SermonNotes June 10, 2012
“WhatDoes God Want Me to Do with My Isaac?”
Inher book, “When I Lay My Isaac Down,” Carol Kent tellsher story of a devastating event in their family. She recounts howher and her husband were enjoying a night together and shared theirjoy by saying, “does life get any better than this?”
Everythingwas going well for the mid-aged couple. Their only son, Jason hadjust graduated from the US Naval Academy. He was a stellar student. Throughout high school and the US Naval Academy, Jason was anoutstanding Christian leader. He was given his first assignment as aUS Naval officer, soon transferring to Hawaii.
Caroldescribes how their lives changed when the received a late nightphone call informing them that their son was arrested for firstdegree murder. He shot and killed his wife’s ex-husband. Theunraveling of Jason’s life was impossible to comprehend, andthe couple were overwhelmed by emotion and struggled to help theirson and daughter-in-law, as well as maintain their devotion and lovefor the Lord. Throughout her story, the author relates how sheidentified with ABRAHAM in Genesis 22.
Thisevent in Abraham’s life is presented to us as the culminationof Abraham’s journey of faith. It is both the greateststruggle and the greatest victory for the “father of ourfaith.” James describes this event in Abraham’s life asthe evidence for his faith and obedience to God. He writes, “Wasnot our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when heoffered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and hisactions were working together, and his faith was made complete bywhat he did.”(James 2:21–22, NIV84)
Aswe study Abraham’s test of faith, we need to examine our livesand ask whether we are prepared to answer God in the way that Abrahamdid. I believe that every man or woman that desires to walk with Godwill have to answer the same question that Abraham did, “do youlove God more than the most cherished possession in your life?” For Abraham, it was not difficult to spot the object of his heart’sdevotion – it was the son of promise miraculously born in his old ageas a gift from the Lord. God tested Abraham to ensure that Abraham’sdevotion was still sound, and to free Abraham from the snare ofmaking an idol out of something that was given by God as a gift.
Yousee, our love of self, and our hideous assumption that the worldrevolves around us cause us to take the very gifts that God gives usand make idols out of them. We do this with our children, ourpossessions, our abilities – just about anything good that comes fromGod can become an object of inordinate affection, turning the giftthat God intended for our good into a devilish entrapment replacingour dependency on the One who gives good gifts to his children. Godcalls us, as he did Abraham, to lay our Isaac on an altar of worship,not because God wants to deprive us from blessings. (After all, hegave us these blessings in the first place!) But rather, to provideus with the opportunity to demonstrate to God and to ourselves thatHe is first in our lives. Only then can we enjoy the gifts he giveswithout the entrapment of idolatry that comes when we put the thingsin our lives ahead of the One who gave them to us.
Letus examine the text of Genesis 22 to learn our lesson from Abraham.
1. God’s Test.
Thistest came late in Abraham’s life, when he perhaps said the samething as the woman quoted above. “Doeslife get any better than this?” Thetext only gives us the indication, “Sometime later”(22:1) When was the “some time later,” we must ask? Weread in the previous chapter of the birth of Isaac and the expulsionof Ishmael. Years have passed, but we can observe the following:
“Sometime later” was when Abraham thought everything was settled. Isaac was born, and was now growing into adulthood. The boy washealthy, and the promises of God were embodied in his life. Abrahamcould see the finish line of life, and rejoiced that his greatestconcern was being fulfilled right before his eyes. Abraham looked toIsaac with great satisfaction and comfort, realizing that his legacywould be passed on and the promises of God would be fulfilled.Perhaps for the first time, Abraham felt that he was in control. Perhaps he said to himself, “this is the result of my walk offaith with God.”
“Sometime later” was when prayers were answered and victory wasclose.
Isaacwas approaching MANHOOD. Abraham could breathe a sigh of relief. Isaac’s age is not given in the text, but let me suggest thatit was when the boy was thirteen years old. We cannot know forcertain, but this makes sense in light of the fact that Isahmael wasthirteen when God revealed to Abraham that Ishmael was not thepromised son. It seems fitting that at the same point in Isaac’slife, God would test Abraham just as Isaac was being recognized asentering manhood. We also know that Isaac was old enough to take athree day journey in the wilderness, and strong enough to carry thewood for sacrifice up the steps of Mt. Moriah.
