When You Pass The Test!
An Undeniable Experience with God
When God Shows Up!
When You Pass The Test!
The entire first message of this short series was an introduction to the series. In that message, I discussed God’s leading for this series, how I struggled with naming this series and some of the differences between Mediterranean culture and American culture—particularly as it relates to dealing with experiences.
Now, we want to look at six (6) stories that deal with undeniable experiences with God or six times when God shows up. Notice with me please Genesis 22:1-14. I’ll read this aloud for us, as you follow along silently.
(Let’s talk first about:)
I. The Expectation.
First-century circum-Mediterranean people had a different perspective concerning events in life. They believed that every event was attributable to some being. They almost always ask, “Who did this to me,” not “What happened?” The pantheon of beings that could affect them, for good or evil, can be looked at in three tiers.
· The first tier deals with high religion and is based on cosmic gods, angels, demons, spirits, of other worlds who have power of each other in a given order.
We see this in one of the nations that Israel defeated, in the Old Testament, that supposed that they were defeated because their gods were gods of the plains and Israel’s God was a god of the mountains.
· The second tier deals with folk religion or low religion and includes local gods, and goddesses, ancestors, ghost, spirits, demons and evil spirits, and dead saints.
This begins to deal with the forces of magic and astrology, i.e. astrological forces, charms, amulets, magical rites, the evil eye, etc.
We, in the Western world, have more of a two-tiered perspective of beings, because we don’t believe in or pay much attention to this second tier.
· The third tier is based upon folk social science and the interaction of human beings, possibly animals and plants.
Therefore, first-century circum-Mediterranean people believed some cosmic god, local god, or person was responsible for what happened to them! They expected good, neutral, and evil spirits and people to interfere in their lives.
Furthermore, holy men were believed to be able to travel back and forth to heaven and broker favor for those that they ministered to.
Consequently, the point is, the people of the Bible had an expectation of God showing up, which we simply do not have!
(All right, we have the expectation, so let’s consider:)
II. The Environment (Circumstance).
The environment or circumstance of this undeniable encounter with God was a test of the highest magnitude! This was no intellectual test, but a test that would involve all of Abraham—emotion fused thought, self-expressive speech, and self-productive activity!
(Let’s review the circumstances of this test.)
1. God tested Abraham.
We need to know the difference between a satanic test and a godly test! Satan tested Job, but God tested Abraham!
Now, 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. 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. Consequently, many people struggle with test anxiety! These are the kind of tests that satan gives!
However, 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. 1) to qualify them to receive His promises, 2) to work along with Him in the establishing of His kingdom, and 3) to ultimately reign with Him.
Therefore, 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. Start praying,
“Father, how do you want me to partner with you?”
(Let’s look more deeply at a very difficult circumstance of this test.)
2. God commanded Abraham to take his son, his only son, his dearly beloved son, Isaac, and take him to the land of Moriah and offer him up on a mountain that God would tell him about as he went.
This was the only son that he had fathered through Sarah. This was 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.
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.
(Another difficult circumstance of this test is seen in:)
3. Abraham knew that God was not a God of human sacrifice.
So, this test probably made no sense to Abraham. Why would God be commanding Him to do something that was against His very nature?
When I preached this sermon on March 22nd 1978, we were in the midst of our doctrinal change. All Hell was storming around me and as I preached this sermon, I stopped in the middle and began to narrate God’s speaking to me. He showed up right in the middle of this sermon and said, “Bring your reputation up the mountain and kill it and I’ll resurrect it the way I want to resurrect it!”
I can testify that I did just that and you are looking at the resurrected Joey. I went from Pastor Joey to Bishop Joey!
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. If I had time and a series of messages on this passage, we could explore some of the following lessons:)
1) God is going to test our faith through obedience.
2) 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.
3) If we are going to have faith in God, it is going to have to be developed through testing.
4) If it is developed through testing, the test must be a test of obedience.
5) Obedience is the only way to prove our trust in Jehovah God!
6) God may test our faith by asking us to do something that does not make sense.
7) God may test our faith by asking us to sacrifice something or someone that has proceeded forth from us.
8) God may test our faith by asking us to sacrifice something or someone that we deeply love.
9) God may test our faith by asking us to sacrifice something or someone He has promised, that our faith may lie solely in Him.
10) God’s test separated Abraham from Sarah.
11) God’s test separated Abraham from the servants of his household.
However, we are not studying the test, but the circumstances of God showing up! Therefore, one of the conditions of God’s showing up was Abraham’s immediate obedience!
· 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.
When you are in the middle of a test, obey God immediately and wholeheartedly!
(Now, don’t miss this:)
· Abraham expected God to show up.
We can see this in
Genesis 22:5 (NASB), “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.’”
We can also see this in
Hebrews 11:17-19 (NASB), “17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; 18 it was he to whom it was said, ‘in Isaac your descendants shall be called.’ 19 He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.”
There’s so much here to talk about, but we’re only talking about an undeniable experience with God. So, to make a long story short, Abraham followed all the instructions of God and raised the knife to the sky to take the life of his only begotten son!
(But there is something that is very difficult to see here. This test was actually an encounter, which was orchestrated by God.)
III. The Experience.
At that very moment, God encountered Abraham. He called from heaven,
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 that test, through obedience. God showed up, when Abraham obeyed Him, in the middle of a test!
This was an undeniable experience that Abraham had with God! This undeniable experience was participated in and witnessed by Isaac!
Some of you are saying, “So what?”
(Well, there is an example or principle here.)
IV. The Example (Principle).
There is much here to learn, but we are only looking at one principle.
1. God will sometimes orchestrate or facilitate a test, so that He may have a close encounter with us.
He wants to show up at center stage in our lives and show out on our behalf!
Don’t be deceived! God doesn’t want our 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, i.e. encounter us. No, God doesn’t want our Isaacs, what God really wants is to meet us face-to-face, and he will do so when we pass the test through obedience!
2. God orchestrates tests to prepare us to receive His covenant promises!
When we pass the test, through obedience, God shows up and ratifies His covenant with us!
3. Like Abraham, we need to expect God to show up in our tests!
So, perhaps, God’s ultimate intent in testing us is to show up or encounter us and the test is just a mechanism to facilitate an undeniable experience with Him! You could say at each test,
“This is an opportunity to meet God face-to-face! This is a divine set up for God to show up!”
(Now is the Day of Salvation. Come to Jesus, now!)
Call to Discipleship