Meet Sarah: The Mother of Believers (Pt 1)

Daily Devotion | Day 317

“And God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her’” (Genesis 17:15-16, NKJV).

In the Bible you will find many women of exemplary faith, each special in her own right. To name a few: Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, Naomi, Esther, Abigail, Hannah, Anna, Mary, and Elizabeth. But of these great women, only one stands as the ‘mother’ of believers (Jews and Gentiles alike). Her name is Sarah. She was the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac.

In this teaching series, we will examine Sarah’s special place within the nation of believers and draw some lessons from her life. We will start by looking at God’s promises concerning Sarah which made her the mother of the believing nation. By “believing nation” I am referring to all of Israel, i.e. the community of all who believe in Christ whether Jew or Gentile.

Before we delve into today’s passage, let us first look at what God told Abraham in the opening verses of Genesis 17. We want to juxtapose that with today’s passage. This will enable us to observe more clearly what God is saying to us about Sarah. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and said to him, “I have made you a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5). In the next verse, God continued, “I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you” (v. 6).

Now let us see what God (addressing Abraham) said about Sarah. In verse 15, He changed Sarai’s name to Sarah. Then He added, “And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her” (v. 16).

Comparing what God said about Abraham with what He said about Sarah, you will notice that they are almost identical. Abraham would be the father of many nations and Sarah would be the mother of nations. Kings would come from Abraham and kings would come from Sarah as well. This makes sense.

When God chose Abraham, He chose his wife also, so that the two (as a couple) would be the father and mother of nations and kings. These “nations” and “kings” refer to multitudes of peoples from different nations who would have one thing in common: faith in Christ. This is why in heaven Jesus is praised for having redeemed us “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:8-10; see also 7:9-12). Because of their common faith in Christ, these redeemed peoples are the offspring both of Abraham and of Sarah.

God chose Abraham to be the father of believers (Romans 4:16). But for Abraham to be the legitimate father of believers, it was necessary that he become a believer himself. That is, it was imperative for him to have faith in Christ. To this end, God “preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand” (Galatians 3:8). We could, based on this text, say that Abraham was ‘the first Christian.’ He and his wife, Sarah, were the first believers. Therefore, subsequent believers would trace their line to Abraham (as their father in the faith) and to Sarah (as their mother in the faith).

We, believers, are a line of kings and priests. And Sarah is the mother of us all.

God willing, we will continue this message tomorrow. Till then, remain ‘in Sarah’: remain in faith. Amen.

For further study1 Peter 2:9-10 and Romans 4:9-25

Knowing Is the Key to Possessing (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 314

“And the LORD said to Abram [Abraham] . . . ‘Lift your eyes and look from the place where you are – northward, southward, eastward and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever . . . Arise, walk in the land through its length and width, for I give it to you’” (Genesis 13:14-15, 17).

Before we get into today’s message, let us recap what we said yesterday. Our Father has bestowed upon us abundant blessings. And He wants us to possess these blessings. To help us possess the blessings, He wants to equip us with knowledge of those blessings, because knowing is the key to possessing. In this process of knowing and possessing, the Holy Spirit plays a vital role. According to the Scriptures, the Father gave His Spirit to us that we might know the things which He has freely given us (1 Corinthians 2:12). Therefore, throughout this series let us keep 1 Corinthians 2:12 in mind. It forms the basis for the things we are discussing. Yesterday, we saw that God gave to Adam and Eve knowledge of the blessings He had bestowed on them. Today, we will look at another example from the Old Testament. It is about God’s dealings with Abraham. From tomorrow we will shift our attention to the New Testament, God willing.

Let us pay attention to the details in today’s opening Scripture. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, had just departed to settle in the land of Sodom (Genesis 13:5-13). Not long after this incident, God spoke to Abraham concerning His plans to bless Him. Recall that He had previously promised to give him the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:7). But in today’s passage He reinforces the promise. Notice how He goes about it. He commands Abraham to perform a set of exercises. The purpose of the exercises was to help Abraham visualize the blessing. God, therefore, asked him to survey the land and become acquainted with its boundaries and its riches.

First, God told Abraham to lift his eyes to the north, south, east and west. And He said to him, “all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.” Second, He commanded him, “Arise, walk in the land through its length and widthfor I give it to you.” Now observe this: From God’s standpoint the land belonged to Abraham. However, if Abraham was going to possess the land, he first needed to know that the land had been given to him. God asked him to walk through the land to reinforce his knowledge of what he and his descendants were about to possess. Knowing is the key to possessing. This is why God has sent us His Spirit that we might know the things which He has freely given us.

