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DRIVING THE VULTURES AWAY FROM THE SACRIFICE

(SERMON #68 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, January 20, 2013


When I was a very young man I went with my pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin, to the Southern Baptist Convention, held that year in San Francisco. There was a great controversy in that day over a liberal Southern Baptist textbook that attacked the Book of Genesis. Dr. Lin went to speak “from the floor” against that book, which he did. I was only 22 years old, but I determined that one day I would write a book defending Genesis. I see now that this book will some day be composed of these sermons. This is number sixty-eight in that series. Please stand and turn with me to Genesis 15:11.

“And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away” (Genesis 15:11).

You may be seated.

Abram was an old man, and he had no children. God appeared to him in a vision and told him his offspring would be like the stars of heaven in number. “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). “He believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Thus Abram was saved by faith in the Lord, and not by good works. But Abram asked the Lord to confirm his faith. The Lord determined to visit him and make a covenant with him, giving him and his offspring the land of Canaan. Abram was told to bring a heifer, a she goat, a ram, a turtle dove, and a pigeon, and divide them in the middle. He “cut the covenant,” which was an ancient custom of cutting animals in half, so the two sides of the pledging parties in the covenant could walk between the parts, agreeing that their own life should end if they failed to honor their part of that covenant (cf. Jeremiah 34:18-21). The sacrifice was a type of the great sacrifice of Christ, who fulfilled all of the sacrifices of the Old Testament.

Abram obeyed God, and laid the pieces of the sacrifice out on the ground. Then, he waited for the Lord to reveal Himself. But then the vultures came. Out on the desert in Arizona I have seen vultures appear so suddenly that it seemed like magic. If an animal is killed on the highway, the sky is almost immediately full of these birds, circling the carcase. I do not know how they come so quickly, but they do. Science probably solved that mystery long ago, but I do not know the solution. Jesus said, “Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the [vultures] be gathered together” (Matthew 24:28).

This passage speaks of the Abrahamic Covenant. This was to be the confirmation of the covenant already promised to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3, in which God promised him that his seed would inherit the land of Canaan. But our purpose tonight is not to study that covenant, but to see this as a lesson which applies to us today. To do so we will focus on the text,

“And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away” (Genesis 15:11).

In this sermon, we will focus on the sacrifice of the carcases, and the fowls that came down.

I. First, the sacrifice of the carcases.

Every sacrifice in the Old Testament points to Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. And this is no different.

“[Abram] said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not” (Genesis 15:8-10).

When Abram asked how he would know that he would inherit the land, Arthur W. Pink said, “The Lord answers by putting Christ, in type, before him.” Then Pink said, “The typical picture is wonderfully complete...Each [animal] foreshadowed a distinctive aspect of Christ’s perfections and work. The heifer of three years seems to have pointed to the freshness of His vigor; the goat, gave the sin-offering aspect; the ram is the animal that in the Levitical offerings was connected specially with consecration. The birds told of One from Heaven. The ‘three years,’ thrice repeated, suggests perhaps the time of our Lord’s sacrifice, offered after ‘three years’ of service! Note that death passed upon them all, for without shedding of blood is no remission and where no remission is there can be no inheritance” (Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings in Genesis, Moody Press, 1981 edition, pp. 168, 169).

Anyone who reads the Old Testament ought to know how important the animal sacrifices were. And, when we read the New Testament, we see how all these sacrifices point to the suffering and death of Jesus to save us from our sins. The Book of Hebrews says, 

“If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14).

The carcases of those animals and birds, laid out before the Lord by Abram, pointed clearly and definitely to the sacrifice of Jesus.

I read Spurgeon’s sermons nearly every day. I am delighted as I read his constant references to the suffering of Jesus. He often takes us into the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane. We are told of Jesus’ anguish as the sins of the world are placed upon Him there. We see Him crushed by our sins as He prays, and His sweat, “as it were great drops of blood,” soaks the ground beneath the Saviour’s prostrate body.

