This sermon is number 1 in a series of 12
As Sparks Flying Upward - Part 1
"The Agonies Of Abraham"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2002 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now we're starting a new study this evening, a group of character studies that I have entitled "As Sparks Flying Upward". We're looking first of all this evening at 'The Agonies of Abraham'. In Job chapter 5 and verse 7 we read the words: 'Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward'. That philosophical conclusion of Eliphaz, one of Job's friends or Job's comforters, came out of his witnessing the fiery crucible of trial that Job went through. As he was a witness of Job's pain, Job's temptation, Job's suffering, he said: 'Man', in general, 'is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward'. In fact, Job himself later on in the book, in chapter 14 and verse 1, says: 'Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and those days are full of trouble'.
Now you remember, and we studied it recently with our brother Tom Hayes, that Job was a man who was full of prosperity and also full of piety - two things that don't normally come together in this world and age in which we live. He was a prosperous man, a wealthy man, but he was also wealthy towards God, he was a holy man. As we read through that book we find that God tried his faith, and God allowed Satan to come into his life and to unleash the plagues of torment against him. As we read through the book we find that Job lost everything. He lost his children, he lost his home, his business, his friend's loyalty, his wife's confidence, and then finally he lost his health. He came to the conclusion at the end of it all that he wished that he had never been born, he cursed the day that he had been born.
If anybody knew about trouble, Job knew about it. Yet he developed such a faith in his God through his trials, that he could say: 'Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him'. In the same book that we find this phrase: 'Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward', 'Man's days are few, but his days are full of trouble', he can come to the realisation of faith to say: 'Though God slays me, I'm going to trust Him'. We find that there's a turning point within the book of Job, and at the end - the last chapter - we read: 'The Lord turned the captivity of Job'. He was blessed again, he was given health, he was given his friends back, he was given a beautiful family and abundance of riches. He lived another 140 years, we read, and he died being full of days.
The question is: what makes a man like that tick? How can that change come about from a man who has gone through the crucible of pain? It's not only Job, it's Abraham, Joseph, Elijah, Hannah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Paul the Apostle, and we could go on and on and on, and all of them are as sparks flying upward with all the troubles and persecution and problems that they have had in their lives. All of them equally came out of those troubles and problems better men and women because of them, but we need to ask the question tonight: why and how? We want to explore this phenomenon tonight, beginning with this man Abraham.
Let me give you a brief biography of this man's life. His life spans in record, from chapter 12 of the book of Genesis right through to chapter 24. In Acts chapter 7 and verse 2, when Stephen preaches one of the greatest sermons in the whole of the Bible, he alludes to the conversion of Abraham and he says these words: 'The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia'. If you like, that is the conversion of Abraham, his conversion. As you read his life story, we find out that he was born and raised in Ur, a city of the Chaldees. It was a seaport in Persia, the Persian Gulf, about 12 miles away from the traditional spot that scholars think the Garden of Eden was in. That city, the Ur of the Chaldees, the most conspicuous site and building within it was a large building that seemed to be modelled on the Tower of Babel. The city had two main temples, one was dedicated to the god Nannar the moon god, and the other to his wife Ningal. Abraham, as a young child, was brought up in that pagan atmosphere - and glory be to God, he was converted out of it, and he became eventually the father of faith.
His conversion, then as we go through Genesis we find his calling. After he was converted, and after God appeared to him in Ur of the Chaldees, God asked Abraham to leave Ur, to leave his father's house for a land that God would show him. Now I want you to see this: that when God called him to that promised land, God didn't tell him where to go or how to get there, He just told him to leave the Ur of the Chaldees and have faith and follow Him. Imagine going on a journey and not knowing where you're going!
His calling, then there is his commission that we find in Genesis chapter 12 and verses 2 and 3, and it's a sevenfold commission. God gave him some guarantees, He has converted him, He has called him, and now He's commissioning him. He says first: 'I will make of thee a great nation'; second, 'I will bless thee'; third, 'I will make thy name great'; fourth, 'Thou shalt be a blessing'; five, 'I will bless them that bless thee'; six, 'I will curse them that curse thee'; seven, 'In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed'. What a head start he had in life! God calling him! God wasn't calling anybody else at that time. Converted, commissioned with a sevenfold perfect promise, all the spiritual blessings that he had in God - but as you know and as I know, all the spiritual blessings in the world doesn't exempt or immune any of us from problems.
