WHEN GOD PROVIDES

Genesis 22

As we come to the 12th chapter of Genesis, there is a sudden and dramatic change it the character of the book. The first 11 chapters have gone through primeval history of man at breakneck speed. Now the pace shall slow down as we take a more careful look at the history of the Patriarchs and the Covenant.

Genesis 1 - 11

Genesis 12 - 50

EVENTS ARE CENTRAL...

(1) Creation.

(2) Fall.

(3) Flood.

(4) Tower of Babel.

PEOPLE ARE CENTRAL...

(1) Abraham.

(2) Isaac.

(3) Jacob.

(4) Joseph.

Takes place in a period of over 2000 years.

Takes place in a period of about 250 years.

Human Race as a whole

Family of Abraham

There is a principle of interpretation that says, "Emphasis is found by Enlargement." What that means is that the more space is given to a particular teaching, the more important it is considered to be.

Notice what is emphasized in the book of Genesis. It is the way in which God works in and through His covenant people.

Throughout the first part of the book of Genesis, there is a pattern seen concerning the Judgments of God. After God pronounces a judgment upon sin, He follows that judgment by offering a way of escape and salvation from that judgment.

Judgment

Way of Salvation

Adam and Eve cast out of Eden

Promise of redemtion through the seed of the woman

Cain banished for murdering his brother

A mark is placed on Cain so that no one will take vengeance

Flood destroys the whole earth

Eight souls saved in the ark

Confusion of languages results in dispersal of nations

Abraham to be a blessing to the nations

 

GOD PROVIDES A PROMISE

The fact that Abraham was to be a blessing to the nations takes the narrative of Abraham out of the realm of historical trivia and makes it relevant to where you and I live and breathe. The promise to Abraham is that he would be a blessing to you and a blessing to me. It began with a promise that was provided by God.

1 Now the LORD said to Abram,

"Go forth from your country,

And from your relatives

And from your father's house,

To the land which I will show you;

2 And I will make you a great nation,

And I will bless you,

And make your name great;

And so you shall be a blessing;

3 And I will bless those who bless you,

And the one who curses you I will curse.

And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 12:1-3).

The promise to Abraham was the promise that from him would come a great nation. His descendants would be innumerable. You could go down to the beach and you could look at all of the grains of sand and that would be how many descendants Abraham would have. You could look through the Hubble telescope and see the uncounted number of stars in the sky and that would be how many descendants Abraham would have.

There was only one problem. Sarah, Abrahamís wife, was barren. They had tried and they had tried and she could not get pregnant. How were they to fulfill Godís promise? Perhaps He needed some help. That was Sarahís idea and she decided that Abraham could have children by an alternate woman. Operation Hagar. It worked. Sort of. The problems you read about in the Middle East can be traced back to this mistake of trying to "help God."

Furthermore, God didnít need their help. God came once again and promised, not only that Abraham would have a son, but that it would be with Sarah. When Sarah heard the promise, she laughed: "Yeah, right!!!" But it was God who had the last laught and sure enough, when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90, she conceived and had a son. They named him Isaac -- "Laughter."

 

GOD PROVIDES A TEST

1 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."

2 And He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you." (Genesis 22:1-2).

As we first come to this command, we are struck by the obvious question: Why is God doing this? What kind of God would command a man to engage in the human sacrifice of his own son?

To be fair, we must admit that the rest of the story is going to assure us that God does not permit Abraham to go through with this sacrifice. He will let him go right up to the point of being about to kill his son and then he will stop him. But why does God put Abraham through the agony and the ordeal of such a preparation in the first place? Doesnít the New Testament assure us that God does not tempt people?

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. (James 1:13).

I believe there is a subtle different between being tested versus being tempted. The difference is one of intention.

Tempted

Tested

The intention is to make the person being tempted fail.

The intention is to exercise the faith of the person being tested so that it will be strengthened.

When Satan tempts us, it is in order to make us fall. He does not have our best interests at heart. He has our worst interests at heart. It is a bit like having the Ford Corporation do a testing of Toyotas. There testing would likely be designed so that the Toyotas would fail. On the other hand, a test that they carried out of their own vehicles would likely be designed so that they might learn about their cars and improve their product.

God is going to test Abraham and the test comes in a form that was appropriate to that age and culture. You see, the idea of the sacrifice of a firstborn was not unique. There were other ancient religions that carried this same idea, especially in the case where a covenant had been broken.

