Genesis 24:1-9 A Sermon- “Don’t Go Back!”

Posted on November 28, 2010. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bryan E. Walker

 

Read Genesis 24:1-9

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. 2 And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, 3 that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, 4 but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” 5 The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” 6 Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. 7 The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. 8 But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.” 9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter.

Pray

 

 

Introduction: In this Sunday school class we focus on studying the book of Genesis verse by verse, paragraph by paragraph. We look at some of the literary details to see how Moses put the book together because, I believe it also shows us how the LORD worked out the history that Moses is recording as well as the beauty that is inherent in the Word of God. We will look at particular words and phrases, their frequency of use and the theological ideas of the words as well as the broader theology present in the story. We are learning doctrine, raising ethical questions, and making application to our lives as we seek to know God through His Word. The goal of Bible study should always be to glorify God by conforming to the image of his Son, Jesus.

But this is a detailed study and once in a while it is good to take a break from this kind of study and just preach a passage. Teaching and preaching are different forms of oral communication. In teaching God’s Word we are still trying to affect the heart even though it is heavily leaning toward informing the mind while in preaching the Word of God we are primarily trying to affect the heart, the will, while also trying to inform the mind. 

In our studies of ch.24 of Genesis one of the main ideas is that Abraham is strongly commanding his servant to Not take Isaac back to the old country. Yes, go get a wife, but bring her to the Promised Land; but under no circumstances take Isaac back. It is this main idea that I want to preach on this morning. Now even though I am changing my communication form this morning, we are still open to questions and comments along the way. This is not a formal Sunday morning worship service.

Have you ever been tempted to “Go back”, to turn your back on Christ and just walk away from the faith? Have you been tempted to deny your Lord, your baptism, and the covenant of Grace? I think if I word it that way some of us might have a tendency to say no, but when you stop and realize that every time we choose to sin or even allow ourselves to sin carelessly, we are doing just that- we are going back. The good old fashioned word is backsliding. I think, however, that the story of Abraham sending his servant back to Haran connotes an even more serious concept. For Isaac to go back would be to forsake the covenant with God and forego all the promises of God. In this text is one of the sternest of warnings to believers of all the ages: “only you must not take my son back there!” This morning we will examine this concept and preach the gospel: Cling to God’s grace desperately and never, never go back to sin and the works of self righteousness.

  1. I.                   Remember From What You Were Saved
    1. A.         We Are Saved From Worshiping False Gods
      1. 1.       Where does Abraham not want Isaac to go back to? In vs.6 he answers the question of his servant and says, “See to it that you do not take my son back there.” And again in vs. 8, “only you must not take my son back there.” Where is “there?” In vss.3-4 Abraham tells the servant to not search for a wife for Isaac from amongst the Canaanites, but to go back to his own country and kindred to find a wife. In 11:27-32 we see that Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldeans with his father Terah but they settled in Haran for a while, about 700 miles NW of Ur, still in Mesopotamia but now in southern Turkey or northern Syria. In 24:10 we see the servant going to the city of Nahor, which is near Haran.
      2. 2.       Why does Abraham not want Isaac to go back? Here we must make some inferences because Abraham does not tell us directly why. We know from Gen.12:1-3 that Abraham was called of God to leave that land and go to Canaan and that God had promised him this land and many descendents. God had made a covenant of grace with Abraham with the promise of blessings. To send Isaac back, then, would be to break this covenant and forsake the promises of God.
      3. 3.       Furthermore, we see that Abraham came from a family of pagans who worshiped false gods. How do we know this? In Gen. 31:19 we see that Rachel stole her father’s household gods when she, Jacob, and the whole family fled her father’s household. In 31:30 Laban confronts Jacob about stealing the gods but Jacob did not know anything about it as this was all Rachel’s doing. In 35:1-4 Jacob commands his family and household to put away all their foreign gods as God has told him to build an altar to Him and in vss.9-12 of ch. 35 God makes his covenant with Jacob. The final evidence for Abraham’s pagan background is in Joshua 24:2-3 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. 3 Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many.”
      4. 4.       The covenant between God and Abraham means salvation. Abraham was saved out of paganism by God’s sovereign call. God revealed himself to Abraham by his grace and for His purposes. Abraham desperately does not want Isaac to go back to the land of paganism where he would forsake the LORD and his gracious promises.
      5. 5.       From what are we saved? We are saved from our sins certainly. But what is sin? Sin is disobedience to God, it is failing to trust God, it is going our own way, doing things my way instead of God’s way. If we are not worshipping idols of stone, gold or silver, we are at least worshiping ourselves instead of God when we are sinning. As lost sinners, before God saves us, we are pagans, worshiping false gods of our own making. Paul writes:

