Summary: Abraham’s test of faith teaches us that God provides faith and something to put our faith in -- his sinless Substitute
Lent 5 (Historic)
April 1, 2001
On His Holy Mountain, the LORD Provides
What is it with mountains anyway? Last week when our guest Pastor Schmugge was here, he went to see Stone Mt. on Saturday, and then Kennesaw Mt. on Sunday. He had asked me what he should see as a visitor, and since he was a Civil War buff I suggested Lookout Mt. as well. What is it that attracts people to mountains?
The prophets Isaiah and Micah both foretold: IN THE LAST DAYS THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD’S TEMPLE WILL BE ESTABLISHED AS CHIEF AMONG THE MOUNTAINS; IT WILL BE RAISED ABOVE THE HILLS, AND ALL NATIONS WILL STREAM TO IT. (Is. 2:2) I heard a Christian archaeologist speak once about the Temple, and he was confused by that passage, since the hill on which the Temple sat in Jerusalem is actually lower than the hills around it, including the Mount of Olives. He shared his belief that when Jesus returns, God will simply go underneath it with his almighty hand and lift it up higher than Mt. Everest.
But THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD has been established as chief already, through Jesus Christ. In faith we can go to it. In fact, we must go to it, for there is WHERE THE LORD PROVIDES, ON HIS HOLY MOUNTAIN.
The familiar incident of Abraham’s test of faith teaches us that, and how blessed is everyone who truly believes it. ON HIS HOLY MOUNTAIN, THE LORD PROVIDES. And what is it he provides? He provides what we need to travel through this life and enter heaven. For he PROVIDES:
1. A Deeper Trust
2. A Sinless Substitute
Let us journey there this morning!
1. A Deeper Trust
I marvel at this text; it is loaded with so much to think about. But one of the things that really strikes the reader is the depth of Abraham’s faith. St. Paul, you remember, wrote to the Ephesians that the goal of all teaching and preaching in the church is to bring God’s people to MATURITY in their faith, SO WE WILL NO LONGER BE INFANTS (Eph. 4:13-14). But even in the Bible, rarely do we find believers with a deep, rich, mature faith.
But here is one of them. In fact, he is called “the father of faith.” And I think that epithet is deserved. After all, just stop and think about this test God put him to, a test of his faith in which Abraham was asked to set aside all reason and control all emotion. God asked him to make a journey of faith.
Logic must have screamed at him, “This can’t be right!” Luther made such an insightful observation on this text when he said that to Abraham it must have seemed as if there were only two choices: either God had been lying or this was from the devil. Because what God asked Abraham to do just didn’t make sense. Sacrifice his son, his only son? More than that, God had very specifically said that through Isaac – not some other son – through Isaac the promise of the Savior would go forward. How could this be? Didn’t Abraham stand to lose not only a son, but also his promised salvation? Hadn’t God changed his name from Abram to Abraham, which means “the father of many”? How could the many descendants of Isaac inherit the Promised Land (as God had said) if Isaac now died before he married?
And if this request of God pummeled his brain, what must have it done to Abraham’s emotions? Isaac was his son, his own flesh and blood. Abraham had waited 25 years for that son to be born, and then he was miraculously born to a woman past menopause. God himself had appeared with two angels at Abraham’s tent to announce the impending birth. There was so much joy in his heart that he named him Isaac, “laughter.” Isaac was his only son. Some of you have only one child. But does it really matter if I have four? Who of us could give one of them up?
Yet Abraham did, and he did it in faith, mature faith. HE GOT UP EARLY THE NEXT MORNING; there was no hesitation. Though the journey was THREE DAYS – plenty of time to think – he never turned back. There is no questioning or talking back or complaint, just obedience. He didn’t know why God had asked him to do this nor did he know how God was going to work all this out without breaking his promises. But in confident faith he told his servants “ WAIT HERE… WE WILL WORSHIP, AND WE WILL COME BACK.” And, most beautiful of all, when twenty-something Isaac asked a question that must have knifed into his old father’s heart – “WHERE IS THE LAMB FOR THE SACRIFICE?” – the father of faith replied in a way that showed both his love for his son and his trust in God: “GOD HIMSELF WILL PROVIDE THE LAMB, MY SON.”