Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Trust in the God Who Provides… (A sermon based on Genesis 22:1-18)

Are you giving up something for Lent? What sacrifice are you making for God? Actually, you know what? Never mind. Your sacrifice isn't really all that important. The important thing is God's sacrifice for you. God has provided for you. He's provided his promises to strengthen you. And he's provided his only Son to save you. That sacrifice is what counts. Now put your trust in the God who provides. Then we'll be eager to live for God every day. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Genesis 22:1-18 and be encouraged to trust in the God who provides...

The Covenants that Culminate in Christ: The Ram

Trust in the God Who Provides…

A sermon based on Genesis 22:1-18

Sunday, February 26, 2012 – Lent 1B


Why do teachers give tests? Is it just to figure out the grade for the report card? Is it just to find out how much the students are learning? Is it just so the teacher can evaluate how well he's teaching?

Tests can be a good way to evaluate how the students are learning and how the teacher is teaching. But there's another reason to give a test…

Do you have a guess what last week's confirmands were doing the Saturday before their examination? I'd be willing to bet they were studying. Tests are a good way to force students to study, a way to get them to review and solidifying the things they've learned.

That's how God uses tests. God doesn't need tests to evaluate what you know. He certainly doesn't need tests to see how well he's teaching. But he does test us to help us to review his promises and to solidify and strengthen our faith. Abraham is a prime example of how God does that…

Abraham was tested his whole life. When God called him, his only directions were to "Get up, leave your home, move to a place where I'll show you." Even though Abraham had no idea where he was going, he obeyed God and left home to live in tents like a stranger in a foreign country. He passed that test.

God promised to bless all nations through his offspring, but he tested Abraham and made him wait. When Abraham grew impatient and tried to make his servant his heir, God gave him another promise. He told Abraham that the offspring of the promise would come from Abraham himself. It wouldn't be an adopted son.

Abraham waited. And God continued to test him. When Sarah got impatient, she urged Abraham to have a son with her servant woman. And Abraham agreed. It seemed he was scoring low on the test. But God was patient with Abraham. He gave him another promise. The child would come from Abraham and his wife, Sarah, not from a maidservant.

Abraham continued to wait. And God continued to test. Finally, twenty-five years after God had made the promise to Abraham, when Sarah was barren and Abraham was as good as dead, God allowed Abraham to become a father because he trusted in God and his promise. But now when Abraham had thought he was finally done; that he had finally passed the test, God gave Abraham the biggest test of them all! Let's read about it Genesis 22:1-18...


Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"

"Here I am," he replied.

2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?"

"Yes, my son?" Abraham replied.

"The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.  

I. His Promises to Strengthen You 

After twenty-five years of waiting for a son, Abraham finally received his beloved Isaac. Now God asked him to take that son, his only son, who Abraham loved so dearly, and sacrifice him. And Abraham made no delay. He got up early the next day and made the preparations necessary for a sacrifice. He cut the wood, the very wood on which his own son's body would burn. He loaded it up, along with a knife, some rope, the bedding, the cookware, and put it all on a donkey to carry it on the trip. And the next morning Abraham, two of his servants, and the son which God had promised him, all set out on the long fifty mile trip from Beersheba to Moriah, the place where God had told him to go.

Fifty miles. That's roughly from here to Cooper Landing. Can you imagine slowly plodding along step by step, mile by mile, thinking about what awaited you at the end of the trip? The trip took Abram three days to complete. He had some time to think. To watch his son, now almost in his teens. To contemplate the command which God had given to sacrifice that boy. I imagine Abraham laid awake at night, watching his son sleep, knowing that each step closer to Moriah meant one step closer to his son's death.

Perhaps Abraham wondered why God would ask him to give up the very child that he had waited so patiently for. Why God would have him kill the child through whom all nations on earth were to be blessed? But Abraham plodded on. He knew that God had made that promise; that God had planned the future around Isaac, his son. God himself told him that all nations on earth would be blessed through Isaac. Now God wanted Abraham to sacrifice the child of that promise. To Abraham it may have seemed like these two facts were irreconcilable. But Abraham continued until he reached Moriah. He wasn't sure how, but he knew that God could reconcile the two and work it out.

Notice what he said to his servants in verse 5: He said, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you." He didn't say, "We will worship, then I will return alone," but, "WE will come back to you." The book of Hebrews tells us that Abraham's faith led him to trust that God would bring his son back. It says that Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead. There was no other solution he could think of.

Now Abraham finally put his faith in God completely. He knew that God was good at his word. God had been proving that to Abraham his entire life. God promised that he would take care of Abraham if he left his home to go to a place God told him. And God made good on his word, not only taking care of Abraham, but making him prosper and flourish. God promised that all nations on earth would be blessed through Abraham, through his offspring from his own seed and Sarah. Abraham waited patiently and God did come through after 25 years of waiting. God had always been faithful, so Abraham would trust him now.

