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The Lord Will Provide

Date: Jul. 1, 2018

Author: Michael Mark

Genesis 22:1-24

Key Verse: Genesis 22:14

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."

Christians consider Abraham as the father of their faith. We consider Abraham as the father of our faith.  As the Bible says, it is not the physical children of Abraham that are considered his children, but those who by faith believe in God, and in his Son Jesus Christ, are regarded as Abraham’s offspring (Rom 9:8).  Through our study of the book of Genesis, up until now, it isn’t very clear why we call him the father of our faith.  But in today’s passage we see a pivotal moment in history, a pivotal moment in Abraham’s life that will make it clear why we call him the father of our faith.  He had faith in God, even though things did not look hopeful, and through this story we can learn what it means to believe that the Lord will provide, and see what great blessings God gives to those who are faithful.

Look at v.1, “Some time later God tested Abraham.  He said to him, ‘Abraham!’  ‘Here I am,’ he replied.”  To review, Abraham’s son Isaac was born to him when he was 100 years old, and his wife Sarah was 90.  Sarah had been barren all her life, but God promised to give them a child, and Isaac was the child of the promise.  Several years had passed since Isaac was born, and by this time he may have been in his teens, maybe even the later teenage years.  Everything seemed normal, peaceful and quiet, as Abraham, Sarah and Isaac were living in a foreign land.  Then all of a sudden God calls out to Abraham.  We learn right here at the beginning, that this would be a test.  God would test Abraham’s faith.

We can see the details of this test in verse 2: “Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’”  What a shocking and difficult test!  Notice God says, “take your son, your only son.” Actually Abraham had 2 sons: Ishmael, whose mother was Hagar, and Isaac, whose mother was Sarah.  But Ishmael had been sent away.  God had said, “It is through Isaac your offspring will be reckoned,” so spiritually, God would only recognize Isaac and his descendants as Abraham’s child.  Isaac was the only son of Abraham and Sarah, and he was the only son who had been living with Abraham for several years now.  Abraham loved him, as God said.  Abraham loved him.  Think about your own loved ones – your children, your siblings, your parents. There is a father-son bond here. He was Sarah’s very precious child too. Isaac was the long awaited promised child – they waited for him for 25 years, and now God is asking Abraham to give him up.  And not only to give him up, but to sacrifice him as a burnt offering.  At the moment nothing makes sense.  Abraham must have been torn, confused, conflicted.  This was not an easy task given by God.

Look at Abraham’s response in verse 3: “Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded 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.”  Early the next morning.  This was Abraham’s usual way to respond to God – with immediate obedience.  It seems like there was no hesitation, but we can imagine he was still very troubled.  It was a three days journey from Beersheba to the region of Moriah – perhaps about a 60 mile distance.  They had no car, and it looks like they took one donkey, perhaps to carry the wood and other cargo.  Everyone had to take a 60 mile walk.  If you calculate about 3 miles per hour, it would be about a 20 hour journey on foot.

When they got to a place where they could see it in the distance, 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.”  Abraham had stopped the servants some distance from the place – first, so they could watch the donkey, and second, so they would not see what Abraham was about to do.  Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife.  I can’t imagine Abraham saying or talking much on this entire journey.  His heart must have been breaking, knowing what he was about to do.  You can imagine the silent, solemn atmosphere now, as Abraham and Isaac are walking alone in the final distance to the mountain. 

As the two of them went on together, look at what Isaac says to Abraham in verse 7.  He says, “Father?”  Think about the pain Abraham must have felt hearing these words: “Father?”  “Yes, my son?” he replied.  “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering.”  Isaac was very observant.  Look at Abraham’s response in v.8, “Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’  And the two of them went on together.”  How could Abraham say this?  What was going through his mind?  Fortunately, we don’t have to speculate.  Hebrews 11:17-19 show us what was going through Abraham’s head.  It says, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.  He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac your offspring will be reckoned.’  Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”  Abraham embraced the promises of God – that his son Isaac, who is not married yet, would have children.  He reasoned that God would keep his promise, even though God had just told him to offer his son as a burnt offering.  He reasoned. This was not dumb, blind faith. He used his mind, based on what God had done, to reason that God can keep his promise.  This was not easy for Abraham, but somehow he held on to the promise that Isaac will live, even if he was killed, he could be raised back to life. This is an incredible faith, considering no one ever rose from the dead at this point.  But Abraham believed God could do it.  It was still not easy.  He had to trust God.  He had to wait for God to deliver.  Maybe he was half hopeful God would provide a substitute so that Isaac may live, but he was still ready to slay Isaac because he reasoned that either way God would keep his promise.  He trusted in God to provide.

