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Second Sunday of Lent
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Mike Moffitt, February 28, 2021

The Lord Will Provide

Text: Genesis 22:1–14

In the neighborhood where I grew up, there were a lot of kids and probably around 50 boys. Most all of us played sports on two local school fields, both after school and a lot during the summer, weekends, and holidays. I loved football and baseball and we played year-round, weather permitting. Many of you probably did the same thing. You show up and the oldest boys chose teams and you played and fought and played some more. Some of us wanted to play for local teams and showed up for tryouts. This was a time where you were chosen by a coach according to what he saw in you during the tryouts. Those who weren’t chosen went home and could try again next year. There was no “everyone gets to play.”

I remember my first year playing football. We showed up for the first practice and after the coach checked all of our names and verified permission slips from our parents, he told us to run 10 laps around a regulation football field. There was a groan from most of the guys because we came to play football not run laps, but we did it. Next, we began a regimen of exercises that seemed to last forever and clearly designed to cause as much pain as possible, then more laps. This was how we started every practice but pretty soon we added head-on tackling and learning how to block. I think it was maybe the fourth practice before we actually began to play football.

Our coach had played football at VMI and he was tough and demanding and didn’t put up with insubordination or mess-ups. If this occurred, it was “give me ten laps,” or “drop and give me 50 push-ups.” This wasn’t near as much fun as showing up at the school ballfield and playing with the guys.

I have to admit, I dreaded practice. You know what? In the time I played for Coach Elmore we never lost a game. We won every game plus the city-wide championship and the scores were never even close. We came to teach each game having been conditioned through the rigid discipline that the coaches trained us with. We were very physical because our bodies were vastly different from when we started. Coach had our respect, and even though young boys would never admit it, we loved him. He knew what it took to become what we said we wanted to be—football players.

It has been my experience that my walk with God has been remarkably similar to my experience playing sports. The longer I pursue my relationship with Christ the more I am confronted with things that are more difficult than before, but by his grace I make it through. You know why? Because he has trained me over the years to trust him and I’ve never had him fail me. I can look back over the years and see how trials and troubling times served to equip me for things that I would encounter in the future.

Today we will consider what it must have been like for Abraham when God instructed him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of God’s promise, as a burnt offering.

This is week two of the season of Lent which is a time of reflection on the journey that Jesus made towards Jerusalem and the cross. Last week we looked at the importance of obedience to the commands of God and we considered the example of Noah’s faithfulness to the command of God to build an ark. Essentially, it took Noah and his sons 120 years to build and bring two of every kind of animal into it. He gave up a huge portion of his life in obedience to a command from God when initially it made no sense. There had never been a flood nor had there been rain. Listen to Genesis 9: 28–29, “After the flood Noah lived 350 years. All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.” That means that Noah was 480 years old when God commanded him to build the ark and 600 when the flood came.

When he built the ark and entered at God’s command, Noah and his family were led to salvation from and through the waters of the flood. Last week we looked at the example of Jesus who willingly entered the water of baptism as a testimony that he would follow through on fulfilling the command of the Father that would lead him to the cross. The result was the delight of the Father and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. In both cases, obedience to God brought about the promised blessing.

Today we will consider the example of our Father Abraham and how it is a model of obedience and the formula for the blessings of God.

I read this passage from Genesis 22 many times over the years, but it really came alive when circumstances brought about by God made me ask the question, was I really willing to trust the Lord completely, with all my heart, even when his directives went completely against my understanding and desires? Even when others questioned the sense of what I was going to do? It was passages like Genesis 22:1–14 that redirected my thinking about fully trusting God no matter what he was asking.

Let’s read again Genesis 22:1–2,

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.”

“After these things” could easily be referring to the story of Abram’s first encounter with God in Genesis 12 and moving forward to the story that we are considering in chapter 22. However, it is certainly referring to the promise that God made to Abraham concerning his son Isaac.

Genesis chapter 12 starts the story of God calling Abram, a 75-year-old man from the land of Ur of the Chaldeans, telling him to pack up everything that he owned—wife, brother, all the people they had acquired, all livestock, and possessions—and go to a land that God would show him. The Canaanite culture was depraved, and God was calling him to separate himself by faith and he would receive blessings of land and descendants.

Even though Abraham had no children, God promised him that from his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Abraham chose to do what God commanded even though he likely had never heard of God and had probably worshipped idols. This God, Yahweh spoke to him, and Abraham’s obedience began a relationship with God that you can read about from Genesis 12–25.

