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Sunday, January 12, 2020

posted Jan 12, 2020, 8:09 PM by Site Administrator



Genesis 22:1-24

Key Verse 22:18


And through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.


First, "Sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering" (1-8). Look at verse 1. “Some time later God tested Abraham.” We don’t know exactly when God tested Abraham. But we find one clue in verse 6: Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac. In order to sacrifice an animal such as sheep or ram as a burnt offering, you need a lot of wood, and Isaac was strong enough to carry that much wood. So he must have been in his late teens or early twenties. Isaac was God’s blessing for Abraham, and for about 20 years, Abraham enjoyed his life together with Isaac. He tasted what it meant to be blessed by God. Then, a time of testing came. One day, God called Abraham, saying, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” Abraham replied. God told him, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah on one of the mountains I will tell you. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” When we come to this passage, we are only shocked and many questions bother us such as, “Oh my goodness! Offer Isaac as a burnt offering? Why?” If we are surprised like this, then, how much more Abraham must have been shocked, surprised, and confused. Many people doubt God’s love when seemingly terrible or unpleasant things happen in their lives. They easily blame God for their misfortune. Then, how would they respond when they are asked to sacrifice their son Isaac, whom they love as a burnt offering to God? Some people, when they are asked to give up something they hold dear for the sake of obeying God's will upon their life, they say, "Uhh, that's not what I wanted when I believed in God." Or, they say, "Is that the only way I should live by?" and they simply move to another church. When this kind of real test comes to them, they all fail to obey God, thus, exposing their true motive in coming to God - not for God, but for some benefits.


Abraham must have been dumbfounded; he was quite at a loss without knowing what to say. He never expected that God would ask him for Isaac, because Isaac had come from God. Then, why did God do so? Verse 1 says that God ‘tested Abraham.” It meant that God wanted to see what kind of score Abraham would get if He asked him to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. God wanted to see how Abraham would respond at this command. God knew that Abraham loved Him. He knew that if He asked him to offer 10 bulls as the burnt offering, Abraham would obey him absolutely. He knew that if He asked Abraham to offer all his money, Abraham would do it. But how would he respond if he were asked to sacrifice Isaac, his son, as a burnt offering? God even emphasized "your son, your only son… whom you love," showing that He fully understood how difficult it would be for Abraham to obey this command. But still knowing everything, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son as a burnt offering to Him. 


God knows that we love Him, but He wants to see how much we love him. How much do I love God? This is a good question. The first man Adam loved God, but when he had to make his choice between God and his wife, he chose his wife because he loved his wife more than God. Maybe, he would do many things for God, but as long as his wife was concerned, he would make excuses to God. That much was his love for God, and because of that God was very sad. Eventually, Adam teamed up with his wife and rebelled against God, who had established his family and who had given him his wifeOn the other hand, we see Jesus loved God. How much did he love God? God commanded him to die on the cross as a ransom sacrifice for many. It is really difficult for anyone to obey this kind of direction. But, embracing all pains, sorrows and difficulties, Jesus obeyed God’s command. That much was Jesus’ love for God his Father. His love for God was complete that Jesus would do anything God asked him to do, and nothing could stop him from loving God wholeheartedly. Jesus was indeed free to obeyGod’s command because he loved God. During the time of Isaiah the prophet, the Israel people said, “I love God.” But the Lord said: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” (Isa 29:13) Many people easily say, “I love God.” But loving God is not as easy as they think. By the way, how can we love God, when God is invisible and when God is in heaven? People think of it saying words, “I love God.” But loving God is not the matter of saying some words, but the matter of obeying God’s command. Jesus says in John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” If we love God, then, we surely obey God’s command despite sufferings, pains and sorrow. But those who do not love God do not obey God’s command because of the sufferings, pains and sorrows that are involved. Some people say that they love God, but they are even not willing to offer Sunday to God, even just a few hours on Sunday, so they do not come to worship service. They are not willing to sacrifice their trip plans even for the sake of worshiping God, instead, they sacrifice Sunday worship service for their trip plans. Some people say that they love God, but they never bring offerings to God – it is obvious that they love money more than God. God says, “I am a jealous God.” When we love something else, such as pleasures, money, our own life, Ishmael, or even Isaac, God is jealous because he really loves us and he wants us to love him back with the same kind of love. He wants us to love him alone. So he asks us to offer Isaac, our best treasure, to him as a burnt offering. What is your response to this test? What is your Isaac that you value the most?


