It can be challenging for us to line up our behavior with the teachings of Scripture. Biblical principles are often contrary to our human nature, and obedience can be uncomfortable. As we examine the profound testing of Abraham's faith, we must ask ourselves, "Am I willing to do what is difficult?" As we walk in obedience to the Lord, our faith is developed and our relationship with Him is strengthened.
The book of Genesis is rich with theology including creation, the fall of man, and justification by grace through faith. Genesis, the book of beginnings, provides foundational truths from which we can learn who God is and how He operates in the lives of His people.
In this study of Genesis, Pastor Skip Heitzig presents an in-depth examination and fresh perspective of familiar stories like the creation, Adam & Eve, Noah and the Flood, the call of Abraham, and Sodom and Gomorrah. This series offers solid information to equip believers with truth in today's battle against the lies of evolution, the basic goodness of man, and a "fairy tale" approach to the Bible.
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Keywords: faith, sacrifice, Isaac, Abraham
This last weekend was a lot of fun for me. It was a busy weekend. Not only the four services Saturday and three in the morning, but our Sunday night service down at Metro downtown. And then in between the third service Sunday and the Sunday evening service downtown, I had the privilege of doing a wedding here. So I sandwiched that in between the third service and the evening service on Sunday. And I really enjoy doing weddings. I especially enjoyed this one because they were two friends, they were mature in the Lord, they shared beautiful vows with each other. So often when I do weddings and I share vows and the vows themselves are usually set out in polar extremes to one another.
That is, the couple agrees to a lifelong covenant that includes for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do us part. Now this couple definitely understood what that commitment was. However, I have often wondered, especially with younger couples, if they're listening to those vows. And I'm thinking, probably not. They're probably not thinking a poorer. They're not probably thinking at that moment, they're so happy, they're not thinking worse. They're not thinking in sickness. They're thinking better, richer, health.
So when people get into a relationship and they don't fully understand what the future is, that's why they share vows. After all, every relationship, every marriage commitment, is a risk. The couple is taking certain risks not knowing the future, not knowing what's going to happen, not knowing where they're going to move. So they're willing to take vows that will say, since I don't know what is going to happen to us in the future, I'll make a vow, a promise, a covenant, with you before God and these witnesses that no matter what, we're going to be together.
Well, Sarah and Abraham have had some very interesting ups and downs in their marriage, in their lives. Some good times and some bad times. Chapter 21 represents the peak of all experiences they've had. The promised son after 25 years of waiting, waiting, and waiting on God's promises. Finally, the child comes. Exciting! Now that's better. That's richer. That's health. Even though they're quite old, they're still in good health. Laughter is brought into the home as little crack-up is born--Isaac, laughter. That's what his name means. He's born. Sheer joy is brought into the home. The first part of chapter 21 if it were a TV series, it would represent the finale. The finale. The child is born. It's the best show of the season.
But things change around mid-chapter. There's now a twist in the plot, a twist in the story, if you will. They've been enjoying their lives, the child of promise has come, given them a new lease on life, making old Abraham feel quite a bit younger. He's so excited and Sarah, his wife, is so excited. But now they have two kids in the home. Ishmael, who's quite a bit older, and Isaac, who's only about three years old. He's just weaned. Two to three years of age. And there seems to be developing within the home a strain, a sibling rivalry that brings a strain not only among the two boys, but among the whole family.
So if you were to look back at verse eight where it says the child grew [that is Isaac] and was weaned. In those days between two to three years of age. And Abraham made a great feast on that same day that Isaac was weaned. Exciting time for Abraham. And verse nine, "And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham [that's a long way of saying Ishmael], scoffing.' So little Isaac has a little party thrown for him. He's finally weaned, he's growing up, he's on his way to manhood, exciting times. But not for Ishmael. Ishmael's about seventeen years of age, Isaac's about three years of age. And the big brother is scoffing, mocking, jeering, his little brother.
Now if you're wondering, if you're thinking, what kind of a brother, aged seventeen, would scoff a little three-year-old child? If you're wondering that, you haven't been around many families. It doesn't matter what age brothers or sisters are at all. The rivalry doesn't care about the age. All he knows is he's not getting the attention like he used to. He used to be the one that got all the attention, the only child. Now there's another child. Moreover, it's the child of Sarah and Abraham. The promised child. So now Ishmael feels alienated. He's scoffing. "Therefore she said to Abraham [this is Sarah now talking to her husband], "Cast out this bondswoman [this Egyptian slave] and her son; for the son of this bondswoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac."
