HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, February 28, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “The Offering – God’s Test” – Communion & Sharing Sunday
Text – Genesis 18, 21-22; Hebrews 11:17-19
What does it mean to trust God with utter abandon? To give up all illusion of personal rights and simply allow your faith to be directed by God alone—no matter your circumstances; regardless of your feelings; even when His directions appear to be nonsensical? This week, God has been challenging me anew about what it means to trust Him absolutely and obey Him unreservedly. Today, we’re going to continue with Abraham’s story and I suspect many of you will be challenged this morning as well…
In chapter 18 of Genesis, God assures Abraham that in a year’s time, when Abraham is 100 years old and Sarah is 90, they will have a son who they are to name Isaac. In Genesis 21, 25 years after God’s initial call on Abraham’s life, Sarah gives birth to Isaac. All is well and Abraham’s line of succession seems set. But after a significant passage of time, by which point Isaac is likely a teenager even approaching adulthood, God once again speaks to Abraham.
GOD TESTS ABRAHAM – Genesis 22:1-2
“Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” 2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
Abraham had had to wait 25 years for the fulfillment of having a son through Sarah. Now God wants him to sacrifice Isaac. Is this a joke? What must have gone through Abraham’s mind?
You may remember that in chapter 18 we read how Abraham had pleaded with God for the lives of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked? Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? Surely you wouldn’t do such a thing, destroying the righteous along with the wicked. Why, you would be treating the righteous and the wicked exactly the same! Surely you wouldn’t do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right” (Genesis 18:23-25)? Abraham believed God to be a Judge who ruled with justice.
How could sacrificing his son, the one through whom God had promised to bless the nations, be the demand of a just God? Child sacrifice to other gods was not unknown in Abraham’s day; did the God he served now require the same? We don’t know what went through Abraham’s mind, just what he did next…
ABRAHAM OBEYS UNHESITATINGLY – Genesis 22:3-10
“3 The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 ‘Stay here with the donkey,’ Abraham told the servants. ‘The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.’
6 So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, 7 Isaac turned to Abraham and said, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘We have the fire and the wood,’ the boy said, ‘but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?’ 8 ‘God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,’ Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.
9 When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice.”
Abraham doesn’t even appear to flinch. Early the next morning—before Sarah was up and before she could ask where he was going and try to stop him—he was saddling his donkey, chopping wood for the sacrifice, getting servants to make preparations for the long journey and waking his son for the trip ahead.
The book of Hebrews in the New Testament gives a little clue as to why Abraham may have been willing to obey this latest of God’s commands. “17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 even though God had told him, ‘Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.’ 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead” (Hebrews 11:17-19).
Even if God intended to raise Isaac from the dead as Abraham hoped, it still required Abraham to kill him as a sacrifice first. What a horrendous prospect! And even though he may have been hopeful that God would raise Isaac back to life, there was certainly no guarantee.
But it does appear that he may have been hanging onto that hope when he tells the two servants to wait at a distance, while he and Isaac make the sacrifice after which they would ‘both’ return; however, this may have also been meant simply to put the servants’ minds at ease. They too must have recognized the fact that causes Isaac to question, ‘where’s the sacrifice?’ To which Abraham responds, God will provide, though at this point he doesn’t know whether it will be his son or if another miracle will take place.
The altar is prepared and the ‘test’ must be answered—will Abraham pass or fail? The scripture tells us that Abraham bound Isaac. It’s at this point that I want to suggest that Isaac has become fully aware of his father’s intent, yet does not resist. Unlike Sunday school flannelgraph depictions, Isaac was not a little boy easily restrained against his will by his elderly father. He had just finished carrying the chopped wood for the sacrifice on his back up Mount Moriah. He is at the very least a strapping teenager. Attempting to tie him up without his consent would have in all likelihood led to the elderly Abraham unsuccessfully trying to catch his fleet footed son. Isaac may not have understood the necessity of this sacrifice, as I’m certain Abraham was equally uncertain, but father and son chose to obey together.
