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Oh Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear.
Scripture: Genesis 17:2; Genesis 16:6-8; Genesis 18...
Track 10 of 11 in the Abraham series
Running time: 1 hour, 01 minute, 17 seconds.
After 13 years of dealing with Hagar and Ishmael, Abraham came home and shared with his wife all God told him. Not only did God reconfirm the promise but added a new twist to it, the promise would be fulfilled through a son born to him by Sarah, not some surrogate mother. Needless to say, Sarah had a good laugh about that bit of information.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

In the 1990’s a movement took place called the Promise Keepers. It started when Bill McCartney, head coach of the University of Colorado football team, gathered men together in large stadiums over the weekends to recommit their lives to God, to their families and to make a promise that they would become the spiritual leader in their homes and churches. For years many wives had been waiting and praying for their husbands that this transition would someday take place.

What is fascinating, not all women are that thrilled. In fact, many are confused and even threatened by their husband’s new fervor and commitment to do God’s will. In turn, some husbands can’t seem to understand why their wives aren’t as enthusiastic and excited as they are. What the husbands didn’t realize, it takes time to convince our mates we’re really different. This is particularly true when the man of the house has not been the spiritual leader he needed to be in the past.

Tony Campolo wrote about a friend of his who was falling out of love with his wife. Tony advised the man to think of all the ways he could make life happier for his wife and then do them. A few days later Tony received a phone call in which the husband related the following:

Every day I leave for work, put in a hard day, come home dirty and sweaty, stumble in the back door, go to the refrigerator, get something to drink, and then go into the rec room and watch television until supper time. After talking to you, I decided I would do better than that in the future. So yesterday, before I left work, I showered and shaved and put on a clean shirt. On the way home I stopped at the florist and bought a bouquet of roses. Instead of going in the back door as I usually do, I went to the front door and rang the doorbell. My wife opened the door, took one look at me, and started to cry. When I asked her what was wrong she said, "It's been a horrible day. First Billy broke his leg and had to have it put in a cast. I no sooner returned home from the hospital when your mother called and told me that she is coming to stay for three weeks. I tried to do the wash and the washing machine broke and there is water all over the basement. And now you have to come home drunk!"

Let me know what you think, is this true? Men, does it take time for our wives to believe that we’re sincere about the life changes we make? Why?

Well, we will see in our lesson today that Abraham also had a Promise Keeper experience that he had to deal with. Sarah, although she stood next to Abraham all her life, had to endure the many mistakes and weak moments in Abraham’s life. Maybe that is why Sarah felt she had to take matters in her own hands and help God’s promise along with Hagar and Ishmael because Abraham didn’t seem to be in any hurry. Maybe she thought time was running out and she felt the pressure even though her husband seemed not to be too worried.

Ladies, have you even had a moment with your husband when he promised to get something done and never did it. Over and over you nagged him to the point he would run and hide at the very mention of the project? What do you do in those situations?

In Genesis 17:2 Abraham had his Promise Keeper moment. After 13 years of dealing with Hagar and Ishmael, he then came home and shared with his wife all God told him. Not only did God reconfirm the promise but added a new twist to it, the promise would be fulfilled through a son born to him by Sarah, not some surrogate mother.

Ladies, if you were Sarah, what would your first reaction be at the enthusiasm of your husband about this great news? What basically did he just tell you? After 13 hard years of tension and strife, it all was a mistake. In fact, she made the mistake. In fact, it sounded like it was a mistake God and Abraham had to fix.

Wives feel resentment when it is assumed that they are responsible for everything that goes wrong around the house. This is epitomized in the television ad in which the husband is upset because there's a "ring around the collar." The wife breaks into tears because her detergent has not removed the dirt from her husband's shirt. The ring around the collar is seen as telltale evidence of her failure. The ad never asks the obvious question--Why didn't he wash his neck?

So at the age of 99, when your husband says that you are going to have a baby, in essence, the correct baby this time, what response will you give him? Ladies, has your husband ever come home with a great idea that when he told you what he was thinking, all you could do was just shake your head? Have you ever wondered if he was hallucinating?

