10: Genesis 17:18-19

COPYRIGHT WARNING

365 Prophecies: Prophecy 10

Salvation under the Messiah shall be by Grace, through Faith, not by the effort, or works of man.

Old Testament Prediction:

Genesis 17:18-19 And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!” Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant,and with his descendants after him.

New Testament Fulfillment:

Romans 4:18-22 (Abraham) who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

Romans 11:6 And if salvation is by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if salvation is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

Ephesians 2:5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God

Application:

The book of Genesis introduces the world to the Creator who made all things. God does not seek to prove His existence, because the universe makes this point self evident.

The highest order of creation is man. He has many of the same attributes of the Creator. The power of self determination, the ability to create, he is self aware and possesses a conscience that guides his moral actions.

How man can relate and interact with the Creator, is defined in the book of Genesis. First and foremost, man in his present condition is a fallen being. He exists in a state that has been greatly compromised from God’s original design. The flaw that is within mankind is called sin, a three letter word which means; deficient, the inability to be perfect. When God creates, whatever He makes is perfect. Man became imperfect by using the power of choice and self determination to rebel against God. This in turn changed the internal function of all people, preventing every living human being from having a right relationship with the Living God.

In order for this relationship to be restored, God would have to act to change the estrangement. Since man’s imperfection prevented him from approaching God, it would be necessary for the Lord to make a way possible for the fellowship that God and man once enjoyed, to be repaired.

The question of what is acceptable to God as a basis for eternal life, is answered in this prophecy from Genesis 17:18-19.

The setting:

The Lord chose one man under impossible circumstances, to be the vehicle by which He would demonstrate the principles for His plan of restoration.

Abraham lived in a city called Ur which was at the mouth of the Euphrates river on the Persian Gulf. This city existed from about 3,800 years B.C., in the region that was later known as Babylon.[1]

It is interesting that God chose a man from a nation that would later enslave Abraham’s future descendant’s. An amazing fact when we consider that Abraham is the man through which God set into motion a plan that would have the power to free all men from the slavery of sin and make a right relationship with God possible.

This is the subject of this tenth Old Testament prophecy from Genesis 17:18-19.

What is the basis for God to accept a person in his present condition as a sinner? What does God require in order for us to approach Him and have a relationship with Him.

The basis for salvation is Faith

The way in which the Lord will set Abraham apart from the rest of the world who does not know God, and show Him how to have a relationship with God, is extraordinary. The Lord does not reveal His plan to Abraham until he is 75 years old. He calls this aging patriarch to leave his family and his home and go to a place that the Lord will show him. In order for Abraham to discover what God’s plan is, he has to begin with faith. Abraham doesn’t even know where he is going. The Lord simply tells him to pack up and leave, and He will show him later where he is going to live.

Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.

This first promise that God made to Abraham, must have seemed strange considering his age and the past circumstance of his life. Abraham is 75, his wife Sarah also well advanced in age. They have not been able to conceive a child in their earlier years, and have remained childless to the present day. With these facts in mind, God tells Abraham that He is going to make him a great nation and someday, all of the families of the earth will be blessed because of Abraham’s faith in God.

Genesis 12:2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Exactly how a man becomes a great nation when he has no descendants, is a mystery unknown to Abraham at this point. Despite these facts, he decides that he will pack his belongings, leave his family and friends, and go to a place that the Lord will show him later. Abraham is going to trust God to do what He said He will do. This is an important fact for us to remember when we are seeking to understand God, and what He requires of us in order to have a relationship with Him.

Genesis 12:7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

At this appearance of the LORD, Abraham knows how he is going to become a great nation, by acquiring descendants. God is telling Abraham about things which do not exist, and at this point in time, they must have seemed quite impossible. We learn as the story progresses, that a future descendant of Abraham will be called the Messiah, the one who will make it possible for all human beings to have a present and personal relationship with God and live with Him forever.