Verse 9 tells us what happened when they reached the place God 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.” Isaac was silent.  We don’t hear of any struggle, or Isaac screaming, or trying to run away.  Somehow he was tied up and laid on top of the wood.  In a sense you can say that Isaac laid down his life, and put it on the altar. Maybe he believed God would provide the lamb.  Maybe he was convinced somehow that God would raise him from the dead.  Maybe he was being obedient to Abraham, even to the point of death.  I don’t know if we can fully understand how or why Isaac was so easily bound and laid upon the wood, giving his life, but there he was.  Which might make it even harder for Abraham, seeing so good of a son, who had done nothing wrong, get slain.  Abraham continued to follow through in obedience to God’s command, still trusting, still waiting on that promise.  God had not intervened yet.  A three day journey, and God seemed silent.  A solemn walk up the mountain, and no word from God.  The altar was built, was God still watching?  Isaac was now bound laid on the altar, still no word from God.

Verse 10 says “Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.”  He was really going to go through with it.  Isaac was bound.  Knife was in hand, perhaps gripped tightly.  Eyes were intent, focus was sharp, he wanted to make this as quick and painless as possible. He raises up his arm and just as he is about to deliver the decisive blow God intervenes.  He breaks the silence and stops Abraham from doing the inevitable.  Look at v.11, “But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied.”  Look at the urgency with which the angel called out to Abraham.  He called his name twice, with exclamation. The angel continues in v.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.’”  The test was done; God never intended to kill Isaac.  The test was about faith.  God doesn’t ever want child sacrifices, this was only a test.  God desires our faith and obedience, he desires for us to trust in him with all our heart.

The angel here is God, because he says “you have not withheld from me.”  He might even be the pre-incarnate Jesus.  He spares Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, and he saves Isaac’s life.  He also testifies about Abraham, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”  Abraham’s faith was proven and confirmed.  Through this test God perfected Abraham’s faith. He was able to demonstrate his faith in a difficult situation.  He passed the test.  He truly had a fear of God, and was willing to give up the gift that God gave him. The angel emphasizes that he is Abraham’s only son, and again, Isaac is the only child of the promise.  And notice, Abraham was spared at the very last moment.  Why did God wait until the very last moment to show himself?  It was to really draw out and maximize Abraham’s exercise of faith. It also will intensify our desire for salvation, and the joy of that salvation.  We see this in movies too.  It’s always at the very last minute, when the hero is about to get crushed, or defeated, that something comes along and saves him.  This is also in our experience.  Sometimes things may not be going as we want, sometimes it seems like our faith is really being tested – but we can take heart that God is in control; he knows the beginning from the end, and he will not let us fall, but save us at the very right time.  When our faith is tried and tested, it is being strengthened and perfected. Abraham, the first man called out by God after the great Flood, was the first to show such incredible faith in God.

“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 (v.13).”  Here was the lamb (a male lamb is a ram) that the Lord provided.  It wasn’t until after this test was over that Abraham noticed the ram.  The ram was sacrificed instead of his son.  As Hebrews says, Abraham received Isaac back from death.  Remember Isaac too, was willing and obedient to death. He laid down his life on the altar. In a way, he was consecrated and sanctified to God.  He came off the altar, in a sense risen to a new life.  He may have heard the voice of God calling out to Abraham.  God not only perfected Abraham’s faith, but sanctified his son, and by giving him back made him even more precious to Abraham.  How much more joyous was the journey home, than the journey up the mountain.  How much more appreciative, is Abraham now of Isaac.

Can we all please read v.14, the key verse: “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.’”  This place is Mount Moriah.  It eventually became the place where the Temple was built. Today, the Dome of the Rock sits on top of the highest point of the mountain, and it is traditionally known as the spot where Isaac was sacrificed.  Abraham gave this place a name: The Lord Will Provide.  It sounds like a sentence, but it is the name of the place.  In Hebrew it is called “Jehovah Jireh.”  Abraham chose to remember this place not by the struggle he had, but by the mercy he was shown.  The top of Mount Moriah will forever be known as Jehovah Jireh, the Lord Will Provide. A proverb has come out of this mountain as well.  The saying is “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”  This must have been a well known proverb in Moses’ time, when he wrote this book of Genesis hundreds of years after Abraham.  Notice that although Moses came hundreds of years later after Abraham, the proverb was still “It will be provided.”  The phrase “It will be” is future tense.  That means people in Moses’ time were looking forward to the day the Lord will reveal his deliverance, his salvation, his provision, on that mountain.  This was fulfilled when Jesus was revealed to be the Son of God at the Temple built on top of the mountain.

