One of my husband’s favorite expressions when I do something stupid like drop a can of green beans on my toe or run my leg into the corner of a table is, “That’ll leave a mark!” It is his way of trying to be lighthearted about the situation and to get me to laugh. Cute, huh? Yes, as the pain surges through my body the first thing that comes to my mind is, “That is so hilarious!” And the mark that is left behind like the bloody toenail or swelling leg bruise serves to testify that I have had an experience, that I have done something that leaves other people asking, “What did you do to your toe or leg?”
All kidding aside, today I want to talk about leaving a lasting impression or leaving a mark on purpose that causes other people to ask you what you have done or why you have done it which will give you an opportunity to tell them about your God.
As you students and teachers consider going back to school or starting college as the school year unfolds I want you to consider what you want to be remembered for. When everyone is gathering at the class reunion ten years from now, and your classmates come up to talk to you, what will they recall about you? Teachers, what will your students say about you ten years after they leave your classroom? What will you be known for? What mark will you have left on those around you? The rest of us, what will our lives say when we reach the end of our earthly journey? What can we do now to leave a lasting mark that will cause others to want to follow in our footsteps and pursue a relationship with Jesus?
The first of our “mark makers” is Noah. I believe he made a mark because of his faith. Yes, faith. That’ll leave a mark.
Noah was chosen by God to leave a mark according to Genesis 6 because during a time of intense wickedness on the earth Noah held on to his faith and paid attention to God. He was a righteous man who walked with God. When God decided to destroy the earth with a flood and wipe out the wickedness, rebellion and indifference to God, He decided that rather than wipe everyone out on the face of the earth that Noah and his family would be saved. They would serve as a lasting mark of God’s grace on the earth.
God shared the plan with Noah and told him that he needed to build a huge sailing vessel, an ark that would house all of his family and 2 of every kind of animal on the earth. Noah did just as God commanded, and he did it all by faith.
Listen to Hebrews 11:7: “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
No one else at that time in history was listening to God, was concerned with God or even thought about God. Noah’s heart was tuned in, however, to a different channel. In a world filled with violence and wickedness, Noah’s heart was set on hearing and obeying God. It was truly remarkable given the overwhelmingly perverse nature of the culture at the time.
The dimensions of the ark were so huge that Noah couldn’t hide his project. He couldn’t keep his faith a private matter. He couldn’t hide in his garage while he worked on the boat. No. Every log he cut, every nail he hammered, would all be on display for his neighbors and friends to watch, and everyone who saw what he was attempting mocked and ridiculed him for his faith because the thought of a world-wide flood was completely ridiculous to them and the thought of Noah’s family being chosen to escape by boat was preposterous.
I personally believe Noah followed God’s command in spite of never having even seeing rain on the earth before. Genesis 2:5-6 tell us: “and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground—“
At least that was the arrangement at creation. Rain wasn’t falling, and it wasn’t needed. Streams already on the earth were creating a mist that watered the surface of the ground. I don’t think the people of Noah’s time had ever seen rain before.
I am guessing Noah’s contemporaries thought he was a little “cuckoo for cocoa puffs!” or that he had an “imaginary friend” and was calling him God. It didn’t matter to Noah that no one else believed in what he was doing. He knew God had spoken directly to him, and he knew he could believe what he had heard. He was going to do what was right in God’s eyes even if it was crazy to the rest of the world. As William Pen once said, “Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong even if everyone is for it.” Noah knew that no matter what the rest of the world thought, God could be trusted.
Genesis 6:22 tells us Noah did everything God commanded. God said build this part of the ark this many inches, and put a window exactly in this spot, and make the roof exactly these dimensions and put one door right here, and use these specific materials. And Noah did everything just like God told him to. He didn’t suggest different dimensions. He didn’t argue about the interior floor plan. Knowing he was going to have to put up with the roar of lions and the calling of elephants he didn’t demand his room be farthest away from the smelliest animals or the loud animals or request that there be a greater plan developed for a sound barrier to be installed. He just built what God told him to build the way God told him to build it. God was in charge of Noah and everything he did.
I’m not sure we fully appreciate the magnitude of the task. The ark God commanded him to build was taller than a four story building and was as long and wide as one and a half football fields. Not only was the thought of a world-wide flood crazy to everyone but Noah, but no one had built a boat of that magnitude ever. Bible scholars believe it took between 55 and 75 years for Noah to build the ark.
Imagine the response of the locals. What would they have said about Noah and his attempts? And all that time, still there was no rain. Noah WAS the town crazy. But true faith takes God at His word. If God says a flood is coming, even though the skies are blue every day for decades, people of faith will still show up to build the ark. For the passing of time doesn’t diminish the Word of God, it only reveals that it is miraculous, enduring and unbroken.
