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Abraham Part 10: The Ultimate Test

Scripture: Genesis 22:1-19
Date: 05/08/2004 
This is the tenth in a 12 part series on the life of Abraham. This sermon focuses on the ultimate test for Abraham, to willing lay down his son the altar and give him up. God blesses Abraham for his faith.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Good morning. Happy Sabbath. It’s good to see you each of you here. We want to welcome in a special way our visitors, and we’re very thankful for those who have made decisions to be baptized and those joining our family. This morning we’re just praising God. Today in a special sense we’re on sacred ground. One of the pivotal stories in the Bible is of course the story of Abraham, his great trial of faith, and the offering of his son Isaac. It is a microcosm of the plan of salvation and what God the Father did in so loving the world he sent his Son. And some of you might be thinking, “Pastor Doug, this is not Father’s Day weekend. This is Mother’s Day weekend.” Well, I’m sorry. I couldn’t help but schedule it this way. This is where we are now in our study. We’ve been going through Abraham and today we are in Part 10 the Ultimate Patriarch and dealing today with The Ultimate Test, and I think that the mothers among us will be gratified by what we learn about the Father’s Love. If you have your Bibles please turn with me to the book of Genesis chapter 22.

I’m going to read the first couple of verses here and then we will study in more depth this experience. “Now it came to pass after these things...” What things? Oh, a broad spectrum of trials that Abraham had been through: trials of famine, he had been through trials in family, trials with having to send away his first born son and now so much of his future and his hopes are revolving around this miracle boy of Isaac. And “it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said (as an obedient servant), ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Now take your son… Take now your son, your only son (in case there was any doubt about which son) Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land (the mountains) of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.’” Whew! You’ve heard the story so often I don’t know if you can put yourself in the shoes of the patriarch of what this must have felt like, how devastating this must be, this command. For years he has been longing for a son.

God said, “Through your wife Sarah you will have a son and in that son all the seed of the world, through that seed all the world would be blessed.” The messiah would come. And finally he has him. Abraham now is probably nearly a hundred and twenty years of age, Sarah nine or ten years younger depending on what month her birthday was in. And he’s being challenged to take this son that is the center of his hopes and offer him as a sacrifice. God spoke to him in a vision by night and some of you might be wondering how did he know this was God’s voice? Why would God ever ask such a thing? I mean, wouldn’t it be the devil that would say this? Human sacrifice is what the pagans did. I’m going to read a story to you from the Bible. In 2nd Kings chapter 3, verse 26, you might jot it down. I’ll read it for you. You can look at it with me if you’d like. There was a war between Israel and the king of Moab and it says, “When the king of Moab saw that the battle was too fierce for him, he took with him seven hundred men” nice biblical number “who drew swords, to break through” break through the troops of Israel “to the king of Edom.” He hoped to escape and find some refuge in the land of Edom. “…but he could not.” Israel was too strong for him. “Then he took his eldest son who would have reigned in his place,” the crown prince “and he offered him as a burnt offering on the wall; and there was great indignation against Israel. So they” Israel “departed from him and returned to their own land.”

The only way the kingdom could be saved was this king offered his crown prince. Human sacrifice was not unheard of, but it was something the pagans did. Of course this was another story in the Bible that helps illustrate what the Father did. I’ll submit to you that Abraham and God were on speaking terms as good friends. The Bible calls Abraham “the friend of God.” He knew his voice. When you’re in constant communication with somebody you become acquainted with their voice. Now I get a little miffed every now and then. I’ll call somebody in the church and their children will answer their phone, their teenaged children, and I will confuse them with the parent. And isn’t it odd sometimes just how identical the voice of the children ends up like the tonal quality of the voice of the parent? I know sometimes I’ll call the Taylor’s and Valerie will answer the phone. I’m sure it’s Vickie. Or I’ll call the McSherry’s and one of the girls will answer the phone and I’ll say, “Dianne?” “Oh, that’s my mom. I’m not my mom.” But when you’re on speaking terms with somebody and the more you know them the more you recognize their voice. I’ll bet you Rich is not confused between the voice of his daughter and his wife. They speak more frequently. Abraham knew God’s voice.