Because of that, as we read through his biography, we're enlightened not only to his conversion and his calling and his commission, but we then see his carnality. We find out that he lied about his wife Sarah to Pharaoh, and Pharaoh found her fanciable and he wanted to marry her - and all the plagues of God's judgement came upon Pharaoh and Egypt, and then he realised that this was not the sister of Abraham as Abraham had said, but his wife! That same sin, he followed it again in chapter 20 of Genesis. His carnality, and then later on we find his compromise, for God comes to him and promises him a son, that his children would be like the stars of the sky and like the sand of the seashore. God promised him, but he was getting old and then Sarah got past the age of childbearing, and he decided: 'I'm going to bring God's promise into fruition', and he listened to his wife's voice, he took Hagar, he slept with her, and he raised up a son by the flesh to his own name. Of course you know that was Ishmael, the turmoil of compromise caused by not waiting upon God's promise.
Eventually we find that in Abraham's wife, Isaac was born - a child of promise. Now this man had his fair share of agonies and we could spend all night looking at them, but I want to single out one in particular: the greatest agony of all. Not his conversion or his calling or his commission, not his carnality and not his compromise, but what I've called: 'His Calvary'. It's found in chapter 22, let's read it together: "And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt", or a better word would be 'test', "Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen".
We read in verse 1: 'And it came to pass after these things, that God tested Abraham'. Now please remember, hopefully you know some of the story of Abraham's life, but his whole life so far has been leading up to this challenge of faith, this supreme test, the greatest test of all. Many times in Abraham's life, as we see through his compromise and his carnality, his faith failed him. But the beautiful thing of it all that I want you to see tonight: although his faith failed him, God never ever failed him. God never discarded him because of the failure of his faith, but rather God if you like persevered with Abraham - and eventually we read in the New Testament that Abraham becomes the father of faith. My friend, there is more about Abraham, you know, in the Old Testament then there is about the origin of the universe. God tells us more about this man than He does about where we come from and how we got here. The reason being is there's something supreme that God wants us to learn, and I believe it is this: in this life of faith, in this pilgrimage of Christianity, God is testing you and testing me.
We see in verse 1 that God called Abraham, He said: 'Abraham!' - and there are times, I believe, in our lives when God calls our name, when God calls us to be tested. Perhaps you're here tonight and God has called your name recently, maybe He's going to call your name soon. I don't know anything about you but, my friend, perhaps just like in the book of Job when God said to Satan: 'Hast thou considered my servant Job?', God is now saying to the grandstand of heaven and of hell: 'Have you considered my servant...whatever your name is...?'. Maybe they are directed at this moment, in heaven and in hell, to be spectators of your life. If not now, I would urge you tonight and right throughout this series, to get prepared here and now to keep these truths and ponder them in your heart like Mary for a future day, because you can be sure that if God's not calling your name now, there's a day coming very soon or at some time in your life when God is going to call: 'Abraham!'.
Don't become complacent because you're not going through trial at the moment - why? Because 'whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons'. My friend, listen: if you belong to Christ, if you're a child of God, you need to get prepared - not paranoid - but prepared for trial, be prepared for your name being called. Don't get fearful, because if we believe God's word we believe that all things work together for the good of them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose. We believe that all that we receive from the hand of God is for our good! What Abraham was tested in was for his good. If I could illustrate it like this: a mother gives medicine to her child, and the bottle holds the medicine, but it's not the bottle that gives the child the medicine, it is the mother that gives it the medicine. The mother is responsible, not the bottle - but no matter how full the bottle may be, no matter how full her cupboards may be of medicine, the mother will not allow the child to get one more drop of medicine unless she believes that it is good for the child. But see further the illustration: when she does believe it is good for her little darling, that very depth of her love will not only give the medicine, but will compel her to give it to the child for the child's own good - no matter how bitter that taste may be.
