************ Sermon on Genesis 22:8,14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 13, 2000
"God Himself Will Provide the Lamb"
I Abraham's Faith Tested
A Abraham and Sarah had a son, a precious son, Isaac – Isaac, the child of the promise. Through Isaac God would fulfill His many promises to Abraham: the promise of a great nation, the promise of descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore, the promise of an everlasting covenant, the promise that the land of Canaan belongs to Abraham and his descendants, the promise of a great name, the promise that all peoples on earth will be blessed through Abraham (cf Gen 12:2-3; 13:14-17; 15:4-7; 17:3-8).
How Abraham and Sarah loved their son Isaac. They spent many hours dreaming and thinking and talking about the future and Isaac's part in it. Every time they looked at Isaac their elderly eyes must have lit up with joy and love and excitement.
One day the Lord brought their world crashing down on them. "Abraham!" said God,
(Gen 22:2) "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."Everything in Abraham must have rebelled against this demand. Give up the child of the promise?! How could he? All of God's promises to Abraham need Isaac for their fulfillment; in fact, without Isaac the promises are nothing and mean nothing. A human sacrifice?! How repulsive! The heathen sometimes offered such sacrifices to appease their gods, but the children of Yahweh never stoop to such depths. And, what is Abraham to think of and how is he to handle that it is God Who demands a human sacrifice; does this mean God is a blood-thirsty tyrant?!
Scripture tells us this was a test. God was testing Abraham's faith and love and service; God was testing its depth, its commitment, its reality.
B The Bible teaches us here, and in other places as well, that the child of God must always be ready to surrender something for the sake of God and His kingdom. Abraham had to give up his past: his native land, his father's house – including his nephew Lot. Abraham had to give up the possibility of a child being born to him through normal means. And now he is asked to give up his only child, the child of the promise.
Our missionaries to Japan tell us the story of a Japanese seashore village:
Topic: SacrificesFor the sake of Christ and His kingdom we too are sometimes asked to make sacrifices: money, time, family, plans, desires, maybe even our very own lives.
Title: Burn the Rice
An earthquake startled the village one autumn evening. But, being accustomed to earthquakes, the people soon went back to their activities. Above the village on a high plain, an old farmer was watching from his house. He looked at the sea, and the water appeared dark and acted strangely, moving against the wind, running away from the land. The old man knew what it meant. His one thought was to warn the people in the village.
He called to his grandson, "Hurry! Bring me a torch!" In the fields behind him lay his great crop of rice. Piled in stacks ready for the market, it was worth a fortune. The old man hurried out with his torch. In a moment the dry stocks were blazing. Then the big bell pealed from the temple below: Fire!
Back from the beach, away from that strange sea, up the steep side of the cliff, came the people of the village. They were coming to save the crops of their rich neighbor. "He's crazy!" they said.
As they reached the top of the plain, the old man pointed at the sea and shouted at the top of his voice, "Look!" At the edge of the horizon they saw a long, thin line--a line that grew as they watched. That line was the sea, rising like a high wall and coming more swiftly than a locomotive. Then came the noise of a great wind and the roar of a thousand thunders. The great wave struck the shore with a weight that sent a shudder through the hills and tore their homes to matchsticks. It drew back, roaring. Then it struck again, and again, and yet again. Once more it struck and ebbed; then it returned to its place.
On the plain no word was spoken. Then the voice of the old man was heard, saying, "That's why I set fire to the rice." He stood among them a poor man, for his wealth was gone--but he had saved 400 lives by his sacrifice.
C What does Abraham do? Does he pass or fail the Lord's test? Abraham was a man of God first and foremost. Scripture tells us,
(Gen 22:3) 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.Abraham heard the voice of God. And he obeyed. He even had Isaac on the altar, the knife in his hand ready to slash down.
The great chapter on faith, Hebrews 11, tells us that Abraham acted out of faith:
(Heb 11:17-19) 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, (18) even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." (19) Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.Abraham, we would have to say, lived out his faith. As James tells us,
(James 2:21-22) Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? (22) You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
D Now, the big question: would we, could we, do as Abraham was about to do? When we are put to the test by the Lord does our faith pass or fail?
This morning ours is the privilege to eat and to drink from the Lord's Table. Before we come to the table we must make sure that we have Abraham's kind of faith: a faith that expresses itself in works, a faith that is willing to sacrifice for the Lord, a faith that believes God will and does remain true to His covenant promises.