Now wait a minute, Sarah. As I recall, it was your idea to have that child. It was your idea to tell your husband, honey, this isn't going to work. I'm an old woman. I'm unable to have kids. You take the Egyptian slave Hagar and you have a baby with her--have relations with her. And the child that comes out, we'll consider it as if it were our own child. And let that be the promise that God will fulfill His good work with. It was her idea. And even Abraham, after going along with it, said, O Lord, that Ishmael might live before You. That obviously wasn't God's plan and now that their plan isn't quite what they thought and they have this new child who is now weaned, and now there's this sibling rivalry, Sarah says, get rid of her, give her her freedom. Cast her out.
"And the matter was very", verse eleven, "displeasing in Abraham's sight because of his son." He loved his son; he loved Ishmael. It was his son. He loved him; he didn't want to see him go like this. "But God said to Abraham, "Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called." Men, you may want to underline that in your Bibles. Inasmuch as it's probably underlined in your wives' Bibles. The Lord said listen to your wife.
Now in times past when he did listen to his wife, it wasn't good. i.e., Hagar. But this time the Lord says listen to your wife, what she's saying to you is good. Now this is a great verse of Scripture because a lot of men not only don't have this underlined, they do have underlined, and they do have memorized, a very key text of Scripture to many men. That's Ephesians chapter 5 verse 22. They know it in English, they know it in several translations, some even know it in the Greek language: "Wives, submit unto your own husbands as unto the Lord." And some men love to use that as a club to beat their wives if they could into submission. They disagree with them? Hey, the Bible says submit unto your own husbands. That is not only unfair relationally, it is uncalled for theologically, contextually. Because Ephesians chapter 5 verse 22 has a verse before it. Ephesians 5:21… that reads "submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord." So whatever that submission of the wife to the husband comes from, it comes from the idea that there's a partnership built in and there's a mutual humility and submissiveness of the husband to the wife.
Moreover, it begins before, 5:21; the thought actually in Ephesians 5 begins in verse 18. Now it says, if I can get it right, "Thus, do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation but be filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart unto the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Submitting to one another in the fear of God. Wives? Submit to your own husbands as unto the Lord. Now that's the context. So we have mutual submission based upon the fear of God that is the result of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Now the way that chapter goes is that not only are wives to submit, but husbands are to submit, children are to submit, fathers are to submit, and employees, or in those days, slaves, are to submit. There's a five-fold application in that section based on the word submit. Now it's interesting, back, or not back, up in Ephesians 5:22 where it says, "Wives submit unto your own husbands," in the original the word submit is not there. It's implied so the translators put it in. It's all based upon the word in chapter 5 verse 21, "submitting to one another in the fear of God." Wives to your own husbands, that's number one. And then in verse 25 of the same chapter, husbands love your wives. And then in chapter 6 verse 1, children obey your parents. And then in verse 4, fathers do not exasperate your children. And then in verse 6, slaves be submissive to your own masters according to the flesh. All of those different people groups are to submit in a certain context.
Now I can just hear a few husbands saying, are you saying, wait a minute, Skip, are you saying that I am to submit to my wife? Exactly! You say, well now this throws a whole wrench in my theological platform. How do I do that? Well Paul tells you how to do it, "Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church." You say well that's not submission. Oh yes it is. What could be more submissive than loving someone like Christ loved the church and be willing to die for her? That has to be an act of submission. The willingness to give up one's own life as Christ did for the church. So a five-fold submission all hinging upon being filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit that leads to the fear of God that leads to a mutual submission and yes, in every household, decisions need to be made and husbands are the head of the home and he must make the decision. But I'm going to recommend, on the biblical basis of what I just said, that you do it mutually and prayerfully, considering one another. And do so in the fear of the Lord. Things will be much happier.
