Yes, the Son was Sacrificed
Scripture: Genesis 20:1– 22:24
Yes, The Son Was SacrificedGenesis 20:1-22:24
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Pastor Randy Smith
2 Corinthians 5:9, "Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him." Ephesians 5:10, "Trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord." 1 John 3:22, "[We] do the things that are pleasing in His sight." Do you see a theme here?
I think these verses are clear and I think we know what it means to please someone. Our goal in life as Christians is to desire every motive, thought and action to be pleasing in the Lord's sight. But did you know what is absolutely essential in our desire to please the Lord? Obedience would be a good answer, but there is something deeper, more foundational that undergirds and drives all genuine obedience. The answer is faith. Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."
As we have been studying the life of Abraham, we have learned a lot about this topic of faith. We can identify with him. Like all of us, the man was given a series of trials that tested his faith. Over the past couple months we have seen Abraham succeed by faith and please God with his actions. We have also seen him miserably fail as a result of sinful choices driven by a lack of faith in God which were disastrous to himself and his family and displeasing to God
For example, in chapter 20, Abraham finds himself in a position of potential danger. He's been there before. Would he walk by faith and trust God or would he be motivated by unbelief? Having failed to learn his lesson in chapter 12, he repeats his mistake. He claims that Sarah is his sister. Abraham failed.
Then in chapter 21 after the birth of Isaac, Abraham is commanded to send away Hagar and Ishmael. That took some faith. Would Abraham stake everything, all his glorious promises on Isaac alone? Would he obey God and send away the "back-up" plan and the son he loved? In this case, Abraham succeeded.
Now in chapter 22, Abraham will receive his most difficult test of faith. It will be a radical test of obedience and one, frankly, that is difficult for me to preach. The question again, will he trust the Lord and be pleasing in His sight?
While Abraham has been up and down, we have seen the consistency of God in every account. God has been the hero of every story. He has been faithful to His character and His Word. The question is will we by faith trust Him and thus please Him with our actions, or will we doubt His faithfulness, take matters into our own hands and thus dishonor Him and bring unnecessary hardship into our lives?
Most, if not all of my messages in Genesis thus far have been inductive in nature. In other words, I start with a general look at the text and then narrow it down to the main climaxing point of the sermon. In every case, the main point has always been the superiority and supremacy of Jesus Christ. Today for variety I'd like to do something different. Let's go the deductive route. Let's start with a glorious fact about Jesus Christ and then use Scripture from the Old Testament in Genesis written over a thousand years before Christ was incarnated to support that claim.
So here is the main point, the conclusion of the sermon if you will. We as humans are sinners. Like Abraham, we have not perfectly fulfilled God's commandments. Oftentimes we ignore by willful or ignorant decisions and commit actions that are not pleasing in His sight. According to the Bible, such actions are called "sin." As Judge of the world God is obligated to promote justice and the rightful consequence for every wrongdoing against His nature. Every sin of ours will be called into account, and every sin will receive its just punishment. The wages of sin is eternal death.
Yet God in His mercy has chosen to provide a substitute in our place. It would be none other than (listen carefully!) His only Son whom He loves. It would be the promised Child who was born of a miracle. The Son would live the perfect life and willingly go by carrying a wooden cross to His place of execution in full submission to the Father to take our sins upon Himself and accept the punishment we deserved as a Lamb of God sacrifice.
The Father promises us that if we believe in the Son and repent from our sins, He will forgive us based upon the work provided by the Lamb of God that stood in our place.
With the conclusion already stated, let's now see if we can support it from our passage in Genesis 22 before we break for the Lord's Table.
1. God's Command (verses 1-2)
Let's start with a most unbelievable command from God that was given only to Abraham. Beginning in verse 1: "Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, 'Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.'"