Isaac is then laid on top of the wood. At each step of obedience—the building of the altar, the arranging the wood, the tying up of his son and then putting him on the altar—I wonder if Abraham was hopeful God would tell him to stop, that Abraham had passed the test, that the final act of killing his son was no longer required. But all that he hears from heaven is silence. With no last-minute intervention from God, Abraham is intent on obeying God and pulls out his knife…
FORESHADOWING OF CHRIST – Genesis 22:11-18
“11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!” 12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”
13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
15 Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants[a] beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. 18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”
Talk about leaving things to the last second! God’s test may seem cruel to our eyes. But the angel of the Lord (who you may remember from our lesson last week is the second person of the trinity), who would himself become the God-man, Jesus, in order to die as the perfect sacrifice for us and all of humanity—including Abraham—tells him to stop and sacrifice the replacement God has provided instead.
There are times in our history as recorded in the Bible, when God has called upon an individual to obey what may seem like a wrong-headed request which ultimately serves a far greater purpose. Do you remember the story of Hosea? God told him to marry a prostitute, a woman who proved to be an unfaithful wife and to buy her back, on a number of occasions. Hosea understood that God was using his life to serve as a metaphor of God’s relationship with Israel—His chosen beloved, who proved incapable of faithfulness. Or what of Ezekiel? God had him lie on his left side for 390 days, then flip and lie on his right side for 40 days as a sign against God’s chosen people during the years immediately preceding the Babylonian captivity.
These ‘tests’ would have proven incredibly difficult, but both Hosea and Ezekiel obeyed. They understood that God was calling them to live out a greater purpose, notwithstanding the inconvenience, betrayal and even seeming futility of their compliance. Whether they understood what God was attempting to do through their lives is not always clear; but that was ultimately not their primary concern. Obeying God’s clear call was.
The testing of Abraham works much this way and serves as a metaphor for one of the greatest events in human history. God himself would allow, would in fact plan, for his Son to be sacrificed. Jesus would go willingly to his death and carry his own wood for the execution. Abraham’s trip to Mount Moriah took three days, after which time ‘he received his son back as though from the dead” (Hebrews 11:19); which of course is the same amount of time Jesus spent in the grave, prior to his resurrection from the dead.
Without Abraham’s ‘test’ we might not be able to even begin to fathom the anguish, the resolve, the extent of the sacrifice God experienced when He sent His One and only Son to die in our place. Before we accuse God of being cruel for putting Abraham through this test, it would be appropriate to reflect upon our own cruelty that made Jesus’ sacrifice necessary in the first place. And the demonstration of God’s incredible love for us in spite of our utter corruption.
MODERN DAY FAITHFULNESS – Barb’s Story
*Barb's story is not being included in the Sunday notes to respect her privacy and to protect from potential misuse in electronic format.*
Those of us hearing her story and how it has turned out are often quick to judge…she should never have quit her job! With that sort of thinking, we would also be quick to judge Hosea…he should have married a respectable woman. Or Ezekiel…wouldn’t his time have been better spent preaching a warning rather than just lying around. And Abraham…sacrificing his son? Well, that’s just pure nonsense! Yet they all have one thing in common—they chose to trust God with utter abandon, refusing to hold onto the illusion of personal rights and simply allowed their faith to be directed by God alone.
What are our takeaways from today’s lesson?
· To what degree are you prepared to obey God?
· Do you have limitations—personal rights—that even God is not allowed to infringe upon?
· We cannot expect the ‘perks’ of Christianity without dying to self.
· What if God came to you with a command that required personal sacrifice—of a son, of a happy marriage, of a respectable ministry, of the stability of a home and/or regular income? What would you do?
For further study:
“Why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?” by Andy Patton (retrieved on February 25, 2021 from https://bibleproject.com/blog/why-did-god-ask-abraham-to-sacrifice-isaac/)
Sunday, March 7, 2021- “Our Family Tree - Through the Bible in 2021"- “Isaac & Rebekah” (Genesis 24) - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!