Well, God said, "Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman." I'm going to do something great with your son Ishmael, "because he is your seed. So Abraham rose early in the morning [now watch this], and took bread and a skin of water [that's not much]; and putting it on her shoulder, he gave it and the boy to Hagar, and sent her away. Then she departed and wandered in the Wilderness of Beersheba. And the water in the skin was used up, and she placed the boy under one of the shrubs. Then she went and sat down across from him at a distance of about a bowshot [as far as you could shoot an arrow from a bow]; for she said to herself, "Let me not see the death of the boy." So she sat opposite him, and lifted up her voice and wept." Very, very desperate scene. Heat, dehydration, she knows she's at the end, he's at the end, doesn't want to see his death, puts him in a place where she can't see him and just breaks down.
Now here's the question. We have trouble understanding how a father, who loved his son, could put a piece of bread in his hand and a little water and pat him on the back and send him and his mom out in the wilderness. It's especially difficult to understand since Abraham was very wealthy. We've already established that fact and seen some of the wealth. Not only what he brought with him from Ur of the Chaldeans in his travels, what he got from pharaoh, what he got from Abimelech the king of the Philistines. The guy has some bucks and resources. Why not send a caravan with him? Why not some foot soldiers to protect her and him as they're out in the wilderness? Why not several animals laden with food and water and other victuals for the trip? Why not?
Now some commentators, some tators are more common than others, but I've noticed that some commentators like to say that based on the ancient codes of the day, like the Code of Hammurabi, what Abraham did here was in perfect context and provision of the code of Hammurabi, in releasing a slave, giving her the freedom with her son to go out and do what they wanted. It was the releasing of a slave--setting them free. Go on your way. It was perfectly legitimate. I don't really see that as the reason. I think the reason he let his son go off into the wilderness, and you're wondering, how could he do this, how could a father do this, don't misunderstand me and listen carefully, is because of his faith. He was a man of faith.
If you think this is hard for him, wait till you get to the next chapter. It's going to get a whole lot worse of a test. But he has reached a place in his life where he believes that God is going to do what God said He's going to do. Right? God said he's going to have a son, didn't He? And Sarah said ain't gonna happen. And Abraham kept saying is gonna happen, is gonna happen, is gonna happen. Twenty-five years, is gonna happen. Twenty-five years she said ain't gonna happen. It happened. So do you think by now he's learned a lesson? Oh, you betcha.
Well God has also promised, not only here but in other places, that He would make a great nation out of Ishmael. So he knows Ishmael can't die--impossible. God has promised that He's going to take care of him. I don't need to send a caravan. I just need to release them. God is going to do something great in his life. Now to me this is a good word for parents. Parents who sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about their children. Especially the children they have dedicated to the Lord, they entrusted to the Lord, they have committed to the Lord, they have trained up in the Lord. I've heard parents quote so often in great hope and belief, ‘Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.'
And yet, some parents it would seem want to surround their child with a caravan their whole life. A caravan of protection--don't let anything bad happen--in such an overprotective manner that it becomes unhealthy for the child and reveals the parent's own lack of faith. I've heard, or seen, over the years, parents, well, once they become parents, you know, theoretically it's one thing, but once you become a parent, you have your own child, I watch people change.
Suddenly it's like, I can't send my child to Sunday school, you know, the child could get a cold. Don't want to expose my kid to those germs. Got to protect the child. I suggest to you, that's not a smart tactic. Don't try to protect what God is trying to direct. You pray for the child, you raise the child in a normal environment; let the kids be around other kids, play, get sick, they'll get better. And then release them to the Lord--and trust the Lord. But instead of placing the caravan of protection around them, to release them and say, Lord? I believe Your word. I believe Your promises. I'm entrusting them to You now. Reveals the kind of faith that Abraham displayed in releasing the child that God promised He would bless. And He does.
Look at verse 17: "God heard the voice of the lad. Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven," it must have been a wonderful time. She's at the wit's end and suddenly she hears a voice talking to her from the sky, from heaven. "And said to her, "What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation." Now I don't think that means pick up the child in your arms, the kid was seventeen years of age. But you help him up, pick him up, get on your way. I'm going to do something great. To me it's a picture of a single mother dedicating her child and walking out of faith. It's a beautiful picture. My heart goes out to single parents, especially single mothers. They have the responsibility of two people and the income of one person.
Twelve million in our country, twelve million adults, are single parents. 28% of the children in our country are being raised by single parents. And it says in Psalm 68, "God will set the solitary in families." And maybe it's your family. Maybe you know a single mom or a single dad and you could reach out a little more often, and have them over frequently for dinner, or mentor one of the children, or get them involved in sports, and help out a little bit. Maybe offer to mow the lawn or fix an electrical problem. Just to show support. God sets the solitary in families. And certainly our church family. We love the idea that many single parents are here and we can provide a network of support to them.
