The LORD Will Provide
Sermon 1743 Genesis 22.1-19 May 2, 2021
Why does entertainment work? While we are still in the COVID lull we have the leisure to ask these questions. There haven’t been a lot of blockbusters lately to monopolize the conversation. Entertainment works because of something called the suspension of disbelief. Obviously Iron Man does not exist. Groot is computer generated. Nobody can fall in love in one enchanted evening. And Mimi can’t possibly can die of tuberculosis that slowly and still have the air to sing opera like that. We pay good money for artists, actors, singers and musicians to lie to us skillfully. Evidently it takes so much faith for entertainment to work, we don’t have any faith left over to keep the theaters and concert venues open during the pandemic.
This suspension of disbelief is powerful. We go away from a horror movie still scared. We see a singer-actor walking down the street and call him by his character’s name--“Wolverine!” Actors who play doctors give medical advice on commercials.
Isn’t faith a similar suspension of disbelief? Oh, not a suspension for an hour or a day, but a suspension of disbelief for a lifetime? Look at the Sunday School lesson before us today. Abraham and Isaac. God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Some may see this as the most wrenching command a deity could ever give his devoted follower. Some could see it as so disturbing it has no place in the Bible, much less in a Sunday School curriculum. But look at the account. Look at Abraham’s actions. Is this not a suspension of disbelief because of a higher faith? Well, let’s not get too philosophical here. Let’s just go to the story and see it unfold.
The LORD Will Provide
1. As is the LORD’s custom.
2. As is our confidence.
“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about (1-2).’”
What is going on here? Almost forty years earlier God had promised that Abraham’s family would bring a blessing to all nations into the world—they would be the family tree of the Promised Savior. In response to the LORD’s promise and command Abraham moved to Canaan. Later the promise was repeated and amplified. The promised son would come from Abraham’s own body and Abraham’s descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky. Abraham believed the LORD and the LORD credited it to him as righteousness. Still later the LORD pinpointed the time Sarah, Abraham’s wife would give birth to this miraculous son, “about this time next year.” They named the boy Isaac, he brought such joy and laughter to their lives.
This is the son God told Abraham to sacrifice, the son Abraham had been waiting for twenty-five years to be born, the only son Abraham and Sarah would have, the only link to the future birth of the Promised Savior, Jesus Christ. No children for Isaac, no Jesus. No Jesus, no Savior. No Savior, no heaven for you and me or anyone else. No heaven and God is the biggest liar there ever was. That’s what is going on.
Look what Abraham does!
“Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you (3-5).’”
Abraham obeys! Abraham acts as if nothing is amiss. The very next day Abraham springs into action. This is not the behavior of a man who expects to murder his son. I would think if that were the case, Abraham would have put it off for a month or two for last moments until the LORD had to remind him. Abraham saddles his donkey the next morning. Look at what he says to his servants! “We will worship and then we will come back to you.” These are not the words of a murderer covering his tracks. This is about as matter-of-fact a statement as promising the family a pancake lunch at IHOP after church services! Abraham trusts the LORD will provide as is the LORD’s custom.
What can be going through Abraham’s mind? As Abraham and Isaac climb the mountain, Isaac carrying the wood, Abraham the knife and firepot, “Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son (7-8).’”
As he has known the LORD in the past, so Abraham is counting on the LORD to provide a way out now. I don’t want to brag as if I came up with this myself. God told us what Abraham was thinking. “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead (Hebrews 11.19).” Even if the LORD permitted Abraham to carry out the command to its fullest, the LORD would keep his promises. He would raise Isaac to life so the family tree of the Savior would continue. We might say, “Against hope, Abraham hoped.” Abraham was simply acting in a way which followed the LORD who always provided for his people, as is the LORD’s custom.
I think this is the hardest part of human relationships, the doubt. People know you for so long and then, out of the blue, they think you stood them up. Or they don’t believe you. The sadness that fills your heavy heart. It’s like somebody dropped bags of concrete on you.
Now think how the LORD feels. “What more could I have done for my vineyard than I have done for it?” the LORD laments over Israel and Judah through the prophet Isaiah (5.4) Jesus laments over Jerusalem, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing (Matthew 23.37).” The beloved disciple, John, summarizes Jesus’ work. “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him (John 12.37).” Time and again the LORD showed himself to be faithful. Time and again he showed himself to be good and gracious. Time and again his people rejected him and turned away.
But we are no better than they. A favorite among the new hymns says, “I will not forget your love for me, and yet, my heart forever is wandering (Thy Word, verse 2).” Why are we wandering? We remember his love for us, but we don’t trust it. We know better, but we go astray. We don’t believe the LORD when he says “this is the path to heartache, but this other path is the path to wholeness.” We don’t believe the LORD when he tells us to stick with him and we will get through the floodwaters of life. I suppose that lack of trust shows most in a lack of prayers. If I don’t trust someone I will not confide in them. I will not reveal my deepest needs or cares to them.