They were on regular speaking terms. They had an intimate relationship. And when the Lord spoke to him at night in this vision it was as clear as it could be. Every other message sounded with the same voice. The whole quality of the structure, everything about every other message, and God had spoken to Abraham many times, was identical. But the content of this message was staggering. “Take your son, your only son whom you love…” You know I understand that in the Hebrew text this is how it reads. It’s even more emphatic. “Take now that son of thine, that only son of thine whom you lovest, that Isaac.” It’s almost reinforcing God gave his only begotten Son. God was really saying to Abraham, “Take that which you love the most.” Now if God had said to Abraham, “Abraham, I want you to offer one of your servants.” That would have been abhorring but it would have been easier. If he had said, “Take 10,000 sheep.” Wouldn’t Abraham have preferred to give 10,000 sheep or goats if God had asked for it? You know I understand that you read in your Bible when Solomon dedicated the temple they offered thousands of sheep and oxen and goats to God. That would have been much easier for Abraham than to offer his son. There is a verse I want to read for you. It probably will fit here.

Micah chapter 6, verse 6 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” You know what he’s saying? He’s saying, “I want your heart. I am going to put my finger on that which is most precious to you.” I’ll make a, I’ll make a proposition. I believe that if you’re a Christian and you want to go to heaven and you’ve committed your life to the Lord, if there is anything in your life that is more precious to you than Jesus, God is going to put his finger on that. It might be something. It might be a position. It might be a job. It might be somebody. But anything in your life that is more precious to you than Jesus is an idol, and the Lord may test you, doesn’t mean he’ll take it away, but he may test you to see will you put this on the altar for me? Do you love me more than your father, your mother, your son or your daughter, houses or lands? And one reason that Abraham is so great in this story is because he demonstrated that he loved God more. Wouldn’t it have been easier for Abraham not only to give servants or to give his sheep and his cattle, but wouldn’t it have been easier for Abraham to give his own life than the life of his son? “For God so loved the world He gave His Son…” That doesn’t mean that God suffered less than Jesus. God the Father in some ways suffered more because he gave that which was most precious.

When Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “If you want to follow me, go sell what you have, give it to the poor. You’ll have treasure in heaven. Take up your cross and follow me.” Jesus was putting his finger on that man’s idol. It was his money. And you’ll find all through the Bible the Lord has a way of finding out what in our lives is more precious to us than Jesus. “Take that your son, your only son whom you love, that Isaac, and give him for me.” Is there anything you love more? You know Abraham probably prayed through the night. He was hoping that maybe God would turn from his command but it was reinforced in his mind that this is what God wanted him to do. He kept hearing the voice of the Lord say, “Now take your son. Now take your son.” And he knew he could not delay. He needed to do what God was asking. One reason that Abraham was finally able to resign himself to do this, it’s easier to give to God what we know he already possesses. If you think something is yours it’s a struggle to give it up. I find that when you discuss the principle of tithes and offerings with those who have consecrated their hearts to the Lord that’s no problem. They say, “All that I have is on the altar. God has everything.” It’s when we squirm you wonder do we really know it all belongs to God.

When God asks for our lives and we squirm maybe you question whether it really belongs to him. The Bible says, Romans chapter 1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present yourself a living sacrifice which is your reasonable service.” He owns you anyway. The reason that Abraham could offer Isaac is he knew that Isaac was a gift, a miracle gift of God, right? I mean, how else does a hundred year old man and a 90 year old lady have a healthy baby boy? It was a miracle. He’s God’s and it’s like Job said, “The Lord has given; the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” That’s why Job could have that attitude is he knew it all belonged to God. Do you know that? So he obeys God. Now one reason that Abraham is the ultimate patriarch is because he did not just serve God with his lips, he served with his heart, and the evidence that he served with his heart is he did it. God said, “Take now.” Abraham did not wait. He then took his son. He did not want to disturb Sarah. Can you imagine? Sarah is about a hundred years of age now.

All of her laughter and joy, what does Isaac mean? Laughter. It revolves around this promised child. Abraham had another boy. Sarah had no other son. Can you imagine his waking up his wife and saying, “You know I’ve gotten this command from the Lord.” How many of you women would understand? “Trust me. I’m supposed to go offer him as a burnt offering.” And so he thought it more prudent not to arouse her that she should grieve any time unnecessarily especially at her age and she would probably try to hinder him which could make it even more difficult. So he woke up Isaac and he said, “We’re going to go make an offering to the Lord.” He was not surprised. His father frequently went to some of the different places where they had set up altars and they would make a sacrifice to God. They knew the territory of the Promised Land. They were nomads. They wandered the country. They knew. And he said, “We’re going up to the mountains of Moriah. God has instructed me to come meet with him there.” So he got up. He gathered a handful of servants. They evidently took a donkey and they put the wood on the donkey. I don’t know if that’s because they had some wood that was better than others, but they brought their wood with them. And they began this journey. Abraham obeyed God. First Samuel 15:22.