      For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”….23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

  1. 6.       Just as Abraham does not want Isaac to go back to the paganism he and Sarah had left decades ago we should take care to not go back to the sin from which God has saved us. Look at what Paul writes to the Corinthians in 1Cor.6:9-11

      9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous  will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,  10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

  1. 7.       Paul is emphasizing the change that has occurred in the lives of these believers. But they have been washed and sanctified, justified in the name of Jesus. And in Galatians he is amazed that the Galatians are turning back to a gospel that is no gospel. They are wanting to go back to the Law which cannot save, and he says in 2:16 “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
  2. 8.       We are called of God to salvation and that means leaving the power and realm of sin. We act on that call by repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus. The Holy Spirit gives us a new heart with a desire for God and a longing for holiness. He gives us love for Christ, the faith with which to follow Him, and a new loathing for sin. We are called to not go back to sin, but to fix our eyes on Jesus and take up our cross daily and follow him. We have exchanged self worship for worshiping the one true God through faith in Jesus.
  3. B.         We Are Saved From The Wrath of The One True God
    1. 1.       Why did Abraham not want Isaac to marry a Canaanite? The Canaanites were under a judgment from God. God would eventually give their land to Abraham’s descendants in the days of Joshua and the Canaanites would receive a horrible judgment from God. If Abraham was to keep the promises of God he must remain pure and distinct from his past and from the people of his present.
    2. 2.       Like Abraham, we must not forsake the covenant for convenience. Abraham was going to great lengths to keep the covenant and pass it down to his son. We must not forsake the covenant in Christ else we face the judgment that is sure to come upon those who are not in the covenant. We are saved from the wrath that God promises upon sin. Rom. 6:23 “the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Death is the result of staying in sin. Hell is a real place of torment that lasts forever. The wrath of a holy God is a terrible thing to experience. We saw that when we studied ch. 19 of Genesis and the judgment upon Sodom and Lot’s wife. She was one who turned back, and look what happened to her.
    3. 3.       In Luke 16 is a terrible view of hell. The rich man cries out for mercy and pleads for just one drip of water as he is anguish, agony in this flame. He describes it as a place of torment. Elsewhere it is described as a place of outer darkness, where the worm does not die. We do not want to turn back, we do not want to forsake our God and go our own way because that way lies the judgment, the second death, the very lake of fire. Do you see what we have been save from?
  4. II.                Remember For Whom You Were Saved
    1. A.         Abraham was saved for God.
      1. 1.       Abraham was called out of Ur and called to the land of Promise.  He had the assurances of the many promises of God that this land would belong to his descendants. To allow Isaac to go back or to intermarry with the Canaanites would forsake this promise. Time and again after the call of God upon Abraham we see Abraham building altars and calling on the name of the LORD. We see Abraham growing in faith and obedience even to the point of sacrificing his son Isaac.
      2. 2.       You and I are called not just to repent and leave sin, but we are called to be in the family of God. We are called to leave sin and follow Jesus, called out of darkness and into light. We are called to worship and adore, love and obey the one true God who is the Creator of all. We are called out of judgment and hell into paradise and glory. Folks, we are not just saved from something, we are save for someone- God himself. Repentance is always matched with faith as we leave sin and believe in Jesus.
      3. 3.       Sadly many people today believe that salvation is all about them, saving them from hell, saving them so that they can have their best life now. Yes there are many benefits for the believer in this life for following Christ and yes we are saved from hell and heaven awaits. But first and foremost our salvation is a calling to worship God. Salvation is all about God being glorified. We are saved for God. God is displaying his  holiness, his justice, his mercy, grace and love by saving us. We are created for his glory and saved for his glory. He has promised to give us himself. When Jesus ascended to the Father he promised to be with us. The Holy Spirit is given to all who are saved and he is the very presence of Christ in our hearts. One of Paul’s most frequent phrases is “in Christ”. We are in Christ and according to Rom.8:39 nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ.

