Testing can be a good thing or a difficult thing. For example, to test drive a car is fun. Testing new flavors of ice cream is fun. We’ve sent a team to Thailand the last couple of years and there they have a different type of fruit called durian. They say it’s an acquired taste that most people never acquire. Nelson Rowland will try anything! Nelson tried it and said it was OK. Some things are good in testing and others are not. Abraham is going to be tested. It’s a difficult test, the kind we do not look forward to. I’ll be honest with you; I have no idea what some of this passage means. Some of it I do not understand. We can identify with being asked to do things we do not understand. Health officials do not understand what we are going through right now in this pandemic. Some say God has brought judgment. Some things we cannot understand in this lifetime. When God asks for Abraham’s son Isaac to be sacrificed; it’s incomprehensible.
Sometimes God asks us to do things we don’t understand, uncomfortable things. The test for Abraham is will Abraham trust God above everything and everyone? It’s a test for you and I too.
The test – Do you trust God above everything and everyone?
1After these things God tested Abraham…
What’s it mean to be tested? God is testing Abraham. Several times in the Bible it says someone is being tested. In Job chapter one, Job is tested and God was part of that testing. What will happen if he loses everything? All his children, everything? It’s a test. There’s times God tested people in the Bible and there’s tests we go through as well. It’s to determine what’s in our hearts. In Exodus 16 the Israelites are in the wilderness, out of Egypt. In Ex. 16:4 the reason for testing the Israelites is to determine what’s in their hearts. We know what’s in our minds as we sit in Sunday School class, but how we respond in difficult moments is what’s really in our hearts. You just heard Janet mention the promise God has given. God tells Abraham to take Isaac, a teen, and kill him, sacrifice him. In Genesis 21:12 God says to Abraham that his son Isaac is the one through whom the covenant will pass. Isaac doesn’t have offspring yet and God says to sacrifice him. Will he trust God when it doesn’t make sense? What do we do in these moments? Here’s what Abraham did: he took the next step.
Take the next step.
One of the challenges we are in right now is what we do in uncertain times. We trust God. We worship. We keep growing. We look to the nations with the Gospel. Notice the actions here in verse three:
3So 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 the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
There’s a tremendous amount of action in this verse. James 2:22 says this about the actions of Abraham, “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works.” Abraham demonstrated his faith by action. Abraham starts taking the next step. He rises in the morning, cuts wood and goes. Notice what’s missing in this verse: Abraham’s feelings. Why would God do that? Why would God tell you to kill someone you love? In verse three there’s nothing about how he felt; we only have his actions. He moves forward. What happens in our minds is we think about everything in the future. We want to know everything or we are not going to move. God says move forward in this moment. Abraham has to be going through intense inner struggles. We can only imagine over these three days, moving forward when we don’t have all the answers. In verse three Abraham went to the place where God told him. Verses one and two say nothing about this place. God told Abraham more than what’s recorded. Abraham had more info. than what’s recorded here. Abraham had more information than we have. We don’t’ know all God said to him.
Focus on God’s provision.
8Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
On a three day journey, as they go, Isaac starts to ask questions. Children ask a lot of questions. Isaac is on this three day journey and he notices there’s nothing to give as a sacrifice. Abraham says God will provide. Usually you gave your own offering just like we do today as our offering comes from our checking account. It’s unusual to say that God will provide the offering. Abraham says to Isaac, “my son.” This is his child. They went together. They’re together in all of this. Isaac carries the wood. He’s old enough to carry firewood up a mountain. Kids, this is also a warning! If your parents take you out into the woods and load up firewood and take you up a mountain, beware!
I don’t understand why God would ask this. What Abraham is called to do is lay everything on the table. There’s nothing greater to give to God than his son. We say, “God, I’m Yours,” unless we have to get uncomfortable and make personal sacrifices. Here’s what we have been saying, “God, I give my life to You,” but when it gets uncomfortable… God says, “OK, put it on the table. Give me your life, your time, your money and your heart.” When it comes time to do it, it gets difficult. Will we trust God?
Put everything on the table.
9When 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.
Something happened as they were going up. Abraham explains to Isaac where the offering will come from. I believe Isaac is voluntarily bound and laid on the altar. Abraham is an old man. If Isaac knew Abraham was about to kill him he could have fought and won. Isaac voluntarily lays down his life. I believe this is a foreshadowing of the cross. I think this is a willing sacrifice. It matters when it hurts to lose but you give it to God anyway. Is it really God’s? Are we really willing to do whatever?
The result – God will provide.
The test becomes complete in these verses. We love the way it ends! Isaac is strapped to the altar. The knife is raised and an angel shows up in verse 12:
12He 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.”
13And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns.
What we find in verse twelve is God is going to intervene. Isaac was never in any real danger. We realize God was never going to let Isaac be sacrificed. Human sacrifice is and abomination to the Lord. They realize this was a test. The next test from God is for us so we will come to a place where we know God is enough and we can lay everything down. This is a biblical truth for parents. Jesus loves your children more than you do! You say there’s no way you could sacrifice your child. God will ask you to lead your child go to the nations. God wants us to trust Him with our children. How do we know? In verse thirteen the last part of the word, “caught in a thicket,” means “just caught.” It’s in that moment. Absolute trust in God means God will provide. The ram wasn’t there when he put Isaac on the altar. At just the right time God provided. It’s what God does. In this whole story of God providing sacrifice we wonder why God would ask him to sacrifice his child. Who could ever do such a thing?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
What is so horrible to us God did for us in Jesus on the cross. God’s own son was given for us so we can have eternal life. God is for us and not against us so we can be reconciled to Him. God calls us to give Him everything.
Sermon Notes are taken, transcribed and posted by Jeni Martin Johnson.