Speaker: Tim Bollinger
Scripture: Genesis 21:22-34

From the series Part 3

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Full Sermon Transcript

If you’re new to Shepherds Gate, we are continuing a series of messages in the book of Genesis. And the way that we handle books of the Bible here is we go chapter by chapter, verse by verse. We read the text and then we say, okay, God, what is it that you’re speaking to us in these passages? Why did you inspire the people that wrote them? And why is it so important for us to know this biblical truth? Because we believe that all scripture is inspired by God and we believe it’s profitable for us. And so today, I bet you today might be a text of scripture that if you’ve been in church your whole life, you may have never heard a sermon on this passage of scripture. This is one of those passages of scripture that’s really easy to skip. Because you’re just like, what’s going on here? And those of you that are reading along in the reading plan, you may have noticed that.

And so I think today is gonna be a very intriguing day for many of us. Because I was very convicted as I was writing this message. And I know that I’m not any different than any of you. And so if God’s speaking to me, I know that he’s gonna be speaking to you as well. For those of you that are following along, you’ve been here the last several weeks, you might notice that we’re kinda reversing the order. So we’re gonna be doing the second half of chapter 21 today. And then next week we’ll be going back and doing the beginning of chapter 21. And as you saw in the video, that’s because of Abdu Murray being here with us. His schedule didn’t allow for him to be here this Sunday. So we had to flip the order. Which for a type A OCD person like me, I just want you to know how difficult that is. But he was worth it, he was worth it, all right?

So let me start by asking you this question this morning. Is someone or something disturbing your peace? Anybody in here, you would be willing to admit you’re just irritable. Wow, there’s a lot of truthful people this morning. And do you feel as time goes on, that you’re becoming more or less irritable? And why is that? What is the source of your frustration? Mother people?Old age? Worry? Which side note, if you are new, just so you know this is normal here at Shepherd’s Gate, that the congregation responds to me. Can’t, things you can’t control. What’d you say? Oh, siblings. Here’s the thing, Lilliana, it doesn’t change when you get older. There are people in here that are still struggling with their siblings at their adult ages. Is that correct, congregation? Can we talk, yes. Do you see that, yes. Health, that’s another one. You get a diagnosis that you didn’t expect or didn’t want or you find out about a friend or a family member. I’m gonna tell you right now, I am going to disrupt your peace this morning, okay?

Some of you, you may email me after this sermon, you may tackle me in the West Lobby after the service. That’s fine. Do you know the beautiful part about going through the book of the Bible? You can’t blame me. You can blame God. And you can say, this is God’s word and this is the truth that he has for us. And in order to put the second half of chapter 21 in context, we do have to go back to chapter 20. And one of the beautiful parts, if you haven’t noticed, especially with Abraham as we walked through the last several weeks, is we’ve had to go back and forth. And the reason that I love the fact that we’re going back and forth so much is because repetition is actually the mother of all learning. And I believe it’s really helping us really, truly understand Abraham, the character of Abraham and how God has worked things out in his life. We go back to Genesis 20 for a moment. We find Abraham lies and he lies, this is his second time that he does this. He lies to this king of Bemolech and he tells the king that his wife is actually his sister.

And at this time, kings would have a whole harem. So they’d have all sorts of wives. And so we gotta remember Abraham was a man of influence. He’s a man of wealth. And so this is not uncommon. We’ve even seen this throughout history is that people that have influence, that have wealth like to keep their influence and wealth and they like to pass it down to the next generation. And part of that is even marrying into other families that have wealth. So here he is, he sees Abraham’s wife thinking it’s his sister. And so Abraham for some reason lies and does this thing that’s hard for us sometimes to comprehend. And it’s God Almighty who actually comes to this king, this pagan king in a dream. And he kind of threatens him. He says this to him in this dream at night. He says, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken. She is a married woman.” How many would like to have a dream like that with Almighty God? And he obviously, he wakes up from this dream and he realizes it’s true and he tells everybody around him and he realizes that not only is affecting his life, it’s affecting his family, it’s affecting his entire kingdom that he has built and all of the things that he owned at that time.

