Would you do it?

Text: Genesis 22:1,2,7,8,14

THE LORD PROVIDES

People have problems with God commanding Abraham to
sacrifice his only son and the willingness of Abraham to carry it out.

Scholars have debated this story;
Bible study groups have puzzled over
it;
some have dismissed it as a fictional story that foreshadows the
heavenly Father’s sacrifice of his own Son;
some have placed the story in
the too hard basket refusing to believe that God would ask anyone to do such a
thing.
Others have marvelled at Abraham’s trust in God.

Our feelings complicate things. We are horrified as Abraham
sets on his trek – Isaac beside him, wood on Isaac’s back, the pot of hot coals,
and a knife in his belt, and Isaac’s innocent question about the whereabouts of
the sacrifice.
We hold our breath as Abraham ties up his son, places him on
the wood on the altar and raises a knife to kill Isaac – or would it be better
to say Abraham is about to “murder a child”.
Then there is our sense of
relief when, at the last moment, God intervenes and stops Abraham from
completing what appears to be a senseless slaughter of his only son.

Questions rage in our minds.
What kind of God would ask
a father to sacrifice his son?
What kind of father was Abraham who was happy
to comply?
Should he really be held up as a model of faith for us
all?
This can hardly be held up as an example of child protection. If Abraham
tried this kind of stunt today he would quickly find himself labelled a monster
and locked up for a very long time.

Let’s take a closer look at this story. Firstly we need to
note how much Abraham loved his son Isaac! That boy was a true miracle baby. It
was physically impossible for a couple nudging 100 years old to bear a child.
Sarah even laughed when she was told she would become a mother. Two old gray
haired people becoming parents – that sounded just too ridiculous, too
impossible. But with God, nothing is impossible. Isaac was born – truly a gift
of God’s grace.

God had told Abraham that this boy, resting in his arms,
meant that God was keeping his promise that a great nation would come from his
descendants and that through this child would come great blessings for all
nations. We get some idea of how special Isaac was to Abraham when the writer of
this Genesis story very carefully retells God’s words emphasising that Isaac was
the delight of this old man. God called Isaac
, “your
son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love.”

But then came the blow! One night God came to Abraham with
an important request. “Take your son, your only son Isaac whom you love. Go
to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the
mountains I will tell you about.”
I can’t begin to imagine what emotions
must have surged through Abraham’s heart.

I don’t know how you would respond to a command like this,
but I know I wouldn’t have reacted as Abraham did. My reaction would be more
like, “Are you kidding, God! I’ve waited 100 years for this boy! There’s no way
I’m going to do this!”

But that’s not how Abraham responded. Incredibly we are told
he got up the next morning and saddled his donkey. He chopped the wood, got the
pot of hot coals ready, took two servants and his son, and set out for the place
where God had told him to go. Could we say at this point that he loved his son,
but he loved his heavenly Father more?

After a three-day journey they arrived at Mount Moriah.
Abraham told his servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go
over there and worship, and then we will come back to you.”

Did you catch what Abraham said? “The boy and I will go
over there and worship, and then we will come back to you.
He
fully intended to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, but he had that remarkable faith
that believed that somehow, and he didn’t know how this would happen, both of
them would return. As Abraham and Isaac are walking, Isaac notices something is
missing. They have the fire and the wood but where is the sacrifice. Notice what
Abraham says. “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my
son.”

And that’s exactly what happened. God did provide. As he
raised his knife to kill Isaac the angel of the Lord spoke to Abraham.

“Don’t hurt the boy or do anything to him. Now that I know that you have
obedient reverence for God, because you have not kept back your only son from
him.”
Abraham sees a ram and offered it as a burnt offering instead of his
son. He names the place “The Lord
Provides.”

“The Lord provides.” This is a common theme in the Bible.
Throughout the pages of Scripture, God is portrayed as the One who sees and
cares for all of our needs.
We hear about how the very hairs on our head are
numbered.
We hear of his concern and notices when one insignificant sparrow
falls to the ground.
We hear about Daniel who is delivered from the mouths
of lions.
Gideon and the remnant of his army are rescued from their enemies.

The Israelites are saved from the Egyptians when a path is made through the
sea. And so we could go and on. The Bible is a book about how God loves and
provides for his people.

