Abraham's Faith Encounter
Close Encounters Of The God Kind
Abraham’s Faith Encounter
Genesis 22:1-19; Hebrews 11:17-19
The whole world seems to be mesmerized with close encounters with aliens. Accounts of flying saucers and alien abductions abound. Whether you believe these accounts or not, they are becoming far too common place to simply ignore. So, as I thought about the theme of “Encounters With God,” I began to notice some strong similarities between professed close encounters with aliens and close encounters with God. Consequently, I felt impressed to use the subject of “Alien Encounters” as a launching pad for our biblical discussion of “Encounters with God.”
We are presently involved in a series of messages entitled: “Close Encounters Of The God Kind.” This title is taken from the UFO science fiction film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
In this series, we are studying close encounters with God, by likening them to close encounters with UFO’s.
Whether you believe in alien “Close Encounters” or not, you must admit that anyone who claims to have had one is changed forever!
Similarly, when a person has a close encounter with the Jehovah God, it is an experience that changes that person’s life forever.
In addition, when a person has a close encounter with a UFO, it cannot be totally explained.
Likewise, when a person truly encounters God, something happens that he/she cannot totally explain or rationalize. He/she cannot totally explain it, because it is a spiritual or metaphysical experience. Therefore, he/she is required to use his/her spirit to leap beyond the natural and begin to entertain the supernatural, the miraculous, the ineffable, the transcendent, the eternal.
In first three sermons in this series, we worked hard to develop a definition for a “Close Encounter Of The God Kind.” That definition is
A “Close Encounter Of The God Kind” is a face-to-face meeting with God that cannot be totally explained, but which—when fully experienced—will bring about a response of genuine worship or celebration, which includes the remembrance of a redemptive past and/or the conviction of a liberated future that changes people forever; causing them to move and grow by over-recording the intuitive tapes of their core belief.
In the fourth message in this series, we explored one of the major barriers to experiencing a close encounter with God. We called that barrier: “The Brain Barrier.” “The Brain Barrier” is the American, Greek influenced tendency to separate and exalt the intellect above the emotions.
We then began to explore twelve “Close Encounters Of The God Kind.”
In the fifth message, we explored Abraham’s first encounter with God. In that first encounter, God encountered Abraham through His Word that He might commission Abraham to be the forefather of the Messiah.
In that message, we saw that an encounter with the Word of God is not a means to an encounter with God, but is an encounter with God.
(This brings us to the next encounter that we want to explore.)
Abraham’s first encounter is crucial to the plan and purpose of God, throughout the ages, but God’s encounter with Abraham at Mt. Moriah was also a very important encounter. This encounter was an encounter that tested Abraham’s faith in Jehovah God. Let’s read that encounter in Genesis 22:1-19.
Abraham became the “Father of the Faith,” or the “Father of the Faithful,” as such; Abraham is an example of how to live a faithful life. Therefore, we can look at the things that Abraham experienced and learn a great deal.
Although there are some tremendously powerful and encouraging truths in this passage of Scripture, we must begin our exploration of this encounter with God with the “bad news.” The “bad news” is that Abraham faced an agonizing test in this encounter.
Tests are usually very difficult and negative to American people. Why? Because of experiences in our educational system where tests were given to fail, flunk out, or disqualify people. I am told that the University of Akron has flunk out courses, i.e. courses designed to flunk out a number of students. This kind of educational experience has left a bad taste in most of our mouths and a principle in our core beliefs that testing is negative. Many people won’t come to Logos because of text anxiety. Many of those who do come still struggle with test anxiety.
But God’s purposes for testing are far different than the American educational system. He does not test anyone to fail, flunk, or disqualify him/her. On the contrary, God tests people to approve them, i.e. to qualify them to receive His promises, work along with Him in the establishing of His kingdom, and ultimately to reign with Him.
God’s tests are not to be feared, but understood and embraced! Now there is a novel idea! Anytime we receive a test from God, we should look for the way that God wants us to partner with Him in the establishing and extending of His kingdom.
Another reason that tests are bad news for American people is hedonism. Hedonism is the philosophical doctrine that pleasure is the principle good and aim of all action upon earth; it is the psychological theory that people always act to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Therefore, most American people have no understanding of pain or trials.
(Let’s look more deeply at some of the other more difficult circumstances of this test.)
God commanded Abraham to take his son, his only son, his dearly beloved son, Isaac, the son of God’s promise, and take him to the land of Moriah and offer him up on a mountain that God would tell him about as he went. What a test! This was no intellectual test, but a test that would involve all of Abraham—body, soul, and spirit.
