Unification Sermons and Talks
by Reverend Joy Pople
Abraham And Isaac
God calls Abram
Genesis 11 - 14
After the flood, people forgot God. They prayed, but not to God. Wherever they went they worshipped something. Many people worshipped what they saw up in the heavens: the sun, moon and stars. Others worshipped what they saw around them, such as the rivers, mountains and hills. Sometimes they carved images of wood or stone and called them gods.
There was an old shepherd named Terah in the land of Ur. He had three sons: Abram, Nahor and Haran. The third son died and left a son named Lot. Terah took his family and all his cattle and sheep to a place east of Ur called Haran. There Terah died.
Terah worshipped idols, but Abram believed in the one true God. God chose Abram to be a new father of faith. One day Abram heard Gods voice calling him: "Leave this country and your relatives and go to a land that I will show you. I will bless you and make a great nation out of you. Through you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
With his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, their servants and large flocks and herds, Abram set out on another trip. He was seventy-five years old. They traveled toward the land of Canaan (Israel). They crossed mountains and valleys, rivers and dry land. Each day, they were farther from their homeland and nearer to the land God had promised to them.
When they entered Canaan, Abram did not live in a city but in a tent in the countryside. Abram became a very rich man. He had many servants, cattle and sheep. He had much silver and gold. Lot also had many servants, sheep and cattle. When they put up all their tents, it looked like a tent town. All around them the land was dotted with their cattle and sheep.
When food was hard to find, they went to Egypt. Sarai was very beautiful. Abram worried that if people knew he was Sarais husband, someone would kill him in order to marry her. So he told Sarai to pretend to be his sister. The Pharaoh was interested in Sarai and took her into his house. Then he and his household began to suffer from plagues. When the Pharaoh learned that Sarai was Abrams wife, he asked them to leave the country and take all their possessions with them.
Abram returned to Canaan. Abrams servants and Lots servants began to argue over land for their animals. Abram talked to Lot: "I don't want there to be any arguments between us or our servants. There is not room enough for all of us to live together. But the whole land lies before us. Let us separate. If you choose the west country, I will go east; but if you want the east country, I will take the west."
Lot chose the east country, around the Jordan River, where there was plenty of grass and water for his flocks. Lot put up his tents near the city of Sodom, where people were very evil and never thought about God. After a while, Lot moved closer to Sodom and finally went to live inside the city.
Abram offers animals
Abram was growing old. God had been guiding and protecting him, and Abram showed his faith in God in many ways over the years. He had left his home and gone to the land God showed him; he built altars to God wherever he lived; he had helped out Lot and other people who were in trouble; he was brave and unselfish. However, he still had no children.
One night God appeared to Abram in his sleep and said, "Do not be afraid, for I will protect you and will give you a great reward for your faith."
Abram replied, "Lord God, what will you give me? I have no children. I have no heir"
God told Abram to go outside. "Look toward heaven, and tell me if you can count the stars. Some day the children in your family will be like the stars, so many that no one can count them." Abram believed God.
God told Abram to make an offering to show his faith. God asked Abram to choose a heifer, a goat, a sheep, a turtledove and a pigeon. Like Noahs ark, these animals symbolized the whole earth.
Because Adam and Eve turned away from God and followed Satan, people are torn between good and evil. People make offerings in order to cut themselves off from Satan and try to connect with God. In those days, when people prepared an offering, they were supposed to cut the animals in half. Abram cut the cow, the goat and the sheep in half, but he did not cut the dove or the pigeon. God could not accept his offering, and birds of prey came to take the animals away.
Abram fell asleep, and God told him that his children, grandchildren and the people born after them would have to spend four hundred years living in another country. Their life would become difficult and they would be treated like slaves, but finally they would return to Canaan.
Sarai and Hagar
Genesis 16 & 17
In Abrams home there was an Egyptian servant girl named Hagar. Abram and Sarai taught Hagar about the true God. Abram and Sarai longed for the child that God had promised them, but they still had no children. Sarai suggested that Abram take her servant, Hagar, as a concubine. If Sarai couldnt have a child herself, she hoped she could claim her servant Hagars child. This was a custom in those times. However, when Hagar became pregnant, she thought she was better than Sarai.
Sarai punished Hagar so severely that Hagar ran away. Hagar walked down the sandy desert road. When she got tired, she stopped to rest by a fountain. There an angel of the Lord found her.