What was Abraham’s response? Look at verse 3. Let's read this verse together:


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. 


The phrase, "Early the next morning" shows that he didn't hesitate or calculate. Instead, he was decisive. In this heart, Isaac was already offered to God as a burnt offering. Then he didn't tell anyone, not even Sarah. If he told Sarah, he would be able to come out of this dilemma very conveniently, saying, “Lord, I want to obey your command, but it seems that Sarah will kill me first. I am sorry.” But even if there was a legitimate way for him to come out of this dilemma, he didn't do that; he didn't talk to his wife about it. Instead, early the next morning, he left his home with his son and two other servants. Instead of looking for a way to come out of this dilemma with a valid excuse, he chose to obey God's command; this shows that he wanted to obey God's command; he wanted to do what God asked him to do, even if it would hurt him and cost him a lot. That was his heart's desire for God.


In addition, Abraham overcame his personal feelings and emotions. What God told him to do seemed crazy and insane.But throughout the journey to the very altar of sacrifice, his faith in God and simple obedience to God's command did not waver. Also, he overcame his logical and rational way of thinking. Logically, it did not make a sense to offer Isaac, because God had promised that through Isaac, his offspring would be reckoned. So it was contradictory to God’s word of promise. Furthermore, offering a human sacrifice is not biblical at all. So if he relied on his own logical thinking, reasoning, or understanding, surely he would not be able to obey God’s command. He had hundreds of understandable reasons to disobey this command. But “Nevertheless” he obeyed. Nevertheless, he obeyed God’s command overcoming all obstacles – the obstacle of his own logical way of thinking, the obstacle of his past knowledge about God, and the obstacle ofhis feelings. His faith was the faith of “nevertheless”. People’s disobedience is the disobedience of “because. Abraham’s obedience was the obedience of “nevertheless”. The situation is the same, but their responses are totally the opposite. So it is really the matter of whether they love God or not. Certainly, Abraham did not live by his feelings, not by his logic or reason, but by faith in God only. “Nevertheless” he obeyed.


After preparing enough wood for the burnt offering, he left together with Isaac and also two of his servants. It took a total of three days for Abraham to arrive at the place God spoke of. These three days must have been the longest three days inAbraham’s entire life, and a great spiritual battle was going on in his heart – all kinds of mixed emotions and voices of fear and faith, sorrow and confidence were going on in his heartMany people make a big decision to obey God and commit themselves to God. But then, when they have difficulties and pains as they struggle to keep their decision, they quickly back out, saying, "I want to, but my mother is angry at me." Or they say, "I tried, butit's too hard." Their hearts are not steadfast, because, fundamentally, they have no heart's real decision to love God and pursue Him; so they never come to experience God in their life. But Abraham, despite such pains and sorrows and confusion, did not back out. For three days, he fought the battle and kept moving forward step by step – his three days’ journey itself was the expression of his love and obedience to God. Abraham was like a mighty warrior for God who, despite such great pains and difficulties, struggled hard to do what God wanted him to do. Indeed, Abraham was seeking God with all his heart and soul. Then, on the way, Isaac spoke up and said to him, “Father? The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” What a painful and heart-wrenching question it was! It was like a hammer knocking Abraham hard.To many others, this is the knock-out punch. At this, Abraham could have broken down, saying, “I cannot do it,” and cried uncontrollably. Yet, how did Abraham respond? Look at verse 8. Let's read this verse together:


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


Abraham was not emotional. Instead, he said to Isaac, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” His statement here reveals to us his mindset - Abraham's mentality or logic, actually, Abraham's faith. Once Isaac was sacrificed to God as a burnt offering, how would God's promises given to him come true? Abraham's belief was that God Himself would provide a way to fulfill His vision. How? Abraham's response was: I don't know, but He must have a way. "God Himself will provide." God Himself will take care of that matter. He believed beyond his imagination and logic that God had a way to fulfill it even if Isaac was killed. So, he did not hold onto Isaac; he did not insist, saying that, in order to fulfill God's great vision upon his life, he must secure Isaac no matter what. Instead, he trusted in God who would do more than he could imagine, and fulfill His own promises. Thereby, Abraham entrusted this matter, the matter of fulfilling God's great vision given to him, into God's hands by faith in God. And by faith, he simply obeyed God's command instead of holding onto God's vision. In this way, he surrendered his own future, God's vision, and even his son Isaac into God's handsIndeed, with this simple trust in God, he had been fighting such a fierce battle for the past three days.