I always try to identify with the Bible characters that we study as we work our way through Genesis. This situation with Abraham really hits home with me. How would I feel if I were Abraham and God called me to sacrifice my son? I too, like Abraham, have my son, my only son, whom I love. This is the guy who has gone camping with me. This is the guy whom I've tucked into bed. This is my wrestling partner. This is the guy who was helping me spackle holes and paint the kitchen walls this week. Parents fear the thought of burying their own child. How about the thought of murdering your own child? Would I have followed through? Will Abraham follow through?
Now verse 1 says this was a "test." We as the readers know that. We know that God is appalled by child sacrifice. We know the commandments that forbid murder. We know God is not going to let this happen, but Abraham back then wasn't afforded these insights. All he knew was that God commanded something, and this was his only son whom he loved dearly whose life stood between him and obedience. It was a tough choice between the promise of God and the God of the promise. Scholars say the boy was probably a teenager, so the two of them had spent a great deal of time together. Would Abraham sacrifice the son he loved?
Furthermore, Abraham knew that Isaac was also the son of the promise. Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for this boy, and he arrived in a miraculous way. Would God take Him through all the trials, deliver the promised child and then see him vanish on the scene (before the fulfillment of any of the promises) through, of all things, the hands of his father? 'No Isaac' meant none of the great promises promised to Abraham. 'No Isaac' and there is no Israel and thus no Messiah. Is this grueling journey stretching over decades going to end like this?
You think having the faith necessary to obey God is tough? Try this one on for size!
2. Abraham's Obedience (verses 3-10)
Abraham has not been the poster-child for obeying God. He failed on issues much smaller than this one. How would he fare here? Let's find out as we move to the second point. Verse 3, "So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him."
God gives a command. The response? Verse 3, "So Abraham rose early in the morning." Immediate obedience - the only kind of obedience. There was no rationalization, justification, or procrastination. Though the excuses could have been legion, Abraham did exactly as he was told, and with Isaac and the wood for the sacrifice departed for the place assigned to him by God.
How long did it take to get to Moriah? According to verse 4 it was a three-day journey. It must have seemed like an eternity! The Bible is silent on this matter, but I have to wonder what, if anything, Abraham said to Sarah (that would have been an interesting conversation!). I have to wonder what, if anything, he and Isaac talked about on this tense three-day trip. What was going through the man's mind? Was he just quiet as he marched toward Moriah with his son who was totally unaware of his intentions? Did Isaac simply think this was just another fun excursion with dad? Did Isaac observe that dad was a bit more sullen and quiet than normal? God did not permit Abraham to make a quick and impulsive decision. It weighed over him for three long days. No doubt the man entertained several thoughts about abandoning the mission and many opportunities to return home, but over the long journey he persevered. What a choice - keeping his son or honoring the Lord!
This, my friends, is the difference between phony faith and genuine faith. Obedience is a byproduct of those truly redeemed. You say you have faith - that's wonderful! The book of James says even "the demons also believe" (Jas. 2:19). You say we are saved by our faith alone. You are right, but true saving faith results in obedience. The book of James says, "Faith without works is dead" (Jas. 2:26). You say you obey the Lord. Wonderful, but do you like Abraham show yourself a believer by obedience when a command from God in His Word may appear tough, illogical or sacrificial? The book of James says, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?" (Jas. 2:21).
Verse 5, "Abraham said to his young men, 'Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.'" (The NIV adds a "we" at the end of this verse). With Abraham's claim to return with the child it is often believed that Abraham somehow thought he'd receive his son back through a resurrection.
In the New Testament book of Hebrews we read, "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, 'In Isaac your descendants shall be called.' He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type" (Heb. 11:17-19).
Nevertheless, Abraham presses on. Verse 6 tells us he took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac's back - a significant statement. We'll come back to that. Eventually as they approached the place of sacrifice, Isaac is on to something. He's probably done sacrifices with his dad before, but this time something is definitely missing. Verse 7, "'My father!' And he said, 'Here I am, my son.' And he said, 'Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?'"
