Hope In Christ Bible Church 4/21/19
I invite you to turn with me in your Bible to Genesis 22 where we will gaze at one of the most awe-inspiring feats of faith in the Bible.
It was 65 years ago, May 29, 1953, at 11:30 A.M. that Sir Edmund Hillary accomplished what no man had ever done. He became the first person to climb to the top of the world.
Yet before he could raise the British flag atop Mt. Everest, years had been spent in preparation. He chose proper equipment and a Sherpa guide named Tenzing Norgay of Nepal to accompany him. And Hillary trained rigorously and to acclimatize himself to the brutal cold and altitude.
The final assault on Everest was filled with danger. One wrong step could mean certain death.
As they pushed toward the summit, they had to cut steps in the snow and hack their way up steep walls of ice.
Would they make it before fatigue set in and time and oxygen ran out?
Fighting great pain, bitter cold and exhaustion Hillary and his climbing partner took their final step and stood where no man had ever stood at 29,002 feet with a breathtaking view of the world.
In Genesis 22, another mountain is climbed. Two men make their way to the top of a far more difficult and costly mission. What Abraham accomplishes on that mountain represents the pinnacle of spiritual surrender in his life. And apart from our Lord Jesus, it may well represent the most costly surrender of any person in the Bible.
You might be wondering, “what does Genesis 22 have to do with Easter?
Well with Easter as a holiday, nothing. No Easter bunnies, baskets, or biscuits are to be found here. And praise God.
For the world’s celebration of Easter is as hollow as those chocolate rabbits. Empty. Nothing to fill the soul with wonder and worship.
But with regard to the resurrection, God has sovereignly prepared so much for us in this timely text of Genesis 22.
In fact, He desires to press upon your soul, Christian, how He calls you to an obedience of faith that is costly yet leads to great blessing. It’s a call to total surrender to God.
For God wants to move each of us along in yielding our lives fully into His hands, with nothing held back.
Remember, Abraham now in the story line is a centenarian- he’s well over 100 years old. He and Sarah have received their long-awaited miracle child- precious Isaac.
It’s at this point, God places before Abraham the ultimate test.
1. Ultimate Test 1-2
We see it in the opening verse: “Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, “Here I am.’ ”
Some older translations say God “tempted Abraham.” Yet tempting a person entices him to evil. That’s what Satan does. Yet not so with God.
In fact, James 1:14 affirms, “He Himself does not tempt anyone.”
Satan tempts to destroy but God tests to develop our faith.
And that’s what God is doing here- He’s placing before Abraham an opportunity to prove his faith.
It’s to show the extent to which Abraham will obey God.
It’s noteworthy how God calls Abraham by name as one would a friend. Don’t forget, Abraham is the only individual in the Bible whom God calls his friend.
Yet in John 15:15 Jesus told his disciples, “I have called you friends.”
As soon as God calls Abraham’s name, what happens?
Abraham responds, “Here I am.” Just like Isaiah when God called to him: “Here I am” (Isa. 6:8).
The idea is, “God, speak, I am here ready to hear Your voice.”
Well, the next thing God tells him is shocking, like a bomb that drops on Abraham’s life.
Second verse: “He said, ‘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 on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.’ ”
What a harrowing command. God tells him to do what would have been the most painful thing in his life- to take his precious son Isaac and make him a burnt offering of that beloved son.
O we hear the anticipation of God’s word that would be spoken at Christ’s baptism:”
“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Mat. 3:17
Like Christ, Isaac was not only the beloved son, he was the only son of his father.
Remember, the way God sees it, Isaac is Abraham’s only legitimate son. That’s why God says three times that Isaac was his “only son” (verse 2, 12, 16).
Isaac was the promised one for whom Abraham and barren Sarah had waited and prayed over 25 years.
And how their lives exploded with joy over his birth. That’s why Abraham put on a massive feast the day Isaac was weaned.
They felt an indescribable love for that precious Isaac. He was the child of their dreams, the love of their lives.
And now God is telling Abraham, “I want you to offer that beloved child to Me as a burnt offering.”
The thought of killing his son as a sacrifice- it was unbearable and crushing.
Abraham’s heart would have been racked with confusion, grief and pain. He’s called to sacrifice Isaac.
Do you realize, God didn’t tell him why but told him where? It was to take place on one of the mountains in the land of Moriah. Where’s that?