And so what we read in scripture is that he actually never touched Sarah. So even though he took her as his wife, he never actually touched her, but he confronts Abraham and he says, “Why would you lie to me? Why wouldn’t you just tell me she’s your wife? Why would you put all this turmoil on me and my family?” And God also had done this thing where he had prevented all the women that were under a bimillac from having children as well. And so after they have this exchange and he kind of is like perplexed that he would do this, he goes ahead and he blesses Abraham and he gives them sheep and oxen and servants, male and female servants, he gives them silver. And then he says, “Here’s all of my land. You can pick wherever you want here on this land, wherever you wanna settle.” I mean, it doesn’t sound like a ruthless king, does it? I mean, don’t you think the king would have had the right to say, “I don’t know why you lied to me. Why you would put my life and my family’s life in jeopardy and banish him out, send him out to some other place.”

I mean, fine, you wanna give him some gifts for the road, but here you are, you’re gonna give him all these gifts and you’re gonna say, “Here’s part of my land that you can settle on.” And so of course he returns Sarah to Abraham and in so doing, everything in his life and in his world is restored. So this is where we pick up in 21. So you gotta know that context to know what it says in chapter 21, because it says, “At that time, Abimelech and Ficol, the commander of his forces said to Abraham,” and let’s just pause there for a moment because he’s bringing the head of all of his armies. I mean, this is the guy who oversees his entire army. So you can kind of get the seriousness of this moment. And he says to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do.” So he remembers the past. He remembers just how mighty and incredible God is. And he says to Abraham, “Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants.” Do you see the security there in making sure that his earthly kingdom is passed down to his kids and to their kids and the next generation?

He says, “Show me in the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown you.” Or in other words, Abraham, remember that you’re on my land. Remember that you’re a foreigner here. Remember that by my grace, I’m allowing you to live here. And so I want you to show me that same kindness and grace. And what does Abraham do? He just simply says, “All right, I swear it.” When Abraham complained to Emilech about a well of water that Emilech’s servants had seized, think of this. Emilech says, “I do not know who has done this thing. You did not tell me and I have not heard of it until today.” See what happens when you live in a culture, you live in a community and you’re amongst people. Sometimes people get irritable, don’t they? Sometimes people fight with their neighbors, don’t they? I did a wedding recently this last fall for two police officers. And they both work in different cities and getting to know them and talking to them. I said, “What is the biggest challenge facing police officers today? I mean, what do you get called out for more than anything else?” And do you know what they told me? You would think it would be domestic because that was what I thought it was. It’s neighbors complaining about neighbors, specifically about long clippings of their neighbors.

And I said to myself, “You have to respond to that. Can you just ignore that call?” Here’s the incredible part. Does anyone even care about their long clippings right now? We’re just an irritable people. If people call the cops about snow, their neighbors not shoveling their snow. But think of this, this is what he does. He’s complaining to Emilech. And Emilech, knowing the history of Abraham’s God, is like, “Wait a second. Hey, I didn’t know that this was going on. I didn’t realize there was conflict. I just now heard about it today. Let me figure out if I can solve this because I definitely don’t want the wrath of God on me or my family.” So Abraham, he takes sheep and oxen, he gives them to a Emilech. So you can see this transfer back and forth. And the two men made a treaty. Now, if you’re in business or you’re in sales, or God has put you in a position where you negotiate things, you know that at the end of the day, the best deals are when both people leave the bargaining table happy. Is that not true?

Now, there are people that don’t operate by those premises, aren’t there? There are people that will do anything to manipulate and distort and unfortunately, try to get the better half of a deal. But here you have these two men that are coming together and trying to figure this out. And so it says, “Abraham said, “Seven you lambs,” that’s how you say that, “you lambs of the flock apart. “And Emilech said, Abraham, what is the meaning “of these seven you lambs that you have set apart? “And Abraham replied, accept these seven lambs “from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.” Now think about water. And think about how precious of a resource water is and how much we rely on water to sustain our lives. And so this was very important for him to be able to secure this well, to not have to deal with somebody taking over the well so that he could provide for his family, so that he could provide for everything that God had blessed him with, as Abraham is patiently waiting for God to give him his next instruction or for God to give him whatever it is that God had next for Abraham.

And so the place was called Beersheba because the two men swore an oath there. After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Beemalek and Ficol, the commander of his forces, returned to the land of the Philistines. So they’re so at peace with this and they agree to all of this that everyone’s kind of happy with this agreement and they all go to their various places. What’s really cool is that this well, you can still go to Israel today. You can still see this well. You can go and actually tour this thing. It’s actually kind of cool. And it’s one of those things in history that are just kind of incredible. There’s actually a whole museum that you can go to that’ll walk you through all of Abraham’s life. And you know what I thought? When we get through Genesis in 2025, wouldn’t it be cool if we took a team to Israel? So anyone wanna go to Israel and just see some of these places that we’ve been talking about for the last two and a half years. In fact, Abraham planted a Tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.