So "God opened her eyes", verse 19, "and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. So God was with the lad; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer." So you ever wonder what happened to that ‘70s band, The Archers, he was one of them. A lot of you don't even know what I'm talking about--forget it, forget it! "He dwelt in the Wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt." Now why the land of Egypt? She was an Egyptian. Now it was a mistake rather than selecting a wife who was a believing wife from the covenant and the clan of Abraham. He got an Egyptian wife and later on, he will become the father of twelve nations. Or he'll have twelve sons and several nations will develop from the twelve sons, like Jacob later on out of the loins of Abraham.
"And it came to pass at that time that Abimelech [remember him back in chapter 20?] and Phichol [you don't know who he is, but he's introduced here], the commander of his army [now you know], spoke to Abraham, saying, "God is with you in all that you do." Really? This comes from Abimelech? Remember he was the guy that Abraham lied to and said about Sarah, this is my sister, and got him in trouble and God closed up the wombs of all the Philistine women. But notice he says, "God is with you in all that you do. Now therefore, swear to me by God that you will not deal falsely with me." Why would he say that? Because he had dealt falsely with him! Simply by experience he says, look, you were a creep in the past, don't be a creep in the future. Because I watched you; now I know that God is with you. Or "with my offspring, or with my posterity; but that according to the kindness that I have done to you, you will do to me and to the land in which you have dwelt."
Now in chapter 20, Abimelech rebukes Abraham for being mischievous, for lying, for misrepresenting the truth. An unbeliever rebukes a believer but, over time, Abimelech has just watched Abraham. Just observed his life. And in observing his life over time, whatever misconceptions and anger he had against him was quickly assuaged, or at least it was over a period of time. Because he could see the evidence that God was with him.
And I love this because as you live in the world and as you work in the world and as you're observed by the world and you go through the problems of day in and day out life, working with people, misunderstandings. Even if you blow it before people, over time you can outlive your critics. Just show them that the Lord is with you. Just show by a consistency over time as they observe you. You know, I've been watching you. I think I've had you wrong. I think God really is with you. So rather than Abraham trying to make it all better and fix it and promote himself and argue about how really good he was at heart and really didn't mean all that, he just let it go. And over time, Abimelech recognized that.
Now watch this: "Abraham said, "I will swear. Then Abraham rebuked Abimelech." Now it's his turn. Now because he sort of has the moral high ground regained, "Abraham rebuked Abimelech because of a well of water which Abimelech's servants had seized." Now of course in those days when you're a nomad, I don't mean somebody who's not angry, I mean a guy who's traveling around in tents, a semi-Nomadic lifestyle, wells of water are absolutely important. You don't have water, you don't have life. So obviously he had a well that he had dug seized by Abimelech's servants. He didn't know about it as you'll see. "Abimelech said, "I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, nor had I heard of it until today."
So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two of them made a covenant. And Abraham set seven ewe lambs [female lambs] of the flock by themselves. Then Abimelech asked Abraham, "What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs which you have set by themselves?" And he said, "You will take these seven ewe lambs from my hand, that they may be my witness that I have dug this well." Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because the two of them swore an oath there."
Beersheba is a word that means one of two things or it could be a double entendre and actually mean both. That's what I think it does. Beersheba could mean well of the oath, since sheboa is the Hebrew word for oath. But the word sheba is the Hebrew word for seven. Seven is the Hebrew word, sheba, for seven. So it could be either the well of the seven, i.e. the lambs that I gave you for this well as a witness, or the oath that we made. Since the words are very similar to each other or a double entendre. This is the well of the oath that we made with these seven sheep. So Beersheba is still there today. We've been there before on tours to Israel. We're not always able to make it because it's way down south. But you can still see the well that has dug in Beersheba.
"Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba. So Abimelech rose with Phichol, the commander of his army, and they returned to the land of the Philistines. Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba." Now you see them all over the place down there. It's an evergreen tree. To plant a tree meant that you had the desire and the indication that you were going to stay in that place for awhile; you're going to remain in the area. It's a shade idea. They "called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God." Elohim. "And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines many days. Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." I love the conversations that he has with God.
