Genesis 22:1-18

Lent 1

Sunday February 21, 2021

Trinity – Creston/Mount Ayr

Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our text for this evening is the OT Lesson from Genesis 22 that was just proclaimed.

Dearest Jesus, Send your Holy Spirit to remind us that even amidst things that are just wrong, you provide and bring us through with the never changing reality that we are still your redeemed children. Amen.

Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:

During these three gut-wrenching days of Abraham’s life, I have to believe he thought to himself, “Something is terribly wrong here.” I would agree with him. Something is drastically wrong here.

Even though we know the end of the story, you can’t help but read this Bible passage and say, “Something is drastically wrong for God to command a father to slaughter his beloved son.”

I was talking with someone about this particular passage. She simply said to me, “I cannot believe in a god that would tell a dad to kill his son. I don’t care how this ends up. For that kind of god to ask that, I cannot in good conscience worship him.”

When we step back from this passage and just look at what’s happening, something is drastically wrong. You can see how wrong it is because of the love in this father-son relationship. God says, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love” (v 2).

Abraham loves Isaac, born to him in his old age. Watching him grow up, Isaac would be the apple of his eye, the light of his life. You can hear that love in the conversation between Abraham and Isaac. “My father, here’s the wood and the fire, but where’s the lamb for the sacrifice?” “My son, God will provide” (cf vv 7, 8). My father. My son. This relationship just speaks of love.

Then to hear God say, “Go sacrifice him.” Those few words had to strike at Abraham’s heart. How could you ask that of this father, God?

A father is told to sacrifice his son. Something is drastically wrong here, but not just on that human level. On another level, God’s promises are at stake here. He has promised that Abraham will be the father of many nations, that his offspring will be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand on the beach.

A promise that out of Abraham’s line will be born One who will be a blessing to all nations. To kill Isaac is to break a promise, to renege on what God has told Abraham.

Something is drastically wrong when God tells a father to slaughter his son and when God’s promises come into question.

But not just back in Abraham’s time. Today, when we see what happens to children, we say, “Something is drastically wrong.” In St. Louis in the year 2019, almost twenty children were murdered, gunned down on the street, in a yard, or in a home.

After one of these murders, I read that it used to be the creed on the street that you did not kill women and children. Now it’s changed. You do someone else in before you get done in yourself, and it doesn’t matter who gets in the way.

So children die. And we simply say, “Something is drastically wrong.”

St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital is a hospital that does research for children who have cancer. The hospital provides free care for those children. Often there’s a picture of a child without hair because of the cancer treatments. You look at that and give thanks that many of those children now live. But some don’t. Children still die of horrendous diseases, and we think, “Something is wrong here.”

Anxiety and worry among teenagers, perhaps the same age as Isaac in our text, have skyrocketed and, with that, teenage suicide. Something is wrong. Take every school shooting—Columbine, Parkland, Sandy Hook, all the other tragedies Every one of those victims was somebody’s child. Something is wrong here.

A Pastor and his wife lost their oldest son at the age of 33. One minute he was alive, and then a pulmonary embolism meant that the next minute he was dead. They read this passage differently because walking into a room and kissing your son good-bye for the last time when he lies there cold and lifeless changes you. His wife said, “This is not right. A parent should never have to bury a child.”

Then, beyond that human level, God’s promises are involved. A cross on the wall their home reads: “God is always by your side.” You are never alone.

God hears our prayers. God surrounds us by his grace. The Lord is good; his love endures forever. God is never more than a prayer away. He restores my soul.” Wonderful, incredible promises are written on that cross. But when you see what happens to children, when you see what happens to your own son, you begin to wonder about God’s promises.

Something is drastically wrong here.

And yet, Abraham journeyed the three days to the mountain. Those three days must have been horrendous because he knew what he was going to do at the end of them.

But a couple of sentences indicate that Abraham had hope. He trusted that somehow God would provide. He says to the two servants, “You stay here. I and the boy will go up to the mountain and will come back to you” (cf v 5). He does not say, “I will come back to you,” but, “I and the young boy will come back to you.” He’s trusting that God will provide.