Then the great preacher takes us to the chief priest, where Jesus is dragged by the howling mob. We see the Saviour beaten, and we see them spit in His face, and pull out patches of His beard. Then Spurgeon takes us to Pilate’s hall, and he tells us of the awful scourging of Jesus’ back, and the cruel crown of thorns pushed down upon His brow. Next, he guides us down the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrow, as the Saviour falls again and again under the weight of His cross. At last he tells us of Jesus, with nails piercing His hands and feet, dying in our place, to atone for our sins, upon the accursed tree!

But Spurgeon seldom stops there. He takes us then to the tomb, where Jesus’ mangled body is placed, and we are left there in the darkness, facing the great boulder that seals the Saviour’s sepulchre. Then the great preacher takes us through the early morning gloom, with the women. We stand in awe with them as we hear the angel say,

“Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:5-6).

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
The powers of death have done their worst,
   But Christ their legions hath dispersed:
Let shouts of holy joy outburst, Alleluia!

The three sad days have quickly sped;
   He rises glorious from the dead:
All glory to our risen Head, Alleluia!

He closed the yawning gates of hell;
   The bars from heaven’s high portals fell:
Let hymns of praise his triumphs tell, Alleluia!

Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee,
   From death’s dread sting Thy servants free,
That we may live and sing to thee, Alleluia!
   Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
(“The Strife Is O’er,” translated by Francis Pott, 1832-1909).

“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3-4).

That is the Gospel! That is our message! That is our song, and that is our hope! And that is what Abram’s sacrifice pointed to and typified! Amen and amen!

“And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away” (Genesis 15:11).

II. Second, the fowls that came down.

The Hebrew has it literally, “the vultures.” Of what can these ravenous scavengers speak? What is it that they typify? I have no doubt that they illustrate Satan and his unclean spirits. How little we hear of demons in our churches now. At the very moment when our nation is being drowned in evil, and every day we hear of monstrous sins we never knew when I was young – in this hour of darkness – we hear almost nothing of Satan and his demons in our pulpits. By giving us only happy sermons, many preachers have failed to arm us “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). But by neglecting demonology, they have left our people an easy prey for Satan who “walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).

The Lord Jesus spoke of “the fowls of the air” that come to devour the precious seed of the Gospel (Luke 8:5). And Jesus did not leave us in doubt concerning who those fowls were, for He said, “Then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12).

“And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away” (Genesis 15:11).

We cannot doubt that these foul birds were sent by the Devil to consume those covenant sacrifices. And, of course, the Devil comes in at every opportunity to pluck the Gospel from the hearts of sinners – and to pluck it from our churches too!

Back in the early 20th century the attacks came against the substitutionary death of Christ on the Cross. This was the demonic attack Spurgeon preached against so strongly, and so well. In our time the attack is more subtle. Preachers pay lip service to Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice – but they seldom preach on it! Even in fundamental churches we hardly ever hear a whole sermon devoted to Christ’s suffering and death. Dr. Michael S. Horton pointed out that hardly anyone preaches whole sermons on any aspect of Christ. His book is called Christless Christianity (Baker, 2008). I wish every preacher in America would read it – and then ask themselves, “When was the last time I preached a sermon centered completely on Christ?” I think many of them would be shocked if they honestly asked themselves that question.

Most sermons today are focused on man, man’s needs, man’s feelings, man’s problems, man’s happiness, but not on Christ! Dr. David F. Wells has also noticed this trend. He said, “So much evangelical...preaching...is actually self-oriented, not God-centered. It is about what we do, about what we get, not about what God has done or about what He gives us in Christ...not about what God has given us in Christ’s death in our place” (David F. Wells, Ph.D., The Courage to Be Protestant, Eerdmans, 2008, pp. 182, 183).