From time to time we hear how someone has questioned God and
why he hasn’t done something when things aren’t going the way they believe they
ought and they face extreme difficulties and challenges. The pain, confusion,
upset, depression, bewilderment lead many to ask, “Where are you God when I need
you the most”. The absence of God and his seeming failure to provide for their
needs has been a constant cry throughout the ages. Just take a look at the book
of Psalms, and you will hear the same questions being asked.

Is God personally involved with our lives?
We know God
is love but why don’t we see more evidence of this in our lives and in our
world?
We’ve asked God for his help and apparently he hasn’t heard us. The
same old problems just keep on plaguing us.
God is all knowing and must know
what our needs are but why won’t he actually do something to meet our needs?

We may debate and argue till the cows come home about the
God who gives Abraham a son and a promise about grandchildren and great
grandchildren, and then asks that he kill his only son and burn him on a
sacrificial altar.
We could go on for hours about how a loving God would
never ask Abraham to give up Isaac – even as a test.
We can discuss the
reason God had to test Abraham in such a cruel and heartless way.
But the
fundamental fact remains – Abraham trusted God and believed that he would
provide and he did. The Lord provided. I can hear Abraham say to Isaac when he
saw the ram caught in the bush, “See that Isaac! I told you the Lord would
provide a lamb for the burnt offering.”

God will provide. So often we act and speak as if we had to
provide. We talk as if everything depended on us. We feel that we need to have
everything under control, every angle covered. Be hardheaded. Take no risks. The
Lord helps those who help themselves, and so forth. If we wait for i-s to be
dotted and the t-s crossed before we did anything then we wouldn’t get around to
doing too much at all.

When God told Noah to build a boat – not just any boat but
one of massive proportions – do we hear of Noah wanting to know all the whys and
wherefores before he started building? This was a huge undertaking no doubt
costly in terms of the money required to buy materials, tradesmen to build such
a boat, his reputation, not to mention that according to the weather forecast
there was no rain in sight. We are simply told that Noah did as God had said.

Obedience and trust in God go hand in hand. You see,
sometimes we just have to say, “I don’t really know how this is going to turn
out, but I believe that God knows what he is doing and I trust his love for
me.”
We can be scared stiff by the personal problems that we are facing, our
financial struggles.
We can be worried about the decline in the number of
people attending worship worldwide.
We don’t know why there is such a lack
of commitment by so many people to God, his Church, and what God wants to do
through his church for the people of this community.
We can be overwhelmed by
the myriad of challenges the Lord places before us because we don’t have
resources to do what God is asking.
Our heads can swim at all the
possibilities that God has placed before this congregation that we wonder if we
will ever be able to rise to the occasion and faithfully carry out God’s
plans.

God will provide. Are we ready to say that, in full trust?
God may not meet all of our requests right now. He may not give us the people we
need to carry out certain plans right now. A certain kind of ministry may have
to be left unfulfilled until God supplies us with the right people to be able to
move forward. But God will provide. He will provide a way for his plans to be
carried out. There is little point in God giving us so many opportunities to
minister to others and leaving us high and dry to work it all out by ourselves.
By the way, this isn’t an invitation to laziness or doing nothing saying, “Let’s
not do anything until the Lord provides.” Rather an invitation to trust and be
open to the way God provides especially through us.

The God whom we serve is faithful and true. This Old
Testament event reminds us of our heavenly Father who was prepared to sacrifice
his only Son. God did not spare his own Son. Since God went to this extreme for
us, doesn’t it follow that it is not beyond God’s will and power to do extreme
things through us and for us?

The real test of love is in the sacrifice that love is
willing to make. God’s love went to the limit. He might have argued “Why should
I? They aren’t worth it.” He might have reasoned, “Why bother? They will reject
it anyway.”

Like Abraham, he took his Son – his only Son whom he loved
more dearly than Abraham could ever love Isaac – and put him on the wooden altar
shaped into a cross. His love for us compelled him to give the best he had. Love
made a Father sacrifice his Son. Don’t be surprised if love, especially love for
God, will cause you to do extreme things, to make sacrifices that you would not
have otherwise made.

What we need to see clearly is that God is working out his
purpose in our lives. What is important is his plan for us. The good news is not
that we have a wonderful plan for our lives and our church and God will help us
to accomplish it; but that God has a wonderful plan for our lives and our
church and yes he will provide a way for us to accomplish it. He knows what we
need, where we need it, and when we need it. “The Lord provides.”
Amen.

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