What do you love the most…? I read on article in USA Today that listed the 20 most popular things people are buying today. Some of the 20 listed were: cloth face coverings, hand sanitizer, mother’s day flowers (I’m guessing this wasn’t on Father’s day), active dry yeast, toilet paper, the best can opener, all-clad cookware, an affordable robot vacuum, and a good popcorn maker. Do any of those make your list…what do you love the most…?
How about people…who do you love the most…? I remember being a youngster and wondering from time to time if my parents loved me or my sisters more. I did not have the heart to tell my sisters the answer… I also remember my own children asking me the same question about them... Who do you love the most…? And, how much do you love that person…? Now take that love you have and ask yourself…what would you do if God suddenly told you to sacrifice that person…?
Abraham, from our scripture today, loved his son Isaac very much. He was 100 years old when he and his wife Sarah bore Isaac. 100. I was around 41 when my youngest was born, and some days, I think I may be too old to keep up... 100. Abraham had another son named Ishmael, through their servant Hagar. But when Isaac was weaned, Ishmael had laughed or mocked him, so Abraham’s wife Sarah had Hagar and Ishmael cast out. Now, as you can imagine, Abraham was quite troubled by this but God said to Abraham in Genesis 21:13 that He would make a nation, of the son of the slave woman also, because he is Abraham’s offspring.
Abraham could breathe a sigh of some relief knowing that Ishmael would go on to be great, and now, he could be all the more devoted to his son Isaac…remember, he was 100 when Isaac was born.
Have you ever waited for something, or someone, for a long time…? Means so much more the longer you have waited, or the more you’ve gone through. Abraham and Sarah were both quite old when they finally had their son Isaac. Imagine the love they had for him.
And so, in Genesis 22:1 “After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”” … “God tested Abraham”. “While it is not unknown for God to test individuals, testing must be clearly distinguished from tempting.” (ESV Global Study Bible Gen. 22:1). James 1:13 tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” He does, however, test people’s commitment to him (ESV Global Study Bible Gen. 22:1). Look at Exodus 15:25, “And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them. And in Exodus 16:4, “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.””
Committed… Is the world committed to the LORD? CNN.com reports this past June 24th,
“More than 9.1 million cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the US, cases are spiking in some states as the nation continues to reopen. Young people in the South and West are increasingly testing positive. The EU is considering recommending that member states block Americans from visiting their countries due to Covid-19 surge, according to two EU diplomats.” (https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-pandemic-06-23-20-intl/index.html)
Is our country committed to the LORD? Statues being torn down all over the country…
“California, the most populous US state and the first to implement a statewide lockdown to combat the coronavirus outbreak, is setting daily records this week for new cases” (https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/25/health/california-coronavirus-cases-surge/index.html)
The world, our country, all are having their commitment to the LORD tested. Where is your commitment today? Is it in a statue, some celebrity, something popular, or is it in the LORD…? When I think on various things or people I have admired, promoted, or otherwise idolized in my lifetime, one could just cringe, or otherwise brace themselves for some information to eventually come out that takes that thing, or that person, off the pedestal they were placed on... Abraham waited 100 years for Isaac…do you think he was committed to him? … The LORD was going to find out who came in first when it came to the life of Abraham.
Genesis 22:2, “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.”” … Whew, that is a lot to unpack.
“Whom you love” … Abraham’s love for his son is a faint picture of God’s love for His Son, Jesus. The sacrifice of Isaac was a picture of the greatest act of worship—the Savior’s self-sacrifice to accomplish the will of God (Believer Bible commentary pg. 55 22:1-10).
“Go to the land of Moriah” … Moriah is the mountain range where Jerusalem is situated and where Calvary stood (2 Chron. 3:1). “…offer him there as a burnt offering…? This is the supreme test of Abraham’s faith. “…your son, your only son…” Isaac was Abraham’s only son in the sense that he was the only son of promise—the unique son, the son of miraculous birth. Does this sound familiar? This is clear foreshadowing of the death of God’s only Son on the cross. And it was through the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s only Son, that we are forgiven. That is commitment to our LORD. And this was Abraham’s test.
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.” Talk about commitment. 50- or 60-miles Abraham and Isaac traveled from Beersheba to Mount Moriah. About three days journey. Can you imagine? Three days traveling, knowing that you are heading to sacrifice your son that you waited 100 years for… Jesus knew for longer than 3 days the sacrifice He would make. Commitment. It is clear, despite what must have been unbelievable agony, who came in first to Abraham… Who is first in your life?
So, they get there, Abraham sees where he is to go; tells the others to stay back with the donkey, while he and Isaac go and worship (Gen. 22:4-5). Verse 6 tells us, “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.” The Bible here tells us this event rather matter of fact, doesn’t it? It does not explain what feelings they must have been experiencing, but one can empathize. One can easily imagine the internal agony Abraham must have been going through, yet he takes the wood, lays it on his son, and takes the fire and knife in hand… Abraham is showing complete commitment to the LORD, even if, he doesn’t like it, nor may not understand it.
Do you ever do something you know is wrong, but do it anyways because it is what you want to do in that moment? Do you ever do something, or decide, based on popular opinion, even if you know it is not in line with what the LORD has commanded us? … Where do you place your commitment? … In your world, who comes in first?
I would imagine almost everything was telling Abraham not to go through with sacrificing his son. If the local news affiliate had been on hand, you can bet public opinion would be against that sacrifice…yet Abraham was committed to the LORD.
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?”” Isaac is about 25 years old here, so you bet he has got some questions at this point. Notice the word “Lamb” here though. More foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice. And how can Abraham respond to his son here? … 8 “Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.” This promise was not ultimately fulfilled by the ram later in verse 13 but by the Lamb of God, being His only Son Jesus. God never wanted Isaac to die. What He did want is the same He wants from us: to come in first. “He wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in his heart so it would be clear that Abraham loved God more than he loved his promised and long-awaited son. God was testing Abraham” (NIV Life application study Bible pg. 53 22:7,8 note).
When you are or were in school, what is the purpose of taking a test? … The purpose is to strengthen our learning. God’s test is to strengthen our character and deepen our commitment to God and his perfect timing, and it is often the timing that is the hardest part. We all get put to various tests. Sometimes we last, and sometimes we do not. The times we have though, our character is better for it, and our commitment towards whatever that goal was, is all the stronger. And God wants our commitment to be to Him first.
Abraham showed his commitment, and Isaac was not sacrificed here, but Abraham showed that God came in first.
Isaac was spared… God did not spare his own Son, Jesus, from dying on the cross. If Jesus had lived, the rest of humankind would have died. God sent his only Son to die for us so that we could be spared from the eternal death we deserve and instead receive eternal life (NIV Life application study Bible pg. 53, note 22:13) … “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Who is coming in first in your life? … Who has your commitment? … Let’s pray, A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition (UMH #607)
I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee, Exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O Glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.