Do you think he was being too hard? Ask yourself, when was the last time you heard a whole sermon on Christ’s crucifixion, on His resurrection, even on His Second Coming (not our Rapture, but His Second Coming!)? Even in Bible-believing churches, most sermons are based on our needs and feelings – not on Christ Himself!

“And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away” (Genesis 15:11).

Somewhere, somehow, somebody needs to stand up and drive the vultures away from Christ’s sacrifice! Somewhere, somehow, somebody needs to stand up with the Apostle Paul and say,

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

Somebody says, “That won’t meet our needs.” I say, It will meet our needs – a lot better than some warmed over pop-psychology from Oprah Winfrey, The Reader’s Digest, or Joel Osteen! The Apostle said,

“Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:30-31).

“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (I Corinthians 1:22-24).

Christ – the power of God! Christ – the wisdom of God! Christ is all I need! And Christ is all you need! Those who know the Saviour can say with Paul,

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

Let everyone who hears this sermon determine to exalt the name of Jesus, and His dying love for us upon the Cross! Let every one of us commit our lives to the old Gospel, believe it, preach it, and witness it to those who are lost! What they need is not pop-psychology or self-help talks. What they need is the Blood drenched Gospel of Christ!

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
   Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
   It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story; more wonderful it seems
   Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams.
I love to tell the story, it did so much for me;
   And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.

I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
   Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
   ’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.
I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory
   To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
(“I Love to Tell the Story” by A. Catherine Hankey, 1834-1911).

Mercy rewrote my life,
   Mercy rewrote my life.
I was lost in sin,
   But Jesus rewrote my life.
(“Mercy Rewrote My Life” by Mike Murdock, 1946-, altered by the Pastor).

I will praise Him! I will praise Him!
   Praise the Lamb for sinners slain;
Give Him glory, all ye people,
   For His blood can wash away each stain!
(“I Will Praise Him” by Margaret J. Harris, 1865-1919).

“And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away” (Genesis 15:11).

Now listen carefully, lost sinner. Christ Jesus died in your place, to pay for your sins, on the Cross. He had you in mind when He went to the Cross. He had you in mind as He hung there bleeding and suffering, to pay for your sins. He had you in mind when He cried out “It is finished” and died in your place, to atone for your sins. And Jesus looks down on you from Heaven tonight. He is praying for you. He has you in mind. He calls you, “Come unto me...and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Will you come to Him? Will you trust Him tonight? The Devil will come and whisper to you, “It won’t happen. You won’t be saved.” Drive the Devil away – as Abram drove away those vultures. Don’t listen to that foul fiend! Reject his thoughts. Drive him away from the sacrifice! Come, and trust your heart to Jesus. He will pardon you. He will justify you. He will save you – now! We are going to sing those little choruses – “Mercy Rewrote My Life” and “I Will Praise Him.” If you want to talk with us about being saved, and becoming a real Christian, please step to the back of the room while we sing. Dr. Cagan will lead you to a quiet room where we can talk and pray. Go now while we sing.

Mercy rewrote my life,
   Mercy rewrote my life.
I was lost in sin,
   But Jesus rewrote my life.

I will praise Him! I will praise Him!
   Praise the Lamb for sinners slain;
Give Him glory, all ye people,
   For His blood can wash away each stain!

Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Kyu Dong Lee: Genesis 15:1-18.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“A Crown of Thorns” (by Ira F. Stanphill, 1914-1993).


THE OUTLINE OF

DRIVING THE VULTURES AWAY FROM THE SACRIFICE

(SERMON #68 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away” (Genesis 15:11).

(Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6; cf. Jeremiah 34:18-21; Matthew 24:28)

I.   First, the sacrifice of the carcases, Genesis 15:8-10; Hebrews 9:13-14;
 Matthew 28:5-6; I Corinthians 15:3-4.

II.  Second, the fowls that came down, Ephesians 6:12; I Peter 5:8;
Luke 8:5, 12; I Corinthians 2:2; 1:30-31, 22-24; Philippians 4:13;
Matthew 11:28.