Archive for the ‘Genesis 22’ Category

Part 5 – Genesis 22:1-19 – CHRISTMAS SUBSTITUTES!

Christmas Substitute

In the very centre of Christmas cheer, amidst the silver bells, coloured baubles and lights, enormous sparkling chandeliers, banners and wreathes and beside a gigantic Christmas tree, there in the middle of everything stands a huge throne that dominates the centre of the plaza. No, it’s not for Jesus. It is for Santa Claus, enthroned as the CHRISTMAS SUBSTITUTE of a naughty and nice world.

The nativity scene is hard to find, tucked away in a glass case around the corner somewhere. At least in Australia we still have them. It’s not that we don’t want to include Jesus, the Saviour of the world, in the celebrations, it’s just that there is no room in the … well you know what I mean. It seems you still have to search for Jesus, like wise men of old, without the help of the star. So much for Matthew 6:33 (NLT) “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” 

I’m not sure Jesus would go for the big red throne adorned with tinsel and holly anyway. The stable seems to indicate that God is less interested in all the frills and more interested in ruling over the hearts and lives of those willing to love, honour and obey the real King of kings and Lord of lords, people such as Abraham.

In Genesis 22, Isaac is the promised son, whom Abraham loves. It is interesting to me that this is the first time the word “love” is used in the Bible and it is in connection with the love of a father for his son. The New Testament makes it clear that this real life story is also a picture of Christ, the Son of God, whom God loves. In Matthew 3:17 (NLT) God says about Jesus “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy.”

You know the story. God stops Abraham from killing his only son at the last minute and provides a SUBSTITUTE SACRIFICE. In Genesis 22:13 it says, “Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering IN PLACE OF his son.” God provides for us even in the most dreadful of circumstances.

Substitution. Isaac is Abrahams only son of the promise. Jesus is God’s only Son, the promised Messiah. The ram SUBSTITUTES for Isaac. The lamb of God, Jesus Christ, SUBSTITUTES for me. Isaac carries the wood. Christ carries the cross. Abraham offers Isaac on Mt. Moriah. Years later, Solomon’s Temple is built on Mt Moriah, where many sacrifices take place. Christ is offered up on the same mountain ridge, once and for all for my sins. Abraham travels three days and received back his son. Christ spends 3 days in the tomb and He is resurrected. Abraham calls Mt. Moriah Jehovah-Jireh, “the Lord will provide.” God provides for Abraham. God provides a SUBSTITUTIONARY SACRIFICE for me in the Lord Jesus Christ.

God says to Abraham in effect, “Because you have not withheld anything from Me, even the one person you loved the most, then I will not withhold anything from you concerning my purposes.”

Abraham’s submission to God’s will, in an ultimate act of worship, pictures beautifully the SUBSTITUTIONARY WORK of Christ. In Matthew 26:39 (NLT) Jesus says “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Hebrews 5:8 (NLT) says “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned OBEDIENCE from the things He suffered.” 

Abraham’s obedience to God is a direct application of Proverbs 3:5 (NLT) in the most trying of circumstances “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” 1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT) asks, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your OBEDIENCE to His voice? Listen! OBEDIENCE is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”

God bless you as you as you abdicate the throne this CHRISTMAS. I object that Santa has become a SUBSTITUTE for Jesus, but on closer inspection behind the beard and the red suit, if you look hard enough you will see me, bowing to culture and the “naughty and nice things” of the world. Sitting on a throne of my own making.

But I choose to abdicate! I choose to take off the mask and look for the manger. Forget the naughty and nice. I just want to be Ho, Ho, Holy! (Sorry, couldn’t resist). I choose His righteousness as a SUBSTITUTE for my sinfulness. I realise that all I have to offer Him is more akin to a stable, not a palace, or some fancy throne, yet here in this place, without all the frills of a Christmas substitute, I choose to recognise Jesus as my King.

Now with that established, let’s have a lot of fun! Have a happy holiday but most of all a Merry CHRISTmas!

Pastor Ross

Part 4 – Genesis 22:1-19 – CHRISTMAS IN THE FIRE!