Before you take possession of an inheritance or estate, you need to know the content and extent of the estate that you are about to possess. Our inheritance in Christ is vast and infinite. If you are unaware of what belongs to you, you cannot enjoy it. May the Holy Spirit open your eyes to see what belongs to you in Christ Jesus that you might possess and enjoy your blessings. Amen.

To be continued . . .

For further studyDeuteronomy 1:5-8; 11:1-22

Your Blessings in Abraham: Spirit, Promise and Power (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 312

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29, NKJV).

Yesterday we saw that the giving of the Holy Spirit was the Father’s chief promise to Abraham and his descendants. Our aim today is to conclude what we started by answering the following question: Why was it necessary that God pour His Spirit on the children of Abraham? Let’s find out, starting with today’s opening Bible passage.

Note carefully what is happening in the passage. What we have is a conditional statement with a basic logical structure. The passage contains one premise and two conclusions which flow from the premise. If the condition is met, then the two conclusions will automatically execute. The condition is this: “If you are Christ’s” (i.e. if you belong to Christ). If this condition is true in your life (that you are Christ’s), then the following are necessarily true about you: “you are Abraham’s seed [descendant] and you are heir “according to the promise.” The implication is, if you are not Christ’s, then you are not Abraham’s seed. And if you are not Abraham’s seed, then you have no claim (as heir) to the blessings promised to Abraham. At this point the question we must ask is:  How does the Holy Spirit fit into all of this? Thankfully, the Bible has the answer, and it comes from the pen of the same Paul who wrote Galatians.

In Romans 8:9, Paul wrote, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” This latter part of Paul’s statement completes what he said in Galatians 3:29. Earlier, we saw that to qualify to be Abraham’s seed, one must be Christ’s. Now Paul adds another condition. He says, “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ [the Holy Spirit], he is not His.” In other words, that you have the Holy Spirit is the unmistakable sign that you belong to Christ. Put another way, if you have the Holy Spirit, then you are a Christian. Conversely, if do not have the Holy Spirit, then you are not a Christian. Knowing this about the Holy Spirit, let us ‘reconstruct’ what Paul said in Galatians 3:29. It will look like this:

If you have the Spirit of Christ, then you are Christ’s; and if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” This is the complete picture of how we become children of Abraham and heirs of divine blessings. It all has to do with receiving the Holy Spirit. To qualify as heirs of God or joint-heirs with Christ, it is necessary that we possess the same Spirit they both possess: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit binds us to the Father and enables us to become His children. Therefore, the “Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs . . .” (Romans 8:16-17). If someone puts his spirit in you, you and that person have become one (John 17:21; 1 Corinthians 6:17). And when you become one, then you share things in common.

God promised to share divine blessings with Abraham and his seed. But for this to be fulfilled, He had to share His Spirit with us. A common Spirit is what leads to a common inheritance. This is why Paul talks about the “fellowship [communion] of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13:13). It is the Holy Spirit who initiates and sustains our fellowship with the Father and the Son. And our fellowship with them (made possible by the Holy Spirit in us) is the legal basis for our inheritance. Fellowship guarantees access. Therefore, no Holy Spirit means no fellowship. And no fellowship means no inheritance. If God had not given the Holy Spirit, His promises to Abraham (and his seed) would have been void. Now we understand why Jesus went great lengths to prepare His disciples to receive the Spirit.

Let us sum up:

To be a child of Abraham means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not some interesting add-on to our Christian life. He is the Christian life, for the Christian life is essentially a life in the Spirit. Outside the Spirit, there is no Christianity. If you have the Spirit, then you have the promise. If you have the promise, then you have the power.

May the Lord enable you to cooperate with the Holy Spirit so that you can enjoy the full range of your blessings in Abraham. Amen.

For further studyRomans 8:1-17 and Ephesians 1:11-23

Your Blessings in Abraham: Spirit, Promise and Power (Pt 1)

Daily Devotional | Day 311

“Behold I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Acts 24:49, NKJV).

Understanding Abraham is key to understanding your blessings in Christ. It is your privilege as a Christian to trace your spiritual ancestry to Abraham. And it is this connection to Abraham which ensures that you inherit the blessings which God has ordained for His people. From eternity God planned to bless a multitude of people who would believe in Him. To execute this plan, God chose Abraham to be the progenitor from whom all His blessings of grace will flow to the nations: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Today, we begin a two-part series on this subject. In the first part, we will look at how the Scriptures show that the giving of the Holy Spirit is the Father’s chief promise made to Abraham and his descendants. Tomorrow, God willing, we will finish by looking at why receiving the Holy Spirit plays a crucial role in fulfilling the promises made to Abraham and us.