There’s one verse in the Bible that places it on the map for us.
II Chronicles 3:1 informs us that “Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah.”
This tells us that Mt. Moriah was located in Jerusalem. And here’s what’s amazing. It’s the very spot Solomon would later build his temple- the place of sacrifice for Abraham and then centuries later for Solomon.
You can go to that place today in downtown Jerusalem- it’s where the ruins from Herod’s later temple can be seen.
That’s 50 miles north of where Abraham was living in Beersheba. To get there, it would take Abraham and Isaac a 3-day journey by foot.
Now just reflect on the enormity of this test.
As Abraham heard God’s instruction, to offer Isaac as a burnt offering, it would have seemed unreasonable, illogical, and senseless.
God had just given him Isaac, and now he realizes, “God wants me to sacrifice him?
You see, God’s command to Abraham runs cross grain with his dreams, longings and ambition.
At this moment, God is weighing his faith in the balance against human reason, common sense, even heart affections.
Here it is that God places His friend Abraham at the crossroads. “Will you do what you feel like doing, or will you do the hard thing I am calling you to do?”
It’s an excruciating test, and Abraham must choose- to obey or not to obey.
Watch how he makes the hard but right choice in his 2. Costly Obedience 3-10
Continuing in verse 3 the first thing we read is, “So Abraham rose early in the morning.”
I love that. For signals to us an earnest commitment to obedience. He’s fully an abandoned to do what God has said.
Sure, his heart is heavy, sure he could have tried to escape the situation by staying in bed and sleeping. But he gets up early.
And notice how the inspired writer details his careful preparation.
We are given 6 specifics. Abraham “saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men
with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.”
All that detail from a master story teller serves a key purpose. It slows down the account so we more deeply appreciate Abraham’s response. It’s a heart-wrenching yet total obedience to God!
They head up the dusty path toward Moriah, and our text tells us (v. 4). “On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance.”
Three days travel to the place he was to take his beloved son’s life was filled with the agony of waiting.
Yet while Abraham dreaded the death of Isaac for 3 days, our Savior endured that over 30 years!
Now, take in what Abraham says once he gets close to the mountain. V.5 “Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”
At this point, Abraham wants to be alone with his son and God.
And with a profound heart of faith, he tells his servants what he and Isaac would do.
We will go to the designated place and worship God!
That special word he uses for worship (shachah) speaks of bowing in respect before a superior.
That’s what Abraham purposed to do on that mountain. He longs to worship and bow down before God through his sacrifice of Isaac.
O, what a heart for God! What insight he has into the big purpose of it all. You see, Abraham realized the painful path God had called him to was the means by which he was to worship God!
So, he was preparing to worship God in the death of his precious son!
But did you notice whom Abraham expected would return after he offered up Isaac on the altar?
He told the servants, “We will return to you.” Not me alone, but Isaac and me together!
Friends, Abraham speaks with a fiery heart of biblical conviction.
He’s holding fast in faith to God’s promise. How can we be so sure?
Hebrews 11:17–19 “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; 18 it was he to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.” 19 He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.”
What did Abraham expect?
He fully expected He would kill Isaac and then God would then resurrect him!!!
Yes, he believed God would give him back Isaac once dead then made alive again!
Beloved, that’s what you call resurrection. One once dead then brought back to life- just like our glorious Lord Jesus Christ!
Where did Abraham get that kind of confidence?
It was anchored in the promise of God.
Abraham held to the permanency of God’s promise!
He knew God had promised to give him Isaac, he knew through him would be many descendants. So he rightly concludes God would raise Isaac from the dead.
O how this wonderfully anticipates the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our Lord promised many times He would die and rise again. In John 2:19–21 Jesus told the unbelieving Jews, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” And in verse 21 He clarifies: “But He was speaking of the temple of His body.”
So it is, Abraham’s faith that God would resurrect Isaac is the same kind of faith that every Christian embraces, that God raised Christ from the dead.
That’s the good news. That’s the gospel. That’s the truth that we must trust if we are be saved from sin.
That’s the only key that unlocks the door to heaven. Placing your faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for your sin.
The Apostle Paul so aptly declares, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Rom. 10:9
Follow closely now Abraham’s costly obedience. Verse 6: 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 the two of them walked on together.”
It’s at this point we have the best hint regarding how old Isaac is.
He can’t be a toddler. He’s much older since he is able to carry a load of wood large enough to burn the sacrificial victim.