Living Sacrifice

His weather worn face looked like ancient parchment stretched over a wire mesh skeleton and his eyes, haunted with memories, looked straight through me into my soul. As I gave my devotion that day I could tell that he understood the anguish Abraham must have felt as God said, “Take your son, your only son-yes, Isaac, whom you love so much-and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” (Genesis 22:2 NLT)

I asked him later if he was spending time with his family this Christmas. He pointed to the two drawings above his chair on the wall. Simply framed crayon drawings, pastel colours, a boy and girl. He said simply and in a half whispered voice which only slightly betrayed the emotion he held at bay “My children. Both of them died of cancer.” He had outlived his family and somehow in the aftermath of his loss and grief, I could still see the remnants of faith, tested but still intact and with a depth that only occurs in the fires of experience.

Why would God ask Abraham to do such a gruesome thing and why did Abraham obey right up to the moment that God stops him from carrying this through? Is this a picture of absolute surrender to God or the kind of RELIGIOUS FANATICISM that has no emotions and just obeys with robotic obedience? This passage is graphic and startling in it’s implications for me! There’s no Christmas sleighbells and FEELGOOD music accompanying this scene.

Remarkably, Abraham’s faith is still intact. He still believes the promise of God. It must have seemed like Christmas when God had said, “… for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” (Genesis 15:4 NLT) and that “… All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3 NLT). And Hebrews 11:19 (NLT) says “Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again …”

With the noises of the world around me, my problem is hearing God speak in the first place, let alone audibly, but if He said this to me I don’t think I could have done it? I would still be asking, “Lord, is that really You?” I would put it down to an exegesis problem. “You don’t really mean sacrifice. You mean bless, not sacrifice, don’t You, Lord? Lord, what are you thinking?” Where would I draw the line? Would I begin to water down what God is saying rather than come under His authority?

The test this Christmas is to love God and put Him FIRST in my life today. And I’m not talking about gooing and garing over the baby in the manger. The invitation this Christmas is not only to come let us ADORE Him, but also to ask the all important question “Why did He come?” My mind sweeps down through the corridors of time and I see not only a MANGER but a CROSS.

Isaac couldn’t be a sacrifice for my sin! No-one can pay the penalty of my sin but Christ alone, the innocent Lamb of God. Christmas declares that “… He (Jesus) will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21 NLT). The challenge this Christmas is to accept the gift He offers of forgiveness and salvation.

When God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of Isaac they must have understood another awesome truth. As they stood by the fire that day Abraham saw Isaac as a LIVING SACRIFICE. Life for both Abraham and Isaac would always be seen through the eyes of that sacrifice. CHRISTMAS IN THE FIRE!

Isaac tells me that I am to life my life as a LIVING SACRIFICE, not willing to allow my circumstances and the things I treasure most to dictate what it means to live under the authority and direction of Jesus Christ. It involves a choice to see life through the eyes of the Cross rather than through the shrunken, distorted lenses of my circumstances and the cultural pressures around me. Dying to the influences of the world and intentionally coming under the authority of God.

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) explains “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a LIVING AND HOLY SACRIFICE-the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” 

Pastor Ross

Part 3 – Genesis 22:1-11 – WHEN IT COMES TO THE CRUNCH?

Some Time LaterDay after day the drudgery of books had began to depress me. Don’t misunderstand. I love reading books. I was working in a warehouse at the time. Two of us would work in a large cubicle to pack books into boxes according to a computer order and convey them to be stacked onto palettes and trucked out to the retail shops in four Australian states. But I was called by God so clearly to be a Pastor. Packing books? Why would God have me wait all this time just to be packing books.

“Some time later” (Genesis 22:1 NLT) after Sarah, at about 90 years of age, has given birth to Isaac, and before she dies at 127 years of age (Genesis 23:1), the events of Genesis 22 occur. We are not told what went on in those 37 years except that Isaac was loved by Abraham.

That’s what I am talking about. Between the fulfillment of God’s promise and the “some time later”. I can look back and see how God has shown up in my life in the most amazing ways and I have responded in faith. My life has been changed. Then “some time later” God once again speaks into my situation, only this time it is to TEST MY FAITH.