Now go back to that whole wedding analogy that I started with. How that so many couples just think of better, richer, and wealth, or health. Every couple that gets married has in their minds a picture of a perfect marriage. This is what it's gonna be like. Here's the problem. They marry an imperfect person. They have the picture of the perfect marriage but they marry an imperfect person. So now they're confronted with the choice, either tear up the picture and accept the person or tear up the person in favor of the picture that's in your mind. Now that same idea between a married couple is in our walk and our faith with God.
Many people have a picture of coming to Christ and what God's gonna do, expectations that they're going to have from the Lord. And many times what they picture is like for better, richer, health, so that if the Lord allows any other circumstance or situation that is troubling or painful or inconsistent with the little picture they have in their minds of what it's supposed to be like, you see some of these people fall away. And it's troubling. You wonder, they were here one week at church, worshiping, getting involved, quoting Scripture. And then you see them months later and no Bible. And you mention the Lord and they're not too excited anymore. And you probe a little bit deeper and what they thought would happen or expected God to do He hadn't done. So they've taken their spiritual football and gone home.
Jesus predicted there were people like this. He talked about the seed that was sown upon the soil where the weeds grew up and choked it and He said the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, or the desire for other things, choke out the Word, or the seed, and it becomes unfruitful. Unfruitful. And He talked about the seed that was sown on the ground that didn't have much earth but it was rocky soil and the sun came and beat down on it. And He spoke about the trials and tribulations. And many people fall away during that time.
Think of all that Abraham and Sarah had gone through, as I mentioned, as a married couple. And keep that in mind as you get into this chapter. Because he's about to be tested like he has never been tested before. This is not what he signed up for; this is not what he expected. There was an author years ago named Ann Kimmel. She married somebody. Now her name was Ann Kimmel Anderson. But she had a lot of great literature, books that she wrote. She said something interesting. She said, "Living by faith in God is sort of like jumping out of an airplane at 10,000 feet. If God doesn't catch you, you'll splatter on the ground. But how will you know if God will catch you if you don't jump?" Abraham is about to jump out at 10,000 feet. Sort of being kicked out of the airplane. If God doesn't come through, he's toast. It says, "it came to pass." You read that a lot; one of the great little phrases of the Bible. There was one woman in the country she said, "That's my favorite Bible text. It came to pass." She says, "Because whenever I go through a trial I know it hasn't come to stay, it's come to pass." Take that to the bank. "It came to pass after these things." After what things? Well, about fifty-some years of things. After all of the things that we read about. Now we'll get back to that phrase in just a minute. "That God tested Abraham."
Now the Old King James said, "tempted Abraham". And so this and other translations have put tested in it. That's a better translation. Because James chapter one says God cannot be tempted by evil nor does He tempt any man. And yet, we face both temptations and testings. Satan tempts us to ruin us. God tests us to demonstrate His faithfulness and to develop our faith. So Satan tempts to destroy; God tests to develop.
Here's the problem. We can't always tell the difference. And that bothers some people because they want to say, well, the devil's really after me. Well, is that the devil or could it be the Lord is developing something? So does it really matter? Absolutely not. It doesn't matter. Because you handle it exactly the same way, whether you're being tempted by the devil or tested by the Lord. Example: when Joseph was sold into Egypt and he went into Potiphar's house as a slave and he went to prison and all of that had happened, was that the devil or was that the Lord?
Well, there's a case that could be made that it was the devil. I mean, after all, the brothers could have been instruments of the enemy to really bring him down and destroy his life. However, it didn't really matter in the end because Joseph said to his brothers, ‘As for you, you meant it for evil but God meant it for good to save many people as it is this day.' So whether it was from the devil or from the Lord or both, it was something God allowed and the devil could've tried to use it to destroy him. But God used it to develop him. Same with Job. Was Satan after Job? Uh-huh. did God allow it? Yes. Satan wanted to destroy Job; God knew it would develop God. It was all by God's sovereign hand.
So how do you treat it? You treat it by recognizing God is sovereign, the Romans 8:28 principal: all things, all things, all things work together for good to those who love God. It's a hard Scripture to believe. Some of us wish it said some things, or most things. But it's sort of tough for us to get our hearts really around all things. Joseph believed that. Job came to believe that. And Abraham is coming face to face with it.