You can't have a sacrifice without a lamb! Instead of telling Isaac that he was going to be the lamb, Abraham responds in verse 8, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." We can't be exactly sure of what he meant, but we can be certain that Abraham through his years of walking with the Lord through mountains and valleys knew what it meant to have God as his Provider. He knew Jehovah Jireh, and he trusted that God would again come through even when the odds were stacked against his favor.
Eventually the two arrive at Moriah. Moriah is also the same place where Solomon built the first temple (2 Chron. 3:1). Moriah is a short walking distance from Calvary. Moriah is a place of sacrifice. God provides sacrifices so sinners might live. In verse 9 we read that Abraham builds an altar. He arranges the wood. He binds his son and lays him on the top of the wood.
At this point I believe it is safe to say that Isaac is on to his dad's intentions. What I find remarkable is what is often overlooked in this passage. It is not just the faith of Abraham, but also the faith of Isaac. We know Abraham was over a hundred at this point in his life. No doubt a teenage boy like Isaac could have easily run away or overpowered his father. Yet we see a spirit of resignation. Isaac fully submits to his father and the Lord's will. This must have been the result of learning about God from his father and now possessing his father's faith. "I trust you, dad." He willingly places himself on the altar of sacrifice.
Verse 10, Abraham grasps his knife, extends his arm and prepares to slay his son. As they stared at each other for a brief moment, try to picture the look each one expressed toward the other. Imagine the deep-seated pain, the horror, the agony. What a picture of steadfast devotion to God. The man is going through with this!
3. God's Intervention (verses 11-14)
Yet, as we move to the third point, and as it often is with our times of testing, God waits until the very last minute.
Verses 11-12, "But the angel of the LORD [who's that? Jesus!] called to him from heaven and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.'"
Verse 13, "Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son."
Isaac asked where is the lamb (a baby sheep)? I'll talk about the Lamb in a moment, but for now the Lord provides a ram (a male sheep). What is most significant is not the age of the sheep, but the action of the Lord. Abraham trusted in the Lord to provide and indeed that is exactly what the Lord did so much that Abraham in verse 14 even named the place, "The LORD will provide."
Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son. A sacrifice would happen that memorable day, but the Lord provided a substitute. Instead of Isaac, it would be a male sheep. The ram would die, so that Isaac could live. Substitutionary atonement - the death of the innocent for the life of the guilty.
Though the sacrifice of animals for guilty humans was already a practice in God's economy at this point, this defining moment with Abraham and Isaac would drive home the impact and open the door for the sacrificial system given to Israel. From the Passover lamb whose blood was spilt and spread on the doorways of the homes to the numerous and elaborate procedures of the temple when a whole system was established by Levitical Law. Yet what was the purpose of all this? What was seen in this story of Abraham and his son, Isaac? The word "son" is used thirteen times in ten different verses in Genesis 22. How does it point to Jesus Christ, God's Son, as I stated at the beginning of the sermon?
So that we as sinners might live, God provided a sacrifice in our place. In the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4), God gave His son, His only Son whom He loved (Jn. 3:16) to be our substitute (2 Cor. 5:21). Though in some sense filled with grief, the Father "did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all" (Rom. 8:32). The Son, like Isaac, would be born miraculously. The Son, like Isaac, would be the long-awaited Child of promise. Like Isaac, wood would be strapped to His back (Lk. 22:33; Jn. 19:17). Like Isaac, He would willingly submit to the Father's plan (Jn. 10:18). He would be the ultimate and final blood sacrifice to remove the need for sacrifices of this nature. As John the Baptist said, "[He would be] the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn. 1:29). As the apostle Peter said, "[The] precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (1 Pet. 1:19).
The only difference is that there would be no substitute for Jesus. God didn't call off this sacrifice. The Father's knife would be raised and plunged deep into His Son's heart (Isa. 53:10). Jesus would die. But He indeed would rise again on the third day. And He would offer to the world forgiveness through free grace based entirely on His work, so that those who receive Him would be empowered by faith to live a life that is now pleasing to the Father.