|THE CISCO KID
Series: Abraham - Part Nine
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
April 2, 2017
We are at Genesis 22. To get us started we have a short quiz. So, if you will take out your mental styluses...
#1: In the Abrahamic Covenant, God promised Abram...
D. All of the above
Answer is D - all of the above.
#2: God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. The name Abraham means...
A. “Exalted Father.”
B. “Father Of Ham”
C. “Father Of Many”
D. “Blessed Of God”
Answer is C - Father Of Many
#3: Abraham told Abimelech that Sarah was his...
D. Lot’s wife
Answer is C - She’s my sister.
#4: When Isaac was born, Abraham was _____ years old.
Answer is D - 100
Last question. #5: When Abimelech and Phicol confronted Abraham, Abraham followed...
A. Plan A
B. Plan B
C. Plans A and B
D. Plan A - but he held out an option for Plan B
Answer A. Plan A. Always go with Plan A. Which is? Trust God - faithful obedience.
How’d you do? Fun. Yes?
We’ve been looking at Abraham and the lessons of faith he learned as he lived life with God. What God taught Abraham about trusting Him through the times Abraham messed up in his faith and the times Abraham remained faithful - obedient - trusting - God.
Coming to chapter 22 - we’re coming to a ginormous test of Abraham’s faith. What is familiar - intense.
Genesis chapter 22. Verses 1 to 8 lays out for us The Test. God’s testing of Abraham’s faith. Let’s read together:
Verse 1: After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
Familiar account. Yes? Let’s make sure we’re not missing what’s here for us.
Verse 1 begins: After these things… meaning after what things? After what we’ve just seen - chapter 21. After the birth of Isaac - the promised child - born when Abraham was 100 years old - Sarah was 90 - a huge miracle of God - and after the treaty with Abimelech - Abraham going with Plan A - After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
God calling the roll. “Abraham.” “Here.” Imagine being in a class - where God is the instructor and you’re the only student. One on one instruction with God. Intense.
Which is the way God treats us. Isn’t it? There are billions of students. But, we get individualized instruction. That’s how much God loves us. How much God wants us to get this.
Abraham is present. He’s shown up for class. He’s seated at his desk. He’s ready to learn.
Verse 1 tells us that the first thing on the lesson plan is a test. The word “test” in Hebrew has the idea of proving something.
Students can show up for class everyday but that doesn’t mean they’re learning. Right? The Chromebook is on but they’re on a different site.
The test here is to examine what Abraham has learned these last 40 plus years about living - faithfully obeying - trusting God.
Let’s be careful. God knows everything. God knows whether or not Abraham passes of fails before creation was created. So why the test?
The point of the test is not to prove to God what God already knows. But to show Abraham - and us - and everybody else - what it means to faithfully obey God. To live as God’s people trusting God.
Verse 2: He - God - said, “Take your son, your only son - which son? your only son - meaning Ishmael is not in the picture. We’re talking the son through whom God said He would fulfill His promises - take your only son Isaac, whom you love - which son? Isaac whom you love, - your only beloved son - the one you’ve bobbled on your knee - doted over - taken pride in - watched grow up into a young man - take your only beloved son - Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
Verse 2 is a word problem. A brutal test question. Yes? Take your only beloved son to Moriah and sacrifice him there - as a burnt offering. Work the problem and the answer is Isaac ends up dead.
Abraham isn’t some guy who’s hearing voices in his head that are telling him to go off and kill someone. Abraham is man centered on God. Well in possession of his faculties. If Abraham, hearing this for the first time, wouldn’t you struggle with this just a tad? How are we suppose to unwind all that in our minds?
Can you hear Abraham trying to process this?
“Why? This is the son of promise. What am I suppose to tell Sarah when I come back without Isaac? There’s no way I’m going to be able to come up with a story to cover this one. How am I suppose to find the strength to go through with this? God are you nuts? This can’t be right. God this can’t be your will? God, why would you ask me to do something like this?”
Ever been there?