The problems around us are the bottle, but my friend it is your Father's hand that measures it out for you. It is your duty and my duty, as sons and daughters of God, when we hear the cry: 'Abraham!', to say: 'Here am I! I'm ready Lord! What have You got for me?'. I want us to learn tonight, I believe the Lord has given this message for us this evening, I want us to learn how Abraham coped in his agonies and how he came through them. The first thing that I believe we find is in verse 2 - sacrifice Isaac: 'Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of'. Sacrifice your Isaac, let go of the thing that you love.
Now I want you to picture the scene tonight, it's evening around the Oaks of Mamre, the hills are yellow, the sandy plains are a soft colour as the sun goes down and there's the cool breeze of the evening coming in. Abraham sits before his black tents and thinks and meditates and ponders about the goodness of God right throughout his life, from his conversion to his calling to his commission - even when he failed Him in his carnality and his compromise, how God's promise had stayed true. Can you see him looking to the heavens and trying to count the stars, and remembering that God's promise to him was that his lineage would be greater than the stars of heaven? Can you see him lifting up in his hands those grains, microscopic grains of sand, and watching them drift through his fingers and thinking: 'God is going to bring that promise to pass, and there will be a great nation that will bless all the world through my seed'?
Then out of the darkness and the twilight of the night there is a voice: 'Abraham, Abraham, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac. Take him to Mount Moriah; offer him there as a sacrifice unto me'. I imagine, friends, that for Abraham the stars fell out of heaven, the ground below him with the sand opened to swallow him - he couldn't believe that this, his son of promise, was to be taken away from him! We tend to think in our lives as Christians that we must sacrifice to God those things that are sinful, and that is correct - we've to lay aside every weight that doth so easily beset us. But what is confusing to Abraham here, and to us, is that God gave him Isaac, Isaac was from the hand of God in a miraculous way, to a barren womb. The turmoil in his mind and in his heart, the spiritual wrestling perhaps that he is going through, is to realise that God gave this son and now God wants to take him away again! Why?
Think about this for a moment: there is nothing more in the world that Abraham wanted than this son, Isaac. He was waiting day after day for the promise of God. They waited so long that Sarah laughed when she was told that she was going to have a son in her old age. But God continually, over and over again, gave them hope that it would happen. Can you see them? An old-aged couple, and all their energies and efforts were exhausted in this one glorious expectation that in their old age a miraculous child of promise would be born. Then the day came when she felt a kick in her womb, and the promise was given. God gave, but my friend can you imagine the shattering nature of this revelation to this man of God: why would God climb a mountain to give me, an old man of a hundred plus, a child and now He comes to take it away? Do you know why? I'll tell you why I believe why: God will be God, my friend, God had to be on the seat of Abraham's affections. Day after day he was looking after Isaac, waiting on the promise of Isaac, I can almost see him with worshipful eyes as he looks on that giant of a young man thinking of the promises of God, and thinking of the miracle of God in his life - but, my friend, God had to have that place! God must occupy the highest place in our hearts.
What am I saying? I'll tell you what I'm saying: there are good things in our lives, yes there are bad things that we need to get rid of - worries and things about our health that weigh us down when they don't even happen, worries about our welfare, what we will wear, what we will eat, what we will drink - but, my friends, there are good things in our lives, even God-given things, even godly things in themselves, but all of them, every single one of them must be given over to God! Why? Because God must occupy the chief place in every one of our hearts. He must be the delight of our eyes, He must be what we worship and what we serve. We must give everything that we have over to God. My friend, what am I saying? I'm saying this personally to you: you have children that are wayward, you have children that are not saved, you have children that are backslidden, can I ask you please to give them over to God? The problems that you're having in work, the problems that you're having in the family, perhaps even in the marriage, give them over to God! There is a danger that when we focus on these things or on these people, legitimate desires that they may be, that they occupy our focus, they saturate all our energy - even worrying about your own spirituality, worrying about leading people to Christ, many good things can take up our gaze, can become our god!
So God leads us to the place where He asks us all to sacrifice our Isaac, to let go of the thing that we love. My friend, listen: God wants every child of His to get to the place where everything in their life is consecrated to Him, sacrificed to Him. You might think I'm reading too much into this chapter, well please look at verse 12, the angel spoke to him and the voice out of heaven said: 'Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me'. Do you see it? But the best thing of all, friends tonight, is that when you can learn to let go of the thing you love, the thing you're worrying about, the child that is breaking your heart, the problems that are in your life that you're wrecking your brains to try and solve, when you let go of them the miracle of God's grace is this: He gives you back something far greater!
