June 9-10, 2018
Genesis 22 is actually one of the most important chapters in the entire Old Testament. The reason I say that is because you get a picture of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us on the cross in giving Himself in our place the death that we deserved to die, He died instead. That is pictured for us so powerfully, so beautifully in chapter 22.
Also, in chapter 22, you begin to understand why it is that the temple there in Jerusalem is situated exactly where it is on Mount Moriah, in the center of Jerusalem. Also, you see in this chapter what victorious faith looks like because Abraham's faith is brought to the ultimate test and he passes this test superbly. When you come to your relationship to the Lord, one of the things that we've been establishing, as we've been looking at the life of Abraham, is that faith is everything.
Faith is meant to be used. It's meant to be lived. It's meant to be the foundation for how you live. It's interesting that faith is like exercise in the sense that the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. You can't say, "I tried that faith thing, and it didn't work for me." That's like saying, "I tried that gym thing and it didn't work for me." It would help if you did something while you were there.
Why the same is with faith, it would help if you use that faith and then you will find that it gets stronger as you use it. Abraham is called the father of faith, but he didn't start out with God always being victorious. He grew in his faith, and there were times when he failed as we're going to see, but Genesis 22 is about spectacular victory.
At this point, as we look at the story of Abraham, he's an old man at this point. He's walked with God many years, and he's now going to encounter the greatest test of his life. He's going to ask Abraham to place on the altar that which meant the most to him, his only son. There's a lot of personal application in the story because we hold on to things that God wants us to trust Him with. God wants to know, are we willing to lay them down before God and completely trust the blessing of God will follow.
As we read the story of it, because it's really an amazing chapter, we begin in verse 1 of chapter 22. "Now it came about after these things." After these things, meaning that God has fulfilled his promise. "He now has a son in his old age, Sarah bearing Isaac to him when she was 90." This is an absolute miraculous gift that God has given to them.
It says that after this and all the promises that are going to flow through Isaac that God said to him, "Abraham," and he said, "Here I am." And he said, "Now take now your son, your only son whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering, and one of the mountains of which I will tell you." Abraham rose early. I love verse 3.
He just responds immediately. He rose early in the morning, and he saddled his donkey and took two of his young men with him, and he took Isaac his son. He split wood for the burnt offering and he arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day. Interesting, third day, Abraham raised his eyes and he saw the place from a distance and he said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder and we will worship."
Now listen to this because it's very key, "We will go to the mountain, we will worship and we will return to you." He is demonstrating here a magnanimous faith when he says, "We, both of us, will return to you." Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and he laid it on Isaac, his son. Isaac is going to carry this wood up the mountain. We understand from that, that Isaac is not a young man. He's not like a little boy. He's very likely in his young '20s, maybe mid-20s, some suggest 30, but I think young to mid-20s, and he's a strong young lad. It said that he took the wood, put it on Isaac his son. He took in his hand, the fire and the knife. The two of them walked on together. Father and son heading together to Moriah. By the way, Mount Moriah is very important.
If you don't know where it is, it's very, very key. It's in the center of Jerusalem today, and in fact the temple was set forth on Mount Moriah. By the way, the highest point of Mount Moriah, you might be interested, in the highest point of Mount Moriah, Golgotha/Calvary, the place where Jesus died, highest point.
The two of them walked on together, and Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and he said, "My father." And he said, "Here I am my son." And he said, "Behold the fire and the wood, but where's the lamb for the burnt offering?" And Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering my son." Although I like the version that says, "God will provide Himself for the Lamb of the burnt offering."
The two of them walked on together, and they came to the place of which God had told them. Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the world. Which helps us to see that Isaac is completely willing here. He is moving in the faith of Abraham, his father, and he's completely willing.
Abraham, he stretched out his hand, and he took the knife to slay his son, but the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham." He was never so delighted to hear his name I'm sure. He said, "Here I am." "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad. Do nothing to him for now I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son from me."