"Hagar, Sarais maid, where did you come from, and where are you going?" the angel asked.
"I am running away from Sarai," Hagar replied.
"Go back," the angel said, "and try to please Sarai. You will have more descendants than people can count. God will give you a son, and you shall call him Ishmael, because the Lord has heard your suffering. He will grow up to be a strong, impatient man; he will always be fighting with others, but he will stand his own ground."
Hagar recognized that a messenger from God had spoken to her. She realized that God had known about her all the time. She obeyed God and returned to Sarai. Hagar had a son as God had promised. Abram was eighty-six years old when his son Ishmael was born.
Thirteen years later, God spoke to Abram again, repeating the blessings and the promise of a son. God gave Abram a new name, Abraham, meaning father of many nations. He also changed Sarais name to Sarah, promising that she would be mother of many nations.
Abraham loved his son Ishmael, but Ishmael was not the child that God had promised him. Still, he asked God about Ishmael.
God answered: "I have heard what you asked. I have blessed him and will make him fruitful. I will multiply his descendants. He will give birth to twelve princes, and I will make a great nation out of him."
Abraham and Lot
Genesis 18 & 19
One day, as Abraham was sitting in the door of his tent, he saw three strangers coming towards him. It was the custom to welcome travelers into ones home and be kind to them. Abraham ran to meet them and bowed low.
"Do not go on, but stay here," Abraham said. "Please rest under the tree. I will bring you some food. Then you may go on." The three strangers agreed.
Abraham brought water for his guests to wash their feet. Then Abraham told his wife to knead some dough and bake bread while he prepared meat for his guests. He chose a calf and had a servant prepare and cook it. When everything was ready, Abraham brought the food to his guests. He stood by them while they ate.
As they were eating, one visitor asked, "Where is Sarah?" Abraham replied that she was in the tent. The visitor then said, "Your wife Sarah will have a son."
When Sarah heard this she laughed. She and Abraham were old. The thought of such old people having children was amusing.
The visitor turned to Abraham and asked, "Why did Sarah laugh and think she was too old to have a child? Doesnt she know that nothing is too hard for the Lord?"
When they had eaten, the visitors started off again on their trip. They were heading toward Sodom. Abraham walked with them a little way. By this time he knew that they were not men but spiritual beings. He had given his best hospitality to visitors from heaven.
One of the visitors was speaking for the Lord. "Shall I tell Abraham what I am going to do?" he asked his companions. "All the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. I know that he will teach his children and everyone in his household to keep my ways and do what is right."
Turning to Abraham, he said, "The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is crying out for punishment. I will visit Sodom and Gomorrah to see whether these cities are as evil as they seem."
Abraham wondered what would happen to his nephew Lot if these cities were destroyed. Because Abraham loved Lot he asked, "Will you destroy the good people along with the evil people in Sodom?" The Lord said, "If I can find fifty good people in Sodom, I will not destroy it."
Abraham was afraid that there might be fewer than fifty, so he pleaded with the Lord: "Would you save the city if there were only forty-five good people?" The Lord answered, "If I find forty-five good people, I will not destroy it."
Still Abraham felt troubled. There might not be even forty-five good people. He asked, "What if you find only forty good people?" The Lord said, "I will not destroy the city if there are forty good people in it."
Abraham worried that there might be fewer than forty. "O Lord, dont be angry with me, but if there are only thirty good people, will you spare the city?" The Lord promised not to destroy the entire city if only thirty good people could be found. Abraham kept pleading until the Lord promised not to destroy the city if only ten good people lived there. Then Abraham returned to his tent.
It was evening when the angels reached Sodom. Soon the city gates would close. Lot was one of the wise men who sat at the city gates and solved the problems people brought to them. When Lot saw two strangers approaching, he greeted them with a low bow and invited them to his house for the night. At first, the strangers refused. They would spend the night in the streets. Because Lot knew the desires of the homosexuals in the city, he insisted that the strangers come home with him. Finally they did.
Like Abraham, Lot practiced hospitality. Lot prepared food for them to eat. Soon the news spread over the city that Lot had two guests. From all parts of the city, men young and old hurried to Lots house, seeking the strangers. When they tried to break open the door to Lot's house, the angels pulled Lot inside and caused the men of Sodom to become blind.
The two visitors told Lot, "Sodom is so evil that God is going to destroy it. You must get out of Sodom. Tell your daughters and their husbands to get out too."
