* This is a sermon on Genesis 22:1-19
Since God has proven himself trustworthy to provide for his people, we must look to Jesus Christ—our provision—when obedience becomes agonizingly difficult.
Introduction – If God were to take back his promises for your life, would you still worship him? If God were to take away your job, your home, your family, your retirement savings, your health, your happiness—if it were all gone tomorrow without any hope of restoration—would you still serve him? If God asked you to give up the one good thing you hold most dear—your husband, your wife, your good name, your confidence in knowing sound doctrine, your life, whatever it might be—could you trust him to provide for you? And even if you could obey such a hard command, would the sacrifice be worth it to you?
A. Sometimes God Chooses to Test Our Faith (vv. 1-8)
1. Background of Abraham’s Test
God called Abraham out of Ur to the Promised Land to worship God alone. God promised many descendants, the land, and great blessing to Abraham. Many times in his life Abraham exhibited resourcefulness apart from faith in God, although he grew in his faith and obedience to God. God promised Abraham (then childless) a son to be his heir, and it would not be Ishmael, but Isaac. Ishmael eventually sent away; now Abraham must sacrifice Isaac. This test will be the turning point of Abraham’s relationship with God. Will he pass the test?
2. Testing is not Tempting
Is God being immoral, illogical, wicked, or absurd by asking Abraham to engage in human sacrifice, and that of Abraham’s own son? Note that in v. 1 we know (though Abraham did not) that the ordeal is a test. There is a difference between temptation and God testing people. God often tests his people’s obedience and fear of him (Ex 15:25-26; 16:4; 20:20; Jud 2:20-22).
3. Abraham is Tested, But in a Way, So is God
God already told Abraham to give up his son Ishmael (Gen 21). Now God commands Abraham to give up “your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love”. If Isaac is lost, then God’s promise to Abraham cannot be fulfilled, and the blessed offspring of Abraham cannot be born. Will God be faithful to his covenant promise to bless Abraham and all the nations through Abraham’s offspring?
B. God Tests Our Faith So We May Pass, Not Fail (vv. 9-12)
Notice that even reading the text is an experience not unlike a test! The narrative unfolds at a painfully slow pace up to the climax of Abraham raising the knife. This builds almost unbearable tension for the audience. Yet persevering to the conclusion is worth the payoff.
1. The Binding of Isaac (vv. 9-10)
The moment of decision. Isaac is bound on the altar as a burnt offering sacrifice. Abraham conclusively demonstrates by his actions that he fears God.
2. For God’s Benefit (vv. 11-12)
God said to Abraham, “Now I know that you fear God.” But didn’t God already know his heart? Why does God want to see Abraham “act it out”? Does God want us to “act out” our confession of faith as well? Yes! (cf. Jas 2:21-22)
C. God Provides and Promises to Provide (vv. 13-14)
1. God’s Provision is a Substitute Sacrifice (v. 13)
Although many so-called evangelicals today are revolted at such a concept, this has always been God’s way. Animal skins covered the sin of Adam and Eve (Gen 3:21). Israelites redeemed their firstborn sons by sacrificing animal substitutes (Ex 13:12-13), following the practice of the Passover (Ex 12:12-13). The NT teaches that Christ’s death was a substitutionary and atoning sacrifice for sin (Mk 10:45; Jn 1:29; 2 Cor 5:17-21).
2. The Place (v. 14)
The place is a mountain in the region of Moriah (v. 2). “The place” mentioned in vv. 3, 4, 9, 14 is named Yahweh-Yireh (Jehovah-Jireh). Israel memorialized the place—naming it Jehovah-Jireh—by saying “On the mountain of the LORD…it will be provided” (NIV, ESV, NAS)…it shall be seen” (KJV)…he will be seen.” (ESV tn). Hebrew word used is ra’ah; can be translated to “see” or “provide”. LXX uses the Greek word horao (to “see”) for the Hebrew ra’ah. John 8:56 says Abraham saw (horao) the day of Christ and rejoiced (cf. Heb 11:13). Jesus most likely was referring to Genesis 22:14. What did Abraham see? That the Lord would provide, that Abraham’s blessed offspring (Jesus) would be seen on the “mountain of the Lord”, that God would not stay his hand in execution, but would actually sacrifice his only Son—the sacrificial lamb, the Lamb of God—as the substitute for his people, and receive him back from the dead in resurrection (Heb 11:17-19). The place foreshadows the temple sacrifices (2 Chr 3:1) and finally the crucifixion of Christ.
D. Remember that God’s Provision is Always Guaranteed by Another’s Obedience (vv. 15-19)
God confirms his covenant promise by sworn oath. God promises he will “surely” bless Abraham because he obeyed God in not withholding his only son. By his obedience, Abraham points to Christ, whose obedience unto death guarantees every spiritual provision for his people. By Isaac’s obedience, he also points to Christ, who gave up his life willingly on the cross according to his Father’s will. This passage looks to the future for God’s Provision, not to the past at Abraham and Isaac.
Conclusion –What did Abraham learn? The lessons God taught Abraham are just as important today if you are to survive God’s tests of your faith. When following Christ becomes so difficult you are tempted to give up, remember:
1. To fear God means to be radically obedient to his commands.
2. God’s promises are sure. When tested, God can be counted on.
3. God must be worshiped for his own sake, not for the blessings he gives.
4. God will provide for his people, and he will do it in unexpected ways. Ultimately, God will provide through the sacrifice of his only beloved Son (and he has at the cross!)
5. On the mountain of the Lord (Mt. Moriah=the place) it will be provided (or he will be seen). What will be seen and provided? “He” (God’s only Son Jesus Christ), who is the Lord’s provision for the atonement of our sins.
6. Notice that Abraham did not stay on the mountain of the Lord. To live by faith in the promises of God, we must descend from our mountain-top experiences and return to everyday life. Abraham journeyed back to his family, lived his life at home, eventually buried his wife Sarah, arranged for Isaac to be married, and had more children. Abraham understood that trusting God to provide happens when life is mundane. As far as we know he never heard from God again. But he died in faith, demonstrating he was willing to sacrifice all, trusting that God would provide for his every need, looking to the mountain of the Lord where his eternal hope would be seen and provided.
Every provision Abraham looked forward to has now been provided in Jesus Christ. Surely Jesus makes it worth our sacrifice when obeying God gets tough, because he has guaranteed our provision (he is our provision) through his perfect obedience! Surely we must repent of our disobedience (or our half-hearted obedience) when following God becomes too difficult. But thanks be to God that Christ has perfectly obeyed, and that God’s provisions flow to us from Christ. God is truly Jehovah-Jireh. Amen! As Abraham looked ahead to Jehovah-Jireh in confident faith, will you also look faithfully to Jehovah-Jireh (God-our-Provider) to provide for you, even when it seems too hard?
Download sermon outline here.