I want to talk to you about a famous father this morning. His name was Abraham. His nickname was the “Father of Many Nations.” From him, the entire Jewish nation descended. And Jesus, our Messiah, our Savior, descended from his line. We all have a reason to be thankful for Father Abraham this morning.
God had called him and told him to leave his country and simply start walking to the land that God would show him. He promised to bless Abraham, making him into a great nation, making his name great, and making him such a blessing that all people on earth would be blessed because of him.
Now, in order to be the Father of many nations, there had to be a son born to Abraham, but time was passing, and it wasn’t happening. Abraham reminded God of His promises in Genesis 15 and said to him in verse 3, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” God took Abraham outside and pointed Abraham’s gaze to the heavens. He said to Abraham, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars–if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And verse 6 is a defining moment in Abraham’s life. It says, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”
There comes a time in every father’s life, every mother’s life, every person’s life, when you have to decide if you are going to believe God or if you will trust what you see, feel and think you know. In that moment, when God speaks to you and makes a promise to you, what you choose to believe will set the stage for everything that will follow. If you purpose to believe God, you will be able to walk through difficult and even strange circumstances, the kind that make no earthly sense. That’s where we pick up the story of Abraham and his Promised Son, Isaac.
Genesis 22:1-14 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.” 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.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.”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. 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. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
When you gather together as a family and have extended time to talk, do you ever just reminisce? Do you tell stories about times the family has had together? I can just hear the stories of reflection about his dad flowing from Isaac as he’s like, “Hey, Dad, do you remember the time we went on a three-day hike to worship God and when we got to the place of worship you bound me with ropes to a wooden altar and lifted a dagger to kill me? Good times, right? You wouldn’t think that experience would have created major Father/Son bonding. You would think Isaac would have had some major PTSD from that episode. I’m sure he could have, had Abraham not been the Father he turned out to be and had he not taught Isaac about all that experience involved.
So, instead of recounting the story that way, I’m guessing Isaac would have told the story like this:
Remember the time you taught me about radical obedience?
Remember the time you modeled unwavering faith?
Remember the time you demonstrated that God is good and can always be trusted?
Remember the time you showed me that provision comes when we look up to God?
Let’s take these one by one to see how Abraham would have impacted his son during this amazing worship and sacrifice story.
God didn’t ask something of Abraham that was physically easy. There were supplies to acquire and a three-day hike involved. God didn’t ask something of Abraham that was emotionally easy. To comply with the command to sacrifice his son had to have been the most difficult thing Abraham would have ever done. It is a parent’s desire and responsibility to protect their children from harm’s way, and to put your child in harm’s way on purpose was unthinkable. God’s ask made no sense. In fact, it was crazy. I’m guessing Abraham didn’t tell Sarah what he was planning because she would have had him committed!
Abraham wasn’t half-hearted. He didn’t argue with God about why this wasn’t a good idea. He wasn’t just partially obedient. He prepared the supplies. He made the trip. He built the altar. He bound his son to the altar. He went all of the way to the point of raising the knife over Isaac’s head when a voice told him to stop. If Abraham could obey God to that point, anything else God would have asked of him would have paled in comparison.
I feel like we live in a culture where people are asking, “What is the bare minimum that I have to do in order to pass the test or to get the job?” “What is the bare minimum that I need to do in order to be saved and make it to Heaven.” “What is the bare minimum I can give or the bare minimum I can serve” and still fulfill my Christian “duty.” I’m not sure it is part of our cultural DNA to obey without questioning, to obey without arguing, to obey without exerting our will and desires.
I think there are many believers who want God to be part of their lives, but only to a point. I see believers who want to give of themselves, but only when it doesn’t cost too much, require too much or only when it wouldn’t cause them any pain or discomfort. Do we just want Heaven or do we want the kind of relationship with God where He is absolutely in charge of everything because we are convinced that is the only appropriate response to the God who has saved us?