 

  1. III.             How Might We Be Tempted To “Go Back”?
    1. A.         Fulfilling God’s Will Man’s Way
      1. 1.       The servant of Abraham expressed a legitimate concern: “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to the land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?”  Without hesitation Abraham denied that request. Why? He had prior experience at doing God’s will man’s way. When he first came to the Promised Land there had come a drought and famine, so he went down to Egypt where he got into trouble with Pharaoh and purchased Hagar. Years after God had promised him descendants, he and Sarah were still childless so he listened to Sarah and accepted a common cultural solution and brought Hagar into his tent as a second wife. That ended painfully for all concerned, as does most sin. No, by now Abraham had learned to simply trust God’s promises. He knew there would be wife provided for Isaac. There was no need to take him back there.
      2. 2.       In Moses’ Day the people of Israel faced the temptation to “go back” many times. Exodus 14:10-12; 16:1-3; 17:1-3; Num.11:4-6; 14:1-4.
      3. 3.       One of our biggest temptations is to take matters into our own hands, quit trusting in God, and do it our way. Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness by the Devil follow that same old pattern. Are you hungry? You have been out here for 40 days with no food. You have the power to change rocks into bread Jesus. Look at all the kingdoms of the world; all you have to do is worship me once, just once, and I will give them all to you. You can avoid the cross Jesus. Here at the Temple, leap off the highest point and God will send his angels to miraculously catch you in front of all these people, priests and Pharisees. They will all know you are the Son of God then. You won’t have to argue with them, you won’t be arrested or crucified. They will love you and follow you because of the miracle. But Jesus said no to all of these temptations. Later, when Peter tried to talk Jesus out of the cross, he told Peter to get behind me, Satan. And when the disciples tried to defend him with swords in the Garden, he stopped them. His hour had come. You cannot do God’s work man’s way. It is all of faith or nothing.
      4. 4.       When tempted to go back to a works based salvation we are tempted to break covenant with God. It can happen to us so subtly, so gradually, that we do not recognize the danger. We get a little bit self confident, a little bit proud, our sound doctrine and Bible knowledge go to our head or our past experiences lead us to assume that God will always do what we want. We lose our humility and think God must surely bless us if we do it this way. Soon we are trusting in me, myself, and I. When things in our life start going wrong in our thinking, we can neglect to account for God’s sovereignty and try to hurry things up, patch things together in our own way and timing. More things go wrong and we begin to grow a little bit tired of God’s ways. Resentful that God isn’t blessing us so we go our own way more and more. The next thing we know, we are miles away from God and our hearts have grown cold.

 

  1. B.         Compromising With the World
    1. 1.       Abraham did not want Isaac to marry with the Canaanites as that would also pollute the promises of God and lose the Promised Land. All too often we slowly, gradually, compromise with the world so that there eventually is no recognizable difference between us and the world. Spiritual laziness and lack of discipline can lead us to accept one sin after the other. “Well, I will get more sanctified some day. Maybe tomorrow or the next day I will repent and get right with the Lord. I will start reading my Bible next week, I will go back to Church soon.” These are all famous excuses that lead us further and further away from Christ.
    2. 2.       Even though we are saved by God’s mercy and grace, sanctification is a cooperative venture between us and the Holy Spirit. We must choose, every day, whom we shall serve, self or God. We must acknowledge that although we have received a new heart from the Holy Spirit we are still plagued with the flesh, the world and the Devil. Yes, as a Christian your heart is now inclined to the Lord, but you still have a sin nature. As Luther taught, you are justified but remain a sinner. Therefore, those Canaanites and their ways are still attractive to us at some basic level that can snare us, entrap us and lead us astray. We are tempted by our own inner lusts, desires and leanings. James writes in 1:13-15 “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Don’t go back!
    3. 3.       For Abraham, the big compromise that he wanted to avoid was marriage between his son and the Canaanites. You and I may have very different compromises that tempt us. It could be in the work world that we are tempted to take shortcuts that would increase our profitability at a loss of integrity with our clients or customers. It may be that we are tempted to advance ourselves at someone else’s expense. It could be a sexual temptation or a very subtle temptation of putting other things ahead of our family spiritually. It may be the subtle siren’s song of cheap, mindless entertainment that saps our time and energy that could be, should be invested in discipleship and ministry.
    4. 4.       Today many churches are compromising doctrinal and moral standards with the Canaanite world. Entire denominations have gone over to a position that denies the authority of God’s Word so that people can live however makes them feel authentic. And don’t think that doesn’t include Baptists. I have seen many a young couple who are the church rolls of Baptist churches live together outside of marriage, or come to get married because they were pregnant. Many a Baptist church has given up on the idea of church discipline because they long ago compromised on the authority of God’s Word and caved in to the Canaanite culture that says relationships take priority over truth. The biblical standard is that we are to cling desperately to the Truth of God’s Word while at the same time loving others as we love ourselves. But when we are presenting the truth in love, and our friends or family reject that truth, they are the ones being unloving, not us. This is a tough love like Jesus exhibited with the rich young ruler who could not surrender all to follow Jesus and he left sorrowful. We will be tempted time and again to compromise for the sake of relationships, for the sake of love, yet it is the other side that has redefined love and relationship. When we compromise, we cheapen God’s grace and the world advances inside the called out community. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not make that compromise, but in Moses’ day they did. And it resulted in much strife, weakness and sin.