It's hard to let go, but when Abraham let go he received Isaac back. He got Isaac back, but not only did he get Isaac he got something far greater, because he passed God's test of faith and he had a greater walk with God and a greater faith in God, and God gave him all the things he wanted and many things more. Now notice: he learnt his lesson, he didn't get through the trial worrying about it, he didn't get through it scheming like he did in the past and thinking how he could plan something up to get a son. He gave Isaac to God! He let go of Isaac and God gave Isaac back, and gave him his faith mended and all! Oh, it's wonderful. What do I mean? Well, I'll put it in New Testament words, in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things shall be added unto you'. Friend listen: God is a jealous God, and the good things and the bad things - give them to Him, and He'll give you them all back in abundance! Give Him your Isaac.
The second thing that I've been learning is in verse 3, where God says to him to get up, take his son, sacrifice him, and in verse 3 it says: 'Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son'. Early in the morning! He didn't waste any time. I don't know whether he wrestled through the night with it, but I'll tell you this: he got up early in the morning, and he did everything that was needed, he prepared. Now if you've been in the Christian life any length you will know that it's hard sometimes to obey God, especially when things don't seem to be right, when things don't make sense - but God is saying to you and saying to me and saying to Abraham: 'Get up that mountain! Obey Me even when you don't understand, when things don't make sense'. After God called him to the test, early in the morning, no time wasted, no thinking about it, no questioning God's sovereignty. From verse 3 right through the whole chapter until he actually comes to the Mount, you find him doing absolutely everything in preparation for sacrificing his own child. Now listen: he knew what God wanted him to do, he didn't know why perhaps, he didn't know how it was going to be done, he didn't understand what was actually going to happen when he got to the top of Mount Moriah, but he obeyed God!
I'll tell you: it's hard to obey God when you don't know what's going to happen. It's hard to obey God when you don't know the consequences of your actions, but I'll tell you this: it's hard to obey God when you do know what's going to happen, and to a large extent Abraham knew that that knife was going to come down into the heart of his son Isaac. God told him: 'Take your son, your only son, and go up and sacrifice him' - and yet Abraham, knowing and expecting that he was going to have to kill his son, went ahead and obeyed God! Here's the supreme point: he only thought he knew what was going to happen. He thought he knew what God was going to do, but he didn't - why? I'll tell you why, child suffering, going through pain, going through anxiety: God's thoughts are not your thoughts, His ways are not your ways:
'Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace.
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face'.
God told Abraham to do something, and then God didn't do the thing that He told him to do - He didn't let him! God told him to do one thing, yet God had something else planned and Abraham didn't know about it. Can you imagine if Abraham had sat up all night and waited to the next night to 12 o'clock till he obeyed God just to the very second, and reasoned about it and thought about it and discussed it with many people - it probably would have left him high and dry and he wouldn't have gone through with it. But what he chose to do was this: get up the mountain. My friend, get up the mountain whatever it is, and trust the Lord! Do God's will and let Him worry about the consequences! You see, when you let your Isaac go over to God it's His responsibility.
I often use this illustration to people privately. If you bought a car off me, and you were driving home in the car after exchanging money and there was a puncture, a blow out, the tyre just disappeared along the motorway. You came back to me the next day and you said: 'David, that car I bought from you, on the way home the tyre burst'. I would say: 'That's very nice, but you sort it out, that's your responsibility, it's now your car'. My friend, do you know this consecration doctrine that we believe as Christians: that when we give our lives over to God it's not for us to worry about. If I can say it reverently: 'Lord, it's Your responsibility, You sort it out!'. That's when you can obey God, even when you don't understand.
What mountain are you afraid to climb tonight? What hill is too high? I tell you, Jesus says: 'If you had but faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, that mountain wouldn't even need to be climbed, because it would be totally removed'! You could pray tonight like Joshua: 'Lord, give me this mountain', and God would reply to you, 'The mountain shall be thine'. Why do these mountains get in our way when we have a God who treads the mountains underfoot? Do you see it? Get up that mountain! Obey God even when you don't understand.