The Lord tested him but notice he tested him "after these things". Now to me, men and women of God this is so important and so precious. There was a period of time where God prepared Abraham for this test. God didn't give him the test until he was ready--until he was prepared for it. Now we don't know how many days. It says in verse 34 of chapter 21, ‘Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines many days'. We don't know how many days. We don't even know how old Isaac is at this time. Some believe he's about ten years of age, so that would be about a seven year time difference. Seven or eight. Others say he was a teenager.
Josephus, in his writings, said he was 25 years old. Isaac was 25 years old. Some even push him up into the 30's. 33 some suggest, when this happened. But enough time had passed, and I don't know what the days were like, but since they were down in Beersheba, I can only imagine the child was weaned, there was now peace in the family as he grew up and the child, probably Abraham, and Sarah, and Isaac took walks. I don't know how long they could walk, being 100 years of age, 120 now, 110, whatever. But they talked about God's goodness and about God's faithfulness. It was a period of rest and it was a period of preparation before God pulled this heavy test. Keep that in mind because some of you are afraid of what the Lord might allow. And you see somebody else going through a trial or you read about Abraham and you think, I could never do that. I could never have that kind of faith. I could never handle it that way.
Well maybe not now because you're not prepared. Abraham could and he did because he was prepared. God prepared him for that. There's an old Yiddish proverb that says, ‘God sends burdens but first God sends shoulders to bear those burdens.' He had prepared Abraham for this and it was a test. So he said, "Here I am." Now here it is--verse two. Boy, I don't think we'll finish this chapter. "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you. So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with men, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him."
Wow! Pause on that for a moment. I'm a dad. I have just one son. This speaks to me in a very unique way. I look at this and I thought I couldn't do this. See there's a dilemma Abraham has and here it is. The promise that God made to Abraham and Sarah required that Isaac live. I'm gonna give you a son and it's gonna be the son of a promise and I'm gonna make you the father of many nations. And it was the promise not only of a son but of nations that would come and a population like the stars of the sky and the dust of the earth. So the promise of God, that God had made, required that Isaac live. But now the command of God requires that Isaac die. It was a contradiction to him; it didn't make sense. But it says in verse four, he went up to do it.
Now don't get hung up on the whole idea of God commanding human sacrifice and how could God do this. First of all, I'll say this. God is not requiring anything of Abraham that any of the other pagan religions required. Number two, God didn't let him go through with it. He stopped him from doing it. So he didn't want a human sacrifice. And number three, when the Law is finally developed under the Mosaic economy, it will be strictly forbidden to offer a child. The real issue is whom do you love more. Now You trusted me before you had the child and you loved Me, Abraham, before you had the child. I made you the promise and you believed Me. Now you have the child. Now do you love that child more than you love Me? Are you willing to love Me and demonstrate love for Me if it costs you this? It's a heavy issue.
When I was dating, I'll just say this. When I was single I was a flaky young man. Wishy-washy in my decisions and my commitments and I had asked Lenya to marry me and she said yes and we were planning our wedding and then I had second thoughts and I got cold feet and I wasn't sure. And so one night she could see that something was ailing me. And like the angel from heaven, Skip, what ails you? And I said to her, now we're already engaged, to be perfectly honest, I don't think I can go through with this. I'm not quite sure that I have a love for you that would be the kind of commitment that this would require.
That was very difficult for her to hear. Because I said I loved her and now it sounds like I'm saying, I don't love you, I don't think. She looked at me and said something I'll never forget. She said, let me tell you something. If I'm not God's best and highest for your life, I don't want to marry you. I love you so much that I want whoever is God's best and highest to be your wife and if I'm not that one, I love you enough to not do it. And I looked her and I thought, wow! I want to marry this girl! What a flake I'd been. But she was, in a sense, with her own Isaac doing the same thing. If God wants me to give you up even though we're engaged, I want God's best and highest for your life and if I'm not the one, then go.
Abraham got up, saddled his donkey, took his entourage with him. Now verse three and verse four, it says on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off--Mount Moriah. There's nothing said about the emotion of Abraham. I can only guess. You don't need to write about it. He was heartbroken; he was grieved. I'm sure he didn't get sleep the night before. He tossed and turned and he was thinking on his bed, I don't get it, all those years waiting and the promises, and what am I gonna tell Sarah? But he goes in obedience. "On the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you."