Abraham raised his eyes and he looked and behold behind him there was a ram caught in the thicket by his horn. Abraham went, and he took the ram and he offered him out for a burnt offering in the place of his son. This is the key because it's a picture for us of Jesus Christ who took the death that we deserved, in our place He died.
One of the substitutionary atonement we see in theology great pictures of it right here, "He offered the ram in the place of his son and Abraham called the name of that place. Jehovah-Jireh." One of the famous names of God, meaning that God will provide. The word "provide" is the rudest provision. God sees, and God gives provision. Even to this day, it is said in the mount of the Lord it will be provided.
It became a famous saying amongst the Jews. Then the angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven, and he said, "By myself, I have sworn it." There's no one hired by which he could swear it. "Declares the Lord that because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you and I will greatly multiply your seed through Isaac." His only son.
"As the stars of heaven, as the sand on the seashore-" In other words, "You won't even be able to count them. They'll be so great and multitude. "Your seed will possess the gate of their enemies and in your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed." Now that's a key verse there because it's a picture of Jesus Christ through whom all the nations of the earth are blessed.
We are sitting here today because of that prophecy. Because Jesus is the blessing, they gave to us our provision of eternal life and forgiveness of sin. He said, "All of this blessing because you have obeyed my voice." Abraham returned to his young men and they arose, and they went together to Beersheba and Abraham lived at Beersheba there for a time.
I. Faith Must be Tested
Now let's look at these verses. They're very, very important. Starting with the application of this, that faith must be tested. It strengthens and so faith is going to be tested. It's the first time in the Bible that we have the word test here, but this is certainly not the first time that Abraham's faith has been tested. We can go over them and review them.
For example, there was the "follow God test". This is when God called Abram to leave his father's house to come out of Ur of the Chaldeans, go into this land, that He would show him a land that he had not known, that it would be given to him as a possession for his descendants forever. We know it today as Israel. On this test, I think we'd have to give him a C, maybe a C plus, because he only went halfway and stopped for a long time.
God had to urge him on again. He took his nephew Lot with him, which didn't go well, it ended badly. We give them a C on that one. Then there was the famine test. This is when he was in the promised land that God had said He would give to him, but there was a famine. He went down to Egypt to seek provision down in Egypt rather than trusting in the provision of God in the land that He was going to give to him. He goes down to Egypt and he gets into trouble there. He says a half lie. A half lie is of course a whole lie really. He tells Pharaoh that his wife, Sarah, is his half-sister, which is half true. I mean, it's true his half-sister, but he neglected to inform him that actually she was his wife and got him into the great troubles there. Pharaoh had to rebuke him, and he was escorted out of the country. Let's give him an F on that one.
Then there was the conflict test. This is when Abraham's herdsmen started to have conflicts with Lot's herdsmen because their herds were growing, their flocks were increasing, and there were some conflicts over the grazing land.
Abraham came to Lot and he said, "Let there be no conflict between us. You can choose whatever you want. If you go to the right, I'll go to the left. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right." Lot looked and behold, the Jordan Valley was rich, of course in garden, and so he chose that. They separated and there was peace between them. We're going to give them an A on the conflict test.
Then of course we cannot forget to mention the fatherhood test. This is where God promised him a son that would come forth out of his own body, but Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands. Sarah offered that Abraham bear a son through her handmaiden, the Egyptian maid, Hagar, and the result of it was more trouble than they can reckon and trouble that continues to this day because Ishmael became the father of the Arab nations, and the conflicts that are happening in the Middle East can be traced right back to this.
Even though Abraham and Sarah failed, God's promises, however, did not fail.
That's one of the great parts of the story, of course, is that God who promised is faithful in spite of their failures. Now when you come to Genesis 22, at this point, God has fulfilled His promise, and Abraham has a son, and their house is filled with laughter. Isaac's name means laughter. Their house is filled with laughter and joy ever since God gave Isaac to them through Sarah who had him when she was 90 years old.
