What’s up with that – God tells Abraham to sacrifice his own son?
Some things in life are obvious. Like this cat. Meet MEOW! That’s one fat cat! This cat weighs nearly 40lbs! He’s supposed to weigh around 7 to 12 lbs. Truth is, Meow doesn’t walk. Meow waddles and the Santa Fe, NM Animal Shelter is on a mission to get him back into shape.[i] Let’s go from cat to dog! It’s obvious this little guy is in trouble. Trouble or not, I believe those eyes can get him out of anything! Is he cute or what? What else is obvious? There is a Christian Comedian duo touring the US named Dave & Dwayne. But it’s not these guys! The two comedians are actually named Dave & Duane, but not WCC’s Dave & Duane. If you are curious, here’s the real Dave & Dwayne! One more! This soldier defines / embodies the word sacrifice!
Some things in life are obvious, while others are subtle. Have you heard of Great Clips? Recently, Great Clips has been advertising their special $5.99 sale. Come in a get a haircut for only $5.99. I was driving to a meeting near Polaris last Wednesday and saw this sign posted in the lawn. “We fix $5.99 haircuts!” What’s the subtle message being conveyed here? That Great Clips isn’t so GREAT!
Some messages are obvious while others are subtle. You will see both in Genesis 22. Turn with me this morning to Genesis 22. What is obvious about WCC? We are generous! For starters, we give away Bibles! Do you need a Bible? Just raise your hand! We also give away pizza! Today is Pizza & Pastors right after the 2nd service. If you are new here or maybe generally new but want more specifics about what this place is about. Well, today is the perfect opportunity. We will start at 12N in the Fireside Room and childcare is provided.
We have been studying the life of Abraham and once again we come to a crossroads of belief. Inotherwords, we are faced with yet another unbelievable scene in the Bible! What is God telling Abraham to do in Genesis 22? First, there’s subtle message I often miss when I read verse 1! Look at Genesis 22:1. Some time later God tested Abraham.
Do you know what we’re getting right here? We are getting inside information! We are being told God’s purpose ahead of time. We know what’s going to happen even though Abraham does not! I’ve missed that time and time again! I’ve always gone right to the child sacrifice part and God gets filleted for telling a father to sacrifice his son! How can God be a good and loving when he tells Abraham to kill his promised son? Just like Westerville’s Wednesday 12N tornado siren drill - verse 1 tells us “this is a test and only a test!” God is not going to have Abraham actually do what he tells him to do! For anyone other than Abraham and Isaac that’s a subtle message we often miss! As I read verse 1, I start to wonder. Have I ever been tested by God? Have you ever been tested by God? Once again let’s make sure we are all on the same page! What is a test? Maybe this will help?
A Mom is walking with her 4 year old daughter. Her daughter picked up something off the ground and started to put it in her mouth. Her Mom took it away from her and asked her not to do that. Her daughter asked, ‘But why?’ And Mom replied, “Because it's been laying outside, you don't know where it's been, it's dirty and probably has germs.’ At this point, this little girl looked at her Mom with total admiration and asked, "Wow! How do you know all this stuff?" Her Mom said, "All moms know this stuff. It's on the Mommy Test. You have to know it, or they don't let you be a Mommy." They walked for maybe 2 more minutes and her daughter said, "Oh, I get it! If you don't pass the test, you have to be a daddy."[ii] Oh brother! Mommy test!
I don’t think that’s exactly what the Bible has in mind. But we’ve all taken tests in school or online. Why do we take tests? It’s to determine whether or not we know the information. Why does God test in the Bible? To determine whether or not we know HIM! Testing in the Bible conveys this message. “It proves the quality of someone or something.”[iii] A test is an attempt by God to draw us closer to him - to make us more like his son. A test will refine or develop our character. A test normally involves adversity or hardship. There can be the test of integrity / the test of character / and the test of loyalty / the test of trust and the test of love. So any Christ follower on any given day could face a particular test! Observing this chapter tells me many tests come from relationships. If you are married you will face tests and if you are parents – your kids will create tests. Let’s focus on what might be the most common test! The test of patience! Maybe that really is the Mommy test, the Daddy test or the just plain human test? Choosing to be patient in the middle of some adversity! Has anyone heard of Lloyd and Eunice Ford? They recently celebrated their 83rd wedding anniversary. At the ages of 17 and 19, Eunice and Lloyd Ford were secretly married late one night by a Baptist preacher in Paris, Texas …. That night was April 9, 1929. Lloyd, 102, and Eunice, 100, claim that over there 83-year marriage they have never had a fight. Eunice did say, "We've gotten mad at each other, but we never have fought. She offered this bit of advice for married couples: "Most of the time, if you get mad, walk off until you cool off."[iv] That’s good advice.
