This post is based on Genesis 21v22-34. It would be best to read that passage first, then read this post.
Peace, much like happiness, is something that every human being wants and craves, if they do not have it. Peace is a good thing. A lack of peace often keeps us up at night. A loss of sleep can often be attributed to the anxiety that comes to us when peace leaves us. Many people are addicted to pills because they have no peace in their hearts. Many people have constant friction in their relationships because they have no peace in their relationships. A lack of peace often makes us feel like we’re losing our sanity. Many people often dream of seeing “world peace.” Peace is something everyone aspires too and chases after. We want peace all the way from the personal state of our hearts to peace throughout all the world. All great leaders throughout world history are marked by their efforts toward peace in whatever realm they were in, whether it was Martin Luther King, Jr. who fought with peaceful protests or Ghandi. When Jesus came to earth, peace was one of the things that he came bringing. When Jesus was born the angels appeared to the shepherds saying “Peace on earth, and good will toward men.” And before Jesus left this earth he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
Yet despite all of our efforts toward peace, this world is most assuredly not marked by peace. There is violence, hatred, wars, and unrest almost everywhere we look. From our own personal relationships to the news we see on TV. Despite all our desires for and efforts toward peace, it is still so elusive, or so it seems.
As we’ve been tracking along with the story of Abraham here in Genesis over the past several weeks, we’ve seen several instances where there is friction in Abraham’s life. Back in chapter 20, as Abraham passed through the land where King Abimelech reigned, he devised a plan to act as if Sarah was his sister out of fear for his own neck. He feared Abimelech would harm him if the king knew Sarah was Abraham’s wife, so the king could have Sarah for his own. And we saw how God rescued Sarah from this situation as God visited Abimelech telling him the truth that Sarah was Abraham’s wife. This instance caused major friction and tension between Abraham and Abimelech as you can imagine.
In our text we witness this friction and tension between Abimelech and Abraham being put to rest as they make peace with each other.
In our text we saw that Abimelech comes to Abraham, along with Phicol, the commander of Abimelech’s army. They tell Abraham that God is with Abraham in all that he does. Because they see that Lord is with Abraham they want to make peace with Abraham, so that they can be at peace with Abraham’s God. I find it interesting that the commander of the army comes with Abimelech to make peace with a private citizen. This shows us that the presence of God is a presence that causes an army to put down their weapons and wave the white flag toward an elderly man and his family.
There is something for us to learn here. If the presence of God causes an entire army to shake in their boots, if the presence of God makes His enemies’ knees knock, what it should it do to us when we come into His presence to worship Him and hear from His Word? At the least it should cure our apathy. Maybe we need God to open our eyes afresh to make us see Him here. The omnipotent all creator God of the universe who upholds the universe by the word of His power is here with us in His Word. When the Scriptures are unfolded before God’s people, the same almighty God who keeps the planets suspended in space, rotating around the sun, is present with us. Maybe we need that God, the God who will crush the skull of Satan and all his demons without exerting an ounce of energy to open our eyes anew to the reality that as Believers, He has put His very spirit within us. The manifestation of this God disarms entire armies. He will surely disarm us, and break down the walls of sin in our lives that we build up to keep Him and others out. May God help us to see anew who Abimelech and his army saw with Abraham.
So they come to Abraham and they ask him to swear that he will not deal falsely with them anymore because of how they have dealt kindly with him. So Abraham swears that he will. Then Abraham brings up this well of water of his that Abimelech’s servants had taken from him. Abimelech says he had no idea about this. So Abraham gives Abimelech a gift of sheep and oxen signifying that Abimelech is a witness that Abraham did indeed dig this well, and that it belongs to Abraham. So there they make an oath, or a covenant of peace with each other.
Let’s not overlook the importance of a well of water in that day. This was an area, and a day in age in which water would have been a more scarce resource. Of course water was necessary to keep them alive. Especially Abraham having such great wealth in many servants and much livestock, he needed quite a bit of water to survive.
God once again provides for Abraham in a timely manner. God had just fulfilled his promise by giving them Isaac, and God would not leave them for dead without giving them water to sustain their lives and continue his faithfulness in promise keeping.
Through God providing that well of water for Abraham, God was sustaining and preserving the line to Jesus, who would come to save us. This little ole well of water played a role in God saving us. The devil tried many different times and ways to snuff out the seed of the woman that was promised in Genesis 3v15, because he knew that once the seed arrived, it was game over for him. The reality is that it was game over before it ever started. But the devil tried here the tactic of making the seed die of thirst, by sending Abimelech’s men to seize Abraham’s well.
God was not hindered by this weak attempt, as He had planned on creating a covenant of peace between Abraham and Abimelech to allow Abraham to keep his will and sojourn the land as he needed.