Do you know what that says? “Samuel said: ‘Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.’” What was it that God wanted from Abraham? Did he want the sacrifice? As you read on, you know this story. Or did he want the surrender and the obedience? Sometimes we think that we can compensate our rebellion with God by giving an offering. God doesn’t want your offerings. He wants your heart. He wants your obedience. To obey is better. And so they begin the journey. He obeyed God. He rose early in the morning and he saddled the donkey. He did not just say, “Lord, Lord.” He did what God had commanded him to do and so he could appropriately be the father of the faithful because it wasn’t just faith it was willingness to obey. He saddled the donkey and they began their journey. Now the journey from Beersheba up to Moriah is about three days, and it says that they took this journey and after three days… can you imagine how agonizing that three days was? While they’re going along he’s maybe talking a little bit to his son but he’s not full of conversation, is he? And the servants maybe engage him and they can tell that Abraham is deeply, intensely troubled.

The servants don’t know what’s going on. His son doesn’t really know what’s up. They don’t understand the nature of this mission. And I think that’s also a good place for us to stop and to remember that sometimes you and I are oblivious to the struggles that those around us are bearing. Some people are carrying a very heavy load and we’re oblivious, we’re unaware of it. And every time he hears the voice of his son Isaac a new twinge of pain hits him. Through the night on their way over that three day period Abraham doesn’t sleep. It’s a long trip up to the mountains of Moriah, and finally after three days they see the mountains. Now I’ve put a map up here just to give you a little perspective. I’m a visual person and I like to see what it looks like. Beersheba is there to the south. That’s where he was living. When God gives him this vision Abraham is at the pinnacle of his peace so to speak. His family is finally in harmony because Hagar and Ishmael have left. He has been enriched by the Philistines and the Egyptians. He can see his flocks in every direction. He is fabulously wealthy and then God then gives him this test. It was when David was at the pinnacle and the zenith of his success… They made this journey; it’s about fifty miles winding the trails of the day from Beersheba to the mountains of Moriah. Now keep in mind Mount Moriah is the vicinity of Jerusalem. We’ll say more about that in a minute. And it says, after three days Abraham lifts his eyes and he can see the place “afar off.”

He’s looking for some sign from God that this is what the Lord has instructed him to do and he sees a glory, a glorious shining, maybe a cloud hovering above this mountain that indicates this is where they’re supposed to go. The same way that there was a light, a star, that guided the wise men in their journey to where Christ would be, Abraham we believe is guided by this glorious light. Now the timing of this is significant. He makes a three day journey and then he stops and he can see the mountain. He leaves the servants and he makes a half a day’s journey to the place of sacrifice. A total of three and a half days from the time he hears the voice of God until the sacrifice is to be made. Jesus at his baptism hears the voice of God; three and a half years later the sacrifice is made. Not only is it the same time period, it’s the same place. Christ dies in the mountains of Moriah. Now it tells us then that Genesis 22, verse 6, “So Abraham takes the wood of the burnt offering…” He probably takes it from the donkey. “…and lays it on his son Isaac; and he takes the fire in his hand, and a knife…” This wood may be a symbol of our sins that were laid upon Jesus. The same way Jesus bore a cross, Isaac now bears the wood. The same way that Abraham lays the wood upon his son the father laid our sins upon his son. Abraham has fire in one hand and a knife in the other; one to slay his son, the other to consume him. I think it’s interesting that right here you’ve got the animal, mineral and vegetable. You’ve got the vegetable in the wood. You’ve got the animal in the sacrifice which is the son. You’ve got the mineral in the knife. And then you’ve got the energy of the fire. This is a very deep story.