 

  1. IV.              How Can We Prevent “Going Back”?
    1. A.         Abraham’s Example of Simple Faith
      1. 1.       By this time in Abraham’s life he had quite simply learned to trust in God because God did what he promised he would do. While this was a simple faith, it was not an ignorant faith. Remember in ch.22 as he raised the knife to slay his young son Isaac, yet was stopped by the angel of the Lord, Abraham used a name for God to name that place. That name was Jehovah Jireh, the LORD will provide. His faith was strong at the beginning of that journey, as he told his men that they both would return after going to worship, but his theology got richer and deeper as he contemplated what God had done. God provided his own sacrifice, a substitute for Isaac. By the time Abraham was old and advanced in years, he knew that God would provide a wife for Isaac, and the servant, who also had great faith, experienced God’s provision in a very specific answer to prayer.
      2. 2.       All too often we exchange simple faith for very complex reasons why we are justified in doing it our way. We are called to repent and believe, trust and obey, love and follow. The right thing to do is frequently very apparent to us, but it is hard and we don’t want to do it. We seek another way that avoids the cross. Dying to self is usually quite simple, but most often very painful.
      3. 3.       We are not called to remain ignorant. Abraham, the simple herdsman, had a very deep faith as he grew in knowing God. Everyone in this room is a theologian, called to know God doctrinally and experience God through worship and obedience. If you want to avoid those sins of “going back” you need a simple faith and a deep theology.
      4. 4.       Abraham did not reach this point in his life by avoiding worship. In Abraham’s life we see him build a few altars to the LORD along the way, and we see him make some mistakes along the way. Building those altars and worshiping the one true God, helps prevent those times of “going back”. We know that Abraham spread his faith because his servant who went on this difficult journey, also believed in the LORD and he testified of the LORD before Rebekah’s family.
      5. 5.       To avoid “going back” we must make sure our worship is solid, regular and contagious. Are we building worship memories in our home? Are we raising our children in such a way that they are glad when told, Let us go into the house of the Lord? Are those around us at work, neighborhood, and our extended family encouraged towards faithfulness, as was Abraham’s servant, by our faithfulness?

 

  1. V.                 What Happens If We Do Go Back?
    1. A.         Leaving the Covenant Results in Devastation for Us and Others
      1. 1.       Leaving the Covenant brings chastisement on us. What happened to Israel when they refused to go into the Promised Land and decided to “go back” to Egypt? They spent the next 40 yrs wandering in the wilderness with no hope and that generation all died in the wilderness. It was their children who inherited the Promised Land. If we forsake the ways of the Lord, he will chastise us as sons, bringing his loving and merciful discipline upon us until we repent and come back into his will. Chastisement is never pleasant, even when it is for our own good. It is painful and costly. Frequently we come back with less capacity to serve God and his people. Our blessings that would have been are gone. We still are blessed, but our capacity to receive is reduced. What if Abraham had compromised and sent Isaac back or allowed him to marry a Canaanite? Disaster! God almost finished off Israel after they made the golden calves while Moses was gone for so long on Mt. Sinai. He told Moses that he could start all over with him and his family but Moses interceded. How many blessings from God have we given up and don’t even know, because of our willful sins, our mindless wanderings?
      2. 2.       What would be the effects on others if we gave up and went back? How much damage to our family would result? What would our children think? What would be the consequences in the church? How about our testimony before the world? Sin is like a disease that can spread or like a chain reaction car wreck on a foggy highway.

 

Conclusion: Abraham’s great faith and obedience in his final days are the result of decades of following the LORD, making those altars, leading his household in worship, learning from his mistakes, trusting in God’s Word. He was a man of great faith who persevered to the end, and was not willing to allow his son to go back to paganism nor compromise with the pagans around him. He trusted in the God who had revealed himself to him time and again.

We must avoid going back to that which we were saved from: sin, self righteousness and paganism. We must avoid compromising with the world that is so attractive to us. We avoid ‘going back’ by staying in God’s word and believing what He says, putting it into action. We avoid backsliding by maintaining regular worship and close fellowship with the called out ones, the local body of Christ, the Church. Have you gone back somewhere in your heart? Is there some area of compromise that is nagging you, slowing you down, dragging you into paganism one day at a time?

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    This blog exists to study the bi-vocational ministry, explore the Bible & Theology, and look at current events, history and other world religions through scripture, and have fun doing it!

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