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“Masques:   Now I see...”

Genesis 22

October 2, 2005

Frank Shirvinski



Paper faces on parade.  Hide your face so the world will never find you.  Each face a different shade.  Look around there’s another masque behind you.  And yet, each face is a different role I play.....father, husband, worker and friend.  Each face a different message that I send.  And yet, the person inside remains the same.  All is known to God.  So, why am I so afraid? 

Hide your face so the world will never find you.  So what do you think we’re so afraid that they’ll see?  Last week we asked the question, “Who is the face behind your face?  When you look in the mirror, who is the me inside?”  When you went home this week and you looked in those mirrors each morning, rubbed that stuff out of your eyes, did you see something different?  Did you see anything that surprised you?  Masques and mirrors - that was the question last week.  But that is not the end of the story by any means.  In fact, it’s just the beginning.  And, in fact, the story I told last week about my friend’s parrot ...that wasn’t the end of that story either.  He sold that parrot, as a matter of fact, to a pet shop.  The parrot never got better - still was kinda rude - so he gave it to a pet shop.  The guy in the pet shop put it up for display.  So, this young couple walks in, the parrot sees them and says, “Hey, mister,” the man says, “Hey, what?”  “You’re ugly and so’s your wife!”  The man’s like....whoosh...this has gotta be a joke - right?  So, he goes on and starts shopping, comes back the other aisle.  “Hey, mister,”  “Hey, what?”  “You’re ugly, so’s your wife!”  This time the guys had it.  He’s embarrassed - right - so he goes, finds the manager, tells the manager what happens.  The manager is furious, comes out, opens the cage, grabs the bird, shakes the bird around and says, “Promise you’ll never say that again.”  The bird says, “I promise, I promise.”  Throws him back in the cage, closes the door.  A few minutes later the man is about to leave with his wife, walked into the check-out aisle and he hears, “Hey, mister,” “Hey, what?”  “You know what!”  Sometimes we know what - right?  Sometimes we know what.  The problem is we don’t want to see it.  We don’t want to look in the mirror and see what we know is there.  So, we hide it behind a masque so the world won’t see it either.  But, what happens when you’re forced to see it? 

We’re going to look at a text today out of Genesis 22 and for me this text is a mirror to me.  You can see it a lot of different ways.  It’s a story of the aka-Da (?), the binding of Isaac.  It’s the story where Isaac takes his son, his only son whom he loves, binds him and is going to kill him because God told him to.  And, people have talked about this story for generations.  And, each time, it’s like a diamond, something different shows know you look through a diamond - different

colors - never the same.  Not only what we see in the story but also what it sees about me when I look at this story of the binding of Isaac.  What will we see in this story?  It opens with God.  He is going to test Abraham.  What is a test?  You’ve been given a test in high school, college, grade school - right?  You’ve had tests.  It’s a collection of questions designed to do what?  Well, you know what, Robby’s right.  To figure out how smart you are.  But, you know what - not really, it’s not about grades.  Tests are designed to find out what goes on in here.  This story is like that.  It asks questions.  Not questions just of what’s out there - questions about what’s in here. 

There were four guys - kinda cutups in school - right - never did everything right.  So, they had a big test in school.  And, they’re late, as usual, and missed most of the test.  So, they came walking in -- “Hey, you know....sorry we’re late.”  Had a flat tire.  Sorry I missed the test.”  The teacher says, “You didn’t miss any test.”  She puts all four of these guys in four corners of the room.  She says, “This test has one question.  Pass or fail.  Which tire?”  Good questions help to see what’s inside of us - right?  Better questions help us to see how the world sees us as well.  Jesus was a master at asking questions that look inside.  Jesus, uh...should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?  I don’t know.  Whose face do you see on this?  Who owns it?  “Jesus, uh...what’s the greatest commandment?”  How do you read it?  “Jesus, uh...who’s my neighbor?  Who is that person I should love?”

Let me tell you a story about a man on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho who fell among robbers.  Who do you think his neighbor was?  The story of the good Samaritan.... he had a way of taking these and looking deep inside.  And, for Abraham, this test is going to look inside of him as well.  Look at verse 2, if you have your Bibles there.  It says this, “Take 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 that I shall show you.”  Why the long description of Isaac?  I mean Abraham knew who Isaac is - right?  God knew who Isaac is.  Why this description? ... “take your only son, Isaac, whom you love.”  In fact, this is the first time the word ‘love’ is used in the Bible because Abraham and God both know the stakes.  They both know what’s involved.  I cannot imagine being asked to sacrifice Luke or Jacob or Abbey.  I can’t fathom that.