To God's people, Isaac is very important because to them, Isaac is the very embodiment of God's vision given to them - the most precious treasure they have. But the problem is that, often, they hold onto Isaac and even in the name of pursuing it and fulfilling it, they disobey God's command, or reject God's servant's authority above them. So, when the real test comes to them when they have to choose that either they would hold onto Isaac or they would submit themselves to God's authority, they fail and are found as just ambitious and even rebellious people who do not surrender themselves to God, but pursue their own ambition all the way. As servants of God, we must learn Abraham's belief - "God Himself will provide." How? I don’t know, but we just do our portion – what we are asked to do.When we really believe this, we can surrender our life, our future, and even God's great vision upon our life, to God by obeying God's command absolutely.


Second, "Because you have obeyed me" (9-19)Look at verses 9 and 10. When they had reached the place of sacrifice, Abraham built the altar there, bound Isaac, and gently laid him on the altar of sacrifice. Taking out the knife he had prepared, he was about to slay the sacrifice. Sweat was now dripping profusely from his body. He lifted the blade high in the air, every muscle in his body trembling. He closed his eyes and got ready to slay his son. Then just as the knife was about to come down, a voice from heaven called out, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” “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.” God saw Abraham’s heart’s desire to obey God no matter what, and to obey Him at any cost. God could see that in Abraham’s heart, Isaac had already been offered as a burnt offering to the LORD. God recognized Abraham’s deep trust and love for Him. It was obvious that since Abraham could obey this command, then, he would do anything for God in any situation. Surely, no one could stop him from loving God wholeheartedly. God felt honored by Abraham because Abraham said, “Yes!” even when commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. So he intervened and stopped him from slaying his son Isaac. God commended Abraham’s love and faith in Him saying, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” God was so pleased and His heart was moved that Abraham loved Him this much. One time, Jesus asked his top disciple Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Then, Simon Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Through his command to Abraham, God was asking Abraham the same question, “Do you truly love me more than these, even more than your son, Isaac?” Then, through his act of obedience, Abraham proved that he loved God the most. 


From Abraham’s example of obedience, we can see what it means to love and fear God. It is to love Him over everything, even our very best treasure. By offering our most treasured thing to God, we show that there is nothing that can come between God and us. No thing or person, whether good or bad, can stop us from loving and obeying God wholeheartedly. It is because people withhold from God Isaac, their best treasure, that they eventually fail to obey God. Those who love Isaac more than God cannot obey God. Jesus says, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matt 10:37) The greatest command is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Those who are willing to offer their Isaac, their best treasure to God as a burnt offering can keep this command, and they are the ones who love God more than anything in the world. They are the ones who fear God. How can we sum up Christian life? It is to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. God’s command to Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering is not only applicable for Abraham who lived 3,500 years ago, but also for all believers even today.


Look at verses 13 and 14. Let's read these verses together:


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.” 


There was a ram in a thicket, caught by its horns. Was the ram there all the whole time, quietly watching what Abraham was doing? Or, did God quickly make the ram for Abraham? We don't know. But, one thing is clear: When Abraham's obedience was complete, God provided everything for him and everything turned out wonderful - Abraham sacrificed the ram as a burnt offering to God instead of his son. Abraham fought a reallyfierce battle, even willing to sacrifice his son to the Lord as a burnt offering. Then, that place where he experienced God's provision personally, and got his son back, was so special to him that he gave a new name to it  Jehovah-Jireh, which means, "The LORD will provide." And because of Abraham's experience and understanding, this truth of Jehovah-Jireh came into the world, and to this day, it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD, it will be provided." Now this truth has been revealed to us. Do you want to experience God? Do you want to experience God's provision and be victorious? Then, climb up the mountain of the LORD. Where is the mountain of the LORD? The mountain of the LORD is the place where your obedience to God is complete! The mountain of the LORD is not a small hill; it is not a place where people can approach so casually, like mountain trail, chewing gum and joking around. No. It is the high and steep mountain, which you must climb up with all your heart and strength. That's how you can obey God's command; that's how you can serve God. When your obedience is complete, there you experience this truth: Jehovah-Jireh - the LORD will provide. Once you experience it, your eyes are opened to God and you can see all things differently. Once you experience God this way, your whole view, understanding, value-system and everything, your whole life changes. We thank God for Abraham who reveals this truth to us even through his obedience of sacrificing his son to God. Now, let's enjoy this truth, by climbing up the mountain of the Lord. On the mountain of obedience, it will be provided.