When we are patient, there’s no telling how much good can happen. I fully agree that the patient test is hard, but look at the test God gives to Abraham? Verse 1 is subtle, but verse 2 is obvious! WE KNOW, but Abraham has no idea this is a test! So verse 2 outlines God’s test instructions! Look at verse 2. For Abraham, this has to be the worst possible news he can fathom. I will ask you first. “What’s up with that?” Now you ask? “What’s up with that?” Let’s find out. There’s more to unpack. Find verse 3. (Read 3-12)
What are WE supposed to do with this test? Here is my make shift altar. An altar is where you make a sacrifice. God wanted to know if Abraham feared him more than anyone else. God is asking us that same question today. Do you fear me? Think Kohl’s! Author Ken Boa writes, To fear God means to know him, obey him, honor him and love him.[v] I recently prayed this prayer! “God, what do I tend to love more than you?” I am now asking you to pray this prayer, “God, what do I tend to love more than you?”
Here’s what God revealed to me. I’ll start with what’s in my pockets. My smart phone. Tell me just how easy is it to bow to the god of technology? My keys. Have you heard the commercial, “Don’t just drive, arrive!” What’s the subtle message? The car determines the person. Not according to God. How about my wallet? This cartoon is kinda funny. I man holds his wallet above the baptistery water. It doesn’t work that way. I also bring my Cleveland Browns dog bone to the altar. The NFL draft has been televised for the last three days. The draft for Browns means for a few months we have glimmer of hope. I can’t put my hope in a player or a team to fulfill me. I bring this mirror to the altar. Looking at a mirror every now and then is a good thing. But it’s so easy to become consumed with looks. So much so we end valuing only the pretty and the powerful. I bring my books to the altar. I know knowledge is power. But knowledge can also create pride. I bring my new preaching Bible to the altar. Is it possible for me to love my job more than God? How many would confess, “My job is my life?” Is it possible to talk about the love of God but not demonstrate the love of God? (Tim Horton’s - $3.50) One more. I bring a picture of my family to the altar. The thought of anything happening to them makes me cringe. But if I love them more than God – I will worship them.
Genesis 22 is so subtle and yet so obvious. This chapter says nothing about Jesus, but at the same time shouts Jesus, God’s one and only son. Maybe you know my brother David and his wife Mary? They have two children. Cara and Isaac. Check out my niece and nephew. For most Dads and David is no exception – he would do anything to protect his kids. Here’s the so what for today! God protected Isaac, but he sure didn’t protect his own son. Have you noticed the similarities[vi]. Go back to Genesis 22:2, 3a, (Heb. 11:19), 4a, 6a, 7-8. Who’s the lamb? It’s not Isaac, its Jesus!
Why did God do that? John the Baptist tells us. Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world![vii] I want you to know something. I don’t like this story. The thought of having to give up my child for you or anyone else makes ill. Well now we know how God feels. Genesis 22 forces us to climb the hill of Calvary and watch God watch his son suffer!
Jesus was placed on the altar and the altar is right here. Despite my examples I could sum up sacrifice this way. Become a living sacrifice and if you do this will happen. Go to Genesis 22:13. (Read 13-14a)
God will provide for you. He did for Abraham and he did for us and he did for prisoner #23226. Do you whose number that is? Chuck Colson died last Saturday at the age of 80. Chuck Colson was prisoner 23226, but more than that he was a testimony. What word do you find in testimony? Test. You often have no testimony without first experiencing a test. God transformed Chuck Colson’s life once he left prison. Colson became a living sacrifice and God provided for him. I am going to move from this altar to the prayer benches. I invite you to come kneel before God and pray this prayer, “God, who or what do I tend to love more than you?”
[ii] http://www.gcfl.net/archive.php?funny=2116, February 22, 2006
[iii] Logos Bible Software, Theological Wordbook of the OT, Test
[v] Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image, 132
[vi] The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook, 50-51
[vii] John 1:29 (NIV)