A couple of years ago, when I was back in Georgia, a young girl was in a car accident and it was tragic because she had fallen asleep at the wheel and her face had hit the steering wheel and knocked her teeth back into her windpipe and she lost oxygen for too long.  She was in the hospital in a coma for two weeks.  And, during that two weeks the ministers and the elders of the Church took turns being there so that someone was there 24 hours a day, seven days a week for two weeks.  And while we were there, we got to know everybody in that critical care unit.  Everybody has some kind of brain injury.  Every day some family was being asked to say, “Goodbye”...was being asked to turn off the machines.  I can’t fathom that.  How do you hear “offer your only son?”  How do you hear “turn off the machine?”...say, “Goodbye.”  But, it’s more than that for Abraham.  Not only is it his son whom he loves but it’s also his child of promise.  For 100 years he’s waited for this boy.  His future is tied up in this boy.  Generations to come a nation is tied up in this boy.  God’s promises - what God promised him is tied up in this boy.  Was God saying to Abraham, “turn off the machine of my promises?  I’m saying ‘Goodbye.’”  Is that what he was saying here?  You see, what I mean.  That is as tragic, I think, as asking about his son.  The question is, “can God be trusted?”  Think about that for just a second.  Because Abraham doesn’t get any answer.  You don’t hear him argue.  There’s this silence.  And Abraham knows how to argue.  Remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah...God’s going to call down fire and destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  What does Abraham do?  Uh, look, look for 50, okay would you save the City for 50, 40, come up 40, 30, 20, 10?  How about for 10?  Would you save that City and those people?  Here he’s asked to sacrifice his son.  What do you get?  Saddle the donkey, sharpen the knife, get the wood.  We leave in the morning.  But in that silence there’s a question that screams to me...can God be trusted to keep his promises?  Can God be tr.... just think for a second of someone you trust.  Right now just think of somebody right now that you trust.  What are some of the attributes of that person?  I’m asking.  That’s not a rhetorical.  What are some attributes of people you trust?  You call them out.....honesty - excellent; what’s that - dependability; loyalty; I’m sorry - love - excellent.  I’m going to get that one later.  That’s good.   What else?  Promises.  You know for me trust is to be able to see what is not seen.  The book of Hebrews say (says ?) that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Think of someone you trust and when you hear someone say about that person, “Oh, did you hear what so and so said about you?”  What’s your first reaction?  If you trust them, isn’t it, “I don’t believe that.”  I trust that person.  I don’t need to see it.   I know them.  When something goes wrong at work or school is your first reaction someone’s out to get me or something else must have happened because I trust these people who are with me.  That’s why trust is such a huge and valuable commodity.  And, it is trust that calls out to the silence.  It’s trust that Abraham is asking about. 

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It’s trust that led me up a mountain in Jordan.  There’s this town called Petra in Jordan.  Ever see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?  You’ve seen Petra.  It’s that big façade that they find the Holy Grail in.  Actually it’s empty but there’s a movie.  So, we had this day where we had climbed up Camelback Mountain like five times.  I mean, literally, we’d been up and down the City and we’re having lunch.  Now, what happens when you have lunch and you’re just sitting?  You’re cramped - right - and tired.  It’s like I didn’t want to move.  I’ve just gotten comfortable.  Well, Max Miller, Dr. Max Miller from Emery, says, “Whoever wants to come with me I will show you something incredible.”  “Like what?”  “Gotta trust me.”  “Where is it?”  “Up there.”  “Up there.”  “Up there.”  “It’s two hours.”  “What is it?”  “You gotta trust me.”  “But, it’s up there!”  “I’m tired.  I don’t want to go up there if it’s not any good.”  Half the group stayed behind.  But we went.  We saw this.  After a two-hour climb we saw a place called the monastery.  It’s massive.  It’s a huge Roman triclinium - - basically a big party house carved out of a mountain.  And, when you walk into where the mountain is you don’t see it because it’s behind you.  When you turn around, “Boom”...there it is!  And, the experience, the emotion to see that has to be a surprise.  We trusted Max and he delivered on his promise. 