Isaacwas the PRIDE and JOY of Abraham’s life. In a powerful chapterin his book, “The Pursuit of God,” A.W. Tozer writesconcerning Abraham’s love for Isaac, “Fromthe moment he first stooped to take the tiny form awkwardly in hisarms, Abraham was an eager love slave of his son. God went out ofhis way to comment on the strength of this affection. And it is nothard to understand. The baby represented everything sacred to hisfather’s heart, the promises of God, the covenants, the hopesof the years and the long messianic dream. As he watched him growfrom babyhood to young manhood, the heart of the old man was knitcloser and closer with the life of his son, till at last therelationship bordered upon the perilous. It was then that Godstepped in to save both father and son from the consequences of anuncleansed love.” (Tozer,24)
Genesis22 makes it clear that this event is a test in Abraham’s life,even though Abraham did not see it as such. Gen 22:1 says “sometime later, God TESTED Abraham.” Theconclusion of the story is found in Genesis 22:12 in which Godpronounces the verdict on Abraham’s faith, “nowI know that you fear God.”
TheNew Testament confirms God’s purpose in testing Abraham. Heb11:17-18 indicates, “Byfaith Abraham, whenGod tested him, offeredIsaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about tosacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “Itis through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.””(Hebrews 11:17–18, NIV84)
AndJames 1:22-23 “Wasnot our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when heoffered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and hisactions were working together, and his faith was made complete bywhat he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abrahambelieved God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” andhe was called God’s friend.”(James 2:21–23, NIV84)
Theemphasis on Abraham’s faith is made clear if you compareGenesis 22:2 with Genesis 12:1. This demonstrates that Binding ofIssaac on Mt. Moriah marked the culmination of Abraham’s faithjourney with God.
Genesis22:2 “ThenGod said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love,and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burntoffering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.””(Genesis 22:2, NIV84)
Genesis12:1 “TheLordhad said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and yourfather’s household and go to the land I will show you.”(Genesis 12:1, NIV84)
Inthese two passages we find a clear literary connection. Notice howthe three parts of God’s command are repeated in this event inAbraham’s life, almost 40 years after God first spoke to him inHaran.
Leave your country, your people and your father’s household
Take your son whom you love
go to the land
go to the region of Moriah
I will show you.
Sacrifice him there on one of the mountains I will tell you about
2. Abraham’s Response
Themost obvious part of Abraham’s response is obedience. We seethis in the following ways.
Gen22:3 “earlythe next morning….” Abraham did not delay in his obedience!
Gen22:3 “whenhe had cut enough wood.” Abraham took direct responsibility to dcarry out God’scommand. Abraham had many servants, but HE must cut the woodhimself.
Gen22:4 “onthe third day.” Abrahamwent directly for Moriah. This journey was about 50 miles andincluded a rise in elevation from 650 feet to 2500 feet. For threedays, Abraham walked patiently with his son, without revealing to himthe purpose of their journey.
21:5-6. Abraham leaves the servants. Abraham again demonstrates fullresponsibility and obedience to God’s command. Only Father andSon would make the journey up the hill.
Thesecond part of Abraham’s response is not presented in the text,but clearly Abraham agonized over the reality of his obedience to thevoice of God. Abraham kept this from Isaac for the three dayjourney. For THREE DAYS, he carried this burden in his heart,without telling Isaac.
IMAGINEthe conversation in Abraham’s heart…..
Abrahamwrestled with God…. “why?” “Isn’t thereanother way?”
Please,take me instead! I’m old and ready to die.
Isthis a miniature picture of Jesuswrestling with the Father inthe Garden?
3. My Test
LikeAbraham, God uses the things that are closest test our walk with himand to REVEAL to ourselves the things that have taken up residence asobjects of worship in our hearts. He does this notto take these things away, butto allow us to see how tight we are holding on to it! This graciousact of God provides the knowledge that He really does come first.
“OurIssacs arethe heart sacrifices we make when we choose to relinquish control andhonor God with our choices even when all seems lost.” CarolKent, “When I Lay My Isaac Down,” (Colorado Springs:NavPress, Kindle Edition, 2004), location 62.
Tozersuggests THREE AREAS that are the prime “Isaacs”inour lives
PEOPLE. The affection we DESIRE from others. The possession we CRAVE fromothers. The dependence we HAVE on others.
