“Then 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 be from her.’ Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!’ Then God said: ‘No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.’ Then He finished talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.”
I have plans to go on a mission trip to China with some ministers next year. Let’s work hard and earn more money. Let’s make much money and use it for the gospel of the Lord.
Isaac, the Son of Abraham, Was Born through Sarah the Barren
In today’s Scripture reading, we can see that God appeared to Abraham, our ancestor of faith and said to him, “Then 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 be from her’” (Genesis 7:15-16). God said that He would give Abraham a son by his wife Sarah the barren. Then Abraham replied: “It would be great if my son Ishmael lived before You and grew up well and inherited my lineage. I understand that You are now comforting me. I appreciate Your concern. Thank You.”
What was the reason why Abraham responded like this? Abraham looked at this situation from a human perspective and thought it was impossible for him to have a child by his wife, Sarah, who was now 90 years of age and had never become pregnant with a child throughout her whole life. Therefore, Abraham said that he would be satisfied if Ishmael, the son born through his maidservant, grew up well and inherited his lineage. But God said that Abraham’s thinking was wrong. God said, “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac,” and rejected resolutely Abraham’s negative reply. Then God said to Abraham clearly, “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him” (Genesis 17:19).
What does this mean? God said that He would really give a son to Abraham through his wife who was now 90 years old. And God told Abraham to call his name Isaac. Isaac means “he laughs” in the Hebrew language. Like this, God said that He will give a son to Abraham through his wife Sarah and that this son, Isaac, was the one who will bring them laughter and joy. God was telling Abraham that He will do something that was absolutely impossible to his human thinking. This promise God made to Abraham to give descendants to him through Isaac means that God would fulfill impossible things to you and me. The original name of Abraham’s wife was Sarai, but it was changed to Sarah because God told Abraham to call her Sarah. This Sarah was barren until she became 90 years of age. And God said that He will certainly give a child to Abraham through this Sarah, his barren wife.
Think about this. How could an old woman bear a child at an age when her body was drying up? She could never give birth to a child. It is impossible. Despite this, God said that he will surely give a son to Abraham through Sarah. Abraham, our ancestor in the faith, believed in this Word of God until the end although it seemed impossible.
This Word of God does not just apply only to Abraham. God says this to all the people who believe in Him including Abraham. When we look at the Word of God from our fleshly perspective, it seems that the Word of God cannot be fulfilled through our flesh just like it seemed impossible for Abraham’s wife to give birth to a child when she was 90 years old. What does this mean? Yes, it is impossible for you and me to become righteous in our flesh by not ever committing sin. However, God promised to fulfill the impossible and finally gave “Isaac” to you and me according to this promise. God sent Jesus Christ to this world and gave us laughter and joy by blotting out all our sins. The Almighty God has fulfilled this work that could never have been accomplished in our own strength.
Is It Possible to Become Perfect in Our Flesh?
You and I have clearly received the remission of sins through the Lord. But it would be wonderful if we who have already received the remission of sins became perfect even in our flesh, but is this really possible? It is not possible. It is not possible just as it was not possible for Sarah to give birth to a child at the age of 90.
Do you know when the saints who have received the remission of sins become the most distressed? It is when they have grown slightly after receiving the remission of sins, like a child that is ready to go to an elementary school after they have learned to walk. During this early growth phase, most saints begin to think that they should become better fleshly since they have become perfect spiritually, and then they begin to strive for that. However, it is impossible to become perfect fleshly. Like Sarah could not give birth to a child at that old age, it is impossible for a person to become perfect fleshly regardless of whether or not one believes in Jesus ardently. Rather the hearts of the born-again saints have become perfect, but they can never become perfect in their flesh. Their hearts cannot but be distressed since the reality is far different from the ideal. However, God gave a son to Sarah who seemed impossible to bear a child. What does this mean? It means that God makes those who cannot possibly become perfect in their flesh into those who are righteous. This is what God is teaching us through today’s Scripture reading.