Abraham knew Jehovah God, and he knew the God was not a God of human sacrifice. So, this probably made no sense to Abraham. Why would God be commanding Him to do something that was against His very nature?
In addition, God commanded Him to sacrifice his son. That would have been awesome enough, but it was not just one of his sons—but the only son from his body. This was the only son that he had fathered through Sarah. This was not just his only son, but his only and beloved son. He loved Isaac more than all his other sons, because he was the son of promise and the son of his old age.
Furthermore, Isaac, being the son of promise, was the key to all of the promises that God had made to Abraham. God was asking Abraham to kill the representative of the promises, to kill the future, to kill the one in the line of the Messiah. This had to be a tremendous test.
I believe this is where I am right now. I am in the midst of one of the greatest tests of my life. God is asking me to kill my future in traditional religion and trust in Him!
There are times when God will ask you to kill your visible, tangible future and depend upon Him to provide a future for you!
(The lessons here are myriad and they are deep.)
· God is going to test our faith through obedience.
· If we are going to be used by God to establish and extend His kingdom, then we are going to have to have faith in God.
· If we are going to have faith in God, it is going to have to be developed through testing.
· If it is developed through testing, the test must be a test of obedience.
· Obedience is the only way to prove our trust in Jehovah God!
(But there’s more!)
· God may test our faith by asking us to do something that does not make sense.
It doesn’t take much faith to obey God, when what God is asking us to do makes perfect sense to us. But when God asks us to do something that we can’t seem to figure out, we have to make a decision to trust God or trust our own understanding. The Bible says in
Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding.”
God has periodically asked me to do things that don’t make sense and to trust Him to make sense out of them, in His own time.
It makes human sense to remain theologically comfortable at this time in my life and ministry, but God wants to encounter me and The House of the Lord!
(Let’s continue on with these very spiritual lessons.)
· God may test our faith by asking us to sacrifice something or someone that has proceeded forth from us.
Why? Because God wants to frustrate our trust in what we can produce, so that we can place our trust in the things that only He can produce. We can produce our own wishes, drudgery, happiness, etc. We produce these things and then try to substitute them for the real thing. But only God can produce a future, a destiny, joy, etc. These are the real things that God wants us to experience.
God has asked me to sacrifice what I can produce by my own intellect, and He is giving me fantastic truths through my spirit!
(Oh, this is so exciting. Let’s continue on!)
· God may test our faith by asking us to sacrifice something or someone that we deeply love.
Now why would God do something like that or allow something like that? God wants to give us the very best that He has, but to do this He alone must be our God. He stated in one of the Ten Commandments in
Deuteronomy 5:7, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
People that we deeply love can be like gods to us, and the only way for God to be God is to dethrone any other gods!
God has periodically asked me to kill something or someone that I love dearly and trust Him to resurrect it.
(Let’s continue on with these lessons from Jehovah God.)
· God may test our faith by asking us to sacrifice something or someone He has promised, that our faith may lie solely in Him.
Wherein does our faith lie? Does it lie in God’s promises or in God? Do we trust God enough to give up promises that He has made for us, trusting that He can fulfill those promises in a yet unforeseen way? Yes, sometimes I believe that we trust in God’s promises more than we trust in the person of God! Even though it may seem that He is not going to fulfill a certain promise, do we trust Him enough to believe that He is our Abba Father who loves us and is bent on fulfilling that promise in another way?
Perhaps Job had something like this in mind when he said in
Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”
I am learning to trust God, when His promises seem to be failing!
(Oh, the lessons here are many.)
· God’s test separated Abraham from Sarah.
Abraham had to leave Sarah behind and go to do the will of God. I wonder what kind of discussion Abraham and Sarah had? Whatever their discussion, it had to create some separation between Abraham and Sarah.
God’s tests often separate us from our family members. Sometimes not even family members can understand what God is doing!
· God’s test separated Abraham from the servants of his household.
Abraham told the servants of his household, “We will go yonder and worship and return.”
God’s tests often separate us from other members of our households.
All of this is the “bad news” to people of our times, but that is the truth—our faith is going to be tested!
Abraham faced his test by obeying God, but there is so much to learn in the way that Abraham obeyed God.
· He didn’t dilly dally around and wait until late in the day, but he rose early in the morning to do God’s bidding.
How long does it take you to respond to God’s commands?
· His words to the young men, who were with him, were instructive.
“Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you.”
How could Abraham make such a statement? He knew that He was going up on the mountain to sacrifice Isaac. How could he and the lad go yonder, worship, and return? Note that the word “worship” in this context denotes sacrifice. You have often heard me say and I reiterate now, “There can be no worship without sacrifice.”