As you picture Isaac carrying the wood intended for his death, what so appropriately comes to mind?
Our Lord Jesus carrying the wooden instrument of his death, the cross.
John 19:17 recounts how. “They took Jesus… and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called…Golgotha.”
Picture Abraham and Isaac, the offerer and the one to be offered walking together.
How this anticipates Christ’s work on the cross in full submission to His father’s plan. O the mutual love, the torn heart of the Father and Son the day Christ died for us.
The silence was broken as Abraham and Isaac neared their destination.
Verse 7: “Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.”
O the tender intimacy expressed, “My father!” My son.” How horrific and devastating it would be for that to be severed.
Isaac had seen his father Abraham sacrifice on many occasions. He knows something is missing.
“And he said, ‘Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’”
Abraham must have dreaded that question.
Dad, where is the lamb? That question resounded through the corridors of time for 2,000 years.
The offering of millions of animals sacrificed every year in Jerusalem would cry out, “Where is the lamb?
God gave that answer one day when John the Baptist looked and saw a man coming toward him.
It was Jesus Christ embarking on His earthly mission. And John declares, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29
Well, Abraham had faith in that kind of supernatural provision of God. In response to Isaac’s question, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering” look at his tremendous answer:
Verse 8: “ ‘God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together.”
That’s the perfect answer to our own hearts, to our children, to our spouses, to others in the church when we are asked about difficulties we can’t figure out.
Loss of a job, financial challenges, unfulfilled dreams, loneliness…. You can be confident fellow believer: “God will provide!” It may not be in the way or time you expect but God’s provision will always be His best.
Now drink in with me the divine drama: Verse 9: “Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.”
At this point, Isaac fully knows what’s coming. He realizes he is there in place of a sheep. For he is to be the sacrifice.
Remember, Abraham is up in years (over 100) and Isaac is at least a teenager.
Had he wanted to, Isaac could have resisted by force and refused to be bound on that altar.
But like our Savior, he submits himself to His father plan.
Here’s the point of cosmic climax. All the holy angels may have stopped to gaze upon the spectacle.
Abraham grabs the sharp knife to slaughter his son.
He would have most certainly prepared to do as with a sacrificial lamb- with one stroke to cut
deeply into the neck area severing most of the windpipe and arteries. It would result in an immediate loss of consciousness and death.
We read (v. 10) that, “Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.”
Isaac is a hair’s distance away from death!
It’s at that moment, glory to God, we are told, (v. 11) “But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ ”
That angel of the Lord is another name for Jesus Christ before He took a body in His incarnation.
What flood of elation would have filled every fiber in Abraham’s being when he heard his name called! He couldn’t wait to say, “Here I am!” In other words, I’m all here, tell me what to do.”
It’s at this very point in the ultimate test, Abraham’s costly obedience is met with
3. Divine Approval 12-19
The angel of the Lord then tells Abraham, “
v. 12: “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and 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 passed the test with flying colors!
And I believe it was at this point that God gave him insight to see beyond that moment.
John 8:56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
When did Abraham see Christ’s day?
Spurgeon replies and with him I concur, “On the top of Moriah, when his own son was on the wood, and his own hand was lifted up, he [saw] the Son of God, and the uplifted hand of God offering the Great Sacrifice” (Spurg, Met Tab Pulpit, p. 500).
So Abraham gladly puts down the knife rather than plunge it into Isaac.
And the reason he’s told to do that- it’s because it made clear that Abraham fears God.
No, it wasn’t that the angel of the Lord learned new information that day about Abraham fearing
him. Instead God rejoices to watch Abraham’s faith play out in full obedience!
James 2:21 “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?”
What, James? You might be thinking, “I thought a man is justified by faith apart from works?”
That’s right. And that’s exactly what Romans 3:28 says.
We need to remember, it was years before when God had justified Abraham because of his faith.
Genesis 15:6 “Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
What happened there on Moriah was a demonstration that Abraham’s faith was real.
It made clear externally what God had already done in his life internally.
Well, Isaac’s life is spared. But what about the sacrifice?
Further in v. 13 “Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.”
How spectacular! God provided the perfect solution.
Thus Abraham aptly names that place “Jehovah Jirah” meaning God will see to it, He will provide.
What was it that He provided?
A substitute. A substitute at the right time and in the right place. It was ready and waiting.
That ram God provided just as He provided His son- to die as a substitute.