And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for how long? A long time. He plants a tree. And the reason he plants a tree is because he knows he’s gonna be there for a long time. And he wants shade for those who would come and get water. But this is the really cool part, don’t miss this, is that he also, being in this foreign land, being in this area that this king is technically from an earthly perspective over, but we know that God is actually the one that owns this land, that this is actually the promised land that Abraham is living in. God just hasn’t given it to him just yet. And yet he pauses to worship God. He pauses to confess to God about lying, because that wasn’t a really good idea to once again fall in the same sinful trap that he fell in 20 years earlier. But to reach toward God and to praise God and to give God the honor that he is due, in fact, this was the first time in Genesis that this term everlasting God actually appears. So I wanna show you this, because many of you have been on this journey with us. Here’s all the places that Abraham has relocated since he first was called by God out of his hometown at 75 years old. He’s now 100.

So in 25 short years, he’s done a lot of moving around. Some of you, you know what this is like. Some of you, you’ve moved to different states, you’ve moved to different homes, you’re just one of these more transient type people. And as you look at this and you think about all of the different places that he was at, he was always under the rule of somebody else. He always had to come under somebody else’s authority. He always had to figure out, okay, how am I going to survive knowing who God is, knowing the promises that God has given me, and yet you’ve placed me in this culture in this time, and you haven’t overthrown the people that are in the places of leadership or power. Even though you’ve made this incredible promise to me that my offspring will be the blessing that will be carried out to the end of the age and ultimately lead to Jesus, I have to figure out how to survive in the world that you have placed me in. Do you see where this is going? Because the question becomes, is it possible for us to live at peace in our pagan world? What do you think?

Do we actually live at peace? Is there peace in your heart? When you think of the landscape of our area here, maybe the state of Michigan, zoom out to our country or even the world. Are we living as people of peace? And what’s so timely about this message is we’re in a really big election year, and it’s starting to heat up. Do you feel it? These things called primaries are taking place, and this month and next month are very important for kind of the political landscape, and I think this message is actually coming at a perfect time, because I think what it’s gonna do is it’s gonna warn us and caution us and bring us back to what it is that God says in his word about how we are to respond to the culture that we find ourselves in and the political leaders that are over us. Notice nobody saying amen to that. How about this? I asked you this when we first kicked off this series. Do we live in a Christian nation? Couple people were bold enough to answer. This was mixed in both services when I first went through kind of our syllabus of where we were going. Do you know that we don’t live in a Christian nation? There’s no such thing as a Christian nation. That we live under God’s rule and God’s kingdom and the grace and the mercy that he has given us and the way that he has brought us into his family. Here are some scriptures that kind of help us with this whole idea, and they’re very simple.

They just make the point right within scripture. Hebrews puts it this way, for this world is not our permanent home. We are looking forward to a home yet to come. Do you live your life in view of that scripture? Do we realize that everything that we create here on this earth and everything that we have is just temporary? That we’re just biding our time until either God calls us home or Jesus comes back and calls the church home once and for all? How about this in Philippians? Our citizenship is where? Oh, that’s interesting. And from it, we await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you see how the perspectives are beginning to change? Do you see when you get so fixated on the things of this world and you look at the culture that we live in and yes, it’s frustrating, and yes, so often it seems like things are beginning to unravel. And those of you that have been around through the decades and you’ve seen just the moral decline and it’s frustrating because you’re like, what is going on? And are things ever gonna get better? And is the next generation ever gonna turn things around? And what does this mean? And it can be very overwhelming. It can be frustrating. Jesus put it this way.

He said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” Think of that. Jesus, fully God, fully man, could have called down legions and armies of angels, could have went to war, could have flipped the entire government at his time on its head and it said, “That’s not my purpose. That’s not what my calling is. That’s not ultimately what God has called me to do.” And so the question begs, how are we to live as citizens of our nation? What has God called us to do, church? – Be like Jesus. – Be like Jesus? Think of it. You ready for this? This one’s gonna be tough. Scripture tells us that we are to submit and obey the government authorities God has placed over us. No, Amen’s on that one either. (congregation laughing) What is it about the words submit and obey that we have such a hard time with? Why would God tell us to submit and to obey the government authorities that have been placed over us? Because it’s temporary. Because he knows that that’s the instrument that God uses to protect people. If you read Romans 13, you can read all about the people that are in positions of authority and power and that God, whether they’re believers or not, has the ability to use them just as he used this guy in the passage, this king who’s a pagan.