Lot went to the homes of his sons-in-law, who were men of Sodom. He told them, "We must get out of Sodom, for the Lord is going to destroy it." But they did not believe him.
Before the sun rose, the angels urged Lot, "Take your wife and two daughters and run for your lives." Lot didnt want to leave his home in such a hurry. But God was good to him, and the angels forced him and his family to leave the city. Once they were outside the city, the angels said, "Run to the mountains for your lives. Do not even stop long enough to look back."
When the sun came up, fire and brimstone fell like rain from the sky upon Sodom and Gomorrah, destroying the cities and everybody who lived in them. In her heart, Lots wife missed Sodom, and she looked back at the city. When she did, she turned into a pillar of salt.
Afterwards, Abraham moved further south and spent time in Gerar. Living among strangers there, he did the same kind of thing that he had done earlier in Egypt. He told people that Sarah was his sister. Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent for Sarah, but God spoke to the king in a dream and told him that Sarah was the wife Abraham, and that he should return her to Abraham, because he was a prophet. Abimelech returned Sarah to Abraham and gave him many gifts.
Isaac and Ishmael
God kept His promise to Sarah, and she gave birth to a son a year after the angels visit. Abraham called his son Isaac. Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born.
Sarah said, "God has made me laugh, and everyone who hears about this will laugh too. Who would have thought that Sarah could give Abraham a son in his old age?"
The child grew, and Abraham celebrated with a great feast.
One day Sarah saw Ishmael making fun of Isaac, and she asked Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. She did not want Ishmael to share anything that belonged to Isaac.
Abraham was sad at this request, because Ishmael was his son. But God said to Abraham, "Dont be sorry for them. Listen to Sarah, for Isaacs descendants will be your true lineage. Still I will make a great nation out of Ishmael, because he is your son."
Years before, if Abraham had offered the animals in the proper way, he would have set the example of faith that God was seeking. Then if Ishmael and Isaac had united in heart, the Messiah could have come. However, because of Abrahams mistake, his descendants would have to leave Canaan; it would be many years before they could return, and Ishmael and Isaac would not have the chance to unite.
Abraham got up early in the morning, took bread and a bottle of water, and gave them to Hagar. Then he sent Hagar and Ishmael away. They headed south into the wilderness. When the water was gone, Hagar placed her son in the shade of a bush and sat down a little ways away. Not wanting to watch her son die, she turned her back and began to cry.
God heard Ishmaels voice and an angel called to Hagar: "What is wrong, Hagar?
Dont be afraid. God has heard the voice of the child. Rise up, lift him up and take him by the hand, because I will make him a great nation."
God opened her eyes and Hagar saw a well of water. She filled the bottle with water and gave some to Ishmael to drink.
God was with Ishmael. He grew up in the wilderness and became an archer.
Abraham and Isaac make an offering
Genesis 22:1 - 19
Isaac was the child that God had promised to Abraham, and Abraham loved him as a gift from God. Abraham looked forward to the time when Isaac would become a man and have a family, fulfilling Gods promise.
As Isaac grew, Abraham taught him to know and worship God. Perhaps he took Isaac with him when he made offerings. Abraham taught Isaac that God would accept the gifts and hear the prayers of people who did what was right and trusted in God.
One day God called Abraham and said to him, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love so much, and give him back to me as an offering. I will show you where to build the altar."
Abraham did not know why God asked him to do this. God had promised to make a great nation from Isaac's family line. How could God keep His promise if Abraham had to offer Isaac on an altar? Abraham did not understand, but he trusted that God knew best.
Abraham got up early in the morning, put a saddle on his donkey and tied on it the wood to burn the offering. With Isaac and two servants, Abraham started out. On the third day, God showed Abraham Mount Moriah (Jerusalem) and told him that was where he should make the offering. Abraham told his servants, "Stay here with the donkey, while Isaac and I go to worship God."
Abraham gave the wood to Isaac to carry, and he took the container of coals and the knife. Together they set out.
Isaac was old enough to help carry the wood and understand how to make an offering. Isaac said, "Father, we have the fire and the wood. Where is the lamb for the offering?"
"My son, God will provide a lamb," Abraham answered. Abraham trusted God, and Isaac trusted his father. They continued on their way.
When they came to Mount Moriah, Abraham built an altar, piled the wood on it, tied up his son Isaac, and laid him on top of the wood. Then Abraham lifted up his hand holding the knife. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him out of heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham."