Noah’s faith led to action. . . big, bold action. Noah took a “Go big or go home” attitude when it came to his faith. As a result, his family was spared. What kind of impact would Noah’s faith have had on his sons? His wife? His daughters-in-law and grandchildren? They would be forever stained by his faith and could never argue that faith in God is the way to salvation. As a result of Noah’s faith, God covenanted never to flood the whole earth again using the sign of a rainbow, and you and I are here today talking about Noah’s faith. Faith . . .that’ll leave a mark.
The second character I want to commend to you this morning is Abraham. What I find personally most compelling about Abraham’s life is his obedience because I believe what God asked of him at one point was the hardest thing anyone could be asked to do. While Noah was asked to do a seemingly crazy thing, Abraham was asked to do an excruciatingly hard thing.
God had already tested Abraham’s obedience in Genesis 12 when he asked if Abraham would just “go” where God would send. He asked Abraham to physically re-locate and didn’t tell him where the final destination was or how long it would take to get there or what the journey would be like. He just told Abraham to start walking. We see that Abraham was obedient to go without having all of the information that you or I would expect before uprooting our families and re-locating. So early on, we see Abraham’s willingness to go where God would direct.
Going somewhere is one thing. Abraham passed the “going” test, but would he pass the “doing” test? He was willing to go where God directed, but was he willing to do whatever God asked once he got there?
Abraham had been promised a special son in his old age, one born to him and his wife who was way past childbearing years. This son would be one through whom all nations on earth would be blessed. After years of waiting for this son of promise, Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah, two seasoned senior citizens.
We pick up the story in Genesis 22. 1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
The heading for this chapter says “Abraham tested.” The heading for the chapter when he was called to go wherever God wanted to direct was “The Call of Abraham.” I point that out simply because I want to suggest to you that as I have observed there are levels of obedience to which we are called. The fact that Abraham was obedient to pick up and go wherever is commendable, but let’s face it, the call of God was and is a special and exciting thing. To know that God is speaking and leading can be quite an adventure, and perhaps it isn’t too difficult to think of going wherever God leads as fun, new, interesting, and thrilling.
In that respect is one thing to go, but to go and then be asked to sacrifice? I think that requires a whole other level of obedience. That’s why this chapter is labeled, “Abraham tested.” How far would he go in his obedience? Relocating is one thing. Sacrificing is yet another. And the thing God requested he sacrifice was unimaginable. To surrender the son of promise to be sacrificed was beyond comprehension. Why would God ask such a thing? It didn’t even make any sense why God would ask for a human sacrifice.
Scripture doesn’t record a debate. Abraham didn’t try to bargain with God. He didn’t say, “Take me instead.” He didn’t say, “That’s as far as I go. You can relocate me, but you can’t ask me to sacrifice my beloved son.” No argument. No debating. No deal sought. Look at verse 3:
“Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.”
Abraham wasn’t going to put God’s request off. In his heart he exemplified that “delayed obedience is disobedience.” He wasn’t going to stall. He showed that he intended to fully comply. He even cut the wood ahead of time so that he could take it with him. He wanted to be totally prepared to be able to fully sacrifice.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes my obedience looks a little like getting into a pool of cold water. I want to warm up one toe at a time. I want to get used to the water. I want to inch my way in. I want to reserve the right, too, to inch my way out if it is too cold or uncomfortable. Not so with Abraham. He displayed before he even left for Mt. Moriah that he intended to obey. Others might have thought, “That’s too far to haul the wood, I’ll gather it on the way” or “I’ll wait until I get there to chop the wood” while secretly hoping there would be none and they could wiggle out of following through with the sacrifice. Abraham was “all in” before he even started the journey.
4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
Here we see Abraham’s obedience was fueled by his faith. He believed even though he was going to follow through and kill his son on an altar of sacrifice that God would enable both him and his son to walk back down the mountain together. Why? Why did he believe that so strongly to the point that he was able to tell his servant they would return together? He remembered the Covenant God had made and how through his son all nations on earth would be blessed. He knew that blessing couldn’t occur if his son was dead. He trusted what God had told him every step of the way.
I have to think he recalled every conversation he and God had had over the course of now many years. He mulled over every promise and allowed every faithful conversation that he and God had previously had to inform this crisis moment, this moment of sacrifice. You see, Abraham didn’t just jump in on the idea of sacrifice. He had learned one level of obedience by going where God sent him. He then learned to obey on greater levels, step by step, as he made some mistakes along the way. Every success and every failure led him to the conclusion that he could fully trust God and that led to his fearless obedience.
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
Genesis 22:9-10 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
I can only imagine my temptation to stop when I got to the place of sacrifice. I would want to step away into the woods and have a private conversation and beg God to change His directive. I could see myself, binding my child and through tears yelling at God, yelling that it’s God’s fault, that the sacrifice I was called to bear was all God’s idea of a cruel joke! But Scripture indicates that Abraham’s resolve to obey kept him not only calm, but kept him from even complaining or crying about the sacrifice God asked him to make.