God tested Abraham’s willingness to obey. God tested Abraham to see who and what was absolutely first in his life. He passed the test. Radical obedience demonstrates that God is on the throne of a person’s life. Abraham’s son had not become his idol. God was ultimately first.
Abraham’s obedience led to a deepened relationship with God. James 2:23 tells us that Abraham was called God’s friend. Abraham and God shared a close relationship which was made possible because of Abraham’s obedience. Greater intimacy with God involves greater obedience from us. John 14:21 says, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
God reveals Himself to those who obey Him. That tells me that in order to know God intimately and to see Him at work in my life in the kinds of amazing ways He worked in Abraham’s life, I need to obey Him fully.
Something I have personally learned and also see here in Abraham’s life is that blessing follows obedience. In verses 16-18 God tied a blessing to the fact that Abraham completely obeyed Him. That blessing wasn’t only for him, but it was for his family and his grand children and generations after them. Dads and Moms, your radical obedience will have a positive impact on your family. Isaac felt it. He experienced it. No one would have learned the lesson better than he would have.
“Hey, Dad, do you remember the time you took me into the woods with the plan to sacrifice me? You taught me what radical obedience to God looks like.”
The second thing I believe Abraham would have taught Isaac is UNWAVERING FAITH. It is going to take faith in order to be obedient to God, and we need to believe some things before we ever can step out in obedience.
Abraham was in the habit of believing the right things. In Genesis 12 he believed God when God said it was time to pack up all of his belongings and household and set out for a new land. He believed God had a plan. He believed God knew what He was doing. In Genesis 15:6 after Abraham had asked God if he was still to expect to have a son with Sarah and God reaffirmed that promise to Him, we read that Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. We can’t miss the significance of this.
Genesis 15:6 is quote three times in the New Testament. (Galatians 3:6, Romans 4:3 and James 2:23) Abraham believed God. It was as if after hearing God speak, Abraham said, “Amen, God!” The Hebrew word translated “believed” means “to lean your whole weight upon.” What incredible faith Abraham had. He literally leaned wholly on the promise of God and on the God of the promise.
Listen, church, we are not saved and spiritually helped by making promises to God, but we are saved and spiritually helped by believing the promises of God by leaning into them, putting our whole weight on them. We will not be saved without faith, and we will not grow spiritually without faith. Because of Abraham’s faith, Genesis 15:6 says he was made righteous or right before God. In what did Abraham believe? He believed in the promises of God, and the Bible says that righteousness was credited to him or put into his account with God.
You and I have an opportunity to believe God and to believe what He has made available to us which is salvation for all who will trust what Jesus did for us on the cross. When we trust Him, His righteousness is put on our account (II Cor. 5:21). You can put your full weight on the Lord Jesus Christ this morning.
As Abraham and Isaac journeyed to the place of sacrifice, Isaac noticed that something was missing. He knew they had the wood and the way to start the fire, but there was no animal in their entourage to be sacrificed. He asked his father about that, and Abraham exerted fast faith, firm faith when he said, Genesis 22:8, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” He couldn’t articulate how it would happen, but Abraham believed God would make it happen.
Abraham’s unwavering faith stayed on display throughout the entire story. In Genesis 22:5 Abraham 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.” By faith, he believed that even though God told him to sacrifice Isaac, he believed he AND Isaac were going to walk out of that experience alive.
“Hey, Dad, do you remember the time you took me into the woods with the plan to sacrifice me? You taught me what unwavering faith looks like.”
GOD IS GOOD AND CAN ALWAYS BE TRUSTED
Abraham’s bold actions proved to Isaac that God would never command him to do anything that would harm him or someone he loved. Even though the command itself was to do just that, to harm Isaac, Abraham knew that he could trust the goodness of God. He knew his son would be safe.
I John 1:5 tells us that “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.” God can’t be evil. He can’t be wrong. He can’t be unkind. His motives are always pure. His plans are always right and righteous.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.” 1 Chronicles 16:34a “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Psalm 145:9 “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8
God is even good to those who aren’t saved. Romans 2:4, “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.” Isn’t that amazing? God is so good that in kindness, He is patient with you, and for some of you that means He is having to be patient for a long, long time. He is patient with you in order to bring you to salvation.