"Here am I," he answered.
"Dont put your hand on the boy. Dont do him any harm. Now I know that you fear God, since you have not kept back your son, your only son, from me."
Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. Abraham took the animal, and he and Isaac offered it up to God.
Then God said to Abraham: "Because you have not kept back your son, your only son, from me, I will bless you and multiply your family line. They will be as many as the stars of heaven and the sand upon the seashore. In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice."
By trusting his father and helping him make the offering, Isaac showed the same faith as his father. Like Abel and Noah before them, they made offerings in faith. Both Abraham and Isaac became fathers of faith.
Isaac and Rebekah
Genesis 22:20 - 25:18
Sarah died at the age of one hundred and twenty-seven. As a shepherd Abraham did not own any land in Canaan. Now he asked his neighbors to sell him some land. Abraham bought land and buried Sarah in a cave there.
Abraham also was getting very old. Abraham did not want Isaac to marry one of the girls who lived around them. Abraham called his oldest servant, the one who was in charge of his household, and asked him to go to Haran and look for a wife for Isaac from among Abrahams relatives.
Eliezer took ten of his masters camels, loaded them with gifts, and traveled back to Haran, where Abraham had come from. It was evening when he arrived, and the women came out of the city to get water from the well. Eliezer had his camels kneel down by the well, and he prayed, "Lord God of my master Abraham, help me today out of kindness to my master Abraham. The women of the city are coming to get water. Let the young woman I shall ask to give me a drink offer to get water for my camels. Then I will know that she is the one you have chosen to be Isaacs wife."
While he was still praying, a beautiful young woman came to get water. After she had filled her pitcher from the well, Eliezer said, "Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher."
"Please drink, sir," she answered. She set down her pitcher and gave him a drink. Then she said, "I will get water for your camels, too."
She quickly emptied her pitcher into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water. She kept doing this until all the thirsty camels had had enough to drink. When the animals were done drinking, Eliezer gave Rebekah a golden earring and two gold bracelets and asked, "Whose daughter are you? Is there room in your fathers house for us to stay?"
She answered, "I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Nahor. We have plenty of room and supplies for your camels."
Eliezer bowed his head and prayed: "Thank you, Lord God of my master Abraham. Thank you for being so kind and true to him and for leading me to his relatives house."
Rebekah ran home to tell her family. Her brother Laban saw the gifts and heard Rebekahs report. He hurried to the well and said to Eliezer: "Come in. We have a room prepared for you and a place prepared for the camels."
Eliezer came to the house, unloaded the camels, and gave them straw and food. After he and his servants had washed their feet, food was set out for him to eat. But the old man said, "I will not eat until I have told you why I have come."
"Tell it to us," they said.
"I am Abrahams servant," he introduced himself. "The Lord blessed my master with large flocks and herds. Sarah, my masters wife, had a son when she was old. My master made me promise to go to his relatives and find a wife for his son." Eliezer told them how he prayed for God to guide him, and how Rebekah came and answered that prayer.
Bethuel and Laban answered, "The Lord has brought you here, so what can we say? You may take Rebekah with you to be Isaacs wife, as the Lord said."
When Eliezer heard these words, he bowed down and thanked God. Then he brought out presents of silver, gold and fine clothing as gifts for Rebekah. He also gave gifts to her brother and her mother.
Eliezer ate the feast that had been prepared and spent the night. In the morning he said, "Now let me go back to my master." When they asked Rebekah if she was willing to go with Eliezer, she answered, "Yes, I will go." Rebekah mounted a camel and followed Eliezer back to Canaan.
At the end of the day, Isaac often walked alone out in the fields, thinking about God. One evening he saw a row of camels in the distance and ran to meet them.
"Who is that man coming to meet us?" Rebekah asked Eliezer.
"That is my master, Isaac," Eliezer answered.
At once Rebekah got down from her camel and covered her face with a cloth. In those times, the man did not see his fiancees face until after they were married.
Eliezer told Isaac how God had answered his prayer and sent Rebekah to him. Isaac took her to the tent that had been his mothers, and she became his wife. He loved her, and she comforted him in the loss of his mother.
Abraham died peacefully at the age of one hundred and seventy five. Ishmael and Isaac buried him in the cave with Sarah.
Joy Pople (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote this Bible story from the standpoint of the Divine Principle.
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