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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:The hope of faith shall not deceive us!
Text:Genesis 11:27-32 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith Tested
 
Preached:2016-02-07
Added:2016-06-16
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2010 Book of Praise

 

Psalm 90:1,7

Psalm 126:1

Psalm 13:1,2,3

Hymn 71:1,2

Hymn 67:1

 

Read:  Genesis 11:10-32; Isaiah 51:1-11; 2 Peter 3:1-9.

Text:  Genesis 11:27-32

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Is there any hope left?  Is there any eagerness to lift up your eyes to the future, confident that God’s promises will come to pass?  When the apostle Paul wrote his letters to the churches he was, more often than not, living with one foot in the grave, so to speak.  In some cases he was in prison; in other cases he lived in danger and in need.  But, using the words of Titus 2:13, Paul was

“looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

But it has been a long time.  It has been about 2000 years since our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven – and He still hasn’t returned.  The church is still waiting – we are still waiting – and looking for that blessed hope of Christ’s return.

Or are we? 

  The prayer “Come Lord Jesus, Maranatha!” was on the lips of the New Testament saints even as they cried out along with the saints under the altar, those killed for their faith in God and Christ Jesus that Revelation 6 speaks about,

“How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

How long will it be until Jesus comes back, how long will it be until Judgment Day, when God’s children, those washed in the blood of the Lamb, will be declared righteous and enter into heavenly joy and glory forever?  How long will it be until Satan and all his hosts will be thrown into hell forever, never more to torment God’s children?

But do you still long for Christ’s return?  Are you still living in the expectation of that day that is to come?

It has been a long time and for some of us life here on earth not only busy but it is also rather comfortable.  And there are always ways to try to make it even more comfortable.  Nice cars, nice clothes, nice homes, good food and good wine.  As people already said in the days of Isaiah and as quoted by the apostle Paul, our way of life can quickly become one of

“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”  (Isaiah 22:13; 1 Cor. 15:32.)

But at other times or for others the burdens of life become overwhelming, we become despondent, downcast, troubled and depressed.  The darkness closes in until it seems to consume you.  And then also it becomes too hard to even think about the return of Christ, let alone long for His appearing!

It is in times such as these, therefore, that we need to go back to God’s Word to see that God is not slack in fulfilling His promises but that He will come and He will fulfill what He has promised. 

I preach to you the Word of God under the following theme:

The hope of faith shall not deceive us!

  1. The end of the line? 
  2. The fulfillment in Christ.

 

1. The end of the line?

The feelings of despondency and the question of “How long?” is not a new feeling, nor is it a new question.  You will find that same question in the Psalms.  Psalm 90:13,14 –

“Return, O LORD!  How long?  And have compassion on Your servants.  Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!”

And Psalm 13:1.

“How long, O LORD?  Will You forget me forever  How long will You hide Your face from me?”

We also meet this same question and this same feeling among the people of Israel when they were in Exile in Babylon.  Isaiah spoke about that prophetically in Isaiah 51.  Before the events described in this chapter God’s people had lived in peace and security in Israel, the land God had given to them.  But the people of Israel had turned their back on Him, they no longer looked to Him for their daily bread – let alone look for the coming One, the Messiah.  Instead they turned to idols and worshipped them.  On account of this the enemy came, Jerusalem was torn down, the temple destroyed and the people carried away into exile, to Babylon.  But for the righteous, for those who still looked to God and remembered His promises, this was a most difficult time.  Had God abandoned His people forever?   What then would the future be for His people?  And more, what about His promises?  What about His promise to Abraham that all the nations would be blessed through him?  What about His promises to David that one from his family would always be on the throne?  What about His promise of the coming Redeemer, the Messiah?  Would God still have a people for Himself, and would He still dwell with them as He had promised?

It was because of these questions that the LORD spoke to them in Isaiah 51, assuring them that He would be true to His promises, that there would be a future for those faithful to His covenant, saying in verse 6

“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath.  For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner.  But My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not be abolished.”

“It will happen!” the LORD says.  “I will do what I have promised.  There is a future for the people of God.”

And to underline this, to assure those in exile that they would return, that Zion would be restored, He told them to think back to their forefather Abraham.  Isaiah 51:1,2.

“Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, you who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.  Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you; for I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him.”

Remember your roots! Remember Abraham.  Remember Sarah.  Remember how they were called out of Ur of the Chaldeas, how God’s promises to them seemed fanciful, seemed like a dream – but remember how Abraham believed God and that over time all God’s promises to him came true. 

We read together from Genesis 11, starting at verse 10 which begins with the words,

“This is the genealogy of Shem.”

The word “genealogy” or Toledoth, as it is in the Hebrew language, is an important one in structure of the book of Genesis.  This term is used eleven times, each time introducing a new era.  The word toledoth first occurs in Genesis 2:4 where it says in the NKJV,

“This is the history [Hebrew: toledoth] of the heavens and the earth when they were created.”

Then what follows is the account of the creation of man, Adam and Eve, their fall into sin, the story of Cain and Abel and the two lines, the family of Cain and the birth of a new son, Seth, to Adam and Eve.  Cain’s family go from bad to worse, but Seth had a son named Enosh and it says in Genesis 4:26

“At that time men began to call upon the name of the LORD.”

But things did not improve from there.  The next section in the book of Genesis starts in chapter 5:1

“This is the book of the genealogy [Hebrew: toledoth] of Adam.” 

And then we have 10 generations going down to Noah.  But in the days of Noah the sons of God turned away from Him to the point that Genesis 6:5 says,

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

And so we get the account of Noah, beginning in Genesis 6:9.

“This is the geneology [Hebrew: toledoth] of Noah.  Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.”

Then came the Flood and the destruction of all the people of the earth except for Noah and his family.  But after the flood we hear about Noah’s sin when he became drunk, how his son Ham had shamed him but Shem had shown him honor.  At that time Noah praised the LORD and prophesied concerning Shem, saying,

“Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem.”

But from there on things did not seem to go well.  Genesis 10 begins by saying

“Now this is the genealogy [Hebrew: toledoth] of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  And sons were born to them after the flood.”

But the account of that toledoth ends in chapter 11 with the building of the tower of Babel, when the people said,

“Come let us make a name for ourselves”

and they tried to not just make a tower but a society that had removed itself from God.

And you might wonder at this time: what would come of the promises of God?  What about the promise He made at the beginning, just after the fall into sin, in Genesis 3:15, that one would come who would be the Seed of the woman and that he would crust the head of the serpent?  What about God’s plans to have a people for Himself?  You see, we can skim through these chapters and even ignore those lists of names, skipping over them thinking that they are too hard to read, but what if you were one of them?  What if you, like Enoch, walked with God, waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises that never seemed to come?  Where is God in these first chapters of Genesis?  What is He doing?

And then we get to Genesis 11:10, the genealogy or the toledoth of Shem.  “And finally”, you might say, “here is a ray of hope.”  And it is, but before you get too excited, look at the generations between Shem and Abram.  There are ten generations listed – and some would argue that there were other names that Genesis 11 skips.  (One of their reasons for saying that is that Luke 3:36 adds the name Cainan between Arphaxad and Salah.)  And in all these years, from one generation to the next, it appears that God was silent.  And as the generations passed, men – including the descendants of Shem – once more forgot the LORD God and turned to worshipping idols.  And that includes the forefathers of Abram.  Joshua 24:2 says,

“Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.’”

But then comes another toledoth, starting with the words of our text.

“This is the genealogy [Hebrew: toledoth] of Terah:  Terah begot Abram, Nahor and Haran.”

But where will this toledoth leave us?  Will anything be different?  Would God finally fulfill His promises through the line of Abram?  We know the answer to that, of course, but put yourself into Abram’s sandals for a bit.  Abram was born in Ur of the Chaldeans, which was by the River Euphrates in modern day Iraq.  Excavations of the city of Ur reveal it to have been the height of civilization in Abram’s day: a bustling city of immense wealth with incredible architecture, plumbing and central heating systems.  Archaeologists have also uncovered a huge library that describes their laws and business practices.  But Ur was also well known for something else:  Ur of the Chaldeans had a temple which, incidentally, is partially still standing, to the so-called god of the moon.  And that is where Abram came from, that is where he was living, in the midst of an idolatrous city, before the Lord called him and told him to go to Canaan.