Even though we have received the remission of sins through the blessing of the Lord, we cannot become perfect in our flesh by our own strength. Abraham’s wife was 90 years old at that time. Can a 90 year old woman really give birth to a child even if she wants to? It is impossible. We have definitely been made perfect in our spirit by believing in Jesus Christ. However, can our flesh also become perfect at the same time? No, it cannot. Therefore, we would have gone astray in a short while if God had not spoken to us about such things. If God did not teach us about these truths we would not have been able to say we have become the righteous.
Human flesh can never become perfect. But despite this, the Almighty God did accomplish this work. A 90 year old woman gave birth to a child. At that time, the people of that village probably laughed about that. They probably laughed about it saying that this old woman Sarah gave birth to a child. That might be the reason why God told Abraham to call the name of that son Isaac.
It is impossible for us to become perfect in our flesh. Therefore, we must not follow the things of the flesh that will never become perfect. Those who seek to follow the Lord after receiving the remission of sins must follow the righteous Spirit. Following the flesh is wrong and it is impossible to become perfect in fleshly terms. You and I must realize who we are as humans with flesh. We must know honestly that we are like Sarah before the presence of God. I am saying that we must acknowledge our shortcomings and lacking and believe in the righteousness of God.
This is true. We are all people like Sarah. We must acknowledge, “I am someone who can never lead a holy and perfect life in a fleshly way just like Sarah could never give birth to a child by her own strength at the age of 90.” We must think about this fact and acknowledge it in our hearts. We can go forth and lead a truly righteous life of faith only when we think about who we really are and acknowledge our fleshly weaknesses.
We can give up leading a life of faith when we realize that we cannot lead a holy life like this. God is now telling us that we ourselves are people like Sarah, the wife of Abraham. God is telling us that we cannot lead a perfect life in a fleshly sense. We must open the doors of our hearts and listen to this Word of God. And we must acknowledge this fact, “Yes, You are right. I am such a wretched person. But by sending Jesus Christ to this world, You have made me righteous, even though I am so evil and cannot become perfect on my own accord.” Truly, we are so evil and cannot become perfect on our own. But despite all these facts God has made you and me truly righteous saints by sending Jesus Christ to this world.
Jesus Has Made Us Righteous
Jesus came to this world in the form of a human, took all our sins upon this body of flesh by being baptized in the Jordan River, and saved you and me by bearing the judgment of the Cross in our stead. And we have become the righteous by believing in this complete work of salvation of Jesus in our hearts. Actually, God could have given a child to Abraham when his wife Sarah was younger and also could have made Sarah give birth to a child when she was 65 years old, that is, when she left her homeland with her husband Abraham. However, God finally made Sarah give birth to a child only after she became 90 years old.
What could be the reason for this? It was to show, by giving a child to a very old lady, what seemed totally impossible to man. God made it clear that this wonderful thing had happened because of their unmovable obedience in His Words. In a similar vein, we who could never become righteous on our own have become righteous just by obeying and believing in the Word of the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
You and I must really know how wretched our flesh is. We could not on no account receive salvation if the Lord did not save us. We could never have been saved except by the Word of the Lord’s Truth. Moreover, we are beings that could never have become the righteous if we did not have this faith of believing in this Word of salvation. We are beings that could never become the righteous if not for God. But the Almighty God made us the wretched people become the righteous saints. God the Father saved us the pitiful. This is the very Truth God is telling us today. God did not give a child to Abraham’s wife at such an old age because He was bored. Rather, God did this according to His providence and had this event recorded in His Word. This is to teach every one of us humans the way to become a righteous person by believing in Jesus Christ.
Let’s think about this. Can you and I become perfect in our flesh? Do our physical bodies become whole and perfect when much time passes after receiving the remission of sins? No, they don’t. But we do not want to acknowledge this fact. We do not want to believe this fact although we are not upright fleshly. We really must not follow the things of the flesh. Following our flesh is not God’s will. Our hearts become dark and evil when we seek after the things of our flesh. Therefore, you and I must acknowledge that we are not righteous fleshly. Our flesh is like Sarah. Our souls are the only part of us that becomes completely perfect by believing in the Word of God. Only when we stand firm in our faith on God’s Word can we beget Isaac just like Abraham and Sarah could.