For the next 24 years God renewed his promise to bless Abraham with a son who would begin the fulfillment of the promise that Abraham’s seed would be as numerous as the stars of Heaven. Finally, when he was 99 years old, the angel of the Lord, told Abraham that Sarah his wife who was 89 will give birth to a son the following year. In chapter 21:5–7, God keeps his word with the birth of the son, Isaac.

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

I think that most of us are equally impressed that Sarah gave birth to a child at age 90. Our story from chapter 22 begins at least 12 years later when God came to test Abraham’s faithfulness,

“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, offering him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will show you.”

Abraham waited 25 years for God to fulfill his promise of a son through Sarah, and not just any son, but one who would fulfill the promise that from Abraham’s line all the nations of the earth would be blessed.

Then God commanded Abraham to take this son, and he acknowledged that Isaac was Abraham’s only son, whom he loved dearly. This is the first time that the word love is used in the Bible and it is connected to the love of a father for his son—the first indication of the concept of the sacrificial offering of a son. Abraham was to offer up Isaac as a sacrificial burnt offering before the Lord. In the pagan cultures it was not unusual for people to offer human sacrifices to their gods. God had promised that Isaac would be his heir and from him would come many. Didn’t this contradict what God had been promising Abraham for 37 years? David Guzik in his Commentary on Genesis writes,

This was not so much a test to produce faith, as it was a test to reveal faith. God built Abraham slowly, piece by piece, year by year, into a man of faith. This test would reveal some of the faith God had built into Abraham.

Genesis 22:3 simply says,

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 wood for the burnt offering and rose and went to the place of which God had told him.

What the Bible doesn’t tell us is what it was like for Abraham in the time between verses two and three. My guess is that there was a war going on inside his mind. As he lay next to Sarah that night listening to her sleep in peace, what was he thinking? Perhaps he was reminded of the joy that came upon her at the birth of her son, Isaac. His name meant laughter and he had certainly brought that out of her as her public shame of being barren had been removed. Maybe he was remembering the young baby being cradled in her arms as she fed him with tenderness and a joy that she thought she would never have. Or her delight in watching him grow and run and play with the other young boys knowing full well that someday her son would be the heir of all that God had given to Abraham.

What would he tell her? Would she understand? Would she believe that God told him to sacrifice Isaac? Would anybody? Would this kill her? I can picture Abraham wrestling with God all night long trying to understand the reason for such a demand. I can see Abraham weeping before the Lord, begging him not to require this of him, but then reminding himself that God had always kept his word.

I am certain that God did not speak again that night because he had already said all that needed to be said. The command was not a request, and in the morning Abraham only had two choices. He could obey God or disobey him. You will notice that it was Abraham himself who saddled the donkeys and cut the wood even though he had many who worked for him that could have done it. He alone would be responsible for what had to be done. He had come to a decision that he would obey God no matter what it cost him.

Singer and songwriter Josh Baldwin wrote a song entitled, “Abraham.” I think he captured the heart of Abraham perfectly in his song. Let me share with you two verses.

How can I walk in my new name? "
Father of many," a promise You gave A
nd on this altar, and on this road I
lay down my flesh and bones.

And here on this mountain I have climbed
Wrestling doubts that flood my mind
When ashes and dust are all that remain T
he hope for the world still come from my vein?

Hebrews 11:17–19 gives us a glimpse into his 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 considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

Abraham was learning the difference between trusting the promise and trusting in the one who had made the promise. Abraham reasoned that God had shown him many times that he alone was God, therefore he alone had the right to demand whatever he wanted from Abraham. They traveled for three days before God showed Abraham the place where the sacrifice was to be made. All during that time Abraham alone knew what he had to do. Can you imagine him walking and talking with his son and thinking about what a fine young man he was turning out to be? I know that the tension and uncertainty must have been overwhelming. Finally, he and Isaac leave the young men behind with the donkeys and Abraham laid the wood for the offering on Isaac while he took the fire and the knife. Isaac wondered about the lamb for a sacrifice, but Abraham assured him that God would provide the lamb. What a prophetic moment in the story. When Abraham responded to Isaac, he didn’t know how God would provide, only that he would. He also didn’t understand the prophetic role he was playing in the history of redemption.