Up until this point no where in scripture do we see when God ever spoke to Sarah directly. Everything she heard was second hand. In fact, her whole life from the time she and Abraham left Ur to this moment in Genesis 17, everything about God has been second hand information and instruction. We can’t be too critical with Sarah that she was unconvinced and skeptical at the news she was going to have a baby at 99 years old. But, there is something else that plays into this skepticism:

Genesis 16:6-8 Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

After Hagar’s conversation with the angel, she returned back to Sarah. Can you imagine when Sarah asked Hagar why she can back on her own, Sarah’s reaction when Hagar told her of the conversation she had with the angel of the Lord? Never had God spoken to her, only to Abraham and now Hagar. She always seemed to be left out of the conversation. Now when the biggest moment of her life was about to take place, again, God doesn’t tell her directly, God tells Abraham instead. So when Abraham comes home all pumped up from the experience, Sarah probably isn’t all that enthused.

Men, so what do you do if you are Abraham? You believe God but your wife doesn't. How do you convince her that what God said is true? Let me ask something here before we move on, was God insensitive to Sarah in the way He handled this situation?

Genesis 18:1-8 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.” Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

When chapter 18 opens up, we see Abraham and Sarah living out their daily lives. One thing this time we don’t see is both of them trying to do anything about the promise on their own. Abraham had to deal with his unbelieving wife the way most of us husbands have to deal with our skeptical wives, carefully!! Basically he had to wait on God to act in his own time. If Sarah is anything like a typical wife, she might be calmed down but she hasn’t forgotten her conversation with Abraham about being at mother at 99. I doubt Abraham brought that up again.

Do you think Abraham knew who these three men were? How do we know from the scriptures we just read?

Abraham is a changed man, he knew for sure that God meant what he said and Abraham was waiting expectantly for God to act. Most likely he prayed everyday for the day to arrive for a son to be born to him. Then came the three men, three angels; notice, he focused his attention on one in particular, most likely the One he knew as God. He bowed down to him and begged him not to pass by but stay. This behavior is not uncommon in mid-east culture. But what Abraham did was a little over the top. In fact, the time of day was not right for a meal. It was too hot and people stayed out of the sun. To Abraham, this visit was a time to celebrate.

Have you ever eavesdropped before? What is the definition of eavesdropping? To listen secretly to the private conversation of others. Is it a sin to eavesdrop?

Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ecclesiastes 7:21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.

Have you ever got caught eavesdropping? What was your excuse or reaction to why you were doing it?

The real reason the Lord showed up was not necessarily for Abraham, but for Sarah. The Lord knew Sarah was listening and the message between He and Abraham was meant for her to hear. No longer was the message delivered second hand, Sarah heard the message directly from God.

Genesis 18:9-15 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master£ is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

It is important to note that the name of the Lord here is again El Shaddai, the One who can make the natural laws work against themselves. God has the power to make nature do what is not natural. In Abraham and Sarah’s case, have a baby at a very old age, well beyond childbearing years. There are two very important points about this passage:

1. God’s plan was right on schedule: God wasn’t caught off guard with the thoughts going through Sarah’s mind when se heard the words to Abraham. God understood her skepticism. That s why God surprised her and got her to think seriously about what He said. When Sarah laughed, it was internal and inaudible. She was also hidden behind camel’s hair so God could not see her body language. Imagine Sarah’s total surprise when God asked Abraham why she laughed.

2. God performs a miracle while communicating a miracle: God’s question pierced her mind and soul. Without a visible clue, God exposed her inner being. God was teaching Sarah the same thing he taught Abraham earlier – that he was El Shaddai, the Almighty God who could do anything which was against nature.

This was the same tactic Jesus used on Thomas. Thomas refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. It was impossible for someone to raise himself from the dead and until he could see and dell the nail prints, he wouldn’t believe. Now Thomas was absent when Jesus appeared the first time so he was hearing things second hand. He didn’t actually experience Jesus resurrection personally.

John 20:24-28 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas never revealed his doubt to Jesus directly but Jesus knew what Thomas thought. Like God with Sarah, Jesus used surprise to pierce the heart of Thomas. Jesus confronted the doubt Thomas had. Once Thomas was confronted with El Shaddai, complete submission took over.