It’s one thing to sacrifice and whine about it. It’s another to sacrifice and worship. Abraham purposed to worship. Worshipping means we adopt the attitude that wherever God asks us to go and whatever He asks us to do we will do as an act of worship to Him just because He has asked.
Praise God, you know the rest of the story. The angel of the Lord shouted for Abraham to put down the knife and showed him where there was a ram caught in the thicket that would be accepted as the sacrifice instead.
What would have gone through his son’s mind that day? No doubt his breathing had gotten fast, his eyes filled with tears and disbelief, and his shouts of “Daddy don’t kill me!” would have quickly given way to a greater and new understanding of what it means to fully obey God when the ordeal had ended.
Abraham’s son would have known in that moment, that as much as his daddy loved him, he loved God more. He would have understood what it meant to put God first. Beyond that, He would have learned that God was good. God could be trusted. God would provide in times of crisis, and our willingness to sacrifice in times of crisis demonstrates our level of obedience.
I’m guessing that young boy talked about Mt. Moriah for a long time. And every time he journeyed there to make sacrifices, even after he had children of his own, he told them about Grandpa Abraham and his near death experience and how God came through and always will.
Obedience. That’ll leave a mark.
Our third character for today is Moses. While he is perhaps best known for leading God’s people out of slavery in Egypt, I want to commend him for something else that left a mark and that was his mentoring of Joshua. Mentoring. That’ll leave a mark.
Teachers, parents, grandparents, adult influencers, never underestimate the time spent encouraging a younger person, teaching a younger person a skill or sharing your faith with a younger person. Every one of us who is a Christian ought to be pouring into someone younger than we are to help train and shape them and encourage them to follow Christ.
The only way young people will learn is to be challenged to step up and try. We need to create opportunities for young people to lead. Moses couldn’t have known how an investment in Joshua would set him up to be his successor to lead God’s people into the Promised Land, but as he gave him opportunities, Joshua’s leadership ability, his decision-making ability, his ability to strategize and to rely on God, they all started to develop.
Moses let Joshua be in charge of a battle with the Amalekites in Exodus 17. Moses stood up on the hill praying with his hands raised to heaven. He was praying to the God of heaven for victory for his people, and I know he had to be praying for Joshua as he led the battle. Things went well. The battle was won. Joshua started accompanying Moses places. Just getting to spend time with a leader like Moses, Joshua was learning skills and gaining confidence.
In one encounter, Joshua got to go with Moses to a very important meeting with God Himself in Exodus 24:13-14. Whether he got up close and personal with God like Moses did or not, he at least got to be on the mountain (vs. 17). As he and Moses journeyed back to their camp they talked about the encounter. Imagine being mentored by someone who had just been in the presence of God!
During another one of those God-encounters, Moses left the meeting to back to camp, but Joshua stayed behind in the tent where he could just enjoy the presence of God (Ex. 33:11). Do you see how he was being groomed to take Moses’ place? Moses wasn’t threatened by Joshua’s desire to hang out with God. He wasn’t afraid God would like Joshua better. He gave Joshua freedom to step up and step into that leadership space. Do you see that because of his mentoring, Moses actually was able to lead Joshua right into the presence of God? Wow!
When it came time to spy out the Promised Land in Numbers 13, Joshua was one of 12 appointed for the task. Joshua got to learn about working as a team and about reporting back to the group, and about how hard it is to motivate a group of people to do the God-size tasks we are called to.
Moses let everyone know Joshua was the next man for the job when it came to leading God’s people. He commissioned him in public (Deut. 31:7-8) and gave him an inspirational speech about becoming Israel’s leader and about not being afraid. Everyone heard him say it. Everyone saw the confidence he had in Joshua. When you are affirmed by someone great in the presence of others, it is a major confidence booster. When Moses died, it was a no brainer. Joshua was in charge. The people accepted his leadership because of Moses’ stamp of approval. Moses’ investment in Joshua had set him up for success.
This past week our daughter, Hannah, was invited to spend some time at Rippling Waters assisting the children’s evangelist for the week. With her were also Michaela Ball and Makayla Escue. I thanked the man, Jordan Davis, who asked them to help as I saw it as a great opportunity for Hannah to learn about ministry and leading others. Every time you invest in raising someone else up you are leaving a mark on their life which will turn into a mark on countless lives as those people begin to leave. Mentoring. That’ll leave a mark.
So, as you head back to school or to work tomorrow, think about what impression you want to leave with people and what investment you can deposit into their lives. Will it be your faith that inspires them to want to believe God for themselves? Will it be your obedience, even when it’s hard and calls for sacrifice that points them to the God who will also become their Provider in moments of crisis? Or could it be your mentoring, your sharing of opportunities and your giving of courage to people who just need an opportunity to try to do something for God? May God enable us to leave a mark that will bring Him glory and draw others into His presence just as the lives of Noah, Abraham, and Moses.