When Isaac asked him, "The fire and wood are here… but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" 8 Abraham [simply] answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." Although he may not have understand God's purpose in giving him this command, Abraham still obediently did as God told him and left it to God to handle the details. Look what his faith moved him to do in verses 9 & 10:

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

Abraham passes the test with flying colors! But he didn't pass by himself. God led him to trust in his promises again and again. Testing Abraham to strengthen his faith until Abraham could fully rely on God.


What about us? How do we respond when God tests us? When we know what God wants us to do, but aren't sure of the outcome? Or just don't like what we know the outcome will be? How do we respond when God asks us to sacrifice a friendship for him? Or put him above a loved one? When we are asked to sacrifice what is most precious to us to serve him? Do we willingly obey and act boldly trusting in his promises? Do we gladly do what is asked of us trusting that no matter what happens God will work all things for our eternal good just as he's promised? Or are we more like Abraham earlier in life? Trying to do things our way instead of God's way? Or on our time schedule instead of God's?

When you do forget to trust in God's promises and do things on our own, repent of your sin. Then turn to God and trust in his promises again. Trust in the promise that you are forgiven. And you can be certain that you are forgiven because on the mountain of the Lord God did provide… 

II. His Only Son to Save You 

When Isaac asked his father where the lamb for the offering was, Abraham told his son not to worry about the sacrifice. God would provide. Though Abraham didn't understand how at the time, God did provide. Look at verses 11-14:

11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"

"Here I am," he replied.

12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided."

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, "I swear by myself, declares the Lord , that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."


Just as Abraham was gripping the knife, ready to bring it down on his one and only son whom he loved so dearly, at just the right time, the Angel of the Lord stopped him. He said, "Don't lay a hand on the boy! Don't do anything to him! You've passed the test! You've demonstrated that you love me above all else!" Perhaps just then for the first time Abraham heard a bleating behind him and as he turned he saw the ram caught struggling to free itself. What joy he must have felt knowing that God had spared his son! His only son who he loved with all of his heart! God had provided a substitute to take Isaac's place! He would no longer have to die! And so Abraham called that place "Jehovah Jireh!" "The Lord Will Provide!" And God strengthened Abraham's faith once more by repeating the promises of many descendants and the promise of the Savior: "Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed."

But notice carefully what Abraham called that place. After God provided a ram to take Isaac's place, Abraham called the place "The Lord Will Provide." Though Abraham didn't realize it at the time, God would provide for his people on that very mountain! 2 Chronicles 3:1 tells us, "Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah." Right there, on that same mountain, God provided for his chosen people, Israel. He provided them with priests to offer sacrifices on their behalf. Those sacrifices, like the ram, were substitutes for the Israelites. But both sacrifices, the ram for Isaac and the bulls, sheep, goats and rams for all of the people, were pointing ahead to the ultimate Sacrifice.

From Abraham to Moses the expression went the same, "On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided." Not too far from the temple site lay another hill in this very same chain of mountains; Mount Calvary. And on this mountain of the Lord, God intervened to save all mankind and provided a savior from sin. We can't help but see the similarities between the sacrifice Abraham was willing to make and the sacrifice God was willing to make.

Out of love, both were willing to give up their one and only son, their long-expected sons who came in a supernatural, miraculous way, their sons whom they both loved so dearly. Just as Isaac carried the wood to the altar and obeyed his father instead of running for his life, so too, Christ carried his cross to Calvary and prayed to the Father, "Not my will, but yours be done," and willingly gave up his life.

 But here the similarities end. Abraham was obligated to love God above everything else in his life, including his own son, for God had given him all that he had, including his son. But God loved his enemies. He loved us sinful humans who hated him and rebelled against him in every way that we could. He loved us so much that he sacrificed his one and only son that we might not suffer in hell, but might have eternal life with him. Isaac was only sacrificed figuratively. Christ was sacrificed literally. It is an accomplished fact. Isaac's sacrifice saved no one. Christ promised forgiveness of sins and salvation from an eternity of damnation in hell to everyone who believes in him. Isaac was brought back from death figuratively speaking. Christ rose literally and assures us that he is victorious over death and promises that we too will rise again!

Believe those promises! God is good at his word! He has proved it time and time again. Just as Abraham let go of his own ways and trusted in God and passed the test of faith, so you too, abandon your own works for your salvation, abandon your own efforts for your  happiness, stop doing things your own way, and trust in God's promise of salvation through faith in Christ, our substitute. He promises, "To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness."


Abraham said, "On the mountain of the Lord he will provide." The Lord did provide. The Lord still does provide. He promised to send a savior and he did. He promises that we have salvation through Christ and we do. He promises that he will work out every situation in our life for our eternal benefit and he will. Just as Abraham trusted in God's promises, you too trust in God's promises. As Abraham's faith led him to live his life in service, you too live your life in thanksgiving and praise to the Lord who has provided his promises to strengthen you and his only son to save you. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen. 

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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