I mentioned a couple of Wednesdays ago, something funny that I got to tell you about that, and that is I was talking to our granddaughter, Avia. Of course, we've adopted her. She was saying that she wants a sister. I said, "You want a sister?" "Yes, I want a sister. I'm the only child. You know, I want a sister." I said, "Really? Your grandma and I'd have a baby?" She says, "No, grandpa. I don't want an Abraham and Sarah thing."
I got, "Ugh." "Well, you're not getting a sister now. For sure" The houses filled with laughter and joy as God provided Isaac. But will Abraham's confidence be in that son, or would it be in the God who gave him that son? The point that we got to see is this: He's asking him to give to God. Really, we got to see that you-- God wants to us to give God that which means most, that which we hold dear.
A. Give God that which means most
If it means nothing, it's not really a test, is it? There's a law in the Jewish law that says that Jews are not allowed to eat vultures. I'm telling you right now, I can pass that test anytime. A whole assorted number of insects that they're not allowed to eat. Flying colors, I can pass that anytime because it means nothing. But there are other things we often hold onto and give them highest place in our lives.
You know that even good things can get out of order. They can be out of place even good things. For example, exercise. Exercise is a wonderful, good thing, but it can get out of order. In the sense that a person's physical body becomes the highest priority of their lives. It becomes that which is the highest place, it can get out of order.
A career. Careers are good thing. You provide for your family to have a provision, right? But it can get out of order. If it's the highest thing, the most important thing in your life, and all other things are suffering because of it, it's out of order. Or even your cell phone can be out of order. Right? What happens if you leave your home and you forget your cell phone. It's disaster. We got to go home and get that.
Here's a good test to see how important your cell phone is to you. How many minutes away from home, and then you realize you forgot your phone. Do you then turn around and go back? Five minutes? Oh, we're going back for sure. 10 minutes? Yes, we're going back for sure. Fifteen minutes? We're going back.
Because it's very important. Like you ever go to Starbucks, and there's a line of people, they're not talking to each other anymore. They're all looking at their cell phones. It's like, no one talks to anyone anymore. Yet, I'm convinced that we needed to lighten up and have some fun and talk to people. God wants us to have relationship. Okay, it reminds me of something funny that happened. I went to Cracker Barrel. Okay. There is a new Cracker Barrel unlimited. I'm like, "All right." When I go to the south, I love going to Cracker Barrel because there's a lot of them in the south, and it's kind of old fashioned look, it looks like a porch in rocking chairs. It's a cool effect.
I'm going into Cracker Barrel, and I'm walking on the porch and there's a guy, it's like this surreal scene. Here's the guy sitting by himself next to a checker game, a large checker game, half played, and he's by himself. I can't resist myself. I come up to him, "Okay, who's turn is it?" He says, "It's my turn" I said, "Well, go ahead and take your turn." So, he took his turn and I took my turn. I was like, "Yes." I gave him back before checkers later. But, hey, we got to lighten up and have relationship if things can get out of order in life. Has Isaac become an idol in Abraham's life? Has He become so important even more than God? Interesting thing. A couple of chapters back, it told us something interesting that when Isaac was weaned that Abraham made a great feast.
Really? He's weaned and you're going to throw a great feast, or you can be one of those kinds of dads. You know what I'm talking about? The kind of dad that celebrates. "We're going to have-- the kids graduating from kindergarten. We're going to have a great party." It's like everything is momentous because it's that important. Now I understand, firstborns are special. I remember when our oldest was born-- Jordy had a journal and she wrote down everything in that journal. Every special thing, every funny thing, every monumental thing. She held her binky in her hand today. Write it down in the journal, everything right? Then child number two comes along. Birthday, time they were born, put a picture in their... Child number three comes along. Forget the journal. No more journals. Child number five comes along.