I think it important that we be reminded that Moses wrote this story for the children of Israel while they wandered around the desert. He wanted to encourage them to follow the God of their father Abraham, who was always faithful to his word. At the same time, the Holy Spirit is calling us to recognize this story as a type and shadow of what the Father was willing to do for us through his Son, Jesus Christ, and why this is reason enough to trust in Him.

In John 1:29, John the Baptist seeing Jesus declares,

“Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

Unknowingly, Abraham speaks the ultimate word of truth, “God will provide the lamb.”

The last part of the story is as powerful as the first. Let’s read Genesis 22:9–14,

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. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He 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.” 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.”

Isaac was old enough and strong enough to carry the wood of the sacrifice and Abraham was at least 112 years old. Isaac could have easily run away from his father or resist his efforts but instead submits to being placed on the altar. This example of trust is extraordinary as the son trusts in the word of his father, and it foreshadows Jesus’ willingness to submit to the plan of his Father by allowing himself to be placed on the cross. The fact that the Angel of the Lord calls out to Abraham to not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him suggests that God knew that Abraham had every intention of following through with the command of God. He believed that he would have to actually kill his son for God to raise him up again. Now God saw that Abraham would withhold nothing from him, not even his only son.

When God tested Abraham by asking for the ultimate demonstration of his love and commitment, he asked for the one thing that meant the most to him—his son. When God the Father wanted to show us the ultimate demonstration of his love and commitment to us, He gave us his Son. Now we can say to the Lord, “Now I know that you love me, seeing as how you have not withheld your only Son from me.”

Abraham went and sacrificed the ram caught in the thicket. God didn’t call off the sacrifice, instead he provided a substitute. Abraham called the place where God provided the sacrifice, Jehovah Jireh, “God will provide”. Moses recounted that even in his day, “it is said, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” Everything about this story points to what God the Father would accomplish through his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

God even planned it so that Abraham and Isaac traveled for three days and on the third day Isaac, who was the sacrifice, had a substitute provided by God and was spared from death. The place where Abraham built the altar that he placed Isaac on was the region of Moriah, where years later the temple in Jerusalem would be built. Moses was striving to encourage Israel to be faithful to all the commands of God just like their Father Abraham so that they could know the blessings of God that obedience afforded.

The Holy Spirit has the same lesson for us today as we focus on the cross. Our example is not just Abraham but Jesus, who chose obedience and willingly submitted to the will of his Father and because of that was spared from death on the third day. In our Gospel reading from Mark 8:31–38, Jesus taught his disciples that he “must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

To Peter, this did not sound like the promise that God had made concerning the Messiah and so he rebuked Jesus him for saying such things. Peter didn’t yet have the faith or the hearing of Abraham and was not willing to accept what Jesus was saying as remotely possible. Jesus knew who was speaking through Peter and addresses him directly,

“Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man!”

Like Abraham, Jesus had not misheard or misunderstood the command of the Father. He knew who he was and why he had come and it’s the next statement from Mark 8:34–36 that gives those who would follow his example of obedience to the Father its direction,

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Like the Father, Jesus is speaking clearly and there is no doubt what he is saying. If we would follow after him, we must deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him. Our cross is that we die to our wills and submit to the will of the Father, no matter the cost. What could be clearer? In truth, the question for those who call themselves Christians is, “Am I following the commands of the Father?”

This Lenten season I am asking the Holy Spirit to show me where I am falling short in that. If that is not the focus of my life as a Christian, then I have allowed myself to be distracted from the main purpose of life revealed to me by Jesus. We saw this attitude in Abraham who placed his love of God over his love of anything else and of course, we saw that Jesus followed the will of his Father out of love for him and for those who were lost, even though it cost him his life.

You will notice that once Abraham showed a willingness to follow the command of God, that God began speaking again. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane crying out to God to “let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39) the Father was silent. He had already spoken and now obedience was called for. Hebrews 5:8, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”

The story of Abraham is very sobering because the message is noticeably clear. We are called to relinquish control over our lives and invite God to be the Lord of every area of our lives. You know what? Anything other than that is not Christianity, it’s religion. It has become increasingly obvious that the lines are being drawn in the sand between the Secular world and Christianity. The moral differences in allegiance to the State versus the God of Biblical Christianity have never been more defined. The middle ground is evaporating and the words of Jesus to the Church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:15–16 have never seemed more relevant,

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Jesus invites us to follow his example of obedience and the reward is life with him forever. He warns,

For what does it profit a man to gain the world and forfeit his soul?

Let’s Pray.

©2021 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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