It is what happens in these intervening years before the “some time later…” that determines my destiny. It is what happens when I am serving Him faithfully, day by day, living out the fruit of His promises, growing in the things I know about Him and applying His Word to the circumstances of my life. It is those things appropriated and applied in the EVERYDAY that determine how I will respond to God when the crunch comes “some time later”.

“”Abraham!” God called”. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” Imagine God speaking with me in an audible voice. I would be shocked but I would still love it. That would be so cool.

“Lord speak with me. Here I am. Sydney, Australia. That little place in Stanhope Gardens (Sounds like an old peoples retirement village), just before the bend, on the left, Solitaire Court. In my study just down the hall. That’s me, sitting at my computer. Welcome Lord. You are really good at finding people.”

But then again what if He were to ask me to do something IMPOSSIBLE?

God tested Abraham’s faith. He says “Take your son, your only son-yes, Isaac, WHOM YOU LOVE SO MUCH-and … SACRIFICE HIM as a burnt offering …” (Genesis 22:2 NLT). You know the story. At the last second Abraham is stopped.

Do I really need to be tried for attempted murder before my faith is acceptable? I have only one son, whom I love very much. Would I do it? Somehow it goes against all I have been taught about You, Lord. That you would ask me to do such a thing would be most IMPROBABLE. That I would do it would seem IMPOSSIBLE! It really would have to be an audible voice for me to go to a mountain and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. Even then I’d be thinking “Is this a demon trying to TEMPT me or the Lord trying to TEST me”, so You would need to be very convincing before You got me to obey You on this one.

I watched top gear last night on television. The makers of each new car know that their designs will stand the stresses to which they are subjected on the road. Nevertheless SOME TIME LATER, after they have been designed, and before production for the general population, they are RIGOROUSLY TESTED.

When God tests me, He tests me to APPROVE my faith, NOT so that I will FAIL. It seems it is more for my benefit than it is for His, and it is what I am doing NOW in the everyday situations of my life that prepares me LATER, when the crunch comes.

God bless you as you exercise faith, as you continue to learn to hear God’s voice and obey Him today, as He prepares you for the “some time later” situations of your life.

Pastor Ross

Part 2 – Genesis 22:1-11 – LORD, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Sacrifice

There’s plenty of evidence of blatant disregard for human life today. Terrorism and suicide bombers? Capital punishment? Human trafficking. Abortion?

So what is God thinking when He asks Abraham to take his only son, the son he loves, and to sacrifice him as a burnt offering. I know that He stops him at the last second but what is going on here? If He is making a point of some kind then it seems to be a pretty extreme and cruel way to get the message across, and what is the message anyway?

Perhaps God is attempting to show me in a dramatic way that HUMAN SACRIFICE of any kind is wrong? Is that the point He is trying to drive home? If His point is to say that HUMAN LIFE IS VALUABLE, then what about those miners who died recently or the soldiers in Afghanistan? Weren’t they valuable? We prayed for them, some people around the clock. If God is trying to stress the VALUE of human life then it seems to me that asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is a kind of gruesome way to drive this point home.

The question is not “Why did God allow those miners to die or those soldiers in Afghanistan to sacrifice their lives?” but perhaps, “Why does He allow us to live, when we have messed His world up so much by our sin?” We are the ones who continue to allow bad things to happen to good people? We don’t seem to appreciate the far-reaching implications of our sin. Romans 6:23 (NLT) says “For the wages of sin is death, …” Why doesn’t God wipe out the human race and start again? It’s been done before (see Genesis 6:7, Genesis 7).

I can only go back to Ezekiel 18:23 (NLT) where God asks “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.” The Bible says that judgment is real and it will come to everyone. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

Sacrificing a human life is not the point here, as horrific as it is, and as abhorrent to the Lord as it is. I can think of only two or three other valid reasons why God would ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son whom he loved as a burnt offering, only to stop him at the last second.

Burnt offerings were sacrifices for SIN. It seems that God is showing me that ISAAC WASN’T WORTHY. Even the most precious and loved of sacrifices is NOT ENOUGH to pay for the penalty of our sinfulness.

