't hesitate to ask.

Please stand and let's sing together. If you need to come up and make that known now, then this is a great time. If not, come and talk to us later so that we can have a conversation about how you identify with Jesus in faith.