Look at verses 15 through 18. Let us read these verse responsively, 


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


Here God swore by himself, making an unchangeable oath to bless him and his descendants after him. In these verses God confirms three blessings -He would make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; they would take possession of the cities of their enemies; and through his offspring all nations on earth would be blessed. These three blessings were the very content of the initial covenant between God and Abraham.  


A covenant is a contract involving two parties. Both parties should do their parts according to the terms and conditions of the covenant, then, the covenant will be fulfilled. In Genesis 18:18,19, God shared His original plan of fulfilling this covenantThere God said, “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” According to the terms and conditions of this covenant, Abraham should direct his children and his household to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, and his descendants should do the same thing, teaching their children to keep the way of the LORD and doing what is right and just. This was how Abraham’s descendants were to grow into a nation of God-fearing and God-obeying people, doing what is right and just. Then through this nation, God would bless all peoples on earth. So, for this covenant to be fulfilled, Abraham's descendants should do their portion, becoming really good, and doing what is right and just. The covenant was dependant on their performance. But nowGod swore that He would surely keep these promises; He would surely make Abraham's descendants a great nation and bring blessing to all people on earth through them, not based on their covenant-keeping, but based on His own unchangeable oath because He swore to do these by Himself. 


Why did God make this unchangeable oath and bindhimself to itIt was all because he was so impressed and touched by Abraham's obedience that Abraham even obeyed this command; He felt so honored and loved. God appreciated how much Abraham had struggled to honor Him. Out of his great appreciation, God wanted to do something great for him. So, He made this unchangeable oath, even changing the terms and conditions of the covenant He had with Abraham. How happy God must have been at Abraham's obedience! Our God is the Creator of heaven and earth. All his creatures must honor Him, love Him, fear Him and obey Him absolutely. Such fear of God or absolute obedience is the basic duty of all his creatures toward Him. Yet, when any person obeys Him absolutely, God is so impressed and touched, and out of full appreciation of that person's love and obedience, God wants to pour out his blessings on him or her, and not only on him or her, but also on all peoples on earth. God does not take your love for him for granted; God does not take your obedience for granted; instead, He fully appreciates them; and He pours out his blessings on you, for you have obeyed him. This is how God deals with you, and me - what a beautiful person our God is! This is how we can please God; this is how we must live our life as children of God.


History proves that the Israel people failed – they rebelled against God, worshiped idols. They rejected God’s will for them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation toward the whole world. But God still kept His promises and sent the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ through the Israel people and brought His blessing to all peoples on earth. It was all because of one man, Abraham…and because of his faith and obedience. Through his obedience to God, Abraham secured God's blessing for the whole world; through his obedience to God, he became a blessing, a source of blessing for all peoples on earth. Thus, what God had originally planned for Abraham was fulfilled.


Through one man’s disobedience, the first man Adam, who loved his wife more than God, sin came into the world, and all mankind were cursed. But through one man, Abraham and hisobedience, God’s blessing came into the world. Through one man, Jesus and his obedience even to the point of his death on the cross, God’s salvation came to many lost sinners including ourselves. Now, then, our obedience to God’s command means also God’s blessing and salvation to many people.


Today’s passage is the conclusion of Abraham’s life of faith in the Bible. When God saw that Abraham was willing to offer even Isaac as a burnt offering, he could see very clearly that Abraham would obey Him no matter what. So, he did not need to test Abraham any more. Abraham got A+, and it was the end of God’s training. Abraham had two treasures - his firstborn son Ishmael and his second son Isaac. God asked him to send off Ishmael into the desert and sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering to Him. Our God is indeed a jealous God who does not want anything or anyone to be between Him and his people. God wants us to love him alone, giving our hearts to Him alone and completely. If your love for God, if your obedience to God is hindered by anyone or anything, God simply tells you to get rid of that from your heart and life. 


Who is the God of Abraham? He is the God who called a hopeless and ordinary person, Abram and changed him into a source of blessing for all peoples on earth. He did this marvelous transforming work on Abraham with his long patience andfaithfulness. As God did to Abraham, He is doing the same thing with each of us and only when we remain teachable to him, He will complete what He began, and we will be found as a source of blessing for many.


One Word:Because You Have Obeyed Me