So Abraham took his son, he gave him over to God mentally and spiritually, and then he climbed the mountain. Verse 5 tells us something very precious: 'Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you'. Do you see that? 'I and the lad will go yonder, and we', literally in the Hebrew 'we', ' will come again unto you'. Abraham had faith to look for a resurrection, he was trusting the God of the impossible. Now if you don't know this already as a child of God, the Christian life is one of faith. So many times in the Bible we read these words: 'The just shall live by faith'. Can I say that this is not some obscure eccentric life that some itinerant evangelist, or some ancient missionary lives, or is exclusive to a man called George Mueller. This is the Christian life! It is for all men, for without faith it is impossible to please God.
What was the secret of Abraham's overcoming in this test? What was the secret of his sacrificing Isaac, and getting up that mountain, and looking for a miraculous resurrection, believing that both he and the lad - after the sacrifice - would come down again to the servants? Turn with me to Hebrews 11 verse 17, the great chapter of faith, and we read: 'By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure'. Do you see it? He went up the mountain believing that God could raise Isaac from the dead if he had to kill him. God could bring him back to life!
You say: 'Well, I believe God, but wait till I tell you something: I couldn't believe that! I couldn't go that far to believe something miraculous like that'. Can I ask you a question tonight: what did Abraham have that you don't? What did this great man of God have that you don't have? It says in Hebrews 11 verse 17 that he counted the promise of God worthy, he believed what God had said to him, that in his seed Isaac would all the nations be blessed - all that Abraham had was the word of the Living God! Let me tell you this: he didn't have any promises that Isaac would be resurrected, he didn't have one promise in that vein - but what he was told, that in Isaac his seed would be blessed, that's all he needed. He didn't know how God was going to do it, he didn't know even why God was going to do it, but he knew that he could stand upon God's word! Can I ask you, child tonight, what more do you need? What more do we need? Is God's word enough for us?
Wait till I tell you this: he didn't have the promises of the New Testament disciple of Jesus Christ to rest upon. He didn't have the promises that you have, he was given one promise and he held onto that promise right throughout into his old age. Now, as he's climbing a mountain as an old man, having to stop for his breaths, he realises that before that knife plunges - or even after it - God would be a God who would honour His promise. Yet God says to you: 'Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a new work in you will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ'. God says to you: 'Nothing shall be able to separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus the Lord'. God says to you: 'Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?'. He says to you: 'Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly more than you ask or think'. He says to you: 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'. What more do we need?
That should encourage you and me to look for a resurrection in our lives, should it not? To trust in the God of the impossible? Then fourthly in verse 7 we find that as he's mounting this great hill, Isaac speaks to him and says: 'My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?'. Now we've dealt with the voice of reason, we've dealt with how perhaps Abraham couldn't make sense and couldn't understand any of this. That's the voice of reason, but this here in verse 7 is the voice of emotion. Can you imagine? I'll tell you this, there's no greater enemy to the life of faith than the voice of emotion. Would the voice of his young son lifting up his head and crying to his father, questioning perhaps his father's apparent hostile actions, would that not be enough to make the old man of God turn on his heels and go down the mountain again?
The Lord says: 'If you being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children' - and Abraham was a righteous man, yet hearing this in his own ears he didn't turn back! He was a man of like passions like you and like me, do you not think that he wondered what his son would think - that his father was willing to go up that mountain and sacrifice him to God? Do not think it crossed his mind and heart: 'What would Sarah say if she knew, and what's she going to say when I get home?'? Do you not think the memories of the little lad years ago as a child flooded through his whole being, drowning his obedience and the voice of God? Do you not think he thought of the possible ability in the future that that young lad could have, the prospects and the promise? All those things were worthy to make him turn and renege on his faith. I'll tell you this: if the devil can use emotion in your life and mine to not believe God and to turn back, you better believe he'll do it. To rob the rest of the peace of God from us, he'll do it. Can I urge you tonight, whatever you're feeling, whatever's in your heart, believe God in the midst of emotion!