Well, be that as it may, the answer to this question is given to us in the commentary that is written in the book of Hebrews. It says in
Hebrews 11:17-19, “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 men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.”
Abraham considered, literally debited to God’s account or reasoned that God is able to raise men even from the dead! Abraham didn’t understand what God was doing or why He was doing it, but He thought, “Whatever God is doing, if worse comes to worse and God wants me to carry out this sacrifice, He is able to raise Isaac from the dead!” Abraham believed in God’s power, but more than that Abraham believed that God was a good God who had promised him something in Isaac.
· Abraham’s words to his son, Isaac, were full of faith.
Isaac became concerned about the sacrifice. He saw everything except a sacrifice. Now Abraham didn’t know what the final outcome was going to be, but he believed that God would provide a sacrifice.
· Abraham went all the way.
When they reached the spot of the sacrifice. Abraham built the altar, arranged the wood on the altar, bound his son, laid him on the wood on the altar, and picked up the knife to slay his son. Abraham trusted God to provide a sacrifice, but if He didn’t he would obey God and trust Him for a miracle of resurrection.
· Abraham’s obedience was actually worship.
He called it worship and worship is giving God that which is due His name and character. Worship is more than raising one’s hands, or lips that give praise to His name. Worship is giving God whatever it is that He is due in any given situation!
I have had to face these kinds of tests, even as Abraham did. I am facing one right now! I cannot tell you that I have passed all of my tests as Abraham did, but I can tell you that there have been times when I have released everything to God!
Likewise, you will be tested also.
(But there is something that is very difficult to see here. This test was actually an encounter, which was orchestrated by God.)
At that very moment, God encountered Abraham. He called from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham,” and stopped the sacrifice. God told Abraham,
“You have passed the test. I now know that you fear Me, because you have not withheld your son, your only son from me.”
Then Abraham lifted his eyes and saw a ram caught in the bush or underbrush. God had provided the sacrifice. And Abraham offered the ram in the place of his son and called the place Yahweh-yireh, Jehovah-Jireh,
“The Lord will provide.”
He named the place after the Lord, signifying the presence of the Lord. You see God didn’t want Isaac, He wanted Abraham to give Isaac back to Him, so He could do what He wanted to do in both Abraham and Isaac’s lives. God encountered Abraham through a test. God encountered Abraham, when he passed test.
Some of you are saying, “So what?” Well, God will sometimes orchestrate or facilitate tests, so that He may have a close encounter with us. Don’t be deceived! God doesn’t want your Isaacs! God sometimes asks us to give our Isaacs to Him, so that He can do what He wants to do in all of our lives. No, God doesn’t want your Isaacs, what God really wants is to meet us face-to-face, and he will do so when we pass the test!
This genuine response of worship changed Abraham’s life forever. This genuine response of worship was, in this moment, a conviction of a liberated future, which transformed the immediate events and allowed Abraham to offer up his only and beloved son. Why? The following verses record promises that outline the role of Abraham for the future: Father of the Faithful, Father of the Hebrews, and Father of the Messiah! God had a God-sized assignment for Abraham, so He gave him that assignment in a “Close Encounter Of The God Kind.” This is one of the events that over-recorded the intuitive tapes of Abraham’s core belief and made him the “Father of the Faithful.”
Praise God that there is a lot of good news in this narrative:
· It is good news to know that God wants to partner with us in establishing His kingdom.
· It is good news to know that God will orchestrate an encounter with us for the purpose of giving us a God-sized assignment.
· It is good news to know that tests are just one of God’s methods for qualifying us to partner with Him now and one day reign with Him forever.
· It is good news to know that God has left us a model of how to face such tests.
· Obey God or worship Him, when you don’t understand His instructions.
· Obey God or worship Him, when His instructions don’t seem to fit His character.
· Obey God or worship Him, when His instructions seem as if they are going to cost you the dearest thing in your life.
· Obey God or worship Him, when God’s instructions separate you from your family members.
· Obey God or worship Him, when God’s instructions separate you from others in your household.
· Obey God or worship Him, when you see no other sacrifice around.
· Obey God or worship Him, when the one slated for sacrifice questions your actions.
Obey or worship God when you face a difficult test, because it is a good indication that God is facilitating a close encounter with you!
It is tough right now, but I thank God for my present test—because in the not too distant future I will hear the voice of the Lord say, “Joey, Joey!” And I will answer “Here am I.” Then I will receive commendation from God and I will see the ram that He has tied in the bush. God never fails!
(Now is the day of Salvation. Come to Jesus, Now!)
Call to Discipleship