Good morning everyone. I pray that you have had a blessed week? This week has been a bad week for me. It seemed that this was one of those weeks where everything seemed to go wrong. If it wasn’t one thing then it was another. As I look back upon the week and all that I had to face, I believe that it was in part preparing me for the what we are about to discuss today. As I was preparing through this week’s passage in Genesis 22, it became more and more evident that as a child of God, I have to embraced a misconception of what it means to hold onto the promises of God. In my limited physical, temporal and spiritual perception, I have held to the truth that God gives each of us promise as children and it is upon those promises that we are called to hold onto what He has given us. In fact many of us hold onto the truth in Matthew 7:7-13 which says “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Ask and it will be given to you, this is a truth in the scriptures that many hold onto that the critical foundation for which their foundation of salvation is built upon. Whether it is the promise of provision or the promise of healing or the many other promises we are given, it is easy for us to hold onto these promises within our limited perspective as human beings. This morning, we are going to go through a good portion of Genesis 22, where our Lord speaks specifically upon the promises and where our perspective of what the promises of God should look for in our lives. So turn with me to Genesis 22.
Scripture – Genesis 22:1-19 (ESV)
The Sacrifice of Isaac
22 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 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.” 3 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 the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
9 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. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 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.” 13 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. 14 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.”
15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his[d] enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.
Engaging the Word
The Purpose for Faith Tested
If you have not been journeying with us through what faith look’s like in the life of Abraham, let me just give you a brief overview. Our Lord came down upon the life of Abraham many, many years before this passage, and spoke into the life of Abraham. Our Lord not only gave Abraham new purpose in that moment but also gave Abraham a promise that he would bless him and his wife Sarah and give them a son that would be a beginning of a new nation. Through the journey of life, we saw how Abraham and Sarah his wife at times lost their way, holding onto the plans of men rather than the promises of God and time after time God came to their rescue to reveal to them the promise that had been given to them. We even saw that in their old age Abraham and Sarah were found to even laughed at the promise of God, because it was hard for them to see how God’s promise could be revealed within man’s perspective of time. However, through all of this God’s promise was revealed in the life of Abraham and Sarah as they had a little boy at the young age of 100.
So we enter here by theologian estimates approximately 25 years, where our Lord once again reveals himself to Abraham and gives him instruction to take the son that God has given him and go to the land of Moriah so that he can sacrifice Isaac to our Lord. As anyone reads this text of scripture it is easy to have the knee jerk reaction of struggling to understand what our Lord is doing in the life of Abraham and Isaac and what He is trying to teach you and me today. However we need to understand one key to be able to understand the fullness of this scripture and others throughout the Bible, God tests our faith for a purpose. Let’s just consider the context of the two primary individuals in this passage, Abraham and Isaac. God gives this test of faith to Abraham so that he can fully grasp the provision of God. God had given this promise to Abraham so that he could learn to trust in the provision of his creator. Secondly God gave this test of faith to Abraham, so that Isaac could learn to trust in the provision of his creator and so that he can learn to trust in the promises of God. You see, our Lord provides tests for our faith to not only strengthen our faith in our creator, but at times our Lord gives us tests so that we can be a witness to those around us, that faith in God is not void. Unfortunately, too often many of us are caught up in the trial or test to really see God’s purpose in what we are facing, but if we take the time and spiritual perspective it will soon become evident that trust in God is for a purpose. What do you think Isaac was thinking when he was being tied by and placed on the altar? Josephus estimated that Isaac was about 24-25 when this was happening. From this young man’s perspective, what do you think he was thinking and feeling as his father was tying him up and placing him on the altar, all the while remembering that his father had said that God will provide? What do you think Isaac thought and believed when he saw the angel of the Lord and the ram? What do you think those around us experience when they see the hand of God revealed in the promises that He gives us? Our Lord’s purpose to test our faith is evidenced in the strengthening our foundation of trust in Him and the revealing if his glory for those who need to see the hand of God in their lives.