As they go up the mountain together all these elements of nature are there. You ever think about that? And so they’re going to the place of sacrifice. On the way up the mountain the son asks a very difficult question. It tells us that Isaac who’s done this many times, you know maybe he thought they were going to pass another shepherd instead of taking the lamb with them and dragging it behind the donkey they’d buy one there, but now they’re on their way up the hill. There’s nobody living in these mountains. They’ve gone past the little encampment of Salem where Melchezadek the priest lived. They didn’t buy a goat or sheep. Isaac now is wondering if his hundred and twenty year old father is having a little touch of dementia because he’s on his way to offer sacrifice and he’s forgotten the lamb. And so as they go up the mountain he doesn’t want to be disrespectful he addresses his father, and he says, “Father, my father!” Can you hear the ache in Abraham’s heart when he hears his son say, “My father! We’ve got here.” And Abraham says, “Here I am.” “Look, here is the fire.” In Bible times he didn’t carry a box of matches and they didn’t have one of those little gas, propane lighters. He probably had, they used to carry a vessel with maybe some manzanita coals that would sometimes smolder for days and they knew how to keep those things vibrant. So he’s got this little vessel that’s got the fire in it and he’s got the knife. Isaac knows they have the wood. It’s on his back. And he asks an obvious question. “Look, the fire is here and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” That statement, that question of Isaac is really the question that everybody in the world was asking all through history. “Where is the lamb?”

You see, at the Garden of Eden God established the sacrificial system with that first lamb that was slain to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve. You remember that God gave Adam and Eve robes of skin, lamb skin to cover their nakedness. The Bible in Revelation speaks of the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. And so from that point Adam and Eve and all the patriarchs and Noah they always knew the sacrifice of these lambs pointed forward to when the Lamb of God would come, and Isaac is saying, “Where is the lamb? Where is the real lamb?” Finally when John the Baptist points to Jesus and he says, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Do you appreciate what a profound utterance that was? The whole world had been looking for the lamb. “Where is the lamb?” And Abraham said, “My son.” What a tender relationship. “My father!” And Abraham says, “My son, God will provide Himself the lamb for a burnt offering. Now this is one of the places in the Bible where it is almost a transliteration. It is very exact. In other words Abraham’s statement can be interpreted, “God will provide a lamb.” But he does actually say, “God will provide Himself a lamb.” And this is what’s happened in the Plan of Salvation. God provided Himself as a lamb. And I don’t even know if Abraham fully understood that his sentence structure there was prophetic. He may have. But that’s exactly what happened. God provided himself a lamb. And so here they are on the way up the mountain together and Abraham makes that statement.

Going up the mountain where Jesus was sacrificed and he says, “God will provide Himself a lamb.” This was to help the whole world understand that. And then the Bible tells us in verse 8, “And the two of them went together.” You know there is something tender about that. Can you picture that? I want you to see it. It says they leave the servants, and by the way, when Abraham leaves the servants and they leave the donkey it wasn’t because you couldn’t negotiate up that hill with a donkey. If a hundred and twenty year old man can do it, a donkey can do it. He didn’t want any witnesses. He didn’t want the servants to try and stop him. They probably would think he was mad. He left them. He says, “You need to stay here to watch the donkey. We’ll take the wood. We’re going to go alone.” They did not argue with Abraham. His servants obeyed. And they went on together, and I want you to see the tender scene now. The sun is probably starting to go down and it’s nearing the evening and they’re laboring up the hill. Abraham is an old man. He’s probably having to stop frequently to breathe and he keeps gazing on his son and he hears the voice of the Father echoing in his ears, “Take your son and offer him to me as a burnt offering.” And he’s having to continually make this choice over and over again, “I’m going to obey God. I’m going to trust God.” I’ll get to something in a minute that will help you better understand how he was able to accomplish this. They get to the top of the hill and finally Abraham realizes, “I have to tell him now.” He doesn’t bonk Isaac over the head with a rock and then tie him up and he wakes up and finds himself tied up on a stack of wood. He’s not going to do it like that.

Isaac is a young man now. He was somewhere between fifteen and twenty and he could easily wrestle himself free from his father and make a dash for freedom and he could have done it, but he so trusted his father, he was so programmed from birth to obey. Very rarely do you find children that trust their parents so much that would be so willing to obey their parents that they would even die if their parents say, “I need to take your life.” And then stand there. You know what that tells me? Isaac was a willing sacrifice so it’s not only the faith of Abraham; it’s the faith of Isaac, the faith of Isaac in his father. And then you look at the life of Jesus and how often do you find Jesus resigning himself into the hands of his Father. “Father, not my will, thy will be done.” Isaac is going to trust his father and he looks at him and tears are streaming down his face. He says, “The Lord spoke unto me and I don’t fully understand this, but you are a gift from God and God has asked for you back and I am to offer you.” And he so perfectly trusts the word of his father and he can see from the glow in his father’s eyes that he has heard from God. And Isaac holds out his hands and allows himself to be tied. Jesus did not resist when he was taken. Peter tried to resist and Jesus said, “Put away your sword.” No one took his life. Jesus gave his life. He offered himself. So they come to the place of sacrifice. He explains this. Probably together before he tied up his son they gather the stones.

