Sermon series: A Lasting Legacy
The account of the sacrifice of Isaac is a dramatic record of remarkable crisis in Abram's life. It is a story without precedent or parallel in Old Testament.
It was without precedent because Jehovah God had never demanded human sacrifice.
It was without parallel because no one else had ever been commanded to do it.
Scene - heartache, brokenness, lack of understanding, illogical - son of promise now to be sacrificed to the God who provided him. Surrounding pagans had regularly offered their children as a sacrifice to their gods, but not to Jehovah. It all seemed so improbable and impossible - and unnecessary. Why? That question must have pierced Abram's heart.
And what would he tell Sarai? How could he face her? No imagination could reveal the tumult and turmoil in Abram's heart and mind as he journeyed into Moriah.
Think what it meant to Isaac. He was young, energetic - now life was to be taken from him. Note vs. 6, 8. "They walked on together." The key is that God was "testing" Abram.
Notice some things about life's longest journey.
I. The Certainty of this journey - v. 1
"After these things." It must and it does come. And for many, it comes often. God cares about your heart. He tests the purity of your love and the consistency of your obedience.
Rom. 14:10-12, "For we must all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God."
2 Cor. 5:10, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad."
Your testing will come. God is serious about your relationship with Him. What things? Things that are common to men and women of all times and cultures.
Relocation: from Ur of Chaldees to Haran and finally to the area near Hebron. At different times Abram lived in Shechem, Bethel, Hebron and Beer-sheba.
Sorrow: his father Terah died in Haran.
Economic collapse: famine drove him to Egypt for survival.
Deception and failure: he lied about Sarai being his wife.
Success: he become wealthy and powerful near Bethel.
Family argument/disagreement: separated from Lot. Lot, in Sodom, captured by Elamites. Abram goes to rescue. "Blood is thicker than water!" There is magnetic appeal of family!
Meets Melchizedek and is blessed by this mysterious priest. Gives tithe to Melchizedek. God promises Abram a son. Lacking in faith, Sarai offers Hagar to Abram. Ishmael born. Transforming encounter with God. Names changed to Abraham and Sarah. Ishmael mocked Isaac - he and Hagar expelled. Then came the test on Moriah.
These are things common to humanity. This journey came to pass "after these things." And it will for each of us.
II. The compelling urgency of this journey: v. 2
"Take your son . . . and go . . . ." It must be dealt with now. It cannot wait! God's time is always "now."
2 Cor. 6:2, "Now is the acceptable time, look, now is the day of salvation."
Heb. 3:7-8, 15; 4:7, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts."
James 4:13-14, "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit. You don't even know what tomorrow will bring - what your life will be! For you are a bit of smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes."
Imagine the difficulty of this journey, the heartache and the grief.
III. The consistent provision of this journey: v. 2
"land of Moriah." "Moriah" means "provided by Jehovah." These mountains in Moriah are gifts of His unfailing love and grace. Without this experience we would succumb to the most dread kind of bondage. We would be utterly dependent upon the temporary things around us. Fear of loss would paralyze us. The Mountains of Moriah free us from the cruel chains of fear.
IV. The clear purpose of this journey: vv. 15-18
"Now I know ... bless you." The eternal purpose of God is to bless us and to bring us ever back into His loving arms, freed from earthly fear of loss, danger or failure.
Secure in his presence: Ps. 91:1-2, "The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'"
V. The competing priorities of the journey: v. 2
"your only son whom you love . . . offer him as a burnt offering."
The gift of God had become more important to Abraham than the God who gave the gift. Perfectly right and normal for father to love his son, but the great commandment is, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength" (Deut. 6:5).
Abraham's son had taken God's place in his life. God will never allow that to happen without whispering in your ear, "Take now thy son . . . ."
This conflicting of priorities happens to us so easily. We confuse His gifts and His possessions with Him, and soon we have left our first love. Rev. 2:4, "I have this against you: you have abandoned the love you had at first." The church at Ephesus made a deliberate choice. Lit. "abandoned their first love." Choosing between priorities, we often make the wrong choice.
Do you remember how it was at first? How sweet, fresh and real your love for Jesus was? Fresh love is willing to give all for Him.
God knows where or when your obedience of love became the obedience of duty, and you went about doing His work, but not His will. Perhaps it first began to show in our speech. We talked about the things of Jesus rather than Jesus: i.e. His house, His children, His kingdom, His interests, His joy, His peace, His blessing, etc.
These things that take His place could be:
Family: Mark. 1:20 (James & John)
Possessions: Mark 10:21 (Rich Young Ruler)
Church/fellowship: Matt. 17:8 (saw Jesus only)
There are many mountains in Moriah, and so there are many mountains for you in your journey. When we fail to heed His gentle reminders - suddenly hear that awesome call: "Take now . . . " and you fill in the blank. What is it that stands between you and God today? What is it that is more important to you than Him?
It will be a difficult journey. For Abraham it took three days' journey into the desert. But it was worth it! It will be the hardest journey you have ever made. It must come to pass in order for God to bless you with Himself.
Illustration: Karen Watson, killed in Iraq, wrote a letter to pastor to be opened at her death:
"You should only be opening this letter in the event of my death. When God calls there are no regrets. I tried to share my heart with you as much as possible, my heart for the Nations. I wasn't called to a place. I was called to Him. To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected. His glory was my reward. His glory is my reward.
"Care more than some think is wise. Risk more than some think is safe. Dream more than some think is practical. Expect more than some think is possible. I was called not to comfort or success but to obedience."
And that is His call to us all!
VI. The conquering grace of the journey: v. 11-14
"Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me. Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. And Abraham named that place the Lord Will Provide, so today it is said: "'It will be provided on the Lord's mountain.'"
God never intended to take Isaac - only to test Abraham. And the test was not for God's sake, but for Abraham's. God intended to bring Abraham to full surrender to Himself and to full faith.
Note vv. 4-5 (The boy and I will come back). Note Heb. 11:17-19, "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was offering up his unique son about whom it had been said, 'In Isaac your seed will be called.' He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, from which he also got him back as an illustration."
And it was on a mountain in the land of Moriah that our Lord became our sacrifice (2 Chron. 3:1). Amazing Grace!