Summary: This sermon focuses on the audacious call to Abraham to sacrifice his only son and reflects on the times when we feel that God is asking too much of us. It is only in light of the sacrifice of God’s only Son that we can appreciate his call.
When God Asks Too Much
Gen. 22 and Mark 14:32ff
Newland Street C/C
8/20/06 (Sunday Evening)
Introduction: Have you ever felt like God was asking too much?
Sometimes other people amaze us. They will ask us to do something, which we feel obligated to do, or have to come up with some excuse not to and we tell ourselves, “They ask too much!” What we really mean is that the person has asked us to go beyond the level of sacrifice with which we are comfortable. Will you help me move again? We think, “That’s three times too many, buddy?” And then we politely explain that we will be out of town and then we think to ourselves, “Where am I going to go?” But in the end, if is something we really don’t want to do, we can get out of it.
However, how about when God asks us to do something? He may not send you an e-mail or call you on the phone, but there are times when you know that God was prompting you in your heart to do something. Usually the way we get out of that is simply to ignore him. There was a time in my life when I knew that God had made it abundantly clear that I was no longer to pursue becoming a law enforcement office. I knew he wanted me to leave S.H.S.U., and I didn’t really want to! In that particular case, I obeyed God’s will and he made things clearer for me down the road. I am sure that there are many times that I missed the voice of God or ignored him.
However, what if God asked what you could not give up? What if it meant choosing him as your God, or your own will? What happens when your will and God’s will comes into such conflict that there is no way that it can be a win/win situation? Would you follow God because he is God, or would you declare him unreasonable and go your own way? God once commanded a prophet to marry a prostitute that would one day desert him. Could you do it? He did! Jesus asked a man to sell all that he had and give to the poor and follow him. Could you do it? He didn’t! But tonight, we will see a story where our gut instinct tells us that God has gone too far. God will ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son, the son of promise on an altar to God. How could God ask that, especially after Abraham waited until he was 100 years old to give him the child that would bless all nations? God asked Abraham to do more than he had ever asked anyone else. What is it that we truly learn about God and us in this story? We shall see.
Move 1: The impossible command (1-2).
1. Isaac, the son of promise.
Not long before Abraham had already given up his other son, Ishmael. So, in a very real sense this is now Abraham’s only son. This is the son through whom God would fulfill his promise to make Abraham a father of many nations. This is the son whom Abraham had waited over a quarter century. This is the only son of his beloved wife, Sarah. Then God shows up and orders that Abraham go sacrifice him as a burnt offering. God offers no explanation. He even uses painful words like “your only son, whom you love.” We cannot imagine the pain that Abraham is in. His choice is simple. He must now choose between the God he has loved and served and his own son Isaac. That choice is not easy.
Excursion: The difference between simple and easy.
I once heard a story about a man who took his two year old son out on a camping trip and didn’t tell anyone where he was. He woke in the morning to find a coral snake attached to his finger. He faced a simple decision. Take the axe he brought for cutting wood and cut off his finger to save his son. Or die in the woods, leaving his son alone. The choice was simple, but it didn’t make it easy.
2. The God who tests.
Tested does not mean tempt. God tested his people often in Scripture. The Israelites were tested in the wilderness. Job was tested to see whether or not he served God because he is God or simply because God blessed him. Here Abraham is tested to see whether or not he serves God because he is God or simply because of the promised child, Isaac.
3. None of us have been put to this test.
But God does ask us to do things we don’t want to do or don’t want to give up. We spend a good part of our lives justifying why we don’t or can’t do something. None of us have been asked to do this. But some have been asked to make choices between family and God. Some serve God because of what they get from him, not because of who God is. Some of you follow God on your terms and not his. All of that is stripped away from Abraham. He will either decide to follow God on God’s terms or he will walk away.