The Test

Genesis 22

Proposition: God tests us to not only establish faith but also to reveal it.

Introduction: When a soldier goes through basic training everything that they experience is designed to ready them for the day their survival skill will be tested. How they obey orders that send them into ice cold mud, how they wait, how they run, how to trust when the task seems to be either too great or senseless. All the equipping is designed to make them test ready. The test when it comes may seem to be about trust and obedience but what it really is about is life, not just your life but the lives way beyond your field of vision. Listen to the way that God trained Abraham…Get up and go, I’ll tell you when you get there if you are in the right place. Get down to Egypt, trust in My strength to protect you, separate from the easy path, it’s booby trapped. Risk a mission of rescue, take no reward as it is duty. Recognize and salute a superior officer in Melchizedek, learn to believe and follow orders and learn the cost of disobeying those orders. Learn to wait, learn to hold your breath, learn to lay still even if it takes 25 years. Know the cost of evil, defend the cause of good, believe that God will prevail, believe that what God promises He will do. Become committed to the battle, you can’t have a foot in the boat of Isaac and foot on the dock of Ishmael. Abraham, like a soldier, has been trained. Now comes the test. Genesis 22.

I. The Full Frontal Attack On Unbelief Was God’s Plan.

Like soldiers in the trenches of the First World War, the command came to Abraham to climb up out of the trench and run towards the enemy fire. There were no coaxing words, just the hard command, “Take now 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.” This is the first time that the word ‘love’ is used in Scripture. The word ‘ahab’ means, ‘to breathe after, to desire’. Maybe it’s best seen in a young man’s sighs for the girl he loves, to breathe after means that my very life is attached to this one I love. God’s command was to take, now, no delay, your only son… for the door to Ishmael was now closed…and offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Know this about burnt offerings, the one who was to offer it must also be the one who must kill it. To kill the boy was harder to imagine than just to lose the boy to death. The word ‘burnt offering’ is ‘olah’ it means, ‘to ascend or rise up’ like the smoke of incense, like a fragrant aroma that totally consumed the sacrifice. What God was commanding Abraham to do was to perform a human sacrifice of his son that he ‘breathed after’ his only son, and that burnt sacrifice would ascend or rise up before God as a good thing. This full frontal assault on unbelief can seem too costly, too difficult, even senseless. Unbelief would shoot at Abraham like a machine gun whose barrel was red hot…unfair, too much, not now, if only, why me, I can’t. It’s my son! My life! What the test of Abraham teaches us is that God not only establishes faith, He reveals it present in us as we move forward against the bullets of unbelief. So what was it that strengthened Abraham to move with such a steady hand under such crushing pressure? What did he see, what did he know, what had equipped him to such a degree of readiness?

II. Whom You Believe is More Important Than How Much You Believe.

Had God proved to Abraham repeatedly that He knew the details of his life, that He saw the direction Abraham should go and had He told Abraham He would be waiting for him when he got there?  If the answer is a resounding YES then ask, “Is this true in my life also?” We sometimes are tricked into thinking that it takes great faith in order for God to really use us or to deliver us from some crushing trial. The truth is that it is not the amount of your faith but rather the object of your faith that is most important. God had promised at least three times that Isaac would live and be the father of many peoples and a blessing to many nations. God had not only promised a future but he had provided a future, wealth, safety, purpose, significance. How long does it take for us to really believe that? How long does it take to really believe in the One who holds our life in the palm of His hand? The answer for Abraham was 100 years. There’s not too many in this room that are at that point and God is still building His case in many of us but the truth that He is worthy of your complete trust even when the wheels are coming off. Faith in Him   is what He is building in us. That is what kept Abrahams hand steady.

So Abraham takes Isaac, he picks two other young men and they travel for three days and then Abraham saw Mount Moriah, he saw what would one day be called Jerusalem. He tells the two young men that He and Isaac will go and worship and then “WE will come back to you” (vs5), don’t miss that WE. This is the first time the word ‘worship’, ‘shachan’, is used in Scripture. Worship involves faith but worship is not always a joyful experience even though it takes place on the mountain top. It is a place of coming to agreement with God. As he and Isaac walk the boy asks, “Look, the fire, the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering.?” Where is the lamb that is to be sacrificed on the Moriah, the Jerusalem mount? It’s been a question that has echoed down through the ages, “Where is the Lamb?” How can there be forgiveness, where is the Lamb that will take away the sin of the world?” The boy’s question was simple, Abrahams answer, profound. “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” Whom Abraham believed was what directed his words, his actions. The amount of his faith…well that was still being added to. So Whom is the one you believe in?

He is the One who has a place, a specific place that intends to meet you at.

He is the One who has a way, an altar of sacrifice, that He intends you use.

He is the One who asks you to lay down your Isaac before Him.

He is the One who has promised life beyond death, even life through death.

He is the One who has provided for Himself the Lamb that saves your life.

Remember Romans 12:1, “I urge you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God which is your reasonable service {of worship}.

III. It Is Willingness That Forms the Heart of  Worship.

Some have said that Abraham had a faith that believed once he had killed his son that God would raise Isaac from the dead that could be the only way the promise of God would be fulfilled. Hebrews 11:17-19 says “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called”, concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead…”. So why didn’t God let Abraham go all the way and plunge the knife into his son? You know how the story goes, The Angel of the Lord (we talked about Who that is last week) calls out to stop him. Is it possible that God reckons the willingness to act as good as the act itself and that is what worship is built around? The willingness of Abraham to obey, to lay down his Isaac, the one he breathed after, to put to death that which is foremost as an act of proclaiming God is foremost, this was the worship that ascends as fragrant incense. God did indeed provide for Himself a ram, God did indeed give Isaac a future and did indeed reveal Himself to Abraham as the God who provides, Jehovah Jireh.

This morning you have come to worship, you too have been trained and perhaps this last week you too have been tested. If God were to ask you this morning to come to Him and to lay your Isaac down are you willing? I’d like you take a moment and think about what it is that you are hanging onto. What is it you breathe after, what has become foremost that shouldn’t be? If it is a fear that you harbor of never wanting to be alone…lay that Isaac down. If it is a talent or precious gift in me that I need…lay that Isaac down. If it is the gripping uncertainty of what tomorrow holds…lay that Isaac down. If it is a pride that says I’m just fine and I can do this all by myself…lay that Isaac down. Offer it to God, let it go and let it be completely consumed by Him, let it ascend to Him.

Isaac is a picture of Jesus Christ, two young men were there by Jesus, the wood was laid on Jesus back, on the mount of Jerusalem Jesus was laid upon the altar, Isaac was reckoned dead to Abraham and three days later he lived again, Jesus is the lamb that God has provided for Himself. Jesus was the one Who ascended like a burnt offering, Jesus was wholly consumed for you and I.

This morning God invites you to come to His altar, to lay your burdens upon His Isaac, even our Lord Jesus Christ. This morning God invites you to come now and worship Him.

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