We all face really tough stuff in life. Hard choices. Brutal circumstances. Drama. Where we don’t see what’s going on. When we can’t see a way out or through. When there is no logic to what’s happening to us. Situations and circumstances that are known to God. That God allows into our lives. God in the midst of all that saying, “Obey Me. Trust Me.”
And here, with Abraham, God is even leading him into all that. “Obey Me. Trust Me.”
There are times when what God asks of us goes beyond our understanding.
Verse 3: So Abraham rose early in the morning - when? Early in the morning - immediate complete faithful obedience - Abraham saddles his donkey - takes two of his young men with him and Isaac his only beloved son - splits wood for the burnt offering and heads out to the place where God told him to go.
Verse 4: On the third day - which day? On the third day.
Looking at the map. Abraham is probably here - in Beersheba. The mountains of Moriah are here. Could have taken them 3 days to make the trip. Could have taken them two or 4. But we’re told it took exactly 3 days.
Three days into the journey Abraham looks up and off in the distance he sees the place they’re heading. He turns to the young men - verse 4 - and tells them: “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”
Notice - after the worship - after the sacrifice - who’s coming back? “I and the boy.” “I’m not sure how God is going to work all this out but we’ll be back.” That’s faith.
In verse 6 Abraham takes the wood for the offering and lays it on Isaac to carry. Who’s carrying the wood for the sacrifice? Isaac, the only beloved son. Huge. Isn’t it? Where God is going with this?
Abraham carries the fire and the knife - the instruments of death - and they walk on together - father and son - up the hill. As they’re walking Isaac asks his father, “Father, I see the fire and the wood, but where’s the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Wouldn’t a question like that just rip you apart - as a father?
Verse 8: Abraham said, “God - Who? God will provide for Himself the lamb - the what? God will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. No more questions from the son. Amazing the trust that the son has in the father.
Verse 8 is the bottom line of Abraham’s heart attitude. What was going through Abraham’s heart and mind as he’s obediently following through - taking God’s test.
Hebrews 11 - starting at verse 17 - gives us insight into Abraham’s heart: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He - Abraham - considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” (Hebrews 11:17-19)
This is Plan A thinking. Plan A is what? Trust God - faithful obedience.
No matter what happens - trust God. Win or lose. Joy or sorrow. Comfort or pain. In sickness or in health. Humiliation or exaltation. Riches or poverty. Even if we can’t connect all the dots. Whether it makes sense to us or not. With the flow or against the tide. Live or die. Even in death - trust God. God will fulfill His promises.
Can we hear Abraham? Repeating over and over to himself... “God has given me promises. God has always come through on His promises. God has made promises that can only be fulfilled if Isaac lives. Even if Isaac dies - God will fulfill His promises. God is still God. If God has asked me to offer Isaac as a sacrifice then the only answer is that God can raise Isaac from the dead.”
For three days - traveling from Beersheba to Moriah - in Abraham’s eyes Isaac is already dead. Abraham has no clue about Lazarus and the resurrection of Jesus and the many others who’ve been brought back from death. He’s not looking back on this from our perspective of future history. This isn’t some familiar account we’ve read before. All He knows is that God will provide. God will take care of it. Go with Plan A.
“You guys stay with the donkey. We will be back.”
Bottom line: Abraham’s answer to the test question is faithful obedience. Trust God and go to Moriah with Isaac. Follow God’s instructions.
Verses 9 to 14 is The Answer. The answer key. God’s answer to the test question.
Read with me - verse 9: When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.
It takes time to build the altar. To find and arrange the stones. A raised pit large enough to place Isaac on. Perhaps it was all done in silence. A solemnity.
Each piece of wood has been carried to the place of sacrifice by his son. Abraham had build many altars. The wood was arranged with expertise - laid out in order - to make the fire burn the sacrifice - Isaac - completely.
Then to bind Isaac - immovable - laid upon the altar. It’s not hard to imagine that while Abraham is doing all this he’s thinking of how long he and Sarah waited to have a child. Images of Isaac’s childhood playing through Abraham’s mind. The future they envisioned for him. With love Abraham binds his son.
