When you are tested see what God provides!

February 18, 2024

Pastor Gunnar Ledermann

Genesis 22:1-18

Genesis 22:1-18

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

2 Then 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.”

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded 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. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 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.”

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 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?”

8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “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.”

13 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. 14 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.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 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, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Kids, I am sure that you got lots of candy and treats for Valentine’s Day. When you got home, I am sure that you were told to save the candy until after you eat your dinner, especially your vegetables. When you are put to the test to decide between candy and vegetables, it can be tough. There may even be tears, tantrums or lengthy speeches in an effort to avoid the vegetables. Most of the time, the reason that you do eat your vegetables is that you trust your mom and dad when they tell you that they are good for you and will help you grow up big and strong, even if it is unpleasant at the time.

Valentine’s Day was a few days ago, but tomorrow marks 50 days since New Year’s Day. Fifty days is a good test to see if the New Year’s resolutions are sticking around. A month and a half ago, you might have had a resolution or two that you felt were worth it, but after the test of time they might be things to drop or put on next year’s list. Putting things to the test helps us determine their worth. For example, you might taste test the brisket to see if it is ready to pull off the smoker. Or you might want to test drive a vehicle before purchasing it. Or your spouse may want to test how much the luggage weighs so that it will be allowed on the plane before putting in the extra pair of shoes or box of golf balls. Tests help us determine something’s worth. In our Old Testament reading from Genesis 22, God was going to put Abraham to the test as we read, 1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 2 Then 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.” It is tough to picture a more difficult test than to give up your only son, a child you love. And this was not the first time God had asked Abraham to do something difficult. God had asked Abraham to move from his homeland to a new area hundreds of miles away, which he did. Then, when God promised to make Abraham into a great nation in that new land through his offspring, his own flesh and blood through his wife Sarah, it was another 25 years before their only son, Isaac, was born. It was this one and only son who was by the promise of God supposed to be the crucial next generation in the formation of a great nation that Abraham was to sacrifice.

Abraham had to wrestle with two conflicting messages from God. On the one hand, God promised to make Abraham into a great nation that would bless the world through his offspring, which finally was taking shape with the birth of Isaac. On the other hand, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac, through Sarah who had been barren for decades and now the two of them were even older if there was to be another child to replace Isaac. Abraham could not see the result of this test, but he knew God. He must have been filled with questions, but he went with what God asked him to do. Abraham took his only son and some of his servants along with the wood, fire and knife to make the sacrifice. After walking three days to get to the place where God told him to make the sacrifice, Abraham asked that his servants stay behind while he and Isaac went the final steps to the place where God told him to go (He may have asked them to stay because they may have tried to stop him from sacrificing Isaac). We are not told what questions Abraham had in his mind, but we do hear what Isaac was thinking in Genesis 22, 7… “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. Abraham was already in a difficult position and now had to wrestle with how to respond to his one and only son whom he loved. His response to Isaac did not disclose all the details he knew, but instead he used words that captured his faith. Abraham was wrestling with his faith; it was a test for him to see whether God would provide for him and his son, and the great nation promised through them, and the blessing promised to all the nations of the world.

It is a test when you do not see God providing a way out of your situation. When you are called to honor a candidate or government you disagree with, it is a test. When you are called to protect and save for marriage God’s gift of going to bed with someone when not waiting feels right, might keep the other person from leaving or be the check to see if the relationship is worth it, it is a test. When God promises to heal and deliver you, but you lose your job or your health, it is a test. Any time God allows you to wrestle with seeing God providing a way out of a difficult situation, it is a test. Any time you fear God will not provide what you need, it is a test.

It was a test for the son to follow his father. When Isaac asked where the sacrifice was, 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And when Abraham had Isaac tied up on the wood on the altar ready with his knife and fire, God stopped him. The angel of the Lord spoke to Abraham in Genesis 22,

12 “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.” 13 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. 14 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.”

The Hebrew word for ‘provide’ in “God himself will provide the lamb” and the word ‘saw’ in “he saw a ram caught by its horns” are from the same word. Abraham could not see what God saw; Abraham could not see what God would provide. Then, God lifted his eyes to see. In the book of Hebrews 11, we see what was going on in Abraham’s mind,

17 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, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

God tested Abraham so that he could see God keeps his promises in even better ways that we can see happening. And the angel of the Lord who spoke to Abraham, was one of the Old Testament names for Jesus. Jesus like Isaac obeyed his Father’s will, but Jesus was different. Jesus knew he was going to be sacrificed and his walk was much longer. In our Gospel reading from Mark 1, we read, 12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. Right after Jesus’ baptism, he wrestled with the devil for over a month, and did not give into fear or doubt. Years later, Jesus walked the final steps of the path to sacrifice himself so that every time our faith is tested, we can point to the cross and empty tomb to say with absolute confident the words from our New Testament reading from Romans 8,

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

In response to any test you face, your response and confidence is that God provides what you need. He provides from himself, from his own power. He provided you with grace, forgiveness and eternal life through his own Son. The words God spoke about Jesus just before he went into the wilderness are recorded in Mark 1, 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” This means that God’s one and only son whom he loves, is the angel of the Lord, who told Abraham in Genesis 22, 18 “and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Jesus is the offspring he promised Abraham. Jesus is the one through whom all nations are blessed. You are blessed through Jesus. You will see Jesus at the end of all tests to your faith.

God prepares you for his tests through the Bible. God speaks to you when you read the Bible. These Scriptures have been preserved for you to know God’s heart and for him to connect to you by the power of the Holy Spirit. When you read this historic account of Abraham, read it to understand what happened to him. Read this to get into the emotions and situation; put yourself in Abraham’s sandals. Think through how you would have reacted and how you have acted in similar tests God has put you through. Meditate and apply these words to your life so that you are ready for tests. Plan to turn away from what pulls you down and away from God. Be ready to hold on to God’s good promises, his Word, to Scripture to get through tests. Hold on to these words from our New Testament reading from Romans 8,

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God’s love is better than anything you get on Valentine’s Day. Tests help us see the worth of God’s love. When God tests you, he lifts your eyes to see him, to see what God provides for his people. Support one another as brothers and sisters when you are tested. Read and apply the Word of God to yourself and others to see tests for what they are, a chance to see God provide. Be models to your children as Abraham to Isaac and follow your Father in Heaven. God provided our Savior, and with that highest need met, you can walk difficult paths. Hold on to God’s Word during tests. You will see how good, faithful, powerful and all-knowing God is. When your tests are over, you will be taken to heaven because of Jesus who was tested, sacrificed and resurrected to save us. When you are tested see what God provides. Amen.

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