The angel of the Lord now returns to speak.  From v.15-18, we see the rewards of faith given to Abraham. Look at v.15-17, “The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies.” The promises given to Abraham in the last 10 chapters (chapters 12-22) are summarized and re-confirmed here. Abraham’s descendants will surely be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, and his descendants will take possession of the land he is now living in as a foreigner. Notice that God says “I swear by myself.”  These words were actually written for us.  Hebrews 6 tells us that God swore on oath to the greatest thing he could swear by. You remember when you were a kid, and you said “Swear to God?” to confirm something?  God swore by himself to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised – us – so that we may be greatly encouraged.  This is the hope of salvation, and this hope is an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. God swore that he will save us, and he swore by himself that he will do it, so that we may be greatly encouraged, and have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

Then there is this final promise in v.18, “and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” All the nations on earth will be blessed – Jewish, Arab, European, African, Asian – all nations will be blessed through Abraham’s offspring.  This offspring can be taken as singular, and it can refer to Jesus Christ.  Through Jesus, the offspring of Abraham, all nations on earth will be blessed – because Abraham obeyed God.  Abraham then went back home to Beersheba, and verses 20-24 set us up for the next part in Genesis.  Here we are introduced to Rebekah, who will become the wife of Abraham’s son Isaac, so that Abraham’s family line will continue, and God’s promise fulfilled.

While this was Abraham’s greatest test and victory, this was also God’s message of salvation to the world.  This passage is like an artwork of God that has many dimensions. When you step back and see the whole picture – it paints a picture of the gospel: God’s good news to all the world. In Genesis Ch. 3, we witnessed the fall of man under the power of sin.  Death entered into the world, and God promised that he would redeem the world by the offspring of a woman who would crush the head of the serpent.  This promise was brought back to light, with a clearer view, when God promised Abraham “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.”  God would save the world through sending his one and only Son, Jesus Christ.  Through Abraham’s faithful actions, God has dropped hints, right here in Genesis, on how exactly he is going to save mankind.  This was his plan from the very beginning.  How many pieces of the gospel did you see in today’s passage?  It is found all over; let’s put them together.

When God called Abraham to sacrifice his son, his one and only son on Mount Moriah, God gave us his one and only Son, who died in Jerusalem, in the same area as Mount Moriah.  What God spared Abraham from doing, he finished in his own Son.  What was only a test for Abraham, the sacrifice of his one and only son, was a real sacrifice for God, who gave us his one and only Son.  The wood that was placed on Isaac brings to mind Jesus, carrying the cross.  When Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering,” God did provide the Lamb who would take away the sin of the world.  When Isaac was bound up, it was like Jesus being bound and brought before Pilate. And do you remember the ram, that was caught in the thicket?  That ram was caught in branches, reminiscent of the crown of thorns Jesus had to wear. And finally, the ram was sacrificed as a burnt offering, instead of Isaac.  This is what Jesus came to do.  He came to die in our place, for our sins, instead of us.  Isaiah 53:4-5 sums all this up: “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Abraham teaches us the kind of faith that pleases God.  He had faith that the Lord will provide. Even when it doesn’t look like the Lord will provide, He will provide in his right time.  That proverb that Moses wrote in v.14, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided,” still rings true today.  Where is this mountain?  This mountain is the place where Abraham went to worship.  This mountain is the place of worship.  It is no longer on Mount Moriah, under the Dome of the Rock. Rather, God is seeking those who will worship in the Spirit and truth.  The place of worship is not here nor there, but it is wherever you are, when you worship in truth.  Now then I might ask – what is worship?  As we see from Abraham, it is obedience to God.  But more than that, it is the offering of yourself to God.  God doesn’t want your money, he doesn’t need your money. God doesn’t want your stuff, he doesn’t need your stuff.  God wants you, he wants all of you: he wants your heart, your mind, your soul and your strength.  He wants you to turn from sin, and turn to him.  He wants you to turn from unbelief, and turn to faith.  He wants you to die to sin and self, and to live for Him.  He wants your love, your adoration, your reverence, your praise, your thanksgiving and your prayers and petitions.  And why do I say so?  Because he loves you.  He loves you with an everlasting love, and he proved it by sending his one and only Son to die on the cross for your sins.  He has provided atonement for all your sins, so that you may not die, but live. Now you might say, “My faith is small, my faith is weak, I can’t do it, I can’t obey.”  The Lord knows, and the Lord will provide for that too.  Come to the mountain, worship.  He will provide faith for what you need.  He will provide strength for you to obey and to do his will. He will provide all you need to have life, and have it to the full.  And when Jesus comes again, the faith that he has provided you will be rewarded with eternal life, an inheritance in that will never perish, spoil or fade.  We worship, because of all the good things he has given to us.  On the mountain of the Lord, it will be provided.

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Zephaniah 2:1-15

Key Verse: 2:3

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