And even though he has a dream with God, we don’t know. It doesn’t say that he actually ever came to faith. In fact, all you can kind of surmise from the passage is that he was more concerned about protecting his estate and making sure his kingdom and his wealth was passed down to the next generation instead of turning to the one true God and worshiping with Abraham. This is really difficult for us, isn’t it? Stick with me here because the second part is important as well. We are only instructed to disobey if it becomes a matter of disobeying God. Then you’re like, oh, thank you for putting that second one up there, pastor. And we do that, do we not? So when we see laws being proposed, and we’ve talked about this openly here at Shepherd’s Gate, when it comes to the sanctity of life and every single life in the womb being precious, we are gonna speak out and we’re gonna say, well, this is what’s happening in our culture. This is what’s even happening in the places of Congress and in the House of Representatives, wherever the case may be. But this is what God says. When it comes to matters of our schools and it comes to matter of gender or marriage or whatever the case may be, yes, the church has to speak up.

The church has to stand for truth. But over and over again in Scripture, you will find the people of God living under government systems. You will see it back in Genesis. You will see it throughout the entire New Testament. And over and over again, when Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome, he said, “As far as it depends on you, “live at peace with everyone.” He tells the church under Roman dictatorship, Roman rule that as far as it depends on you, your job, your responsibility is to live at peace with everyone. In Titus, when Nero was the ruler, and we’ve talked about ruler the last few weeks, you know how crazy Nero actually was. This is what he says, remind the people. Guess who gets to remind the people? I get to remind you, ready for this? To be subject to rulers and authorities. To be obedient. To be ready to do whatever is good. Which is why here at Shepherd’s Gate, we push our congregation out into the community. That we are not just here to gather on Sunday mornings, that we wanna go and partner with those that have fallen on difficult times and be able to minister to people in some of their darkest moments and some of the most difficult challenges that they may be facing. We are not here just for ourselves.

We’re here to do what is good as God enables us to do it. Look at this next part, these next four words. Can we say this together? To slander no one. Don’t you just wish that wasn’t in there? I mean, we really don’t like the obedient part. Okay, we’ll go and do good, it’s fine. We’ll go serve at the homeless shelter and the soup kitchen and pregnancy center and wherever else God may lead and guide us. But this whole idea that we’re not allowed to slander anyone, why would God tell us not to slander others? Why would God want us to guard what comes out of our mouths? Now, think of the world that we live in. Because slander’s on another whole level, isn’t it? It’s not necessarily what comes out of our mouths. How do we slander people now? Well, go ahead and say it. Social media. Social media. It’s what we post. And I’m telling you, this is where I was convicted. One of the things I love most in life are memes. Any other meme people out there? And there are memes that are really funny. And there are memes that are really funny. (audience laughing) But slanderous.

And am I propagating that? Just because I don’t say it, if I share it or I privately text message it, does that make it okay? And am I spending the same amount of time, this is where I was convicted again, am I spending the same amount of time praying for our leaders, praying for our politicians, praying for those who’ve been placed in the offices that they have to carry out the locations that they have. And I’ll tell you this, it’s not just our political leaders. How about our police officers? And our firefighters? Our first responders? How about our school teachers? And you know we have police officers and firefighters that attend here at Shepherd’s Gate. We have many school teachers that call this place home and if you talk to them, you’ll hear over and over again, it’s not like it was when I first started teaching. And even in that environment, it’s getting harder and harder and harder. To be peaceable, there’s that word again, and consider it. In order to be considerate, you have to put somebody else’s needs above your own. Always be gentle toward the people we like.

Always be gentle toward the people in our political party. Always be gentle toward who? And you know I put this in brackets because it’s part of our vision that we will value everyone we meet, whether we believe what they believe, we behave like they behave, we think like they think, we vote like they vote, because that is what God has called us to do. It’s this simple, it’s two kingdoms. We live in the tension of two kingdoms. There is a earthly worldly kingdom that continues to function with our time here on this earth. And just so you know, so you’re not confused, God is still the head of that earthly kingdom. He knows everything that goes on on this planet. He knows all the people that are in the positions of leadership that they’re in, even some of the dictators that we have in other parts of our world. And God will see all of that through to the end. But we also live in this thing called the kingdom of grace. And God is the one who’s going to be the one and that is where God calls us to faith. That’s where God produces faith in our hearts and our lives.

