Summary: Perhaps nothing brings greater joy and also tests our relationship with God like offerings. Let's see how God used offerings as the ultimate test for His friend Abraham.
A certain mom & dad worked hard and saved to pay for their son to go to college. He blew off his freshman year. He was irresponsible, didn't study, made terrible grades, squandered his money, & finally came back home. His parents told him, “If you decide to go back to school you’ll have to pay your own way.”
So he had to work that summer & was not allowed go on the family vacation. That was part of his punishment. The family went to Greece that year & the mom sent him a postcard, “Dear Son,” she wrote. “Today we stood on the mountains where ancient Spartan women sacrificed their defective children. Wish you were here.” (From Melvin Newland)
We've started a series of lessons on offerings and sacrifices and blessings from God.
Last week we took a look at what the Bible says about Cain and Abel's offering and how Cain's true colors came out as his offering was rejected and Abel's was accepted. Cain's way of offering seems to have been to look around and give God whatever Cain wanted to offer, but God's way of offering is to look into our lives and tell us what He wants us to offer Him.
We learn from Cain and Abel that our offerings expose our hearts and are directly related to our relationship with God and others. We also learned the importance of teaching our children about offerings God's way and that our very lives are to be living sacrifices to God.
Today's lesson comes primarily from Genesis 22.
But before we get into the story of Abraham and Isaac, listen to a couple of scriptures about offerings and sacrifices and blessings from God that inform us as to where God is leading us in this. Hear how serious God takes this, how personal and also how full of celebration this act of worship is.
Exodus 22:20 (Are you ready for this?) Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed. How does God really feel about our offerings and sacrifices? I tell you, God takes these very personally! And we should too!
Deuteronomy 12 tells us more, lots more, but let's just hear the first 7 verses.
1 These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land. 2 Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. 3 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.
4 You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. 5 But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.
I get the picture here that, number one: God is not pleased when His people make offerings to any god but Him. Number two: God wants us to bring our offerings before Him and celebrate in joyful worship! Worship that recognizes that all our blessings have come from the Lord!
Just two more passages and we will go to Genesis 22.
4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.
And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.
Would you say that offerings and sacrifices were associated with joy in those passages? Isn't that beautiful? God wants us to be cheerful givers and thankful receivers! Offerings are a part of worship where this is supposed to happen! Right?