Romans 5:12 (NLT) says “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” God is showing me that there is NO-ONE WORTHY in the whole of the human race to die for sinners, except of course Jesus. Isaac deserves to die because of his own sin and cannot die as an innocent victim for the sin of others. God’s Son was the ONLY ONE. As abhorrent as human sacrifice is to God, the only way to pay for the penalty of sin was through the death of His only Son, the One whom He loved. Hebrews 10:11-12 (NLT) says Jesus offered Himself as a “single SACRIFICE for sins, good for ALL TIME.”

Romans 5:15 (NLT) says “… For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful GRACE and His gift of FORGIVENESS to many through this Other Man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 6:23 (NLT) “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

God bless you as you begin to make some sense of this. Sometimes I need to be shocked to the max before I truly begin to understand what God has accomplished in sending His only Son to die for me.

Pastor Ross

Part 1 – Genesis 22:1-11 – GOD, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

God as a Genie

She was ferocious and yet frail. When I told her that I was a Chaplain she took the opportunity to bombard me with accusations and questions. “What is the use of prayer if God is going to let those 29 miners die anyway? All those good people prayed around the clock for those miners, yet they died. What use is prayer?” She referred to the mining disaster on the news last night (30th November, 2010).

Julie, my wife, says that many people have the idea that God is a GENIE IN A BOTTLE, there to do THEIR bidding. Actually, it is only when I do HIS bidding, come under HIS authority, enter into relationship with Him, love and trust in Him that I find the perspective I need to be able to pray for the answers I need. And living a life of faith is not always easy, as Abraham discovered in Genesis 22.

I think what shocks me about this passage is that God asks Abraham to SACRIFICE HIS ONLY SON as a burnt offering even though at the last minute He stops him. Why would God advocate murdering my own son? If I am looking for evidence or justification that God is not concerned about me, that He randomly chooses to answer my prayers in totally abstract, dispassionate and sometimes brutal ways, imposing impossible standards upon me, then here it is. Or is it? God, what are You thinking?

Why would God be so callous and uncaring as to trick someone into thinking that taking a human life is what He desires and wait until the last moment to tell him that it isn’t? Vivid, brutal, dispassionate, distressing to the point of being traumatic for those involved, especially Isaac. What kind of effect is this going to have on him for the rest of his life? That’s why this passage shocks me. God, what are You thinking?

As I look at the whole story I can only think of two possible reasons God is asking Abraham to kill his only son and then to intervene and stop him before he actually does. The first reason has to do with my PRIORITIES.

Isaac is now a young man and Abraham has grown to love him. And as if God is rubbing it in, He says “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, WHOM YOU LOVE SO MUCH—and … SACRIFICE HIM as a burnt offering …” (Genesis 22:2 NLT). 

Perhaps the real point that God is making is to do with my ultimate allegiance. Is He saying “Is there anything that you would NOT be willing to sacrifice in order to obey Me? Who do you love most?” And yes, love is related to obedience. Jesus said in John 14:15 (NLT) “If you love Me, obey My commandments.” Is my love for God going to be a PREEMINENT factor in how I live my life? When it comes to the crunch, who and what governs my responses to life? Deuteronomy 6:5 (NLT) puts it this way – “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” 

For Abraham that is the key. He knows God’s voice, loves Him, trusts Him, and obeys Him. Before I can understand any other reason for what appears to be a gruesome request, that’s where I must start – with a wholehearted, genuine commitment to loving God above all else. My love drives my obedience to complete that which my faith has begun (see James 2:23). My trust in God and my obedience to His Word is derived from my love for Him.

How can I experience that kind of love? 1 John 4:19 (NIV) “We love because He first loved us.” When I enter into relationship with God it is because I realize that He loved me so much that He sent His only Son to pay the penalty for my sins. I respond to that message by coming under His authority, giving my life to Him. Jesus tells me in John 14:23 (NLT) that “All who love Me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and We will come and make our home with each of them.” 

Without love there can be no relationship with God and no obedience to His Word. Without love there can be no secure reason to trust in God when my world seems at times to be falling apart. 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT) says “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.”  

Pastor Ross