The Plan of God Unfolds

It was the dream of Abraham and Sarah to have a son. All of their lives they bore the cultural shame of being childless. In the society of Abraham’s time, not having any offspring was considered a curse from God. The shame and disappointment that this elderly couple felt must have been unimaginable.

When God came to Abraham and told him that he was going to have a son, Sarah had already reached an age where it was physically impossible for her to have a baby.

Genesis 18:11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.

In order for the Lord to fulfill His promise, it would take a supernatural work of His Spirit to cause both of their aged bodies to once again have the capacity of conceiving a child.

Genesis 15:1-3 “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” But Abram said, “Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”

Because Abraham had no son to inherit his estate, upon his death, all that he had would go to his oldest servant Eliezer. In Genesis 15:4, the Lord clarifies the fact that Abraham will have a son that will come from his own body, one who will be his heir, not his servant Eliezer.

Genesis 15:4 “And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.”

Abraham and Sarah were the couple chosen by God to bring into the world, the Savior of all people. It was therefore important to God that the principles which established this salvation were defined correctly. Salvation must be totally a work of God, and not the works of men. For this reason, we should understand that although someone may be a very good person, they will never be good enough to earn heaven. Salvation requires a perfect life that has never sinned. Since no man can ever be perfect, it is impossible to please God by human efforts.

The most difficult of all–waiting on God

The Lord delayed the fulfillment of His promise to Abraham for 24 years before giving Abraham and Sarah a son.

During the first eleven years of waiting, Abraham began to have doubts as to whether he had heard God correctly and if he should do something to help the Lord with the problem. God promised Abraham that this son would come from his own body, but did this mean that the child must come from Sarah’s body also?

It was a custom of Abraham’s culture, that if a man was unable to have a child by his wife, he was allowed to conceive a child by his wife’s handmaid. The fact that Abraham had never taken Sarah’s handmaid before, is a testimony of Abraham’s great love for his wife.

Genesis 16:1-2 “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.“ 2 “So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid Hagar; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.“

When God first came to Abraham, he was 75 years old. By the time we arrive at Genesis chapter 16, Abraham has been waiting on the Lord for eleven years before taking Hagar to conceive a son. Nine months later, Abraham is 86 years old, and Ishmael is born. Imagine the delight Abraham and Sarah must have felt as they finally received their baby boy.

Genesis 16:15-16  “So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.” “Abram was eighty-six years (11 years later) old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.”

When Ishmael was born through the union of Abraham and Hagar, Abraham assumed that this son was the fulfillment of God’s promise. Imagine Abraham’s surprise when the Lord informed him that Ishmael was not the son through which God would fulfill His promises.

Genesis 17:18-19 And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!” Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant,and with his descendants after him.

Another 13 years pass before God is ready to bring Abraham and Sarah, the son that He had promised them.

Genesis 17:1 “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.”

Genesis 17:2-3 And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.”

Genesis 17:17 “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

It has now been 25 years since the Lord first promised Abraham and Sarah a son. Ishmael was born to Abraham when he was 86 years of age. Now that he is 99 years old, the Lord informs him that He is ready to fulfill His promise to give them a son who will be the first of many heirs.

At this point Abraham is faced with a dilemma. He greatly loves Ishmael and His hope is that the Lord will fulfill all of His promises through him. The Lord informs Abraham and Sarah that the time has arrived when the covenant that the He made with them 25 years before, is about to be fulfilled. Abraham looks at his 100 year old body, and Sarah’s 90 year old body and he can do nothing else but fall on his face in laughter. He marvels that this could be possible. When the Lord first made His promise of a son to this elderly couple, Abraham and his wife were both already well beyond the age of child bearing. What seemed impossible back then, now at close to 100 years of age, is beyond impossible.

Impossibility–where the Lord does His best work.

Genesis 17:18-19 …Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; 19 I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant,and with his descendants after him.