God made several promises to Abraham, including the birth of Isaac and possession of the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:1-22). Of all the promises made to Abraham, there is one which does not get sufficient attention. Yet, it is what holds the other promises together. That promise is the Holy Spirit. Jesus called the Holy Spirit, “the Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). He makes the same reference in today’s opening Scripture. He told His disciples He was sending upon them the Promise of His Father. Reception of this Promise was so crucial that He commanded them to wait in Jerusalem for it. As a result of receiving the Promise the disciples would be clothed with power from on high. This tells us that there are promises and there is the Promise. The Holy Spirit is the Blessing of all blessings and the Promise of all promises. Therefore, if you receive the Holy Spirit, you have received the essence of the Father’s blessings promised to Abraham.

Examining God’s interactions with Abraham in the Old Testament, you will not find an explicit reference to the Holy Spirit being the chief promise made to Abraham. However, the New Testament sheds light on this subject and reveals the deepest meaning of God’s promises to Abraham. For example, Paul wrote, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law . . . that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesusthat we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14). Notice what Paul is saying here. Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law to make it possible for the blessing of Abraham to come upon us. But what is that “blessing of Abraham” which must come upon us in Christ? Paul says, it is “the promise of the Spirit.” And we receive this Spirit through faith in Christ and obedience to Him (Acts 5:32).

Jesus was the promised seed (descendant) of Abraham through whom God would accomplish His promises (Galatians 3:16). As Messiah, He was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:16-19) and had to die for our sins. But Jesus had another critical mission: to send the Holy Spirit upon all who obey Him, in fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham. This explains why He told the Apostles that it was in their interest that He depart so that He could send them the Spirit (John 16:7). Without the giving of the Holy Spirit, the covenant with Abraham would have been meaningless.

Once risen from the dead and exalted in glory, Jesus could now send the long-awaited blessing upon Abraham’s children. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter reminded the people about this: “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He [Jesus] poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33; see also v. 38-39). 

You are a child of Abraham. Yours is the blessing of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, welcome the Spirit with open arms and an open heart. He wants to do marvelous things with you. Let Him. Amen.

For further studyJohn 7:37-39 and Galatians 3:1-14

Your Life Matters to God

Daily Devotional: Day 158

“And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation . . . And God was with the boy, and he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow” (Genesis 21:17-18, 20, ESV).

 I once met a young woman who shared with me and others the story of how she was born. Let’s call her ‘Jane.’ Her mother had taken steps not to have a baby, resorting to a contraceptive method that was known for its near-perfect success rate. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on whose side you take), unbeknownst to her, there was a hitch. Consequently, the woman later found out that she was pregnant. Thankfully, she didn’t abort. And, that’s how baby ‘Jane’ landed on planet Earth.

Today’s Scripture passage tells the story of Ishmael. Unable to conceive, Sarah urged Abraham to give her a child by having relations with her servant, Hagar. Abraham did. However, when Hagar became pregnant, she used that as an occasion to despise Sarah. Consequently, Sarah had the pregnant Hagar kicked out of Abraham’s house. By the intervention of an angel of God, Hagar returned to Sarah. But the tension didn’t end there. Ishmael was born; and later, Isaac. Sarah wouldn’t entertain the presence of Ishmael due to inheritance issues; so, for the second time, Hagar and her son were driven out of Abraham’s house; this time, for good. Abraham grieved over this matter, but he had to let Ishmael go.

Ishmael was conceived under unusual circumstances. He wasn’t the ideal child Sarah wanted. He came into the picture because Sarah thought she had run out of options. In a sense, Ishmael was the ‘PLAN B’ child. Even as a child, Ishmael had the bitter experience of being separated from his father as well as from Isaac, his half-brother. Ishmael became the ‘unwanted’ child born out of necessity and disposed of when his presence was deemed inconvenient. He was the innocent casualty of the drama in Abraham’s household. But thankfully, the God of Abraham is the Father of the unwanted, who welcomes the rejected, who gives hope to the hopeless, and who turns our mourning into dancing (cf. Psalm 30:11). He didn’t forget Ishmael. He blessed the boy and made him into a great nation. Later, Ishmael became an archer, an expert with the bow.

We all have different beginnings and different stories about how we got here. Your existence is not a mistake. Regardless of the circumstances of your birth or childhood, your life is not a mistake. People may have treated you in the past as something disposable or expendable. Don’t worry. You matter to God, and He has wonderful plans for you. How you got here shouldn’t be your problem. What matters is, you’re here; and where you go from here should be your focus. Don’t focus on those who don’t want you around; focus on the loving and faithful Father who wants you and wants to do great things with you. He was there for Ishmael. He will be there for you, too.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you. Amen.

For further study: Luke 1:59-80