But Abram would not stay there in Ur of the Chaldeans.  In Acts chapter 7 Stephen tells us that God already appeared to Abram while he was in Ur telling him that this, the city of man was not his home.  Acts 7:2-3,

And [Stephen] said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, “Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.”

And so Abram went.  By faith, Hebrews 11:8-10 says, Abram obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance.  By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, for, Hebrews 11:10 says,

“he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

But that is incredible.  For Abram to go out in faith, first from Ur to Haran and then on his own, with Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew to Canaan, trusting that God would fulfill His promises is something that clearly comes from the Holy Spirit of God Himself.  Humanly speaking it was all wrong.  Humanly speaking Abram should have stayed in Ur, the city of Man.  Humanly speaking it seemed as though Abram was no more than another person at the end of another seemingly meaningless genealogy.  And humanly speaking it seemed as though with Abram we would come to the end of the line.  Look at what it says in Genesis 11:29,30.

“Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of MIlcah and the father of Iscah.  But Sarai was barren; she had no child.

Sarai was barren.  She was childless and there was sign that things would ever be different.  “The hope of faith shall not deceive us!” we will be singing after this sermon.  But is that really true?  Will God really do what He says?  Will He really fulfill His promises?

That’s a question people still wrestle with today.

In 2 Peter 3 we read that

“scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?  For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were form the beginning of creation.”

And don’t these scoffers seem to have a point?  Doesn’t it seem as though we, like Abram with his barren wife Sarai, have come to the end of the line?

But that brings us to our second point.

 

2. The fulfillment in Christ.

When the city of Jerusalem was torn down and the temple destroyed, God’s people, the descendants of Abram, were sent to Babylon.  And when they went to Babylon, they more-or-less re-traced the journey that Abram had made about 1500 years earlier.  Babylon, it is interesting to note, was not so far from Ur.  The people of Israel had come right back to the region that they started from.  But God was not finished with His people: He would still fulfill His promises – all of them.  And that is why He said to them in Isaiah 51:2,3

“Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you; for I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him.”

For the LORD will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.”

We know what happened to Abram and Sarai.  We know the rest of the story.  We know that Sarai had a child, Isaac, that Isaac became the father of Jacob and from Jacob came the people of Israel.  And we know that from Abram came the Promised One, our Lord Jesus Christ and that in Him all the promises to Abram have come to pass.  And we know that all those who are of faith are counted as children of Abram. 

Abram did not live to see all these things but although at times Abram’s faith faltered, God was faithful.  And when the people of Israel were in exile they could look back at what God had done for Abram and so they could be assured that this same God would see to it His people would return, that Jerusalem would be rebuilt, Zion would be restored, and that indeed all God’s promises would come to pass.

But now what about you?  What about God’s promises to you and what about His promise that our Lord Jesus will return?  Can we trust God?  Will He do what He has promised?  Life can be so hard and it seems to be taking so long!  Where is the promise of His coming?  But then remember what it says in 2 Peter 3:8,9.

 “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning His promises, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

He is not slack concerning His promises.  It will all happen, just as He said it would.

Beloved in Christ, do not forget God’s promises but hold onto them, believing that everything He has said will come to pass. 

That is not easy, I know.  There are times when our faith falters, times when our feet slip.  But in such times, remember Abram and remember that God was faithful to fulfill His promises.  He fulfilled them through Abraham’s life and beyond, and He ultimately fulfilled them by giving to us His Son, Jesus Christ.  And since that is so, Romans 8:32 tells us,

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

It is not always easy.  But God knows that.  He knows that our faith is weak, He knows about the encouragement that we need.  And that is why, in addition to the regular preaching of the gospel, He has sealed to us the promises of the gospel.  First in your baptism when He declared you to be His child.  And then as we come together at the Lord’s Table.  At the Table of the Lord we will remember not just God’s covenant promises but that He has fulfilled those promises.  At the Table of the Lord we will remember that God graciously grants us the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life because of the one sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross.  And at the Lord’s Supper table we will remember that this same Lord Jesus is coming back.  He will return, just as He has promised, and He will take us to Himself to be with Him forever.  And then all of God’s promises will be fulfilled.  And then we will praise Him.  Then we will thank Him.  Then we will give glory to His holy name.  Amen.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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