Scripture Reading: Genesis 16 - 19 ...
A little more than 4,000 years ago, some two thousand years after God created mankind on the earth, the stage was set for the Middle East conflict that continues to this day: the descendants of Ishmael against the descendants of Isaac. It is true that Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the world's three monotheistic religions, all trace their origin to Abraham's offspring, but Islam did NOT originate from Abraham's GOD! And Judaism and Christianity are NOT two distinct and separate religions ... Christianity is the fulfillment of true, biblical Judaism ... which pointed ahead to the coming Savior, the Messiah, the Christ.
This means that the Bible is the only insight we have into the plan of God for the human race! God chose Abraham and He then chose Isaac and He then chose Jacob and from him came the nation of Israel, God's chosen people. In Genesis 15 we saw God establish His Covenant of Grace with Abraham and his descendants, promising to be their God, to give them the land of Canaan, to multiply Abraham's descendants and to bless all nations on the earth through the Seed of Abraham, the coming Savior. God’s Covenant of Grace with Abraham and his descendants pointed to Jesus Christ, for it would be through His sacrifice on the cross that God’s justice would be satisfied and forgiveness would be offered to all who believe in Him.
As years passed without a child coming to Abraham and Sarah they decided that they needed to help God keep His promise, so Sarai offered Abraham her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar. Hagar had a child and he was named, Ishmael, which means, “God hears.” God said of this child, “He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers” (Genesis 16:11-12). Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born.
But this was not God’s plan!! When Abram was 99 years old the LORD appeared to him again and confirmed His covenant with Abraham and his descendants, but he also told him that Ishmael was NOT the promised child. God gave to Abraham the sign of circumcision and then promised to give Sarai a son, and because Sarai had laughed when she heard God’s promise, the boy would be named, “Isaac,” which means, “laughter.” He would be the heir of God’s Covenant of Grace and it would be through his descendants that the Savior would come.
The Apostle Paul speaks about God’s sovereign choice of Isaac in Romans 9, as he explains that God’s true children are not simply the “natural-born children,” but rather, “the children of promise” (Romans 9:7-9). In his writings in the Quran, Mohammed claimed that Ishmael was the chosen descendant of Abraham and he tried to convince the Jews and Christians that the Bible was wrong, claiming to be the prophet descended from Ishmael. The Arab people today are the descendants of Ishmael and the prophecy concerning him is being fulfilled even in our day, as it has been throughout history.
What does all of this mean for you and me today? It means that you must believe what God says in His Word and understand how to be saved from His just judgment against sin. In order to be safe from God's judgment you must believe in God's promises through faith in Abraham's "Seed," Jesus Christ. In Genesis 18-19 we read the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This really happened. Jesus refers to it in Matthew 10 and again in Matthew 11. Jesus says it will be more tolerable on the day of God's judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for those who reject the Gospel and who reject HIM! Some think of Sodom and Gomorrah and think only of the sin of homosexual immorality, but there were many more sins represented in these cities, as there are in every city and nation in the world today.
People continue to believe that God's mercy extends to all people, that hell is not real, that God is love and He won’t really punish anybody. But Abraham's conversation with God makes it clear that what the Bible teaches from beginning to end is true: there are NONE that are righteous ... not even ONE! (Romans 3:10). Abraham struggled with the thought that God would carry out His judgment on Lot and his family, so he asked God if He would spare the city for 50, then 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, then 10!! God agreed, for He knew that there were exactly ZERO righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot and his daughters (his sons-in-law-to-be refused to leave and his wife was turned into a pillar of salt), were not saved because they were righteous, but because of Abraham's plea for them.
"Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (18:25). Yes! If there were even ONE righteous person, they would be spared from God's judgment, but there is not. We need a Savior, and biblical Judaism pointed to His coming ... and in God’s amazing grace He poured out His Spirit and the followers of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, became the first Christians. We live in the age of fulfillment spoken of in the Gospels. We live in the "day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:2) ... the day when God's grace is being offered to the nations. God’s sovereign choice of Abraham and of Isaac makes it clear that unless God Himself changes the hearts and minds of those whom He chooses, giving them new life through faith in Jesus Christ, no one would be saved from His coming judgment ... no one!!
And so the Gospel of Jesus Christ goes out today, as it did nearly two thousand years ago: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). There is no other escape, no other hope, no other way to be saved. Since you have had the privilege of hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, do not receive God's grace in vain. Believe in Jesus. Trust in Him ... live for Him ... and you can know that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is with you now, and that when your life in this world is over, you will be with Him - in the promised land of the new heaven and the new earth - forever!! And it all began here in Genesis. The conflict in the Middle East will only be resolved when Jesus returns to bring judgment on those who do not know Him. Do YOU know Him today?
"Heavenly Father, Your wisdom surpasses the wisdom of man at every turn. While people question the truth of Your Word, Your Spirit opens the minds and hearts of those whom You have chosen to believe all You have said and moves us by Your grace to come to You through the promised Seed of Abraham, Jesus, the Christ, the eternal Son of the One, True and Living God! We praise You today, in Jesus' name, Amen"