Did you hear that? We're going to go and we will come back. Not we're going to go and I'm going to come back alone because he's going to be dead. He said something by faith, didn't he? Even though God said take your son, your only son, and offer him up. He says we're going to go and we will come back. The night before, something happened in Abraham's mind, in his heart, on that bed on which he was lying in that tent. He was thinking it through. He was calculating, thinking it logically through and his mind hit upon something, gave him the answer. He thought through the logical premise of the character and power of God.
You say, Skip, it didn't say that. How do you know that? Well, we're told the answer to that in Hebrews chapter 11. I've marked it. You can turn to it or I'll just read it to you--it's only three verses. Now listen to this. Here's the book of Hebrews in the New Testament giving comment on the Old Testament: "By faith," this is Hebrews 11 verse 17, "by faith Abraham when he was tested offered up Isaac and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed will be called.' Here it is: "Concluding that God was able to raise him up even from the dead in which he had also received him up in a figurative sense" You see the word, or do you hear the word, concluding? It's the word in Greek logicimae. It means to compute, to calculate, to logically reason through to a conclusion. The night before, all I can imagine based upon this, in Abraham's mind he was thinking this through. And he was thinking, God gave me a promise. He made a promise to me and my wife that we're going to have a son. It was impossible. Here's the son. God has been faithful. Now God is requiring that I kill the son. Either that means that God is erratic, fickle, false, and can't be trusted and yet I have never known in my experience God to be fickle or false or erratic or unable to be trusted.
Therefore, the only conclusion I can come up with logically is that if I put a knife into that young boy's heart, there's going to be a resurrection. If God is able to miraculously give my wife and I a son, if I kill him, since all of the hope, all of the promise, everything is predicated upon the life of this child, according to God's promise, there's going to be a resurrection. God's going to raise him up from the dead. That's what it says: "Concluding that God was able to raise him up even from the dead."
Here's what I want to point out to you. What do you do when you're faced with something illogical? Here you have a command of God, or you're faced with something and it just, the way things are going in your life, it just seems so illogical? You put it together logically based upon the character of God and what you know to be true about God. And then, like Ann Kimmel said, how will you know unless you jump? Jump. Jump!
I love the story about the grocer who had a son. Now in those days in the South, the grocery stores had a basement, a cellar, a trapdoor. And so the trapdoor was open, the ladder was down, it's dark down there, the grocer, the man was getting some supplies and his son walked in the store and saw the door open. Now from where the grocer was down below looking up with the shaft of light, he could see his son because of the ambient light in the room. But the son, because of the light where he was, he couldn't see in the dark cellar his father, but he could hear his father's voice. Hello, son! Hello, dad! I'm up here! I know, I can see you. Well, I can't see you. Well, that's ok, just come on down, just jump--I'll catch you. I can't jump, Dad, I can't see you! Doesn't matter. I can see you and you know me and you know I love you and you know I can catch you. So jump. So the boy finally did, but it was not based upon what he could see but what he knew about his father. It was logical; it was smart. So Abraham concluded God is able to resurrect my son from the dead and so he goes and he says, ‘Um. We're gonna go yonder and worship and, like, Arnold used to say, we'll be back.' Because he believed God would resurrect his son. Isn't that beautiful?
There's another key here. It says, "We will go yonder and worship." This horrible experience and sacrifice became an act of worship. You know, if we could learn to turn the hard situations of our life into altars of worship, where you just pause. Oh, this is so difficult, what a horrible day I'm having. Pause right there. Lord, You give and You take away. Blessed be Your name. Too often we gaze at our circumstance and we glance at the Lord. If you could learn to gaze at your Lord and glance at your circumstance, it won't overwhelm you. You get overwhelmed when you just glance at the Lord but gaze, look at that, it's impossible, can't afford it, it's horrible… ok. Fooom! Do that.
In fact maybe that's a good definition of worship--being preoccupied with God. We're going to go worship, we'll be back. "So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." He gets that a lot. "Then he said, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" He didn't know anything about that. "And Abraham said, [notice the faith again] "My son, God will provide for Himself [or as some translations say, simply God will provide Himself] the lamb for a burnt offering." So the two of them went together.
