Sunday December 5th
God at Work - Isaac
If you’ve ever been camping, you know that it can get pretty dark and scary outside at night. It reminds me of that time in the Bible when Abraham and Isaac were out together, hiking in the mountains.
"Father, it's getting dark out," Isaac said, "and I'm starting to get a little scared."
"Imagine how I feel," Abraham replied, "I have to walk home alone."
There are a lot of things that we could focus on about the life of Isaac. His story begins in Genesis 21 and continues all the way through Genesis 28, and his name is continually brought up throughout the Old Testament in the phrase “the God of Abraham and Isaac”.
I want to focus this morning on one of the earliest stories from Isaac’s life, when he was just a boy. And what’s interesting about this story is that Isaac is not the active protagonist or hero, he is actually the passive victim, or at least he was almost a victim. This familiar story is found in Genesis 22:
Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 Then 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.” 3 So Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and his son Isaac; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place of which God had told him.
Of course, this story is considered to be a testimony of Abraham’s faith and obedience, which it surely is. And Father Abraham, I mean Pastor Roger, taught us all about him several weeks ago. But think for a moment of what this little camping trip must have felt like for Isaac as the days unfolded!
4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the boy will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”
6 And Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.
Wow, what a really special father/son bonding time! “You two servants can stay here and wait. My son and I can handle things from here.” Think of how proud Isaac must have felt at that moment!
Isaac is still just a boy, but his dad trusted him to carry the wood for the burnt offering. And then an interesting thought suddenly dawned on Isaac:
7 Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
That’s a very reasonable answer, and Isaac probably saw no reason to doubt his father’s confidence that God had it all covered. But then this happened:
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 reached out with his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.
Right about now, Isaac is probably starting to wonder if maybe he should’ve stayed home. His Dad seems to have lost his mind! And I think it’s very interesting that there is no record of Isaac crying out or asking his father to put down the knife. He somehow seems to have embraced a supernatural faith that God was going to take care of him. And, of course God does, by sending an angel to hold back the knife just in time:
11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not reach out your hand against the boy, and do not do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by its horns;
and Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in the place of his son.
Abraham’s willingness to offer up his beloved son Isaac is considered to be a beautiful foreshadowing of God’s offering up of His beloved Son, Jesus.
The potential offering of Isaac is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ sacrifice in a number of ways, such as:
And, of course John 3:16 calls Jesus the only Son of God and John 5:20 says that “the Father (God) loves the Son (Jesus).”
This was a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:7
He was oppressed and afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
Hebrews 11:17-19 says,
That phrase “received him back as a type” is a direct reference to the fact that Isaac’s deliverance was a foreshadowing of Jesus’ resurrection.
In Acts 2:24 Peter says this about Jesus:
God raised Him from the dead, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
Often times we are encouraged to have a faith like Abraham, who we call the father of our faith. And that is very true. But I want you to realize that we are also called to have faith like Isaac had.
It’s one thing to offer up a sacrifice like Abraham.
It’s another thing altogether to BE the sacrifice, like Isaac!
But that’s exactly what we are called to do in Romans 12:1
“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship
Our offering is intended to be more of an internal heart attitude rather one than a physical one. It is the attitude of not clinging to our personal possessions or talents. And, just like in the case of Isaac and Jesus, as we willingly offer what we have up to God, He often gives these same offerings back to us, filled with resurrection power!
Let me give you an example:
I offered my musical ability up to the Lord when I injured my thumb in a skiing accident – Because of the injury I had lost the ability to make chords on the guitar. I said “God if you will heal my hand, I will always play for your glory.” And the Lord gave me back the gift of playing the guitar and I have used that restored gift to write songs for His glory and to lead worship. I have a resurrected Isaac hand!
So, let me ask you this: Is there anything in your life that God is currently asking you to lay down, to put on the altar as an offering?
It could be something physical, it could be financial, it could be emotional or relational. The point is that it would be something precious to you, just like Isaac was precious to Abraham.
And giving up this thing might cost you something, just like it was going to cost Isaac something!
When you think of what this thing might be, then you simply have to ask yourself this one question:
Am I willing to trust God, that He will provide for me if I offer up this thing that He is asking me to lay upon the altar?
Think about this true story as you ponder the idea of offering up your life to God:
There was a large cathedral in Europe that had a magnificent pipe organ. One Saturday afternoon the custodian was doing a final cleaning of the organ loft in the balcony at the back of the church.
He was startled to hear footsteps coming up the stairway. He turned to see a man in slightly rumpled clothes coming toward him.
"Excuse me, sir," the stranger said, "I have come from quite a distance to see the organ in this cathedral. Would you mind letting me get a closer look at it?"
The custodian was inclined to refuse. He said, "What if the organist came in and found you sitting there? I would probably lose my job!" But the stranger was persistent so the custodian gave in. "Okay, but only for a moment," he added.
The custodian noticed that the stranger seemed to be very comfortable sitting on the organ bench, but then he asked to be allowed to play the organ.
"NO! Definitely not!" said the custodian. "No one is allowed to play it except the cathedral organist."
The man’s face fell, and his deep disappointment was obvious. He reminded the custodian how far he had come just to see this organ, and assured him that no damage would be done.
Finally, the custodian told the stranger that he could play a few notes, but then he would have to leave.
Overjoyed, the stranger began to play. Suddenly the cathedral was filled with the most beautiful music the custodian had ever heard in all his years.
Finally, after what seemed all too short a time, the stranger stopped playing and slid off the organ bench and started down the stairway.
"Wait!" cried the custodian. "That was the most beautiful music I have ever heard in the cathedral. Who are you?"
The stranger replied, " My name is Mendelssohn."
The man was none other than Felix Mendelssohn, one of the greatest organists and composers of the 19th century!
The custodian was standing alone now in that great cathedral, the beautiful organ music still ringing in his ears. "Just think," he said softly, "I almost kept the master from playing his music in my cathedral!"
God has designed every moment of your life. He has made you for a magnificent purpose.
When you offer your life to Him, you allow Him to play wonderful music through it.
Will you offer your life to Him today – every single note of it?