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Abraham's God Provides (e)

Genesis 22:1-19

James R. Davis

We all know something about taking test. We've taken test in school, in college, and in numerous other areas of our lives. Some we have passed, some we have probably failed and some of us have probably missed a few. I had one professor in college that believed that test are teaching tools. Test help you understand how much you know or how much you don't know about a subject. He actually believed that you could learn from taking test. If you really think about it, you realize that you can learn from taking test. You can learn how to take certain types of test. You can learn that you might need to brush up in a few areas of learning before the final test comes.

James tells us that spiritual test prove and improve our character. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)

When we come to Genesis 22 we come to Abraham's final exam. He had many other exams. Some of which he failed and others on which he just barely scraped by. I think to understand Genesis 22, you have to understand the entire battery of test Abraham had been through and how he fared on some of them.

Abraham had gone through the test of leaving Ur of the Chaldees when God called. He was tested when he was called to leave his father and family which he was only able to do when after his father died. He was tested by a famine that left him in Egypt fending for himself. His nephew Lot tested him when strife became a problem over the watering holes and pastureland; he learned that at times he had to give up his rights and trust God for the outcome. He had been tested for twenty-five years waiting on a son to be born. This was a great test now that Abraham and Sarah were speedily passing up all physical possibility of bearing a child at 100 and 90 years old. In the meantime he decided to have a son by his concubine, Hagar. He was tested when he eventually had to send Hagar and Ishmael away to solve family problems. He was hoping that God's blessing would come through Ishmael whom he loved very much.

"As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed-- the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead-- since he was about a hundred years old-- and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised." (Romans 4:17-21)

As we find Abraham here in Genesis 22, he is making preparation for that final test. He has had the promised child and now God asks him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. By this time in Abraham's life, God had pried his fingers loose from everything he had held to be dear and sacred. He pried his fingers loose from one thing at a time in spite of Abraham's reluctance. He had lost his father through death, his nephew through strife. He tried to take care of himself by making his own plans to live in Egypt. God pried his fingers loose from those plans. He had been separated from Ishmael.

As Abraham stands on Mt. Moriah, he only has Isaac left and now God wants him as a sacrifice. This was the test that all the other test had prepared him to take. This was the sacrifice of his son Isaac. It had been about 35 to 40 years since Abram obeyed the call of God. Now God gives him the final exam.

"Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." (Genesis 22:1-2)

Several years have elapsed since the birth of Isaac. Isaac has been the delight of his parents' hearts. True to his name, he has brought laughter into their tent; the whole family life centers around this dear boy as he grows up to young manhood. Suddenly like a thunderbolt from the sky comes this word from God. Abraham can hardly believe his ears: God says, "Now take your son Isaac, your only son whom you love, and go to Mount Moriah and offer him up on that mountain."

God was putting Abraham to the supreme test of life, the absolute sacrifice and surrender of himself to God. Step by step God led him to the point of absolute surrender. You can imagine what a blow this was in Abraham's life. It is specifically called a test. That means it was meant by God to determine if Abraham's confidence is in his son Isaac, or in God who gave him his son. He led Abraham to absolute surrender by taking the most precious things in his life and leading him to sacrifice it all to God. It was Abraham's heart, his willingness, and Abraham's spiritual surrender that God was after.

"The Lord Will Provide"
 
 
 

Abraham arose early to begin the longest journey of his life:

"Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about" (Gen 22:3).

You can only wonder about the early hour? Did it reflect the resolve of Abraham to do God's will. It may also reflect some human factors. Had sleep completely evaded Abraham? Did he rise early to conceal this thing from Sarah?

Now notice that when morning comes, Abraham's obedience is prompt and complete. Though his heart is torn, yet he obeys God. I am impressed at the obedience of this man Abraham.

Obedience is the secret of his life?

We are so inclined to excuse ourselves from hard things and to rationalize our way out of difficult situations, relieving the pressure and avoiding certain unpleasant situations. We don't like disturbing questions, and unsettling challenges. When it comes right down to it, we don't like to take hold of ourselves and say, "I am going to obey God!"

We sometimes get all worked up, and believe our emotions will melt the heart of God and change his mind. But God knows that when he tells us to do something it is necessary to obey. It is necessary for our benefit, for his benefit, and for everyone concerned. He expects us to obey. I am impressed with Abraham's obedience. When he hears God tell him to offer his son as a burnt offering, Abraham obeys.

After a heart-breaking three-day journey, the mountain of sacrifice was in full view.

"On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you." Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together . . . " (Genesis 22:4-6)

Notice that Abraham said, "We" will worship and "We" will come back to you. These are not words idly spoken; they reflect a deep trust in God.

As the two climb the Mountain to make a sacrifice, Isaac ask an all important question:

"Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?" "Yes, my son?" Abraham replied. "The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" (Genesis 22:7)

Then Abraham answered:

"Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together."(Genesis 22:8)

Each step of the way Abraham must have hoped for some change of plans, some alternative course of action. Each step would bring him closer to a place to worship God. It must have challenged the obedience of his faith--yet he OBEYED!

The place was reached, the altar built, and the wood arranged. At last there was nothing left but to bind Isaac and place him upon the wood and plunge the knife into his heart?

Only when the knife was lifted high, glistening in the sun, did God restrain Abraham from offering up his son:

"Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied.

"Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." (Gen 22:10-12)

At the point of death it was evident that Abraham was willing to forsake all, even his son, his only son, for God. While God knew the heart of Abraham, Abraham's reverence was now evident.

Isaac was as good as dead as far as God was concerned.

"Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son." (Gen 22:13)

Abraham called the place by a new name:

"So Abraham called that place (Jehovah-jireth in Hebrew) The LORD Will Provide (or "The Lord Sees.") And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." (Gen 22:14)

Mount Moriah is the very place where in later years King David bought the threshing floor of Ornan as a place for the site of the temple. (1 Chronicles 21:18) On that very place where Abraham offered Isaac, the temple of Solomon was built. (2 Chronicles 3:1) This is the area of Israel where Jesus would have finished his days preaching and dying--before His return from the dead. It was on this mountain where the veil of the temple was torn into from top to bottom when Christ died on the cross. The Jews always looked to Jerusalem for deliverance. It was on this mountain that God would provide. It was the place where Abraham was the first to offer his son. Jesus would later turn this mountain into Mount Calvary.

God Calls Each of Us to Make the Same Sacrifices

We may read this account in Abraham's life and conclude that God tests us by directing us to do that which is totally unreasonable. The danger is that we will tend to assume that whatever does not make sense is likely to be the will of God. Many critics have suggested that Christians are those who take their hats and their heads off when they enter the church. This is not so.

Yet, what Abraham was commanded to do seemed to be unreasonable. Through Isaac Abraham was to be the father of multitudes. How could this be if Isaac were dead? Was God not asking Abraham to act on faith without reason? It is not until you read the Hebrew writer's inspired version that you understand what Abraham was thinking. Notice what the writer to the Hebrews says:

"By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, 'It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.' Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death" (Hebrews 11:17-19)

The Hebrew writer stressed that Abraham "reasoned." Abraham reasoned that should his son die, he would return from the dead! The Holy Spirit gives us this insight. He acted in faith, having received the promises that would be carried out through a LIVING son--not a dead one.

If God could give a son to a father and mother who at such a late age in life were considered as good as dead as far as conceiving a son was concerned, then God could bring him back from the dead.

Abraham had never had, as we have today, the experience or the record of anyone having risen from the dead. He knew nothing of Jesus or of Lazarus, nor the miracles in the Gospel accounts. Yet so firm is his faith in the character of God that he comes to a realization of the resurrection.

Abraham had learned the major lesson in life: God's Word is absolutely true and reliable. His promises are immutable. It is impossible for God to lie. God had promised a son through Sarah through whom the blessings were to be given. Abraham believed God (Genesis 15:6). God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham believed God and obeyed Him even though human reasoning would question the wisdom of it.

Abraham's reasoning was based upon what he had learned from all the other test he had taken over the years. God had continually proven to be his provider and protector. God's sovereign power had repeatedly been demonstrated, even among the heathen such as Pharaoh and Abimelech. When Abraham prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah and God listened. While Abraham and Sarah were "as good as dead" so far as children were concerned, God gave them the promised child.

God had brought Abraham to a place where he had no where to look but up. When Abraham looked up he realized that God would provide. He always had and He always will.

The world likes to believe that they act upon reason while Christians act without thinking. That is wholly false. There are two kinds of reasoning: worldly reasoning and godly reasoning.

When Peter rebuked Christ for talking about his sacrificial death, Peter was thinking humanly.

"Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt 16:22-26)

There are two mindsets: the godly mind and the worldly mind:

"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so." (Rom 8:5-7)

There is a great paradox about living an obedient godly life. We gain life by giving up our lives. Abraham gained his son by giving him up to God.

We get ahead in God's eyes when we put ourselves behind others. "The greatest among you will be your servant." (Matthew 23:11)

We lead by serving; we save our lives by losing them. "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:25)

God's ways are not man's ways!

Today God Calls Us

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matt 10:37-39)

When God pries our fingers loose from what we hold dear, we become valuable to the world in which we live. Abraham became our faithful father because of a willingness to have his fingers pried loose. If he had failed, we would not be blessed today. There would be no Calvary on Mt Moriah today. It is the same with our children and grandchildren, until they see that same commitment in our lives, there will never be any reason for them to make that commitment.

There was a story of two sailors who alone survived a shipwreck. They were adrift at sea on a makeshift raft. After all hope of rescue was lost, one asked the other if they should pray. Both agreed, and one had just begun to cry to God for help when the other interrupted, "Hold it, don’t commit yourself, I think I see a sail." This is the way the world thinks.
 

God Has Made Provision for Each of Us

God sometimes must bring us to the point where we find Abraham on Mount Moriah--totally depending upon God for deliverance. It is there that we must acknowledge that God has provided.

Someone said, "Abraham started up one side of that mountain and the lamb started up the other side."

If you think that you have no way out, all you have to understand is that God has provided. You can look up to him. He invites you too. The provision was made 2000 years ago for your salvation. It was promised to come through Isaac. Abraham wants us to know that our God is Jehovah-jireh a providing God.

God’s provision has been made by the death of His sinless Son, Jesus Christ, on Calvary 2000 years ago. If you have reached the point of despair, my friend, I want you to know it is also the point of help and salvation. Cast all your hope upon the Christ of Calvary, and you will surely find salvation.

We Must Accept God's Terms

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."(Genesis 22:15-18)

Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. (James 2:21-23)

Promises are made to us today for forgiveness and eternal life but we must accept them through faith.

 Abraham shows once again that "faith only" is not what saves, but faith that hears and obeys.

Jesus said, "I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am, you will indeed die in your sins." (John 8:24)

Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. (John 10:27-29)

If you are Jesus' sheep or if you want to be Jesus' sheep you must listen to his voice and follow him, then you will have eternal life. The same requirement that Abraham met: he heard the voice of God and followed.

God doesn't ask us to sacrifice our children today. God ask us to present ourselves as a living sacrifice.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:1-3)

Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

Paul also said, "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." (Romans 6:3-7)

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Gal 3:26-29)

 

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