Look to the stars Part 11

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Genesis 21:1–7 NIV
1 Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
The Lord was gracious
Even in the midst of the evilness and wickedness that transpires through chapters 18-20 God is still gracious
And here we finally arrive at the birth of Isaac.
This long awaited moment right
This is what this covenant hinges on
This is what everyone has been waiting for
Descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky are dependent on this son
And let us be reminded of the miraculous property of this birth
Sarah was barren during her childbearing years
We’ve spent the last 10 chapters discussing the problem of her inability to have a son
She is now 90 years old, well through menopause
By all medical accounts, this is impossible
And yet, oddly enough there’s not a whole lot said about Isaac’s birth
It’s almost stated in a nonchalant way
Genesis 21:2–3 NIV
2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.
That’s it. That’s all we get about this incredible miracle.
Here is what I believe the author is trying to teach us
What God does and can do should never cease to amaze us
But that he can do it, should never surprise us
It’s almost as if the author is saying, He’s God, enough said.
Isaac is born
We know he was circumcised at 8 days old like Abraham had been commanded to do
And he is given the name Isaac which is a play on words and means laughter
Then down later in the chapter we are told that Hagar’s son, Ishmael, begins mocking him which is actually a play on words of the name Isaac
So he’s doing to Isaac, what his name means
Sarah gets upset at this
So, still dealing with the consequences of this decision, and
She tells Abraham to send them away
He does, they leave, they run out of water, they are about to die, and God saves them and provides water for them because of the promise he made to Hagar in chapter 16
Then Abraham makes a treaty over a well with Abimelek who we saw in chapter 20
And at the end of that chapter
We see Abraham “call on the name of the Lord.”
This is that phrase that we’ve seen repeated
Meaning to declare divine attributes of God
Then we get to chapter 22 and here’s what it says
Genesis 22:1–9 NIV
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.
If you’ve grown up with or around the Bible you are probably familiar with this story
And with that it may take away from the shock of this ask from God
But we have to realize the absolute plot twist of this moment
Everything that God had promised to Abraham flows through his son Isaac
Almost everything leading up to this moment in Abraham’s story was about this journey of him having a son through Sarah
We’ve just come face to face with the miraculous reality of Sarah having a son
And now God asks Abraham to kill that very son?
Now, many of us know how this story ends. Abraham did not.
In fact, there is no reason to believe that Abraham didn’t think he would be killing his son
There’s actually every reason to believe he truly thought that he was going to have to sacrifice him
In this culture and time, child sacrifice was a very common thing
many people groups offered their children as sacrifice to their gods
In fact, Deut and Lev expressly argue against this practice which would imply to us that it continued to occur
So, Abraham being asked to sacrifice his child to his God, although emotionally difficult/harsh, even culturally logical, was only baffling to Abraham in the view of God’s covenant promises to him.
But Abraham, although not knowing the details, knew one thing and it was all he needed.
That God would provide
Let’s read the rest of the story
Genesis 22:10–18 NIV
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.”
This is what he tells Isaac in verse 8 and it’s what he calls the mountain it happened on in verse 14
Abraham may have not known how but he knew God would
Here is what I want us to see, God had asked Abraham to sacrifice before
He asked him to leave his family, cut ties with all that he knew.
He asked him to set himself apart by circumcision
But every sacrifice up until this moment was balanced by a promise that although there was something to lose, there was more to gain
Here, however, there is nothing to gain.
No promise is made
No covenant offered
In fact, it’s not only his son that he is putting to death but all previous covenants and promises made prior
The stakes are extremely high
The other day my girls had to go to the dentist.
There’s always something in it for them
There was nothing in it for Abraham
But at the beginning of this chapter in the first verse sheds light to the purpose of this moment
Genesis 22:1 NIV
1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.
God tested Abraham!
God is putting Abraham to the test.
And I don’t think he’s testing Abraham’s faith
Abraham has proven faithful
His faith has been credited to him as righteousness already
I don’t think God is testing Abraham’s obedience
Abraham has proven himself to be obedient
If you’re willing to circumcise yourself at 100 years old, you’re pretty obedient
Here’s what I believe God was testing
Why is it that Abraham has faith in God?
Why is it that Abraham would obey?
Is it because of all that God has provided and promised to him?
Is it because every time God said to sacrifice it was followed with a promise of greater things to come?
Or is Abraham’s faith and obedience in Yahweh motivated by a longing to know and please and God?
The question we must wrestle with this morning is
Why do you follow Jesus?
Do we follow Jesus to get something out of Him?
Or do we follow Jesus to get Jesus?
Here’s the goodness of God on display
God loves to give good gifts to His people
Scripture tells us so
But He also knows that He and He alone is the only well that doesn’t run dry
He is the only thing that will truly satisfy our most inner longings and desires
And so He will often test us or pull back from us or ask us to sacrifice in an effort to get us closer to Him
The ultimate goal of Christianity is not:
be a good person
It’s not go to church
It’s not give away as much as possible
It’s not read your Bible
It’s not obey Jesus
The ultimate goal of Christianity is Christ himself
It’s what we are after, and all of those things may help us get there and are good but they are a means to an end
They are all helping us get closer to Jesus
They are all helping us get closer to the well that satisfies our every need
Not only is this our goal but it’s Christ’s goal for us
He wants us to align our life in a way that God is our ultimate desire
Naomi doing everything Wren and Essie do
Just wants to be with them
And all of this is made possible because Abraham is not the only father of the Bible willing to sacrifice His Son.
This story is a foreshadowing of things to come
When our heavenly Father sends His Son into the world to be slain for us
As great as this story between Abraham and Isaac is, there is a greater story to be told
One that truly tells of the provisions of our God
When we were yet sinners, Christ died for us
His desire is for us, our desire should be for Him.
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