The Lord calls this son of impossibility, Isaac, by name even before he is born. God knows everything about us. He forms our body inside the womb of our mother, with hands of precision. He makes us into the people that He has ordained us to be, so that we can accomplish His will. You may not believe that there is a plan for your life at certain places of uncertainty in your life, but God has a unique purpose for you. He has designed a specific plan for your life. He works through difficult and impossible circumstances to cause all things to work together for ultimate Good. You are important, and you are greatly loved by God.

Genesis 17:21-22 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.” 22 Then He finished talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.

The time God determined for Isaac’s birth was specific. The Lord tells Abraham that his son will be born at a set time next year. Everything that the Lord does in all the history of the universe, has a set time. Nothing occurs by happenstance or through luck. All things are under His magnificent control and sovereignty. Everything happens for a reason, and many of these reasons are known only to God.

Our responsibility is to decide whether or not we will trust Him, and then live like we believe what God has said. Whatever happens, we maintain our certainty in the goodness of God and His ability to bless our lives: Not because we deserve His blessing or have earned it, but for the simple reason that we believe that He genuinely loves us. Grace, which is defined as God’s unmerited favor, is given to all those who simply trust him, even when everything around them screams of impossibility.

Abraham establishes what faith is, Jesus fulfills this principle by making salvation by grace, through faith, a reality. When we trust in the sacrifice that Jesus has made for our sins on the cross, as a basis for God to forgive us and grant us eternal life, then we have appropriated all of the promises of God that are available to us.

In the New Testament, Paul describes how Abraham’s trust in what God had said, was completely contrary to all hope. Abraham chose to believe God, even though everything that he could see implied exactly the opposite. Though Abraham was 100 years old, and well past the age when he was able to conceive a son, he maintained that what God had promised, He was able to perform.

It is for this reason, and this reason alone, the Lord accounted Abraham’s faith as righteousness, and a true basis for a relationship with God (Ephesians 2:8).

Romans 4:18-22 (Abraham) who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

Isaac, who came by the supernatural work of God’s Spirit through Abraham and Sarah, demonstrates how faith must work. By this example, we understand today that our own salvation rests on the work of God that He accomplished through the death and resurrection of the Messiah. Jesus fulfills this prophecy of Genesis 17:18-19, being the Son of God’s promise.

The prophecy given to Abraham was that a future seed of his would allow all of the families of the earth to be blessed. This blessing takes place in each of our lives today as a result of our coming to God based on what Jesus has accomplished for us.

Genesis 12:2 … And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

As Abraham establishes the true basis for salvation by faith, He also excludes any attempts at being found righteous by God through our good works that we have done during our life here on earth.

Genesis 17:18-19  ”And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!. ”Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.“

Why would God not accept Ishmael as the fulfillment of His promise? The problem was that Ishmael was a work of Abraham’s flesh, not the work of God.

Here we see how important it is to understand that the Lord will never accept any of our attempts at being righteous by our own works. What we do will never be acceptable as a basis for eternal life. If we are to make it to heaven and live forever, it will only be possible by God’s Grace, through our faith in Jesus Christ.

The line of descendants that God would use to bring the Messiah, would come from Abraham, through Isaac.

God waited until  it was humanly impossible before He did this work in Abraham’s life. The son that would come from Abraham and Sarah would be the first of many descendants, who would ultimately bring the Messiah to earth.

Because God’s only Son would come from one of Abraham’s descendants, He wanted to insure that there was no possibility that anyone could be given the title of Messiah, unless they perfectly fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah.

As you go through each one of these prophecies, you will come away with an overwhelming sense of how amazing and miraculous it would be for any person to fulfill even a portion of them. It is possible that a few of the prophecies that I listed in this book may be viewed by some as non Messianic. I labored over certain of these prophecies to validate their application myself. After careful examination I determined that not all of the Messianic prophecies that are given to us by the Lord were intended by Him as being absolutely clear on first examination. It takes a very close look and comparison of the language of the Old Testament verse, alongside the New Testament fulfillment, in order to see that they are a valid prophecy of the Messiah. Without a valid fulfillment, no verse of Old Testament scripture can rightly be designated as prophetic.