Here’s the glory of Christ’s death- it was for us guilty sinners. He took our place.
Abraham offered a ram. Christ offered himself for us!
The prophet Isaiah emphasizes how Christ would suffer and die in our stead: Isaiah 53:4–6 “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our
sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
7 x God emphasizes our Lord took the death we deserved. He died as our substitute.
I Peter 3:18 puts that glorious truth like this: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God….”
Yes, Christ died and rose as God’s provision that you might have life in Him.
That’s new life, abundant life, and eternal life with Christ who gave us life in Himself.
That’s the offer the risen Christ makes to all still under the load of unforgiven sin and the wrath of God.
Jesus calls out in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”
“Believe” calls for an about face from sin and a trusting Christ as your Lord and Savior from sin.
So the angel of the Lord tells Abraham to put down his knife and he does. Then the ram is offered as the substitute.
And then the angel of the Lord does something else to show approval of Abrahams’ obedient faith.
Continuing in verse 15: Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
“Promises, promises.” The world makes them and breaks them. But not God. Every promise He makes He keeps.
And here He not only reaffirms His promise but He adds to it in 2 wonderful ways. First on top of the promise of blessing, land, and innumerable offspring He gives one more: Abraham’s posterity, would possess the gate of their enemies.
You see, to control the gates of a walled city means you controlled the entire city. Now, that promise would have meant the world to you if you were part of the invasion of Canaan with Joshua.
For this promise guaranteed victory in conquering and dividing the land. It would reassure the Jews for millennia that no matter how bleak the situation looks, God would care for His redeemed people.
The second great affirmation here is that God swears or makes an oath to Abraham.
It’s an oath that’s loaded with hope.
For Hebrews 6 tells us the great significance of what God had done that day.“For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, “I WILL SURELY BLESS YOU AND I WILL SURELY MULTIPLY YOU.” 15 And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. 16 For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. 17 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”
Here’s the hope and encouragement from this for your heart today.
When God makes a promise, He doesn’t need confirmation from anyone. Why not? Because He is faithful, always true to His Word.
Therefore, wherever you stand before God, whether you have been a genuine Christian for decades or whether you are not yet saved from your sin. God is worthy of your total trust and full obedience.
He calls you to surrender your all in submission to His call on your life. In 1517, three ships under the command of Hernández de Córdoba sailed west and explored the Yucatán peninsula. The day they went ashore they were attacked by Mayans armed with arrows and spears. Twenty soldiers died, including de Córdoba himself. The surviving crew faced a tough choice: stay and complete the mission and be rewarded by their governor, or get back on their ships and sail home. They chose to play it safe and headed home in a hurry. Two years later the expedition was attempted again, this time under the leadership of Hernán Cortés. Cortés was so committed to the mission that he sold everything he had to finance it. He sailed with 11 ships, manned by 100 sailors and 500 soldiers. According to some accounts, when he landed at Veracruz, Mexico, he told his crew to take all their belongings ashore. He then set fire to all 11 ships. Imagine the 600 men standing on the beach watching their only way back home going up in smoke. Yet now, no matter how fierce the fighting would be, retreat was not an option. Now they could fully please their governor!
Friends, God calls you to burn the ships in your life. Selfishness, fear, pride, whatever it is. He calls you and me to unflinching commitment to risky obedience by all of us who call ourselves his followers.
II Cor. 5:15, show how Christ’s death makes that possible: “and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
So I ask you, “what are the ships of living for self that you need to burn in your life?
What have you refused to lay on the altar and offer in full obedience to Christ?
In the power of the resurrection, I pray you will know the joy of full surrender to Christ.
For that will be for His honor and your great joy in Him. Gracious God, heavenly Father…
Hope In Christ Bible Church 4/21/19
1. Ultimate Test 1-2 James 1:14; John 15:15; Isa. 6:8; Mat. 3:17; II Chron. 3:1
2. Costly Obedience 3-11 Heb. 11:17–19; John 2:19–21; Rom. 10:9; John 19:17; John 1:29
3. Divine Approval 12-19 John 8:56; James 2:21; Rom. 3:28; Gen. 15:6; Isa. 53:4–6; I Peter 3:18; John 11:25; Heb. 6:13-18; II Cor. 5:15
Lord, in obedience to your Word and following Abraham’s example, what areas of my life are You calling me to fully surrender in obedience to You?