Can you imagine that? Sort of like an executioner asking you to dig your own grave. Isaac here helping his father pile up the stones, set the wood in order knowing that you’re going to lay on the wood. You know that’s something like how Jesus’ life was. His whole life was a preparation to die. He knew what was coming. He set his face to go to Jerusalem and he knew what his future was. His ministry was to prepare the disciples to continue after he was gone. And Isaac and Abraham move on with the preparations for sacrifice. He binds his son not because he can’t trust him. Probably because to help him avoid the natural instinctive response; if somebody is going to start cutting your throat it’s hard to hold still. Was Jesus bound to the cross? And just as Abraham gives him his last embrace and he gathers his breath. He finally resigns himself, “I can’t come all this way and not follow through. I am going to trust the Lord.” He raises the knife just preparing to bring it down and then he hears a voice. It says he “stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’” Now when God first called Abraham he said, “Abraham, take your son.” Now when he stops Abraham he says it twice, “Abraham, Abraham!” He says, “Here I am.” At the beginning of this mission Abraham says, “Here I am. I am your servant ready to obey.” At the end God says, “Abraham, Abraham!” Abraham says, “Here I am.”

You remember what Samuel said? “Samuel, Samuel!” And he says, “Here I am. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Here Abraham is a great man, a wealthy man, a respected man, a leader, a king in his own right and yet in spite of that he sees himself as God’s servant. “Here I am.” And God says, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” It begins by him saying, “Your only son.” It ends by him saying, “Your only son.” Why? Didn’t he also have a son Ishmael? That was not the son of promise. The Bible speaks of Jesus of the only begotten Son of God, and you know in the genealogy of Jesus it refers to Adam as the son of God. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called sons of God.” But Jesus is really the only begotten Son of God because he is the Son of Promise. Isaac was the son of promise. Now God says something here and I want you to think about this. He says, “Now I know.” Did God not know before? Is there anything God doesn’t know? I mean, you know, when the Lord went down to Sodom he says, “I’m going to go find out if it’s the way I understand.” God knows everything. Did Jesus live among men so he could find out what it’s like to be a human? He already knows, I mean, you’ve got to be careful because when you say that Jesus became a man, God became a man to live among men to find out, “I wonder what it’s like to be a human.”

He already knows all things. God often puts himself in a position of appearing to understand our state so we’ll know he knows. Did you get that? Jesus lived among men not so he could find out but so we will know that he knows because our comprehension of God is so small and God is saying now through this, “I want you to know that I know how much you love me.” Did you get that? It’s not that God doesn’t know something. “For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” It would have been easier for Abraham to give himself. He could give his son because he knew that it belonged to God. I will submit to you that Abraham was able to keep his son because he gave him away. Would you like to see your children saved? The best thing you can do for your children is to love them less than you love God. The best thing you could do to see your children saved is to give them to God. Whatever you try to hold on to you will lose. Whatever you give to God is the only thing you will keep. It’s a principle of truth.

Abraham gets to keep this son, why? Because he gave him to God. David tried to keep and spoil his oldest sons for himself. He lost them all. It was only the one he gave to God that he got to keep, Solomon, that was able to reign in David’s place. And then something miraculous happens. Abraham didn’t realize when he said, “God will provide Himself a lamb” how accurate his prophesy really was going to be, but after he prepares to take his son they look off on the knoll not far away and there is this ram. You know rams they sometimes butt things with their heads and this ram was probably scratching his head in a thick thorn bush, they call it a thicket, and his horns become caught. The ram’s horns circle around and somehow his horns have gotten jammed in this very strong manzanita bush or this, it’s not manzanita, this thorn bush they have there. It’s got a very hard wood. And he sees a ram with a crown of thorns. Are you listening? Can you see the parallels of Jesus and the Plan of Salvation here? Now stay with me. I’m speculating a little bit, but I think it could be. I got my maps out, and I looked at the layout of Jerusalem. Mount Moriah, the Dome of the Rock, is an Islamic mosque, the mosque of Omar that is built on this rock that is supposed to be the place where Abraham offered Isaac.