We had five. As you know, we adopted two. Child number five comes along and pretty soon you're like, "Okay," Hey, your kid is outside eating dirt. "Yes, whatever." It's good for the immune system. But see the first child, it's different. First child, God tells Abraham, take his only son whom he loves, and this is the first time the word love is actually used in the scriptures because God is revealing something here. God is revealing something about himself here in this test.
It's a story about God giving His own son. That's the story. See, love is first mentioned in the New Testament in the book of Matthew 3:17, where it says, "This is my beloved son." Same words, same phrase, same thing in Luke, first mention of the word love. "This is my beloved son" Then in John, first mention of the word love is when Jesus said, "God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son."
This is a very important picture he's showing us because it's about so much love that God has. He says, "If you would lay on the altar that would you hold dear, you will find my love poured out to you." It's about that. You lay on that altar that what you hold dear and my love will be poured out to you. In the old days, you might say churches used to have a place in the front that was called the altar, a place where people would come and pray, receive Christ, so they would come and lay down whatever they've been holding onto. It's really good picture of this very thing. Ray Boltz, a number of years ago wrote a song called The Altar.
I want to read some of the words of that song. I promise I won't sing it, but it's a great song. I want to read you some of the words, "The service is nearing an end. The choir is singing just as I am. And now as the old song is played, people at the altar are kneeling down to pray. Some are finding mercy, forgiveness for their sin. Some are fighting battles that they're struggling to win. The time has come to give them to the Lord, for that's what this altar is for. A father is praying with a son, a mother kneels beside them, thanking God they've come. An old man is standing there in tears, giving up a part of him that he's held back for years. Hearts are being broken, lives are being changed. Those who call upon Him will never be the same. The time has come to give them to the Lord for that's what this altar is for."
B.Testing reveals the strength of faith
I love that song because the picture of that, that you give to the Lord, those things that you've been holding on to, that you thought were so dear to you. It's a test of faith in many ways. Because here's the thing, we have to see that testing reveals the strength of faith.
It says-- I love verse 3 because it says, "That Abraham rose early in the morning. He began to prepare for the journey. He saddled his donkey. He split the wood himself, didn't leave it for others." In other words, he responded to God immediately. When God is telling you to let go of something, that's the time to respond immediately because if you hold on to it, you'll find a way of talking yourself into keeping it. There's a time to wait and there's a time to let go. There's a time to let go immediately.
Some people go when they should wait and they wait when they should go. The key is that discernment to listen to God and to understand that He is preparing our lives. He wants to do a work. That's why He's saying these things because He is trying to do a work in our life.
Let me give you a great verse at Deuteronomy 8:2-3. "This is God speaking to Israel through Moses, before they come in to the promised land," and this is what He says, listen, "You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these 40 years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and then He fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know."
But listen to this because it's such a key verse. Next verse, quoted by Jesus, "That He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord." It's about that trust, isn't it? The word of the Lord speaks forth in power and asks us to trust Him because one of the great principles, and we saw this a couple of weeks ago when we were looking at the life of Abraham, is this very important point which becomes a foundation of faith. Is anything too difficult for the Lord? This is what the angel of the Lord, with God said to Abraham when He said to him again, "Your wife, Sarah, will have the son," and Sarah was eavesdropping in the tent, she overheard this, and she laughed in her heart. The angel of God said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh?" Saying, "Shall I bear a son in my old age?" Then he says, "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?"
II. Is Anything too Difficult for the Lord?
See, I'm convinced that those words would be ringing in Abraham's ears. Those words are powerful words. They were just ringing in his ears. Is anything too difficult for the Lord? And I'm convinced that Abraham has taken those words, and he has written them on his heart because he is convinced. In fact, indeed nothing is too difficult for the Lord because what we understand from the book of Hebrews 11 is that Abraham was so convinced that nothing is too difficult for the Lord, that he believed that if he was going to offer his son, that God was going to raise him from the dead because God said the all of these promises are going to be fulfilled through Isaac, and the only way that's going to happen is He will raise him from the dead because nothing is too difficult for the Lord.