If we were to disqualify as many as half of the 365 Prophecies that I have listed in this book, the likelihood of any person fulfilling even 180 of these events, is still impossible.

Dr. Peter Stoner, Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College until 1953; Chairman of the science division, Westmont College, 1953–57; Professor Emeritus of Science, Westmont College; and Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Astronomy, Pasadena City College, computed that the odds of any one person in the history of the world fulfilling just eight of these prophecies, is greater than the total number of seconds in the age of the universe, at 10¹⁷, otherwise known today as 13.7 Billion years.[2] In other words, the fact that Jesus perfectly fulfilled just eight of the 365 prophecies, this would be sufficient evidence to conclude the He is the Messiah.

The Lord is very sensitive about the issue of His Glory. Because He created the universe, He alone has the right to receive the honor for bringing into being as well as everything that exists. Since all things have as their source His creative power, no other created being can rightly take credit for any component of His Creation apart from Him. For example, you might design and create an automobile. Where did your brain come from? Where did the intelligence to conceive of such an idea originate? Where did the materials for the construction of the automobile come from? All these things were created by God, therefore we cannot claim any credit for them ourselves. All that we can say is the we took what God created and made it into something useful. If we are honest, we must always give the Lord credit as the source for all that we have or are able to perform.

1 Corinthians 4:7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

Since everything that we receive as human beings, has as it’s source, the Lord, we should never fail to give Him thanks for all that we have.

Our very lives came from God’s eternal Spirit, therefore He has the right of ownership and sovereignty over us. The problem is that man stubbornly refuses to accept this truth and submit to God. An unwillingness to allow the Lord His rightful place in the world is the cause of all suffering and misery in the history of mankind. This is the only location in the Universe, (so far as we know), where created beings shake their fists in the face of God and defy His right to rule over their lives. In His mercy, God has allowed us a specific period of time to repent and submit ourselves to Him. After the expiration of this time, God will take back what is rightfully His. When this occurs, the earth and all those who dwell on it will do all of the will of the Lord, forever.

For this reason, God rejects every work of man’s flesh. Every attempt that man makes at justifying himself before God by good deeds, or attempted righteousness.

Isaiah 48:11 “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it;…And I will not give My glory to another.”

This is why the many religions of the world who teach that you can be acceptable to God by your good works, are a lie. Salvation is completely the work of God, and man can do nothing to earn his way into heaven.

Paul makes this point clear in the book of Romans and further defines what salvation is in the book of Ephesians:

Romans 11:6 “And if salvation is by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if salvation is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.“

Ephesians 2:5 “even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God”

God did all the work of redeeming man. Then He offered the forgiveness of sins and eternal life to anyone who would believe that Jesus sacrifice paid the debt they owed God for their sins. Salvation costs man nothing, it cost God everything. Because the Lord did all the work, He will not share the glory for it with any man.

Paul emphasizes this point that not all of the children of Abraham were a part of the promises of God. Only Isaac, who came by the supernatural work of God in Abraham and Sarah, are included. Ishmael was not acceptable because He was a work of Abraham’s flesh and a desire to obtain the blessings of God by his own effort.

Romans 9:7-8 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.”

This tenth Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah, establishes the principle that Salvation from God comes by grace, through faith. There is nothing we can do to obtain it, except believe what God said. Jesus is the only acceptable method by which God will acquit us of our sins, and grant us eternal life. He is the Messiah, the Son of God.


NOTES:
[1] S. M. Kramer, The Sumerians, Their History, Culture, and Character, University of Chicago Press, 1963, pages 28 and 298
[2] Science Speaks. by Peter W. Stoner, revised and HTML formatted by Don W. Stoner. Retrieved 2007-02-09

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