“Slaughter” in Hebrew is the word “shachat”. It means “to execute.” We can almost hear the sound of the blade slicing through the flesh. “shaw-khat.” Clean. Decisive. Abraham takes the knife. Raises his hand - ready to “shaw-khat” his only beloved son.
There is no doubt that Abraham fully intends to go through with this.
Verse 11: But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” There’s urgency in that: “ABRAHAM STOP!”
Who calls to Abraham? “The angel of the Lord.”
Studying through how that title gets used elsewhere in Scripture - and what we saw back in chapter 17 when we looked at Hagar and Ishmael - and later on in chapter 22 down at verse 16 - when “the angel of the Lord” speaks as God Himself - the title refers specifically to the preincarnate Jesus - who comes to speak God’s message to Abraham.
Going on at verse 12: He - Jesus - said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
From Who? “From Me” God.
Actions speak louder than… words. We can say whatever we want about what we believe but all of us are going to live out what we really believe at the heart level. Our actions demonstrate what’s in our heart. Testify to us and others what we really believe about God. When we’re out there in Mercedland - when our faith hits the asphalt of life - what we really believe is going to come out in how we’re doing life.
The sacrifice of Isaac is an outward demonstration - a proving of the reality of Abraham’s heart level faith. Abraham demonstrated - to himself and all mankind - his inner commitment and surrender to God by his willingness to lay his entire prosterity and the promise of God - Isaac - on the altar.
God says, “You pass. You’ve demonstrated your faith.”
Going on - verse 13 - let’s go on reading together: And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
Let’s make sure we’re together with God.
The ram - the male lamb offered by God in place of Isaac - is the first mention of substutionary sacrifice in Scripture.
Where the exact spot is that God led Abraham to build his altar we don’t exactly know. But the hills of Moriah we do know are here - Jerusalem - specifically what we know today as the Temple Mount. Which today looks like this. You can see in the middle the Dome of the Rock.
Traditionally the exact location of the sacrifice is inside the Dome of the Rock - what looks like this today.
Here - at the place that Abraham was led to sacrifice Isaac - is the place David set aside to build the first Temple - the focal point of the entire Hebrew sacrificial system. The one place where it was acceptable to offer sacrifices to God - in faith believing that He - God - would forgive the sins of His people.
Abraham calls this place “The Lord will provide.” In Hebrew its the name of God - Jehovah Jireh. “The God who see’s to it.” Or, “The God who’s got it covered.” God’s people looked at the Mount of the Lord and said, “God’s got it covered.” Who’s got it covered? God. Who fulfills His promises? God.
Isaac is Abraham’s only beloved son. That image is used both in the old and new testaments to identify the Messiah - Jesus, the Christ. (Psalm 2:7; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35)
John writes - John 1:14 - The Word - God the Son - Jesus - became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NASB)
In Matthew 3 - as Jesus is being baptized - as He rises from the Jordan River - the sky opens - the Holy Spirit descends - the voice of God the Father declares of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
The ram foreshadows the whole Levitical sacrificial system which finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ - our once for all sacrificed lamb. In John 1:29 - John the Baptist - points to Jesus and declares, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
We can go on with this. Isaac caries the wood. Jesus carries a cross. Isaac is offered up on the third day - and yet is set free. God - through the resurrection of His Son on the third day - proves the validity of our faith - assures us of what we hope for - demonstrates the reality of our forgiveness - our freedom from judgment and eternal death.
That Jesus Himself is present at the sacrifice is not an accident. Behind all of what we see going on here is God’s ultimate answer to every test of our faith - whatever the struggle - whatever the question - the living in the flesh reason why Plan A always - always - works.
Faith is the search for what is reasonable to believe in. Christianity is a reasonable faith. The whole of what we believe as Christians is not based on myths and stories but truth and real time events witnessed by real people in real places. What’s here in God’s answer is what Abraham believed by faith that we understand as accomplished fact. Fact that strengthens the reasonableness of our faith.
The bottom line of God’s answer to the test is Jesus. Try this together. “God’s answer is Jesus.”
Verses 15 to 19 focus on God’s Blessing. God - Jesus - swearing by Himself - promising to fulfill His - God’s promise.
