Genesis 22 1-19 Promised Child: God Will Provide the Lamb
Dearly loved people of God,
Do you think anything is more precious to Abraham than the child God promised to him & Sarah? Isaac was born 25 years after God promised them a son. Not only was he their long-promised child, Isaac was the only heir to all God’s promises:
God promised that their descendants would live and care for the land where they now lived as nomads,
God promised they would become a great nation,
God promised that all nations would be blessed through Abraham’s offspring.
What could be more precious to Abraham than this child?
Two weeks ago, we read in of a man was unwilling to give up his wealth to follow Jesus. Maybe you recall:
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
That rich man thought the sacrifice Jesus required was too great.
In today’s passage, Abraham faces a similar challenge:
God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Abraham is tested for idolatry: Is he willing to lay everything on the altar?
God puts Abraham’s faith in the crucible – will the fire show Abraham’s faith in the Lord as deep and pure or will it fizzle and shrivel in the heat?
There are reasons why you might find this story disturbing:
Sacrifice in general. We don’t generally slaughter animals to burn their fat or meat on an altar. It isn’t done around here. We joke about burnt offerings when a BBQ flares up, but burnt offerings aren’t part of our worship.
Human sacrifice, especially one’s own child, is even further from our experience. Hearing about honour killings is abhorrent. It’s not part of our experience, nor our culture.
God’s test of Abraham raises uncomfortable questions for us. Can you put yourself in Abraham’s sandals?
What if God insisted you give up your most treasured relationship to trust the Lord alone?
Could you walk away from a business you’ve built if the Lord called you to?
o Could you walk away from a business you’ve built if the Lord called you to?
Could you be roused from your comfortable retirement to invest hours and energy working in God’s Kingdom?
o Could you be roused from your comfortable retirement to invest hours and energy working in God’s Kingdom?
o Would you leave everything that makes your future seem secure to demonstrate allegiance and trust in God?
Would you leave everything that makes your future seem secure to demonstrate allegiance and trust in God?
Maybe it isn’t surprising that this account is disturbing to us. This test is terribly foreign and horribly uncomfortable.
Yet Abraham goes ahead. Early the next morning he loads up and heads out: Beersheba to Mt. Moriah. On the third day, he takes the wood off the donkey, places it on his only son’s back and trudges up the mountain. Yet his instruction for his servants, show that Abraham still had hope:
Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.
Do you think Abraham expects Isaac to come back with him?
Abraham is a hero of faith. His answer to Isaac’s Q reveals the depth of Abraham’s trust in God. “Where is the lamb?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
2X in the NT, this event is used to highlight Abraham’s faith:
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”
Do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
But marvelling at Abraham’s faith is an outside perspective.
I don’t want you to walk away from here thinking, “Wow, I need to develop faith like Abraham’s.” Virtues like faith or courage are never quite so obvious from the inside.
Have you listened to an interview with a hero: like someone who risked their life to disarm a knife-wielding attacker?
They rarely agree that they’re special or courageous. “I’m no hero. I just did what needed to be done,” they say.
Same with Abraham: I doubt he trekked for 3 days saying, “I gotta be a hero of faith” with every step. His attention isn’t focussed on himself. Abraham focussed on God’s faithfulness and providence, “God will provide the lamb.”
The author of Hebrews has insight into Abraham’s faith:
Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
Abraham’s answer to Isaac is ambiguous.
“God will provide the lamb,” can refer to Isaac as the promised child that God provided to Abraham & Sarah. But maybe Abraham was hoping that God would intervene. Maybe he hoped God would stop him in the act of sacrificing his son. Maybe Abraham was asking God with every step to provide a lamb in Isaac’s place.
Abraham’s faith is well-founded.
When the angel of the Lord calls him urgently, “Abraham, Abraham!” he can drop the knife, untie his son, and wrestle the ram out of the thicket and onto the altar in Isaac’s place.
Abraham’s trust in the Lord is well placed. In a statement of triumph, Abraham names that place, “YHWH Yireh: The Lord Will Provide.” The Lord lived up to the confidence that Abraham put in him.
That’s the take-away the author of Genesis gives the readers as well. At the climax of this account, we’re told that Abraham’s name for Mt. Moriah stuck:
To this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
Maybe you recognize the Lord’s faithfulness and providence as well.
It’s the second Sunday of Advent: 16 days until we celebrate Jesus’ coming. That’s 384 hours ‘til we gather for worship on Christmas day. God’s promises to send a child, to send a Redeemer, can be traced all through the OT – they are fulfilled in the Christ-child. The way the promised child defeated sin and death are told in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are parallels between Abraham’s experience on Mt. Moriah and the gospel. If you know the gospel, the connections leap off the page.
Abraham was required to offer a sacrifice – blood was shed to atone for wrong. There’s a barrier of sin between humans and our Creator. Adam & Eve failed their test of trusting the Lord, plunging the world into disobedience.
All people sin. Because God is just, he can’t ignore sin. It must be dealt with. Death is the consequence. Each sinful person deserves death and damnation.
God, in his grace, does provide the Lamb. In this Advent season, we’re reflecting on God’s promises of a child.
The offspring of Eve coming to crush the serpent’s head.
The offspring of Abraham through whom all nations on earth will be blessed.
o The offspring of Abraham through whom all nations on earth will be blessed.
When Jesus is introduced in the Gospel According to John, you hear echoes from :
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
God’s one and only Son is the substitute who takes our place. Although we deserve death and damnation, Jesus takes our place on the cross; dying our death.
Like Isaac, believers are spared from death. Like Isaac who was figuratively rising from dead, all who have faith in Jesus are raised to life: life with God, a life for God.
Like Abraham and Isaac, we live by God’s promises. We live by God’s providence. We have life and hope and a future because God is good, loving, and faithful. Even in uncertain times and when we answer God’s call to risky-sounding adventures, we can march on in confidence: God will provide!
Our response is faith. As I said earlier, you cannot go into this week saying, “Wow, I gotta have faith like Abraham.” Abraham is a hero of faith, but he isn’t the hero of this story.
You can’t manufacture saving faith. You can’t conjure faith up by trying harder. Faith is like hair. You can’t make it grow longer or change colour by willpower.
How does faith grow?
Your faith in God will grow by focussing your attention on his goodness, his faithfulness, and his astounding acts of salvation. Abraham trusted God’s promises. Even while he bound Isaac, lay him on the altar, and reached for the knife, Abraham trusted that God would provide. He trusted God’s promises. He had experienced God’s providence for 25+ years, he didn’t waver in trusting God’s goodness on Mt Moriah.
So too, when you face a situation that requires faith: when you need to trust God’s providence for food for your family or feed for your livestock, when you can’t intervene for your kids, can’t spare grandchildren from pain and difficulty, when you need to step away from the security of home and family to follow God’s call on your own adventure in faith, don’t try to conjure faith by your own efforts.
Focus your eyes on what your knowledge and experiences of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and providence.
Listen to the stories of those who have trusted the Lord. Listen to Abraham’s testimony, “The Lord will provide.”
The story of Advent is the story of God’s provision of the promised child. Focus your eyes on Jesus Christ