That’s where God places us in Christian homes and families. That’s where God brings us to the waters of baptism. And in that moment, He does His work for us. See, Jesus is the one that went on the cross because we couldn’t go on the cross for ourselves. He’s the one that paid for our sins. He’s the one that gives us grace. And when we understand what it is that Jesus has done for us, now actually we are now free to go and be faithful in living out the vocation that He has placed us in. What I find so fascinating is the influence of the people in our church, because we have people here at Shepherd’s Gate that rub shoulders with our politicians. They’re in Washington, they’re at certain meetings, they’re at banquets and all of those things. And I think it’s incredible that we have people here at Shepherd’s Gate that have access to our political leaders. And why would that be? Other than to build relationships and to build that camaraderie and to be able to encourage and pray and to move our city forward and to move our township forward and to move our state forward and all of those things. Make no mistake, I want you to know this.

We don’t make peace with God. God is the one who makes peace with us. And because of His great mercy in our lives, because He’s the one that does these things for us, He then commands us to go and to live at peace, it says people on there, that’s the wrong word, at peace with others. So when we understand what it is that He’s done for us, now we get to go and live that out for others. Does that make sense? Because ready for this? I love this verse. This is one of my favorite verses of all times. And in all the worship team, you guys can come up at this time, we’re ending. It says this, “Make it your ambition.” What does that mean? That should be the target on the wall. That’s what we should be going after. To live a.. Are we living quiet lives? You should mind your own business. Mom’s dad’s, grandma’s grandpa’s, aunt’s uncle’s siblings. How are we doing with that one? Told you it’s gonna be tough today. It’s a whole sermon in just those few words. I would call you to mind your own business. Probably have enough troubles of your own, don’t you? And to be meddling with others. Work with your hands. Be productive. Just as we told you so that you’re what, I love this, your daily life.

This is the reason why may win the respect of who? People that don’t know Jesus. Because they will look at you in the context of your work, or the context of your school, or in your book club, or in your neighborhood, and they’ll say, “Man, there’s something different about that person.” The way that they approach life, not that they’re perfect because nobody’s perfect, Abraham included, but they’ll see the way that you live their life and they’ll be like, “That’s kind of interesting that they don’t seem to get worked up about the things other people get worked up about.” They seem to treat the other neighbors with kindness. When they walk the halls of the office, they seem to have this incredible ability to care about others even more than they care about themselves. That when they’re on the sales team, they’re actually concerned about the other people making sales and not just the sale themselves. This is what it all comes down to. God has strategically placed each and every one of us in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our places of influence, so that more and more people would come to know Jesus. Isn’t that so cool?

That we may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anyone. I love that. I believe that’s what God has called us here as followers of Jesus to do. And again, as we enter this political season, as we enter this political year, as we begin to see social media become this insane, I think we should just take the last three months off, don’t you think, like leading up to the election? And just live at peace. And be the people of God that he’s called us to be. Roll up our sleeves, get out into our communities, love people unconditionally, serve them, willingly give of ourselves for them. And know that this year, just like it’s happened in all the years prior, elections will come and go. People will be placed in leadership positions and they’ll come and go. But as the church, as God’s representative on this earth, that will keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and that will make it our ambition to lead a quiet life so that more and more people will come to know him, amen? Will you bow your heads and close your eyes with me this morning? God, we do thank you for all of scripture. God, even the way that you work through Abraham and a Dummelak to make this treaty, to be at peace, even if they come from different faith backgrounds.

God, we thank you for this church, Shepherd’s Gate Church and the freedoms that we enjoy because of where you have placed this church. God, we do pause this morning. We admit that maybe we haven’t lifted up or prayed for those that you have put over us. So often it’s so much easier to slander and to pick apart and even condemn. But yet, God, you call us to lift them up, to make peace with them, to ask for you to lead and guide them. So we do that now, God, for all of our leaders here in the Metro Detroit area, those that serve as mayors and supervisors and they’re in positions that are helping guide our communities. We pray for our state and those that serve in those positions. We pray for our country, God, for our president, for those in Congress, for our Supreme Court. God, would you help them? Would you surround them with those who are living peaceful, quiet lives, followers of you as they influence them to make decisions which are in the best interest of our country? And finally, this morning, God, we pray for us, for our hearts.

We pray, God, that you would once again break those areas in our lives that need to be broken and once again realign your heart.Or may we realign our hearts with your heart in knowing our true purpose with our time here on earth and may we pursue peace. God, we love you, we thank you, we pray all these things in your most precious name. Amen. Amen, will you please stand with you this morning as we sing out this closing song together?