God is good to us. He hears us when we pray. God is good to us. He transforms the trials and tragedies of this life into trophies of His grace. God is good to us. He empowers us to live with joy and peace each day. God is good to us. He provides for our every need.
You only trust someone fully when you know they won’t do you wrong. Abraham knew that the goodness of God would keep God from doing him wrong.
I believe the only thing that kept Abraham steady as they traveled, the only thing that kept him from sobbing the entire trip, the only thing that kept his heart at rest was that he was grounded in the goodness of God. That which would have the power to rob you of your rest and to sit on your chest and crush you, stealing breath from you, that which could have the potential to disrupt your focus and steal your effectiveness, that which might possibly destroy you emotionally can absolutely be placed into the hands of our good and loving God. Abraham knew it.
“Hey, Dad, do you remember the time you took me into the woods with the plan to sacrifice me? You taught me that God is good and can always be trusted.”
Finally, I would suggest to you that Isaac would have learned that Provision comes when we look up to God.
By faith, Abraham had already told Isaac that God would provide the lamb for the sacrifice. He spoke it which is critical for us to learn to do. I have learned much from my prayer partners in our Wednesday noon prayer group, but one thing I have learned in particular has come from sister Rita Yoder. She has taught me to pray in faith by speaking about what WILL happen as a result of my prayers.
We are to be the people who speak words of faith. God will heal us. God will deliver us. God will rescue our children. God will free us from addiction. God will provide for our retirement years. God will give us the desires of our hearts. God will give us employment. God will cut through red tape and move mountains in order to bring His best to us. God will cause us to prosper spiritually, emotionally, physically, relationally and financially. He will. As we are properly aligned with Him, these things will happen. That’s a key statement! How many of you understand that sometimes we can get in the way of God’s provision, sometimes we can get in the way of what God wants to do for us because we aren’t walking in fellowship, faith and obedience with Him?
Abraham was fully obedient. He was full of faith. He was trusting in the goodness of God, and out of that proper alignment, He knew God would provide.
Look at verses 13 and 14:13 Abraham LOOKED UP and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
Church, we need to learn to look up to God when we are in need. He will provide for us. Philippians 4:19 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
He is Jehovah-Jireh, our Provider.
“Hey, Dad, do you remember the time you took me into the woods with the plan to sacrifice me? You taught me that God will provide for all of our needs.”
Well, Isaac grew up and went on to be a good husband. He loved his wife, Rebekah, Genesis 24:67. They were blessed with twin boys, Jacob and Esau. Even though there was some trickery that took place regarding which son received Isaac’s greater blessing, and the younger son, Jacob, wound up getting the blessing that was to have been reserved for the older child, Isaac seemed to accept that as the will of God.
We see Isaac had the kind of obedience his father displayed for when there was a famine in the land, God appeared to Isaac and told him not to go to Egypt but to remain in the land. Isaac obeyed. God promised to be with Isaac and bless him and give the land to Isaac’s descendants. God reaffirmed the covenant He had made with Abraham, saying that He would make his descendants as numerous as the stars and bless all the nations of the earth through them (Genesis 26:1–6). God found Isaac trustworthy, so much so,that He reiterated His covenant with Abraham to Isaac and proliferated His promise through Isaac.
Though there are no great achievements to speak of concerning Isaac’s life, it was Isaac whom God chose to continue the covenant line, the same line that would produce the Messiah, Jesus. And for many generations the Jewish nation described their God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Isaac did indeed follow in his father’s footsteps, and they were great footsteps to follow!
Isaac was able to be used of God because he embraced what his dad instilled in him. Dads and moms, you have more influence than you know. What will your kids remember when they reminiscence about your parenting? Will they remember your radical obedience, your unwavering faith, that God is always good and can be trusted and that they can look up to God to provide for their every need?