Or after Isaac’s question, “Father, here’s the wood and the fire, but where’s the lamb?” Abraham replies, “God will provide it” (cf vv 7, 8). With those words, we are listening to Abraham holding on in hope to God’s promise. He has hope that God will work out the details here, and that trust, that hope, that belief takes him all the way to the moment when he has the knife in his hand at Isaac’s throat.

Now someone might say that Abraham was telling a little lie so that nobody knew what was going to happen. Or perhaps it was a prophetic word. Well, in the Book of Hebrews (11:17–19) we get a better answer.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”

Did you hear how that description of Abraham started? By faith. By faith, Abraham took Isaac up that mountain.

At that moment, Abraham’s faith held on to the promise that God would provide. In this case, God did provide by sparing Isaac’s life. But on a bigger, broader, deeper level, God provided.

We get a glimpse of it. Isaac carries the wood for a sacrifice. Jesus carries the cross for his sacrifice. Isaac is the son, the only son, whom Abraham loved. Jesus is the Son, the only Son, whom the Father loves. A ram is in a thicket to be sacrificed in the place of Isaac. Jesus, on the cross, takes our place, and is sacrificed for us.

The promises come true. Through Isaac, Abraham’s descendants are numerous. From Abraham’s offspring comes Jesus. God provides—forgiveness, life, salvation. God provides and keeps his promises for us as well.

After the death of a loved one, one Bible passage particularly has been a source of hope. “I’m convinced that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (cf Rom 8:38–39).

God has provided in another way. Earlier in Romans 8, Paul wrote, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (vv 31–32, emphasis added). Jesus is not only for us on the cross. He has risen from the dead to be with us as well.

When Everything Looks So Wrong, God Provides by Keeping His Promises for Us and Being with Us.

Lazarus’s death and Jesus’ conversation with Martha and Mary show both the “for us” and “with us” beautifully. Jesus had a messenger come to him one day to tell him that one of his closest friends, Lazarus, was sick and about to die.

For some reason, Jesus waits two days before going. When he finally arrives, Lazarus’s sister Martha meets him and says to him, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” Can you hear it in her voice? “Something’s wrong here, Jesus. You weren’t here for us.”

Then in the conversation, Jesus makes an incredible promise for us: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though you die, will rise again. Do you believe this, Martha?” (cf Jn 11:21, 25–26). She makes the good confession. She holds on, she believes in what Jesus will do for her.

Then he goes to Mary. She has been crying. She, too, says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v 32). But this time Jesus doesn’t have a conversation with her. This time Jesus does something different. He weeps with her. He cries with her.

One day I saw on Facebook a meme about Lazarus’s death and Jesus’ tears that caught my attention. It made me consider that Jesus knew Lazarus was dead, even before the messenger told him. And yet Jesus cried when he heard the news.

Jesus knew he could and would raise Lazarus back to life. But still Jesus cried because his friend had died. Jesus knew that his death would defeat death for Lazarus and all people, and yet still, Jesus cried about Lazarus’s death. The meme concluded, therefore, that knowing how the story ends doesn’t mean you can’t cry at the sad parts.

Knowing the end of the story doesn’t mean you can’t cry during the sad parts. At those moments, God provides. God keeps his promises. Jesus is with us even when things are so wrong. God provides by keeping his promises written on a cross and an empty tomb.

Listen: He’s always by your side. You are never alone. He hears our prayers. He surrounds us with his grace. God is never more than a prayer away. He restores my soul.

Like Abraham, we are simply called to believe, to trust that God will provide, that he is with us, and to hope. I still expect to cry at times when things seem so wrong, so drastically wrong. I expect everyone to cry, for you to cry, when things seem so drastically wrong.

But there will come a day of no more tears. Jesus will come back. On that glorious day of resurrection, he will do for us what we could never do. Children will no longer have to worry about being killed or think about suicide or dying of horrible diseases.

Instead, everything will be dramatically right. But until that day, we will cry at the sad parts. And like Abraham, when that happens, all we can do is trust that God will provide because Jesus is with us and he keeps his promises. Amen.

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.