In our text, Abraham then, out of gratitude, plants a tree and calls on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God, and worships Him there. He calls Him the Everlasting God signifying God’s steadfast faithfulness to Him and His continued provision and promise keeping.
We Should Strive for a Peaceful Society
The reality is that the world is largely marked by a lack of peace. Just in our country, in this year so far, we have seen so much violence and hatred on many different levels. As Christians we should strive to have a peaceful society. We should do our best to be at peace with those in the world around us.
Only the Gospel Can Truly Create a Peaceful Society
The truth of the matter is no matter how hard we try, no matter how much effort with throw into it, we cannot create a truly peaceful society, we cannot make true peace in our families, and we cannot have true peace in our hearts by our own strength. If peace could’ve been obtained by human effort, we would have achieved world peace by now.
Because Human Nature
This is largely owing to the reality of our human nature. We have a fallen, sinful, depraved nature as human beings. We are born rebels. We are born by nature to sin and to desire to sin, and you cannot have peace where sin is present.
As humans our will is captive to our nature. So long as we have only a sin nature it is our will to sin. Our nature is not something that we have the power to change. It is something that we need changed for us.
This is why we need the gospel. When we are born again, we are given a new nature. We are given new desires and the ability to resist sin and temptation by the power of Christ. In order for peace to be made, we human beings need a nature change.
This is why as Christians we must not preach behavior modification or mere morality, we must preach rebirth! We must preach, you must be born again!
There is a story I love about the great evangelist and preacher George Whitefield. He was once preaching a revival at the same church all week long. The first night of the revival he preached, “You must be born again.” The second night of the revival he preached the same thing, “You must be born again.” The third night of the revival he preached the same thing yet again, “You must be born again.” Finally after that third night an elderly lady came up to him and said, “Mr. Whitefield, you are quite a fine preacher, but why do you keep preaching, ‘You must be born again?’” Mr. Whitefield replied, “Because ma’am, you must be born again.”
If this is not our message, we are preaching in vain. You must be born again.
Unable to Legislate Heart Change
This is why you are unable to legislate heart change. There are many well-meaning people today, many of them believers, who are fighting hard for social justice and peace by way of legislation. It is a futile fight because you cannot legislate heart change. And that’s the issue. Adding a few laws and changing someone’s outward behavior does nothing to change the fact that they are still wretched sinner on the inside.
It is a bit sad and frustrating to me to see all this futile effort toward so-called social justice by way of social reforms from believers. We have the one thing that can actually change hearts and change our society. We have the one thing that can actually bring justice and peace in this world: the life changing, nature changing, gospel of Jesus Christ, and yet we are settling for social reforms? Pursue righteous laws, yes. But without the gospel it’s meaningless. Social reform doesn’t keep people from dying and going to hell. But the gospel of Jesus Christ does.
Furthermore, social and world peace will not fully happen until Christ comes again and establishes the new heavens and the new earth. So long as there is sin in the world, there will be turmoil, violence, anger, hatred, and the like.
We will not achieve a world of perfect peace here, but it is our duty to point others to this next life where they can be citizens of a perfect city forever, the New Jerusalem. We don’t point somewhere within this world for the solution or the answer to all of our world’s problems social ills, but we point to the one coming.
As Christians who are simply sojourners in this world, like Abraham, who have a heavenly citizenship above, we should model the reality of the peaceful citizenship of the New Heavens and the New Earth. Our citizenship in this world should reflect the fact that our citizenship is not in this world, but in the next.
Our Greatest Problem
Ladies and gentlemen, our greatest problem is not that we have conflict in our world. Our greatest problem is not that we have friction in our relationships. Our greatest problem is not that we lack peace in our hearts. Our greatest problem is that we are enemies with a holy and all-powerful God. Our greatest problem is that we lack peace with God.
Paul says in Romans 5v10 that we were once enemies with God. James 4v4 says, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” As sinners, when we sin we have wages war on God. When we sin we have announced war on the almighty. We are rebels.
By nature we are children of wrath, haters of God. Strong language, but it is true. Our fallen nature is hostile to God. The most dangerous place to be is to be in opposition to God almighty. God is a holy God who will bring all wickedness to justice. As enemies of God we should tremble at Nahum 1v2 which says, “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.” You don’t want to be an enemy of this God! This is the state in which all of mankind is born! We are born enemies with God!
The fact that we have enemies in this world, and the fact that we lack peace in our hearts, is merely a symptom of the problem. It is a symptom to the reality that apart from Christ we are enemies of God. As sinners we are sitting in the cross hairs of God’s wrath. His bow of wrath is pulled back and it is only his mercy that prevents His fingers from letting it go.