The longer we lead the life of faith the more we must acknowledge this fact. We must acknowledge that we cannot on any account become righteous in fleshly terms and that we are someone like Sarah who cannot bear child at the ripe old age of 90. But we have become the righteous only by believing that Jesus Christ blotted out all our sins by the water, the blood, and the Holy Spirit that was given to us. We must have the faith in our hearts that says, “It is impossible for me to become a righteous person in a fleshly way. However, God made such a wretched one like me into a righteous person.” God has truly made us righteous by blotting out all our sins. God did this work that we absolutely could not do by ourselves. The Almighty God did this work that was absolutely impossible for us to do with all of our own strength.
Some people give up their faith in the middle of their lives of faith because they only looked at their own flesh without having this faith. God said, “Sarah really cannot give birth to a child by herself. However, I will give her a child,” and indeed He gave a child to them, and this child was named Isaac. This is the same as saying that God has made us who are lacking in the flesh the righteous.
By Faith, Laugh about the Work God Has Done
As I have said before, the name of Abraham’s son Isaac means “he laughs.” And the word “gospel” contains the meaning, “joyful news.” How did we feel when we received the remission of sins in our hearts by the gospel of the Lord? We simply burst into laughter because we became so very happy, did we not? Like this, Isaac also signifies the very gospel of the Lord.
Do you believe in the work God has done for our salvation? Do you acknowledge your insufficient selves? If you do, then this is good. If you have such faith, you do not need to look at yourselves and lament or be discouraged over yourselves while living out your faith. Do not look at your fleshly weaknesses, but rather just acknowledge them instead. We can finally laugh when we acknowledge our true nature and profess, “I am such a wretched being whose flesh cannot but be like this no matter how much time passes by. But God has made me a perfectly righteous person.” We can lead a life of faith brightly and firmly if we have such a faith. God teaches such a person who is someone like Sarah, to preach the gospel of the Lord with power. God makes such a person preach His gospel bold like a lion. So we also can say, “God has truly made you a righteous saint. God will truly give you a child.”
We are all Sarah’s who are like a 90 year old woman. We are all barren beings that cannot bear a child. That is, no one can become a righteous person by his or her own works. It is the same for the so-called great sages of this world such as Buddha, Confucius, and Socrates. A certain Korean Buddhist monk published a book recently with the title, “How Can I Become Enlightened When There Is No Truth.” He said there is nothing in this world that can be considered “the truth.” He is a very honest person since he acknowledged that he could not find “the truth” because there is no such a thing as “the truth” in Buddhism although he has led the life as a Buddhist monk for a very long time. This person is also like Sarah although he does not follow the Lord. It is because he has realized that it is impossible for him to become a righteous person by leading an ascetic life of a monk.
This is so true. Our flesh can never become perfectly righteous by us living in this world virtuously and morally. What is the way for you and me to become the righteous and go to the Kingdom of Heaven? Isn’t it only in Jesus? Do we not go to the Kingdom of Heaven by faith of believing in Jesus correctly? Every spiritual thing we possess becomes useless if it were not for Jesus Christ. Whether or not you have received the remission of sins, you can never become perfect in your flesh. We can be righteous only by our faith. How can this righteousness be attained? This righteousness is only received from God and we become the children of God by believing in Jesus, that is, by believing that Jesus Christ who is our Savior took all our sins upon Himself by the baptism of the water and paid for them by bearing the judgment for all our sins on the Cross. We become the righteous children of God with this faith. Please keep this firmly in your heart. The only way we can become the children of God is by believing in Jesus Christ the Son of God. We must acknowledge once again that it is impossible by our flesh. Do you acknowledge this?
God came to Abraham and spoke to him unilaterally. The Lord God appeared to Abraham and made him the ancestor of faith. I believe the way God spoke to Abraham at that time is the very Word God has spoken to us also. By the gospel of the water and the Spirit, Jesus Christ has saved you and me, we who could not become perfect in our flesh. But Jesus Christ made it possible for us to become the righteous. Our God has made us who are insufficient into the righteous. This is the work God accomplished, like the work He did by making Sarah have a child. That we have become the righteous is the promise and the blessing of the Almighty God. Do you believe?
Is there anything at all that we can make righteous in our flesh? No, there isn’t. We must really acknowledge this. Our God has made us, who are like this, the righteous. I give thanks to God. Halleluiah!