It was later called the threshing floor of Ornan. Remember when David numbered the people of Israel and an angel went through the land because of his pride and there was a plague and thousands of people died and David was interceding for the people of Israel this angel with a drawn sword was seen by David in vision and he was seen above the threshing floor of Ornan on the mount of Moriah. That place was later dedicated and it’s where the temple was built, and the legend is that the very rock, the highest point is where Abraham had offered Isaac. But it’s interesting that from the vantage point of Mt. Moriah, you’ve all seen the temple mount in pictures, right? From the vantage point you can look outside the city walls (there were no walls then) and there is a knoll out there that is known as Golgotha and I’d like to submit, I speculate that that’s where they saw the ram caught which is where Jesus died with a crown of thorns. I can’t prove it, but you can’t prove I’m wrong so I can believe whatever I want. And it sounds better that way too, doesn’t it?

It says, “He lifted his eyes,” in verse 13 of chapter 22, “and he looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and he offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.” Who do you think that ram represented? That ram of course is the substitute for Christ. “And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’” Now Mt. Moriah means “God will provide” and God did provide himself a sacrifice and God did provide a sacrifice as a substitute for Abraham. And by the way later in the Mosaic Law you realize that all the firstborn belong to the Lord and they’re to be offered to the Lord? How many first born here? Let me see your hands. I can’t. I’m the second born. I’m actually the third born.

Some of you think I forgot. My father had a wife and a son that died in a plane crash before he married my mother and then I had one older brother. I had to explain that real quick. But if you’re the firstborn biblically then you are supposed to be offered, but instead of you, you could substitute a lamb and that’s what they always did. You remember when Jeptha the judge of Israel when he won the battle against the Midianites he had made a vow that, “Lord, if you give me victory when I come home whatever first comes out to greet me from my ranch…” and usually when someone came home the goats and the sheep would come out and he expected it might be the family cow, it might be a goat or sheep, but his daughter, his only daughter beat all the cattle out of the gate, banging her tambourine and he fell down and he said, “Oh, my daughter, you’ve brought me very low because I’ve made a vow to the Lord and I can’t go back.” And some people have wondered, did he offer his daughter as a burnt offering. No, I don’t believe he did. The Bible says that you could substitute your daughter.

Whenever you consecrated your child, son or daughter, to the Lord you never offered human sacrifice. You would offer an animal in its place. And this is what happened on Mt. Moriah. God offered an animal to take the place of Isaac. She was never able to marry. It says “the daughters of Israel went to see the daughter of Jeptha at the house of the Lord.” You remember when Hannah consecrated her firstborn, her son Samuel she’d come up every year and she’d see him. You could consecrate a child and that meant that she never got to marry. That’s the way you read that there. It says that “she bewailed her virginity,” not her death. I just wanted you to understand that if you have worried or wondered about that. “And the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time…” I’m in verse 15. “…out of heaven, and he said: ‘By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and you have not withheld your son, your only son…” Have you noticed that now three times? “Your only son, your only son, your only son.” And then you get to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.” “‘In blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven and the sand which is on the seashore; your descendants shall possess the gates of the enemies. In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.’

So Abraham returned to the young men, and they rose and they went back to Beersheba together; and Abraham dwelt in Beersheba.” Now there’s still a lot left that I want you to understand. First of all, the Bible tells us that if you are a Christian you are a spiritual descendant of Abraham. If you are Christ’s you are Abraham’s seed. “Many will come from the East and the West and sit down in the kingdom with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And literal children of Abraham may be in outer darkness. It’s those who are children of faith. If you want to be a true child of Abraham then he is set forth here in this ultimate test as our example trusting God with everything, laying everything on the altar. You know I expect that most of you if I was to ask you to make the most difficult decision you could make, giving your child, speaking to those parents here, would be somewhere near to top of the list. I hope it’s at the top. Now you might have something else at the top of your list. I mean I would be ashamed if I were you and you said, “I don’t think I could ever part with my piano.”

And if the house is on fire… I remember one time asking people during a seminar, “If your house is on fire what would be the first thing you’d grab?” and I was looking for the word photographs because typically people go into the house and they get their photographs, right? How many of you that’s on your list somewhere? You’ve got a limited time to… and someone on the front row said, “My kids.” And I was sort of convicted because I thought, “I was thinking photographs, they’re thinking kids.” I never thought about getting my kids out! And then I thought, “Where are my priorities?” At least you’ve got the pictures of the kids, right?