Let me give it to you. Hebrews 11:17, 19, where it says, "By faith, Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten Son, for he considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead," for which he received him back as a type like just a picture of Jesus in it.
A.Are you willing to trust God?
The question as you look at Genesis 22, really to make it personal. The question is really this: Are you willing to trust God? See, that's really the question of the hour. Willing. Abraham was willing to trust God with that which he held most dear would appear. Isaac is willing. We believe he's mid '20s, certainly strong enough to carry the wood all the way up the mountain. He was certainly strong enough to resist his father if he wanted to. "Oh, we're going to put me in the altar?" "Why? You're the old man. You're going to go on the altar." He could have. He was strong, but he was willing to trust. He trusted his father's faith.
See willingness to let go, trust in God with that thing that's you're holding on to. When our girls were young, we used to play this game where I would hold something in my fist and they would, all three of them, worked together to try to open my fist. Then one would take the thumb and just all her might and she would work on my thumb, and she'll hold it. Then another one would take hold of a finger with all her might. These squealed with laughter at this game.
But it's a picture. It's a picture of the way. Some people, they clench their fist around some things in their lives, almost as if they're asking God-- daring, challenging God to try their fingers off of a thing.
But in reality, if we would let go of it, if we would trust God with it, God wants to help us. God wants to strengthen us. God wants to make that whatever it is better. Here's an illustration of it. How it did with my father. I mentioned recently about my father and many of you know my story. He was abusive. He was cantankerous. He was an alcoholic. It was difficult, abusive to her mother, but the good news of that story is that he came to faith in Jesus Christ when he was 75 years old. Did it in our church. I remember giving the invitation and there he received. My mother was standing next to him actually. He had long divorced her, and one day he came to me and he said he had actually moved away, moved back to Arkansas, but my oldest brother died. He took his own life and we brought him up for the funeral. There's a lot to that story, but when he came he was in my house living with me, and early in the morning we would have these talks and he said, "I've wasted all my life." I need your help. Whatever I have left, I want to make something of my life. Can I be part of your family? He didn't even come to my wedding. Can I be part of your family? Can I meet your children?
I said, you're welcome in my family. We made an arrangement. We brought him home, brought him back. I got him a place in the same apartment complex as my mother, and she's gracious, and he received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and she was standing right next to him, tears flowing down her face. But then we had a few years with him. He was getting up in age, and he got to the point where he needed help with his finances, and the family had determined that I was going to be the one to help him with this finances, and I was going to be the one to take his check book from him, and I sat down with him and I said, "Dad, you need help with your finances, and I'm going to help you."
He was strong. He had a strong constitution. When he came to faith in Christ, it wasn't a timid little. I think I might want to know. I said, "Who wants to receive Christ?" And I looked up, he was like this. Whenever he did, he did with strong constitution. "Dad, I want to help you. You need to trust me? I need you to give me the checkbook." He took the checkbook and he slammed it down. I picked up the checkbook and I handed it back to him. I said "No. No, not like that. No. I'm going to help you. I'm going to make it better. You're going to be able to pay all your bills. You're going to be able to have extra. Do you see I want to help you, but we have to be a team with this, and you've got to trust me. I'm asking you to give me the checkbook willingly. He picked up the checkbook and he put it in my hand like a gentleman. He shook my hand. I said, "Thank you and you will be helped. It will be better." See, this is the way-- It is a picture of the way people are with God. They insist on holding everything in their own clenched fist. But if we would just trust God, He'll make life better. He knows how to bless. He knows how to move. His help is generous.
The question is willingness. Willingness is a very important thing and it's important with God too. Reminds me of the story when Jesus came to the well at Bethesda, and there was a man there who had been ill for 38 years. This is John 5:6. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him this. He said, "Do you wish to get well?"
Let's see. This is a very important question, because frankly there's a lot of people who don't want to get well. They want to hold on to this thing. This thing which has kept him in prison for so long. Really, you don't want to get well?
