Jesus and Abraham

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The coming of Jesus is always good news.  This is what Abraham learned when Jesus appeared to him during a sad time in Abraham's life.  Genesis 18 is a fascinating example of Jesus appearing in the Old Testament.  He is first identified as "the Lord" (Gen. 18:1), which is God's covenant name, and also as one of "three men" who came to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre (Gen. 18:2).  We find out in chapter 19 that two of the "men" were really angels, so that one of "the men" was really "the Lord."  God had come in the form of a man, and this is what Jesus would do permanently when he was born in the manger at Bethlehem.  

I said that this was during a sad time in Abraham's life.  He and his wife Sarah had so longed to have a son.  This was especially important in ancient times, since only a son could carry on Abraham's name and his covenant headship.  God had promised him, "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing... in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:2-3).  Abraham knew that this required him to have a son, yet his wife was unable to have children.  At one point he complained to God about this, and God promised him a multitude of offspring through the son he would have:  "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them," God promised.  "So shall your offspring be" (Gen. 15:5).  The Bible says that Abraham "believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness" (Gen. 15:6).  This means that Abraham was justified through faith alone in Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:3).  Like him, when we believe God's promise to save us through Jesus, our sins are forgiven and we are justified before God.

The problem for Abraham was that while he believed God's promise, he just kept getting older and now his wife was too old to have children.  This is why Abraham was sad when Jesus came to him at the oaks of Mamre.  When Jesus arrived, Abraham seems to have recognized him, since he ran to him, bowed to the ground, and immediately arranged food for them to eat.  This shows that Jesus must have been in a real human body, because he ate Abraham's food!  But Jesus did not come merely to eat.  He came with a message of good news!  He declared to Abraham, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son" (Gen. 18:10). 

What good news this was to Abraham!  It was his heart's desire, and his wife's as well!  So do you know what they did?  The Bible says that Sarah laughed!  "So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, 'After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?'" (Gen. 18:12).  Jesus heard this, and he realized how long they had waited and how hard it was to believe this good news.  When we read what he said, it may seem that he was angry.  But I don't think that he was.  Jesus understands how hard it can sometimes be for us to believe, particularly when we have waited for a long time.  The New Testament says that Sarah really did believe (Heb. 11:11), so Jesus must have known that.  He said to Abraham, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?  At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son" (Gen. 18:14). 

Do you think that Jesus' promise of good news turned out to be true?  Of course it did.  Genesis 21:2 says, "Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him."  What is especially funny is the name that they gave their son.  As God had told them to do, they named him Isaac, which means "laughter."  This indicates how happy God made his servants when they believed his promise and were blessed.

I know there must have been laughter in Jesus' heart too while all this was going on, because he knew that God was going to do so much more for Abraham and for all who join him in faith.  Jesus knew that God was not only going to give a son, but his own Son.  Jesus was himself going to be the Son whom God would give to bring us salvation.  This is what Jesus meant when he later said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day.  He saw it and was glad" (Jn. 8:56).  When did Abraham see Jesus incarnate as a man, since he lived 2000 years before Christ's birth?  Abraham saw Jesus at the oaks of Mamre, when he believed God's promise to given him a Savior-child.

Abraham saw the Lord in the form of a man, fulfilling God's salvation promise.  Do you know that we have seen the very same thing in the Bible?  God has been faithful to us, just as he was faithful to Abraham!  And how amazing it is that God would give his Son, so that we could be saved by trusting in him.  If you think about how great it is, go ahead and laugh about it.  Laugh with a happy heart, because God has blessed you together with Abraham.  As you think about Jesus being born at Christmas, remember how much Abraham longed for a son and remember that our salvation needs a true Son to fulfill God's covenant promise.  Then, like Abraham, be glad, for Jesus has come with good news that our Savior has been born!

Posted December 8, 2014 @ 9:04 AM by Rick Phillips
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