Verse 15: And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.
God isn’t some maniacal God Who gets His jollies watching us jump through hoops - putting us through one test of faith after another - just because He gets His kicks out of watching us suffer down here. There’s purpose in these tests.
Bottom line - after this huge test of Abraham’s faith - God once again renews His promise to Abraham. God blesses Abraham - rewards Abraham - reminds Abraham that trusting God isn’t about trials - it’s about God’s blessing. God’s presence and peace with us through life. God at work in us and through us to accomplish His purposes for His glory.
Processing all that… for when we head out of here into what’s waiting for us out there.
How many of you have seen The Karate Kid? Quick scene set-up.
Daniel - moves from New Jersey to Reseda with his mom. Daniel gets pounded on by these other kids who know karate. Daniel meets Mr. Miyagi who agrees to teach Daniel karate. Agreement being whatever Mr. Miyagi says to do, Daniel is to do without question. Just trust Mr. Miyagi the teacher. Plan A thinking.
(Video: The Karate Kid)
In Romans chapter 12:1,2, the Paul puts faithful obedience into real time: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1,2)
“Present” - meaning showing up. Commitment to be where God calls us to be. “Abraham.” “Here I am.” - “Present.”
Paul writes, “present your bodies.” Our bodies are the physical means through which everything else that we are - mind - will - emotion - is presented to God.
Daily - second-by-second moment-by-moment we need to choose to live by faith in God - laying ourselves without reservation on the altar before Him. Commitment to Christ. Commitment to Christ’s Body.
Paul writes that our presentation is to be “holy and acceptable.” That which is holy is dedicated - completely set apart - only for God’s use. Acceptable in that God makes us to be acceptable to Him.
In the Old Testament - with the Tabernacle or the Temple - they set apart pots and utensils and furniture - things that were dedicated to God and only used in serving and worshiping God. Sprinkled with the blood of some sacrificed animal.
1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
That price is the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ. Come by faith to God through Jesus and God applies Jesus’ blood to our lives. God - in Jesus - purifies us and He mercifully sets us apart - enables us - and allows us to worship Him. Imagine - God Himself by His mercy sets us aside for His use. God making us holy for His use. Acceptable to Him.
To present ourselves - Paul writes - is our “spiritual worship.” To present ourselves in worshipful service of God is the only logical reasonable response to God’s mercy.
God our creator who creates out of nothing everything that is - including us. We being a collection of atoms created out of nothing and held together solely by the will of God. For His purposes. For His glory. Heard that?
Living sacrificial holy worship is giving to God what’s already His. That means that it’s just wrong to hold back anything of ourselves from God’s work in us - and His glorifying Himself through us - whenever, wherever, and in whatever way He chooses. Total commitment. Present yourselves. That’s intense. Isn’t it? Wax on. Wax off.
Romans 12:2 is a promise: Do not be conformed to this world - which is totally focused on trusting self - but - instead - be transformed by the renewal of your mind - which is what happens when we commit to living by faithful obedience. God transforming us to be live totally focused on Him - so - that by testing - think God testing Abraham. But here - it’s God’s will that’s being examined - God’s faithfulness being demonstrated for all to see - so - that by testing you may discern what is the will of God - so that we will come to understand that the will of God is - good and acceptable and perfect.”
When we’re choosing to present ourselves on the altar - by faith - doing whatever God requires of us - even if we don’t see the big picture or grab the logic of it - even if we don’t understand all of what God is doing in us and through us and in the drama around us - if we will by faith give ourselves moment-by-moment - circumstance-by-circumstance totally over to God - we will find that God will and does fulfill His promises to us.
There is a huge - hand on to that - promise in all that. He - God - will transform us and bless us and use us and empower us and work through us and sustain us - even prepare us for greater tests of our faith that He knows are coming - even to use us to serve Him - in ways that go way beyond anything we could put together - according to His great purposes and for His honor and glory - now and forever.
The take home is this - for whatever you’ve got waiting for you out there this week - what we discover as we commit to Plan A - trust God - faithful obedience - is that God’s will is always good and acceptable and perfect. God will always pass the test.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.