It is for this reason that Abraham doesnít respond to this command with a complaint that such an expectation is immoral or wrong. Abraham realizes something that we today have generally lost sight of -- that God is the One who gives life and all life is His.

And so, God provides a test of Abraham. It is a test of his faith. The good news is that God has already provided amply to Abraham through his faith. The entire life of Abraham has been a story of faith.

Abraham called to Faith: Promise of a Seed (12:1-9)

Sojourn in Egypt and denial of Sarai (12.10-20)

ē Lot serparates from Abram (13)

War on Sodom; Rescue of Lot by Abraham (14.1-24)

Covenant Ceremony: Animal Sacrifice (15)

Ishmael born (16)

Covenant Ceremony: Circumcision (17)

Destruction of Sodom; Rescue of Lot by Angels (18:1 - 19:38)

Sojourn in Gerar and denial of Sarah (20:1-8)

ē Ishmael separates from Abraham (21)

Abrahamís Faith Tested: Blessing of the Seed (22.1-19)

We have now come full circle to the final testing of Abrahamís faith. That for which he has waited all his life and which has finally been given to him in his old age is to be taken and given over to the Lord.

 

GOD PROVIDES THROUGH FAITH

3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. (Genesis 22:3).

Back in Genesis 15:6 we were told that Abraham believed the Lord and it was counted to Him as righteousness. Now we see that faith resulted in a corresponding action on Abrahamís part. Real faith always results in a corresponding action.

One of the things that I have done as a fire fighter is to rapel down the side of a 25-story building. Now it is one thing to say that I have faith in that static kernmantel rope that spans that height. It is quite another to gear up and step off the edge of that building. Do you know what is the hardest part of that exercise? It is taking the first step over the edge. After that, everything else is easy.

Notice the action that takes place here. We do not read that Abraham procrastinated. Instead, he rose up early in the morning to prepare and to begin his journey to the place where God had commanded.

Where was that place? It is described back in verse 2 as the land of Moriah. Where is the land of Moriah? The Bible gives the answer.

Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. (2 Chronicles 3:1).

The place where Abraham was sent to sacrifice his son was the same place where the Temple would one day be constructed. It was on the site of todayís Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5 And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you." (Genesis 22:4-5).

It took three days for Abraham and his party to arrive. As they finally get to the site where, from a distance, they can see the mountain, Abraham tells the servants who have accompanied him that they are to remain here. Notice what he says: I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you." (Genesis 22:5).

What is happening here? After all, Abraham has not read the rest of Genesis 22. He does not have the hindsight that we have. What Abraham DID have was faith. He believed the promise of God.

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 men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type. (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Do you see it? Abrahamís faith was such that he believe that, if he sacrificed his son Isaac as commanded, then God was able to raise him up from the dead. His instructions to his servants indicated that he had that kind of resurrection faith.

Upon what was this faith based? It was based upon the promise of God that the Messianic line would come through Isaac.

And Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" 8 And Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together. (Genesis 22:7-8).

As Abraham and Isaac continue up the mountain, Isaac notices that there is something missing from their supplies. They have come to make a burnt offering. Accordingly, they have a source of fire and they have wood to burn. There is only one thing missing. It is the sacrifice. And so, Isaac asks the obvious question. Where is the sacrifice? It will be provided by God Himself.

There is a strange yet prophetic quality to the words of Abraham, for it was in this same area that, 2000 years later, God provided the ultimate sacrifice for sins.

Isaac

Jesus

To be offered as a sacrifice to God

Offered as a sacrifice for the sins of the world

Taken to Mount Moriah, outside of the ancient city of Jerusalem

Taken to Golgotha outside the city of Jerusalem

Carried the wood for the sacrifice up the mountain

Carried the cross for his crucifixion out to Golgotha

Isaac was bound and laid on the altar

Jesus was nailed to the cross

It took three days for the party to travel to Moriah, the place of death

Three days after his crucifixion, Jesus rose from the dead

 

GOD PROVIDES A SACRIFICE

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there, and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. (Genesis 22:9-10).

Abraham and Isaac finally arrive on the scene and go about the work of preparing for the sacrifice. The altar is built. The wood is arranged. The passage is strangely quiet about Isaacís response as he is taken and bound and placed upon the altar.

ē Did Isaac protest?

ē Did Abraham offer any explanation?

ē Were there tears?