Then they came to the place of which God had told him. [That's Mount Moriah.] And Abraham built an altar there and placed wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" So he said, "Here I am." And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, [Yahweh; or as we often say, Jehovah-Jirah, as we mispronounce those words] The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, "In the Mount of the Lord it shall be [seen or it shall be] provided."
This is strikingly similar to another incident in the New Testament. A drama that took place on exactly the same mountain. Where Abraham offered his son--almost--is where God offered His Son--not almost, but in reality and in totality. Same mountain peak; same place. Exactly. Now we get hints of that in verse two, God says, take your son, your only son. Now wait a minute. How many sons did he have by now? Yeah. We've counted two. But here God says, take your only son, because he was the son of promise, not the son of the flesh. In fact, what does it say in Hebrews? He's called his only begotten son. Take your only begotten son, that's what God is recognizing, the son of promise, not the son of the flesh. He says, take your son, your only son, whom you love.
Remember the rule of first mention? We've gone through it a lot in Genesis. This is the very first time in all of the Bible the word love is used. And what kind of love is it? The love of a father for his son as he is about to sacrifice him on Mount Moriah. Ooooh. Very interesting. If you go to Jerusalem today, Mount Moriah still runs through the old city of Jerusalem, and it comes to a peak just outside the gates of the city and then it goes back down slowly. The very peak of the mountain itself, just outside the city gates, was known 2,000 years ago as Golgotha. The place of the skull. The place where Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross. Not only that, but verse four, something else: on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. On what day? The third day. The third day he walked up and the third day he was about to kill his son and the third day the Angel stopped him. So for three days in the mind of Abraham, his son was dead. For three days he believed, I'm gonna kill my son, I'm gonna kill my son. Three days he was dead. It wasn't until the third day that he was stopped. Third day there was, in a sense, a whole new lease on lease because the Angel stopped him. Very, very, very interesting.
And then again, oh yes, "In the Mount of the Lord," verse 14, "it shall be provided." I see that as a prophecy. Now here's the difference. You have Abraham, almost putting his son to death. You have God, definitely putting His Son to death for the sins of the world. One is the shadow of another. One is the shadow of another. I'm sure that when Abraham lifted up that knife it's as if all of heaven paused in awe. Look at how a man loves God! But when God killed His Son on Mount Moriah, all of heaven gasped, see how God loves mankind--to do that! His Only Begotten Son, whom He loves. We don't have time to go on. Wish we did. In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided. In the Mount of the Lord it shall be seen. The cross of Jesus Christ did not take God by surprise. It was the plan of His from the beginning, from the foundation of the world. Christ is called the Lamb that was slain from the foundations of the earth.
It is interesting that what God does in His Word gets twisted as time goes on by other groups. For instance, the Muslims believe that it was on Mount Moriah where Abraham almost killed his son Ishmael. Not Isaac. They insert that into the story. Not only that, but on this very Mount, the very temple Mount itself, it is the third holiest site this day to the Muslims. After Mecca and Medina comes Jerusalem. Mecca is where the kabbah is, the sacred stone. That's where the pilgrimage takes place. That's number one. The mosque of Mohammed in Medina, that's number two. Why Jerusalem number three?Well, in the Koran, in their chapters, called suras, in suras 17 verse 1, it says, "Blessed be Allah who has taken his servant [that is Mohammed] by night from the sacred mosque to the farthest mosque." That's all. And so, over time, people said, that must be Jerusalem. Even though Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Koran. Did you know that? Because it says the furthest mosque. Over time they thought, I wonder if that could mean the place where the Jews worship in the temple and later on the Christians, Jerusalem. So there's a mosque on the temple Mount today called Al-Achsa. The distant or the furthest mosque. And there, they say, is where Abraham was transported by Allah in that night vision according to sura 17 verse 1. And so today, on top of the temple Mount, where the temple once stood, is a mosque. And it is under Islamic occupation at this time. Even though Jerusalem is under the occupation of the Jewish nation. So it's a very interesting tension and when we're there in eight weeks, you'll feel some of that interesting tension. But you'll also be able to stand on and see the peak of that Mount Moriah, where Jesus Christ died for your sins and my sins. On that very mountain, the Mountain of the Lord, it shall be provided. And it was provided. God provided the Sacrifice once and for all to save anyone who would believe in Him by faith.