Yet the LORD still provides for us, giving us house and home, spouse and children, clothing and food and everything we need for our body and soul, only because he is our good and merciful Father in heaven and not because we have earned or deserved it. And to top it all off, instead of treating us like a beggar on the street to whom we give a buck to get him to stop bothering us, the LORD sent his Son to die for our sins so that we could live with him forever in heaven.
The LORD will provide as is our confidence.
Abraham is ready to sacrifice Isaac. I will not go into the details, though Isaac must have been a willing party—I don’t know any playbook where a man pushing 115 can outrun a teenager. “The angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’ Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided (11-14).’”
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3.5)” King Solomon tells us. Solomon had a lot of wisdom. The Bible says he was the wisest man on earth. Yet trust in the LORD is the best. Peter reminds us, “The one who trusts in him will never be put to shame (1 Peter 2.6).” Wasn’t this the Peter who was so frightened to be found out as a follower of Jesus that he denied Jesus three times in one night, even as Jesus was on trial? Wasn’t this the Peter who fled that courtyard of denial and wept bitterly? Yes, it was, but his tears of repentance were replaced with joy over the risen Lord. So happy was Peter to see Jesus along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he doesn’t wait for the boat to land—he jumps overboard and swims to Jesus. When Jesus asked Peter for the third time if he loved him, Peter, full of vulnerability and trust replied, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.”
Some may say the LORD was toying with Abraham. “Now I know that you fear God,” came the voice from heaven. Didn’t God already know? Doesn’t he know all things? Didn’t Jesus know Peter loved him? Did he have to rub salt into the wounds three times, as many times as Peter denied him? No, this is not a tit-for-tat game going on. The LORD knows. He knows everything. But we need to know. A good student looks at the results of a test and feels satisfaction, knowing that they have mastered the material. They know it! The test proves it! It is especially true of language students. I loved Greek and Hebrew reading tests. The answers were all there on the page in front of you! If you knew it. Through Peter’s sin and repentance, he knew he loved the LORD. Through Solomon’s years of experimenting with pleasure, he knew he trusted a higher way to true happiness—the fear of the LORD. No matter how Abraham’s heart was intertwined with Isaac, Abraham knew he loved the LORD even more. That fateful day on Mount Moriah proved it to him. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Isaac was one of the safest people on earth as he was climbing that mountain with his father. The LORD was going to see to it that nothing would happen to Isaac.
The LORD will provide as is our confidence. The angel of the LORD who appears to Abraham is none other than the Son of God, before he came to earth. That’s the name the Old Testament often uses of the second person of the Trinity. The angel is the messenger, the Word, of God. We can tell because of what the angel of the LORD says. “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me (15-18).”
The angel of the LORD calls himself the LORD. He swears by himself, because there is no higher power he can swear by. This is no ordinary angel. This is the Son of God who is the promised Savior. Fittingly, the Promise is repeated. Abraham’s hand in it is mentioned. Though he needs no human help, the LORD works through his people to bring all his good plans to fulfillment. Jesus takes a small boy’s lunch and feeds five thousand. He rides a borrowed donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He relies on Joseph and Mary to keep him safe as a child.
Though no reward for such help is necessary, the LORD richly rewards his people anyway. He gives Abraham a magnificent promise. Not only will his descendants live in the Promised Land, they will dominate it. They will rule it. They will drive out their enemies and take over the fields and cities. When he came to earth, the Son of God said the same thing, but in a little different way. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” But what else would we expect?
Oh, and for the last proof that the LORD will provide as is our confidence. Mount Moriah has another name. It and the vicinity is called Jerusalem. The Temple was built on the highest point in the city. That’s where the Old Testament priests would offer the sin sacrifices for the people for almost 800 years. That’s the Temple where Jesus would teach. That’s also where Jesus would die on the cross as the sin sacrifice for all time. And that’s also the area where Jesus would rise from the dead to show us we would one day rise from the dead to live in heaven as is our confidence.
The LORD Will Provide
1. As is the LORD’s custom.
2. As is our confidence.
One day people will flock to the theaters and concert halls again. For an hour or two they will lose themselves in the spectacle and sounds surrounding them like a comforting blanket. They will believe all their eyes and ears tell them, though they know it is a lie. Having suspended their disbelief for a moment, they walk out into the world afterwards feeling happy.
We never have to wait for that day. Now we have such a history presented to us in the pages of Scripture, who cannot but believe in it? Now we have such a living hope announced to us that our happiness will last forever. And in the midst of our troubles we are confident, “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning (Psalm 30.5).” Our Lord will provide.