B.Trusting God is also worship
They've held onto it for so long. They don't know what it means to be free. Really? Do you wish to get well? The man said, "Sir, I have no one to help me." He said, "Pick up your pallet and walk," and the man stood up, healed, picked up his pallet and walked. What a glorious picture because trusting God is also worship. That's one of the things we got to see from the story. See verse 5, "Abraham told the two men with them to wait while he and the lad went up to worship." Trusting God and putting that on the altar is part of worship. When you give something to God from your heart, it's certainly is worship.
But what God wants? and what God really wants is when you lay your heart on the altar. Here's my heart, Lord. Remember when someone asked Jesus, "What is the highest, what is the foremost thing of all of the things that God has ever said?"
This is Luke 10:27, Jesus answered and he said, "This is it. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart." That's what God wants. That's what God is asking. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind. Give God that. I'll tell you what, the blessings of God are going to flow in your life.
Romans 12:1-2, another picture of the very thing. He says, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, I urge you, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice" Which is acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
Don't be conformed to this world. Don't let them mold you into the shape of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Give God which matters most. He just came in your heart.
It's interesting, the Jews believe that in the very same place that Abraham offered Isaac, that was the same place where King David some years later was instructed by the Lord to bring an offering on an altar that was to be in response to a great sin in David's life. Great sin.
God said, "Put an altar there." The thing was, he didn't know that it was a threshing floor owned by a man named Araunah. David came to Araunah, and he said "I need that place. God has asked me to bring an altar and offering," because he knew he sinned greatly. Araunah said, "My king, you may have it. I willingly give it to you and take my oxen too. You want to make an offering, take my oxen, and in fact take the wood. I give it all to you, my King." King David said, "Oh, no. No."
Let me give it to you. 2 Samuel 24: 24: "However, the King said to Araunah, "No. I will buy it from you for the full price. I will not offer burn offerings to the Lord, my God, which costs me nothing." You got to see some great precious truth here. "No, I'm not going to give that which costs me nothing. I want to give that which is genuinely from my heart. It means so much"
That place, where David bought that land, built that altar, is the same place where Solomon, David's son, built the temple. The same place where Jesus when he returns at the end of the ages, sets foot on the Mount of Olives, and enters into Jerusalem, the same place that He will come and enter, and that He in fact will establish His throne and rule and reign the world.
C.Trusting God is blessed of God
That place where the Messiah Himself will come. See, because trusting God-- This is the thing we got to see other story that trusting God is bless of God. See, verses 15 to 18; "God is speaking to Abraham of all the blessings they're going to come into his life because he trusted Him with that which he held most dear." When you hold on with clenched fist, well, then you can't receive what God has in store, but if you willingly say, "God, I let go of those things and I trust You completely," then God can place in your lives those blessings, those which He knows is best.
Abraham gave Him his son, and God gave him back, and all the blessings that came with it and provided a ram. The picture of God providing His son. His life is given in exchange for our life. If we insist on holding on and then not offering them to God, we cannot receive those blessings. But offer that which you hold most dear.
Mark 8:35-37: He says, "Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it." Going to save your own life? Protect yourself? Find your own way? Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man? If you gain the whole world but forfeited your soul. What would a man give in exchange for a soul?
What is the value of a soul? This week in the news, perhaps you saw it, two celebrities took their own life, the tragedy. I tell you why that's a tragedy because they did not recognize the value of their soul. They didn't see the value. They discounted their soul.
God says, "You know how precious you are on My sight. You give me your heart, I give you, My son. The forgiveness of sin, eternal life, all the blessings that flow, I give you, My son. Do not discount the value of your life. Many people struggle with that. Let me say if you're struggling with that, when you hear these words, you are precious in the sight of God, and your soul is so valuable to the Lord that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever would believe in Him would have everlasting life. Would you trust God with that which you hold most dear? He will bless you more than you can even imagine.