II God Himself Will Provide the Lamb
A What happens when Abraham stands there, knife in hand, poised to kill his son, his only son, the son he loved, the child of the promise? An angel of the LORD called out to Abraham from heaven:
(Gen 22:12) "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."
Often when we read this verse we breathe a sigh of relief. And somewhere inside we are glad we can say, "God is not an evil blood-thirsty tyrant." You see, when Christians face death or trials or suffering or sacrifice – like Abraham faced that day – there is little danger they will cease believing in God; the real and greater danger is that they will start believing wrongly in God and think of Him as a dreadful fearsome monster. The first twelve verses of our passage keep us from that conclusion. They tell us that our God is a God of love and mercy and that we are to be a faithful and obedient people.
It is at this point that many sermons end and Sunday School lessons are finished. We close our Bibles and fold up our Sunday School papers and the story of Abraham and Isaac is dismissed. But stop! We are quitting too soon, far too soon, for the drama has not yet reached its conclusion, its climax. We have to go one verse further:
(Gen 22:13) 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.
"So what?" you might ask. "What's the big deal? It isn't Isaac that is being sacrificed; it's only a ram, a wild mountain sheep that is burnt on the altar. So who cares?" We care because we believe that every word and phrase of Scripture is inspired and we know not a word or phrase is mere filler. Therefore we also know there must be a reason the story of Abraham and Isaac continues with the sacrifice of the ram as a burnt offering. We know there is a reason the story does not end at verse 12 with the vindication of Abraham's faith and God's love. So we have to ask, why does our Bible story continue with the ram's sacrifice?
The reason is basic: a sacrifice is necessary. There must be a sacrifice to make both Abraham and Isaac right with God. That's the focus of the Lord's Supper: that a sacrifice is necessary to make us right with God. Because of sin none of us are right with God. Sin is serious business. If anything matters, sin matters. It matters deeply and profoundly. Sin is so serious that it demands a sacrifice.
Many people today do not take sin seriously. Many people today do not realize the terribleness of sin. Many people today do not realize that sin demands punishment and that only sacrifice removes that punishment and makes one right with God. Yet, that is Scripture's clear teaching.
B Wonder of wonders, joy of joys, Scripture makes clear that it is God Himself Who provides the necessary sacrifice. When Abraham looked up, what does he see but a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. That ram was appointed and sent by God.
When Abraham and Isaac first climbed the mountain that God had picked, Isaac noticed there was wood and fire, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" he asked (vs 7). And Abraham answered,
(Gen 22:8) "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."Abraham confesses his faith in God to provide the needed sacrifice.
"God himself will provide ... On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." That, my brothers and sisters, is the focus of the Lord's Supper. That's the good news of the Gospel. God Himself provides the Lamb for an offering: He did so for Abraham and Isaac and He does so also for us.
You and I are gathered together this morning before the table of the Lord because some 2000 years ago at Mount Calvary God Himself has provided the Lamb. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins so that we can again be right with Him.
In the story of Abraham and Isaac and the ram we are being pointed forward to the Christ. And, we notice many similarities: Isaac is Abraham's only son even as Jesus is God's only Son; Isaac is much loved by father Abraham even as Jesus is loved by His heavenly Father; Isaac carried the wood of the sacrifice even as Jesus carried the cross for the crucifixion; Isaac was to be offered on Mount Moriah even as Jesus was offered on Mount Calvary (in fact, some scholars think these are both the same mountain).
C "God himself will provide ... On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." This means that Abraham and Isaac and you and me are right with God. That payment has been made for our sins. That we are cleansed and redeemed and washed and saved.
Topic: Cross Of ChristOn this Lord's Supper Sunday we all know that the cross and blood of Christ is God's great, and eternal, city of refuge from the penalty upon sin. Because God Himself has provided the cross and blood of the Lamb, there is salvation for all those who believe.
Title: The Cross, A Refuge
In ancient Israel, six cities were founded as cities of refuge. Men could flee there for refuge who, without malice or premeditation, had taken the life of a fellow man. Once within the gates of the city of refuge, they could not be touched by any hand of vengeance or judgment. The rabbis have an interesting tradition which says that, once every year, the roads leading to these cities of refuge were carefully repaired and cleared of obstacles and stones, so that the man fleeing for his life would have no hindrance in his way.
"God himself will provide ... On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided." How we thank and praise God for this.
A challenge and a reminder: that's the message of our Bible passage, that's the purpose of the Lord's Supper.
The challenge: to come to the Lord's Table with Abraham's faith. The reminder: to believe that God Himself has provided the Lamb.
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