ABILITIES.“Theblessed ones who possess the Kingdom are they why who have repudiatedevery external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense ofpossessing. These are the ‘poor in spirit.’ … Thoughfree from all sense of possessing, they yet possess all things.” (A.W.Tozer, “The Pursuit of God,” Camp Hill, PA: ChristianPublications, 1982, p. 23).
4. My Response.
WHENGOD REVEAL’s YOUR ISAAC
Don’texpect to understand! One such moment came in my life a number of years ago. I hadvisited Ghana Africa to view the ministry of FIM missionary JohnKwow. Faith Bible Church was considering a large gift to help Johnestablish an orphanage and Bible training center in that country. Before making the contribution, I went with Max Hunt to visit Johnand view his ministry first hand. We were impressed with his plansand the evidence of his work for the Lord. John had plans for anorphanage and Bible training school. He was a successful missionary,pastor. He spoke 5 languages. His wife Dinah a nurse. Their 3children were walking with the Lord and supportive of their ministry. And then, three weeks after returning to the US, I received a phonecall that John had died from a bout with Malaria. I rememberreceiving that phone call vividly. My first reaction was, “Lord,why would you allow this to happen?” I could not understandGod’s purposes. In my plans, John was irreplaceably. Therewas no one else to take up his cause. His ministry plans died withhim.
Inhis sovereign plan, God has not yet revealed to me the answer to myquestions. And this side of heaven, I don’t expect that hewill.
WhenGod reveals your Isaac, don’t expect a warning.
Secondly,don’t doubt God’s intentions. God is always seeking ourgood. “OurLord came not to destroy, but to save. Everything is safe which wecommit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.” (Tozer,28).
Thisis your DEFINING MOMENT.
NEWSONGsings a song “Your Defining Moment”
Therecomes a time in every heart A time of real decision
Whenwe reach the point of choosing How we will live our lives
Allour hopes, all our dreams Will rise up from that moment
Themoment we surrender And choose to follow Christ
Whenyou believe He’s all you need That will be your defining moment
Asyou live your life walking in His light Trusting Him completely
Thatwill be, that will be your defining moment
WhenGod reveals your ISAAC, it is only for ONE PURPOSE….. Sothat you can ENJOY all that you were created for. ITis so that you can find your sufficiencyin CHRIST.
Jesusis the central figure in Genesis 22.
Moriahis where the Temple was built. 2 Chron. 3:1 “ThenSolomon began to build the temple of the Lordin Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lordhad appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor ofAraunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.”(2 Chronicles 3:1, NIV84)
Moriahis where GOD PROVIDED forgiveness for generations of Israelitespresenting their animal sacrifices at the Temple.
WasGod seeking child sacrifice? NO!
Thiswas a TEST.
Abrahamdid not know this.
ATHEISTSobject to this story, accusing God of being a child abuser. Atheistevangelist Richard Dawkins writes, “God was only joking afterall, tempting Abraham, and testing his faith. A modern moralistcannot help but wonder how a child could ever recover from suchpsychological trauma. By the standards of modern morality, thisdisgraceful story is an example …of child abuse.” (RichardDawkins, “The God Delusion,” 242).
BUT,the Canaanite gods DID require child sacrifice. THIS IS THE WHOLEPOINT……… Elohimdoes not ask you for your child. He gives you HIS CHILD.
“Hewho didnot spare hisown Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, alongwith him, graciously give us all things?”(Romans 8:32, NIV84)
Abrahamsaid, “God himself will provide the Lamb.”
YET…..God provided a RAM…..
Jesuswould be the LAMB
Toarrive at this point of blessing requires that you CLIMB theMOUNTAIN.
Youcannot surrender your Isaac in secret.
Youcannot take a stand for God hidden in the valley.
Youmust climb the mountain and lay your Isaac upon the alter.
Jesuswas crucified in public display
Yourlife is a sacrifice to God.
Matt16:24-25 “Ifanyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up hiscross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”
“Abrahampossessed nothing. Yet was not this poor man rich? Everything hehad owned before was his still to enjoy: sheep, camels, herds, andgoods of every sort. He had also his wife and his friends, and bestof all he had his son Isaac safe by his side. Hehad everything, but possessed nothing.” (Tozer,27).