We live on facts, facts in the word of God, we put faith in those facts of the word of God, and then the feelings may or may not come. If they come that's tremendous, but we don't live by them. Whatever you are feeling, what is important in your Christian life is this: your will and willing to believe, willing to trust God, willing to follow Him. Do you remember Daniel in the den of lions? Do you know what it says of him? 'Then the king commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him', why? 'Because he believed in God'. What emotions do you think would be going through your mind and heart in a den of lions? But he wasn't hurt because he believed in God.
Fifthly: wait for the lamb's intervention - depending on the God of providence. You know, it was only in the supreme test of Abraham's life that God revealed Himself to him as Jehovah-Jireh. It wasn't until his back was against the wall that God showed him that He was God My Provider - I prefer the translation: 'He will see to it', Jehovah-He Will See To It. Verse 7, he believed that God was able to provide a lamb, God would provide for Himself a lamb. In verse 13 he hears the bleating of that ram caught in a thicket by its horns, and he took the ram and he sacrificed it. Can I say this to you: God always intervenes in a life that is filled with faith. The Lamb always intervenes! He may not answer the way you think He will, or wish He would. I think Abraham - and I hope you agree with me - was expecting that he would have to kill the child, and then God would miraculously have to bring him back to life again. But you see Abraham's faith was not in the way that God would answer him, but in the fact that God would answer him. One way or another God's word would come true.
Do we depend on the provision of God? Oh, it's so hard isn't it? In an affluent society in which we live in today, where we think we have need of nothing, where many who have many things don't even recognise that they receive them from the Father of lights. Do we depend upon God? If you're poor tonight, bless the Lord that you're poor - there's a blessedness in poverty, because it's easier to recognise Jehovah-Jireh in your poverty than it is when you're a millionaire. My friend, what is it to have these promises? Come on: my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. There's so much I could say on this passage, but let me say this: it's important in all of our studies throughout these weeks to see not Abraham, not Job, not Joseph, not Hannah, not John the Baptist, not Paul the Apostle, but to see Jehovah-Jireh, and to see the Lord Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. What a blessing to know that as with Abraham and Israel, listen to this, in your afflictions He is afflicted; to know as they knew then, what we know now in the New Testament, that we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was tested in all points like as we are, apart from sin.
Quickly, let me take you down each of these points. The first: sacrifice your Isaac, letting go of the one that you love. If you look at verse 4 of our chapter you see this: 'Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off'. My friend, I couldn't help thinking that the Father, before the foundation of the world, looked and saw the place called Calvary afar off! And even there He was willing to let go of the One that He loved, for God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all. Think of this: Abraham believed that the child would be given back to him, and for the joy that was set before Christ He endured the cross, despising the shame! Do you see it? Do you see the obedience in Gethsemane? Him, 'Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered'. Can you see Him there in Gethsemane? Do you see Him on dark Calvary? 'My God, my God, why? Why art Thou so far from helping me in the words of my roaring?'. He understood why, but it was the cry of a Son to a Father in emotion.
Do you see Him declared to be the Son of God in power in His resurrection? We know that if we have the fellowship with His sufferings, we will know the power of His resurrection. Do you see fifthly, that He is the Lamb who intervenes, the Lamb who is able, the Lamb who is the provider - 'For all', He says, 'that the Father giveth me, they will come to me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day'. Can you see the Baptist standing: 'Behold! The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world'?
I've been truly blessed, but I hope that you realise through our study tonight:
'If called, like Abraham's child, to climb
Some hill of sacrifice,
Some angel may be there in time,
And deliverance shall rise'.
God will provide a lamb.
Father, if we are honest with ourselves a great deal of the time we know nothing, but we know one thing: nothing shall separate us from love of God in Christ Jesus. Father, thrill us tonight with Thy provision, with Thy goodness, and with Thy grace which is to us-ward. Lord, let us be lost in the wonder of it all. Father, we pray - there are those in our gathering tonight, and they need a touch from Thee, they need lifted out of the emotional turmoil that they are falling into - we pray that we all may give to Thee our Isaac, that we may realise that if we give it to Thee we will be given back tenfold and more. Lord, that we may all know these wonderful words to be our portion: 'And it came to pass'. Jehovah-Jireh, we thank Thee, for Christ's sake. Amen.
Preach The Word
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the first tape in his 'As Sparks Flying Upwards' series, titled "The Agonies Of Abraham" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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