We are not told. And the reason that we are not told is because that is not the "big idea" of the narrative. We are not meant to come here and look at Abrahamís noble sacrifice or Isaacís submissiveness to his father. Those points are valid, but if you come here and see only those things, then you have missed the bigger idea of the passage. You are meant to come here and see Godís substitute.

 

GOD PROVIDES A REPRIEVE

Imagine the scene. Isaac lies bound upon the altar. The wood is ready. The knife is sharp. The intended sacrifice is ready to be put to death. Abraham raises the instrument of death. Suddenly there is an interruption.

11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." 12 And he said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." (Genesis 22:11-12).

Abraham has passed the test of faithfulness. Notice what is said -- you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me. This is not a denial of the existence of Ishmael, but it is to say that Isaac was the special son; the son of promise.

Because Abraham has not withheld the sacrifice of his son, his only son, God knows that Abraham fears Him and honors Him and loves Him.

The good news is that what God has called us to do, He has also done Himself. God has not withheld His Son -- His only Son -- from us. And because God has passed the faithfulness test, we can trust in Him and we can trust in His love.

 

GOD PROVIDES A SUBSTITUTE

13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the LORD it will be provided." (Genesis 22:13-14).

Abraham looks up and sees a ram caught in a thicket -- a substitute. He understands that this substitute is to take the place of his son and so Isaac is released and the ram is sacrificed in his place. It almost seems anti-climactic until you notice what is said in verse 14.

Abraham names the place. He calls the name of the place: The LORD Will Provide. Only that is not what the Hebrew text says. The word translated "provide" is from the Hebrew root Raíah." It is a very common word and is used throughout the Old Testament. The vast majority of times it is used, it carries the basic meaning, "to see."

That brings us the obvious question: If Abraham named the place, "The Lord has seen," then what is it that the Lord saw? To see the answer to this riddle, we need to look carefully at the passage to see what Abraham saw.

Verse 13 says that Abraham raised his eyes and looked... The word translated "looked" is our old friend Raíah. It is the same word that is translated "provided" in the next verse. The fact that Abraham names this place, "The Lord will look" suggests that we need to look at what the Lord will look at and what Abraham looked at.

Do you see it? It was the ram. He lifted up his eyes and he looked at the ram. It was a ram that had been provided by God. It was a ram that was to serve as a substitute for Isaac. It was a ram that symbolized the once and future Messiah. Abraham looked and saw the ram. But he did not name the place, "Abraham looked." He instead named it, "The Lord will look."

Do you see the significance? Abraham looks at the picture of the ram and Abraham understands a truth about the future. It is a truth that God is one day going to provide a substitute who will die in our place and that GOD WILL LOOK at that substitutionary sacrifice and He will be satisfied.

Why is that so significant?

It is significant became rams and lambs and animal sacrifices to not do anything to satisfy sin. The blood of an animal cannot turn a wrong into a right. But the death of Godís promised Savior was able to do what no animal could ever do.

 

GOD PROVIDES HIMSELF

God came to do what no sacrifice could ever do. When the blood of goats and bulls and rams and sheep was insufficient, God provided Himself as a sacrifice. The cross was the ultimate act of love. It is given so that we might see. But it was also given so that God Himself could see. Isaiah makes mention of this in his famous 53rd chapter.

As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11).

This is the same Hebrew word that we have noted before. It points to the fact that the cross was the place where the Father looked upon the Son, the Righteous One, and was satisfied that the penalty for sin had been paid in full. Justice was satisfied when God the Judge became God the Judged.

C.S. Lewis used to say that unbelievers tend to think they can put God "in the dock." That is old English for placing someone on trial. In the English court, the accused would stand on a raised platform to be judged and that platform was known as the "dock." Lewis pointed out that we, as the handiwork of the Creator of all things, have no right or ability to put God in the dock. It is we who are in danger of being judged.

Yet God put Himself in the place of judgment in the person of Jesus Christ, the righteous One. Not only that, He was judged to be guilty, not because of any sins He had committed, but He was identified with our sins and judged in our place.

God looked upon Jesus and was satisfied. And what is to be our response? Much the same. We are called to look to Jesus.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Look to Jesus -- fix your eyes upon Him. Are you tired? Look to Jesus and He will give you strength. Are you depressed from the holidays? Look to Jesus. Are you lonely? Look to the One who loves you and gave Himself for you. Are you overcome with guilt, knowing that you have not measured up before God and despairing that you can ever return?

Look! Look! Look! And know that God Himself has looked and has been satisfied.

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