Trusting the Promiser not the Promise
So now that we understand that God tests our faith for his glory in our lives so that our faith might be strengthened and so that those around us might experience who God is as our Savior. Knowing this, how should we embrace the promises that God gives us as his children. We are often reminded of Philippians 4:19 where it says that “my God will supply all our needs according to his riches in glory.” This scripture in and of itself is of great encouragement to many believers, because we are led to believe that our Lord will always supply our needs and unfortunately for many believers we see our needs within the context of our physical needs and not our spiritual needs. Yes, our Lord does provide for our physical needs, but our Lord does not see the physical needs of man as imperative for his eternal salvation. God’s riches in glory are not made up of dollar bills, houses or cars; rather God’s riches in glory is revealed in his glory, his majesty and holiness and his glory. Here in this passage this morning, we need to understand as children of our glorious creator, that God provides tests upon our faith so that we might learn to trust in our promiser and not the promises that we have been given. God gives us many promises in this life whether they are the universal promises such as salvation, home or eternal life, or the personal promises of freedom from a besetting sin, or promise for our family or our ministry. However, all of these promises lay secondary to the promise that is our Lord and Savior. There is a reason that many fall away from Christ when the promise that they hold onto becomes more important than the promiser who gives it to them. Today, I would like to ask you, where does your promise remain? For Abraham that day, he had to let go of what God had promised him, so that he might completely trust in the one who had given him the promise that lay before him. Today are we ready to do the same? Are we willing to let go of all that God has given us so that our trust in our Lord supersedes all that lies before us? The Promise that we experience in this life; the life of provision that we experience in this life should never be weighted by earthly measures but by our Savior, Jehovah Jireh.
Promise Revealed in Purpose
In James 1:2-4 it says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”. There are some truths in this scripture that are impossible to grasp as a non-believer and for many of us as believers, it is still very hard to grasp spiritually. When we hear words like joy, perfection and completion, these words are not adjectives that we would identify with the testing of our faith. When Abraham was walking up mount Moriah with his son, knowing what lay before him, we cannot understand how anyone would be able to make that walk considering it joy. Neither can we see those moments has steps to our completeness or perfection. That is why scripture tells us in Romans 12 that we are called to present our bodies has holy sacrifices, so that our minds might be renewed and transformed by the presence of our Savior, perfect and acceptable. You see there is nothing that we can do to embrace the concept of joy in trials on our own. We can try what we may but in our own strength the testing of our faith is as foreign as the death of our Savior on the cross was to those who witnessed his sacrifice. So how do we as disciple experience this joy in these moments? The only way that we can experience joy in the testing of our faith is through the experience of the one who gave us the promise in the first place. God’s promise for each of us whether they are universal or personal are not defined by the promise but by the one who provided the promise. It is in experience this truth in our life that we as disciples can experience joy that is revealed in our testing.
Today, if you have found yourself struggling in a trial that is bearing down upon you, I would ask that you consider from where that trial is founded. For some of us these trials may be founded upon the sin in our lives or the sinful nature of this world. However for others, our Lord may have placed this test in your life so that you may experience a stronger foundation of faith in your life, or that those around you may see the glory of the Lord in the land of living. If the Lord has provided a moment of testing in our lives, it is imperative for us to search our own hearts so that we might understand where our hope and faith rests upon. Is it founded upon the promises that we feel that God has given us or is it founded upon the one who has given us these promises? Finally, as believers who search after a life that is perfect and complete, we are called to search for a renewing of our mind so that we experience joy of our Lord. These truths are not to be taken lightly just as Abraham laying his son on the altar was not to be taken lightly. These are truths that many of us will struggle to understand and embrace in many days to come, but if each of us are persistent and focused upon the presence of our Lord and not the fruit of our relationship it is then that we can experience oneness with our Lord and Savior.