When we see riots around our country, wars all over the globe, and hatred on every corner, we must recognize that this is humanity acting out of the fact that they are rebels to the will and design of God for humanity. We must recognize that these people’s greatest enemies are not political enemies, but it is God almighty, the God who keeps wrath for His enemies.
It is not as if God has made us His enemies. We have made him our enemy. We are the rebels toward a good king. But we don’t know the God we are messing with! God will have vengeance on all his enemies. Vengeance is mine saith the Lord.
God has made Peace with us
Ladies and gentlemen the greatest news in all the universe is that this God whom we have made our enemy and have declared war against, has made peace with us. He has disarmed us and spoken peace to us. While we raged against Him and spat in anger in His face, He went silently to the cross and laid down His life to put an end to the enmity. Though we hated Him, He loved us with an everlasting love.
Romans 5 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
This is the greatest mystery of the gospel, that while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. God gave up His Son’s life to end the war we had with Him. And His Son, Jesus did it willingly.
Colossians 1v21, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death…”
This is the wonder of the gospel that Jesus Christ laid down His life, not for His friends, but for His enemies; to make His enemies His friends. If you think that you are too much of a sinner for Jesus to love you, if you think that you have lived too wild a life that is at odds with God, you are the exact type of person for whom Jesus died to make peace with.
God accomplished peace with His enemies in a specific way through specific means. There are some particular objects in this passage that signify the treaty of peace between Abraham and Abimelech. These objects convey major themes throughout Scripture. As a matter of fact, the means in which Abraham and Abimelech make peace are a shadow of the means God used to make peace with us. The peace made between Abraham and Abimelech point forward to the peace that God would one day make with us through His Son Jesus Christ.
The first thing we see is a covenant. Verse 32 says, “So they made a covenant at Beersheba.” Likewise, God relates to us and has made peace with us, via covenant. He lays out the terms of the relationship.
A Better Covenant
God’s covenant of grace that He makes with us that brings us peace is better than the covenant between Abraham an Abimelech. Theirs was an agreement they both agreed to enter into. God’s covenant with us is one way. We didn’t sit down at the bargaining table and come up with a deal that we struck with God to have peace with one another. No, we are the guilty party, we deserve death and destruction, we are at the mercy of God. God graciously extends mercy through covenant with Christ. God has set the stipulations of the covenant, and he has met them for us in Christ.
“The covenant of Grace is this,” Spurgeon says, “Do this, O Christ, and thou shall live, O man!” Christ has met all the requirements necessary to save us and bring us to peace with God and end the enmity between us. He has done it all!
Next in our passage we see sheep. Verse 27 says, “So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a covenant. Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock apart. And Abimelech said to Abraham, ‘What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?’ He said, ‘These seven ewe lambs you will take from my hand, that this may be a witness for me that I dug this well.’”
Seven ewe lambs was the price that Abraham paid in the covenant to have peace. We know the number 7 is a significant number in Scripture, signifying wholeness, or perfection. We know also that sheep are significant throughout Scripture in many different ways.
So Abraham gives these sheep to make peace. But God also gave a lamb to make peace with His enemies.
A Better Lamb
God’s Lamb was better than Abraham’s because it only took the one Lamb of God to make peace with us, not seven. Jesus is the Lamb of God who was the sacrificial Lamb for our sins. He was the peace offering. Christ, the Lamb of God is the witness to the work that He did that ensured that we sinners, indeed do now have peace with God through Him.
Like a sheep is silent before His shearers, Christ was led to the slaughter for us, in our place. He is the perfect Lamb of God that bought our freedom.
Through the sacrifice of this one Lamb of God, Christ brings all of His sheep into His fold. Because of the Lamb of God, we are His people; we are the sheep of His pasture. In the gospel, One Lamb bought many sheep.
Abraham then plants a Tamarisk tree to commemorate God’s faithfulness to him. A Tamarisk tree was a type of evergreen tree. God also brought peace to us through another tree. This tree, Christ bore on His back as He climbed Golgotha. This tree Christ was nailed to. This tree Christ bled, suffered, and died upon.
A Better Tree
Christ’s tree is better than Abraham’s because it isn’t just for one man to worship at, but many. The tree Abraham planted was a place where he could personally worship God’s faithfulness to Him. The tree Jesus died on is a bless where all who would believe come to worship Him. As Abraham’s tree commemorated God’s everlasting faithfulness to Him, so Christ’s cross stands and commemorates God’s everlasting faithfulness to save sinner who come unto Him through Christ’s sacrifice.
Through a covenant, the Lamb of God suffered on a tree to gather all His sheep into His fold and lead them along streams of living water and satisfy them for all eternity.