We’re laughing because it really is serious, but what could God ask you to give more than your child? And in Abraham doing this he made the ultimate sacrifice. Now there is something else here I want to, I’ve said it before, I want to reinforce. While we have, while we’ve been studying the story of Abraham I think I’ve proven that the experience of Abraham is often the experience of Israel. It’s repeated. Abraham goes to Egypt. The pharaoh takes his wife. Plagues fall on Egypt. It’s during a famine. He sends Abraham out with great wealth. Years later that happens to Israel. They go to Egypt during a famine. They’re taken as slaves. Plagues fall on them. They’re sent out with great wealth. There are several examples of this. What happened to Joseph? In the brothers selling him and yet he saves and forgives them and their sin is covered with a bloodstained robe.

It’s all sort of an allegory of salvation. In Abraham putting his own son on the altar is something else I want you to consider. Who offered Jesus? The Romans? Now I’m thinking on a historical, political level here. Who offered Jesus? Was it the Romans or his own people? His own people handed him over. This is what Christ said would happen. They placed him on the altar so to speak. And in Abraham, how unnatural is it for a father to lift this knife to pierce his own son? But this is really what happened. It was an allegory of what would happen later in that Christ’s own people offered their own savior for the sins of the world and they didn’t even realize what they were doing. Romans chapter 8, verse 32, “He who did not spare his own son but offered him up for us, how much more shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

You know after Abraham had put his son on the altar would there be anything else that God could ever ask for that would be hard for Abraham to offer? You don’t need to test him anymore. Once you’ve passed that test, you don’t need to be tested in, “But will you give me a sheep?” Once you’ve given a son you don’t need to worry about if you’re going to get a goat. If God has given his son for you and me won’t he give us everything else that’s necessary for salvation? I mean, what more could he do to prove that he wants to provide for our needs? Jesus said in John chapter 8, verse 56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” When did Abraham see Christ’s day the most clearly? When Abraham saw the substitute of the lamb for his son. When Abraham heard the voice of God asking him to offer his son, Abraham, I believe, was given a vision, an epiphany that helped him to understand Christ’s day. He had longed to see the day when the Messiah would come and in this experience on the mountain and when the angel reinforced to him “because you’ve done this in your seed all the nations of the world will be blessed.” That was reinforced. Now you know you are Abraham’s seed. Abraham in the New Testament is called the father of the faithful because of his faith, but you know it’s not only because of his faith but because of his works. James chapter 2, verse 20, “But do you know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

Do you not see that his faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” You know one of the things that happened on the mountain that day is God honored his friend by allowing him to share in his sufferings. When you’re really going through a struggle do you find consolation in sharing that with a stranger or with a friend? And when you have a close friend who is going through a struggle and they don’t share that with, you does that hurt you? They’re going through this tremendous trial, you’re a close friend, they’ve experienced this tremendous loss and they never told, would you wonder if they’re friends? You know the greatest evidence that Abraham was a friend of God is God.

God’s heart didn’t just start aching about the loss of Jesus when Jesus was born and he marched up Calvary’s hill. The Father’s heart was aching about the day when they would be separated all the way back in eternity. He was aching in Abraham’s day, and Abraham was sharing with his friend what he was going to experience. That’s a sign of a real friend is we bear one another’s burdens. God allows his closest friend to share in his suffering. Hebrews 11, verse 17, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, he offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promise offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that…” Listen to this. “…He was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” Now when God said to Abraham “Bring your son” how was Abraham able to muster the courage?

You know, if God said to me, “Take one of your children and I want you to slay them.” Of course I would worry about the police. That probably wasn’t uppermost in Abraham’s mind. That was sort of the Wild West back then. But I would maybe expect never to see him again. Abraham had heard that “I am going to bless the whole world through your son.” In order for a great nation to come from Isaac, if Abraham kills Isaac Abraham concluded, “I don’t know how God will fulfill his promise, but Isaac was a miracle the first time. He will have to come back as a miracle. God will raise him from the dead if that’s what he needs to do.” So the only way he was able to muster the faith to make that journey to offer his son is believing that if necessary he would slay his son, God would raise him up. How many resurrections had happened to that point? Moses hadn’t been raised.

Elijah had gone to heaven but nobody had died and was raised at that point. Can you imagine how much faith that would take to believe that God would perform a resurrection when there had never been any other resurrection? Can you see why he is called the ultimate patriarch and this is the ultimate test? “Abraham longed to see my day and he saw it.” That’s why he’s called the father of the faithful. He believed if necessary God could raise him from the dead and “he received him that way in a figurative sense.” You know when he put him on the altar he resolved he’s going to die now. He tied him; he lifted the knife; had the fire sitting there, he was going to burn him and when God said, “Stop!” how happy do you think Abraham was? You could not have made Abraham any happier than if he had seen his son resurrected. It was giving him a new lease on life.