Abraham has to find out.  He sets out on his journey of three days.  Look at verse 4.  “On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.  Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘stay here with the donkey, the boy and I will go over there, we will worship and then we will come back to you.’  Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son, Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife.  So, the two of them walked on together.”  Isaac is silent, too.  Did you notice that?  He’s not saying much.  He’s just walking with his father together.  And, what are they going to go do.  Sacrifice - right?  Well, let’s see.  He’s walking along, there’s the wood - check, there’s the knife - check, there’s the fire - check.  What’s missing?  The sacrifice.  Usually the animal that is sacrificed carried the wood.  Who’s carrying the wood?  Isaac is going, “Hey,” ... Look what he says next, “Father, “ and he said, “Henani.”  “Here I am, my son.”  He said, “the fire and the wood are here but where’s the lamb for the burnt offering?”  Abraham said, “God himself will provide.”  Literally, he will see to it for the lamb of the burnt offering.  So the two of them walked on together.  The two of them continued to walk on together.  If I was Isaac, you know what I would do .... run screaming - right!  That’s not an answer to me.  God will provide.  That doesn’t answer the question, Dad.  Why does Isaac stay?  He trusts his Dad.  He trusts his father and his father trusts God.  In fact, the translations in most of our Bibles say, “the Lord will provide.”  What it says is, “the Lord will see.”  It could also be read, it could also be read, “the Lord will be seen.”  There’s something more here than simply sacrifice.  God will be seen and God will see.  When Abraham takes the knife over his bound son an angel stops him and says, “Abraham, Abraham don’t hurt the boy.  I now know that you fear God.”  God sees what’s inside that place of trust in Abraham.  But, also, God is seen.  He is seen as well in that place.  Abraham sees that God can be trusted, too.  He sees past what’s going on to this point where in the moment they trust, they see.  This is the last time that we have recorded that Abraham and God speak.  Nothing else needs to be said.  They see each other.  They trust each other.  I had a..., well, in the world, in the world around us there’s a lot of distrust.  Wouldn’t you agree - right?  Watch your back.  Read the fine print.  Hide your face so the world really can’t see you.  Protect yourself.  But, be somebody people can trust.  Where do you find a relationship like Abraham and God have?  How do you start that?  Be somebody people can trust. 

In 1 John it says that “how can you say that you love God,” like someone said over here... love is an extension of trust - right?  “How can you say you love God and hate your brother or sister?  How can you hate your brother or sister who you see and then say you love God who you don’t see?”

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It starts with us.  Be somebody who’s trustworthy.  Show them what’s behind the masques.  What’s inside of you.  The world wants someone they can trust. 

I had a friend named, Tom.  When I met Tom - this was like seven years ago, he was very shy, he’d been burned, he’d been hurt and didn’t trust anybody.  But, he enjoyed going on mission trips and so we went on mission trips together.  I invited him to my house.  We hung out on my back deck till 1 - 2 o’clock in the morning, talking for hours...for weeks, for years ...and slowly Tom began to trust.  He became a deacon in the church.  In fact, he became a little social butterfly kind of guy that loved to kinda float around, make the coffee, talk to people.  He was everybody’s friend.  It was incredible.  Then one day - it was in the evening, kinda rainy - I went to his house.  We sat on the back deck like we always had and I told him, “in a few weeks, Tom, I won’t be here any more.  I’m moving to Arizona.”  And, what he said shocked me.  He said, “Who will I trust?”  I thought, Tom, I thought to myself - God.  You trust God.  You know that.  Jesus said, “trust him.”  You know that.  Trust the church, some of the friends you have there.  That’s not what he was asking.  He knew those things and he wasn’t looking for just a general mass of people.  What was he asking?  He wanted names.  Who can I trust.  He wanted someone’s name.  I said, “Tom, let me ask you a question, ‘Who trusts you?  Who is it that trusts you, Tom.  I want names.’”  And, he gave me a list of names.  I said, “start there.”  You find someone to trust by being trustworthy, by opening yourself up.  Abraham trusted God.  I think God trusted Abraham, too, and they saw each other.  The world is looking for somebody to trust and they want names.  So, when they go looking, are they gonna hear your name?  Or my name?  Or, are they still just gonna see a masque?  Or, better yet, what will God see when he comes to look?  What will God see in here?  It starts with us....such as trust and it starts by simply opening our eyes. 

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