Can you imagine the way they embraced each other after he untied his son realizing that they didn’t have to go through this terrible ordeal? Ultimately what God is saying is that salvation is very expensive. You can see that when Abraham offered his son Isaac he gave the most valuable thing he had. Matthew chapter 13, verse 44, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, that a man finds and he hides; for joy over it he goes and he sells all that he has to buy that field…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he has found a pearl of great price, he goes and he sells all that he has.”

Salvation is expensive. Abraham was willing to sell everything in giving Isaac. And God is saying here that what he really wants is our heart. The heart is the core of your affections, the great command is you are commanded to love the Lord with all of your heart. If God has all of your heart that means you do not love son or daughter, father or mother, husbands or wives, houses or lands anything more than God. C. S. Lewis, indulge me if I quote from this Christian philosopher. “The Christian’s way is different. It’s harder and easier. Christ says, ‘Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work, I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there. I want the whole tree cut down.

I don’t want to drill a tooth or to crown it or to stop it, but I want it pulled out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires that you think are innocent as well as the ones you think wicked, the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you my self. My own shall become yours.’” This is what Christianity is all about. It is a total commitment. It is putting all on the altar for God. Only what you give to God are you permitted to keep. Abraham was able to keep his son because he gave him to God. “Whoever will seek to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospels he will find it.” So my appeal to you would be to give all, and you can trust God that you get all. The Christian life is a big sacrifice. It costs something, but it pays more than it costs.

You have to give something, you give everything, but you get much more than you give. It’s like the struggle of Job. Job loses everything but he gets twice as much back and he lives twice as long. And all of us have to pass through that trial in one way or another. God may not ask you to let go of a son or a daughter, he may. He did it for us and it’s a painful trial. He may ask for something else, but whatever… you search your heart. Whatever it is that is most precious to you God is saying put it on the altar. Until you do you can’t keep anything. And when you do then you get to keep everything. You know the Bible records this was his last trial. God just continued to roll blessing after blessing on Abraham. He continued to live, oh, another fifty-something years beyond that and they were years of blessing as he watched his son grow and his family grow and everything prosper. Why? Because he had put everything on the altar. God is faithful. Do you believe that? Let’s sing about it as we stand and sing that familiar song “Great is Your Faithfulness”. 100 in your songbooks.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father; There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above Join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Isn’t this a beautiful song? I never tire of singing this message; God is faithful. If I was to encapsulate what this story all involves, it involves trusting God, trusting him with your life, all that you have, all who you have, all that is yours, and placing it on the altar. This is what salvation is all about saying, “Can I take that which is most precious to me?” You know what Abraham did? Did you think about this? If Abraham had cut his own heart out and put it on the altar he couldn’t have meant it more than when he put his son on the altar because his whole heart was wrapped up in his son. Is that fair to say? God is asking you to put your whole heart on the altar for him today and then trust him. He’ll give you a new heart. He is faithful. You may have something that you’re holding back from God. Maybe you’re allowing him to trim and to prune but to not have the whole tree. There may be some area in your life where you just don’t completely trust him and this morning you’d like to say, “Lord, I’m going to give it all to you. I’m putting it all on the altar. I’m putting my children on the altar and I want you to save it for eternity. I trust you.” I want to be a child of Abraham. I want to be the seed of Abraham. Do you? You may have some special need that you’d like to place on the altar this morning. I invite you to come as we sing. Especially place your sins there, amen. Sing verse three. Come as we sing.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth; Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Father in heaven, Lord, we do believe this morning we have followed the ultimate patriarch onto holy ground. We have seen in a marvelous way how the whole plan of salvation is encapsulated in this experience where one of your children were asked to basically cut out their heart and put it on the altar and they did it and they trusted you. Then you gave them a new heart and gave it back. And, Lord, what Abraham did you’re asking us to do, to trust you that you are faithful to give you our hearts. If there’s anything that we find more precious, if there’s anyone that we find more important, Lord, forgive us. We know that we’re not worthy if that’s the case. Help us to love Jesus more remembering that you did give your only begotten Son because you love us so desperately. I pray that we can go from this place today transformed because of that love and because we know that you are faithful. You have proven it because of Jesus and it’s in His name we pray. Amen.

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Prophets and Kings (ASI Version) by Ellen White

Prophets and Kings (ASI Version) by Ellen White
God's Promises




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