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Generosity 1

Genesis 22:1-18

February 18, 2024

I think one of the most frustrating things in life is when your car breaks down. There is never a convenient time for that to happen. Nobody enjoys waiting at the side of the road for a tow truck and I don’t know anyone who likes spending time and money getting their car repaired.  But have you ever considered why we don’t spend more time at the mechanic’s shop? What I  mean is, according to an internet search the average car has over 1800 parts, so when you think about it, it’s actually pretty amazing that this complex machine doesn’t break down more often.  In fact, almost every day your car will start by simply turning a key or pressing a button even if it is below freezing or over 90 degrees outside. How is it, then, that cars have become so reliable?  It is because automobile manufacturers have put them through years of rigorous testing so they will last and you will remain a loyal customer. 

As we go through our Old Testament lesson for today we will see how God put Abraham through some testing. But God didn’t do this to find out if Abraham had faith in Him, God already knew that Abraham had faith, but with this test we see that God was refining Abraham’s faith so that it would be stronger than ever. Since our God does not want our faith to fail, He puts us through a variety of rigorous tests to strengthen our faith. And I would like to encourage you to embrace those tests of faith, just as Abraham did. 

While God does indeed test us, it is important to understand that God does not tempt us. In  our second lesson for today, James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being  tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” If you go  back to verses 2-3 of that same chapter it says, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of  many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” I must admit I don’t think I have ever considered any kind of trial or test as “pure joy,” and I cannot  imagine that Abraham would have considered this test from God as “pure joy.”  In Genesis 22:2, Abraham received a command from God that must have broken his heart:  “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him  there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” How that order must have burned deeply in Abraham’s soul. When Abraham was 75 years old, God told him that he and his wife, Sarah, would have a son. And when Abraham was 100 years old, his son, Isaac,  was finally born. So imagine what Abraham must have been thinking at this moment: “This  child, Lord, whom I love, that I waited 25 years to be born, you want me to kill him?”  I wouldn’t be surprised if Abraham said to himself, “Why me?” We often say those 2 words when our car breaks down or when we’ve been hit with what seems like an unbearable trial in our lives. I’m sure families in Kansas City who are dealing with the Super Bowl parade shootings from last week are asking, “Why is this happening to me? How am I going to get  through this?” It’s OK to ask these questions and to struggle with God. I’m sure Abraham would have gladly given God everything he possessed rather than parting with his beloved son,  Isaac. I don’t know if any of us could imagine a more difficult test. 

But Abraham’s faith was so great, he had such a tremendous desire to serve God, that he doesn’t appear to even question God. Instead, in strict obedience to God, he took Isaac and headed for a place called Moriah. It was about a 50-mile trip and it took them 3 days to get there. This was obviously not a quick test, and I’m sure during that journey Satan supplied plenty of logical reasons to Abraham as to why he should not take the life of his own son. 

Amazingly, though, Abraham’s faith never appears to waiver as his words in verse 5 seem to indicate that he is embracing this test. As he nears the place for the sacrifice, Abraham tells some servants traveling with them, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and  worship and come again to you.” When Abraham said that he and the boy will come again, I’m  guessing he must have reached an answer to that awful question: “Why would a loving, merciful  God want me to kill my son?” But Abraham’s faith told him: “If God commands me to kill Isaac  and I obey him, then God is somehow going to have to bring Isaac back to life, because God  promised to make a covenant with Isaac in which He would someday send a Savior through him,  and God doesn’t break His promises.” 

So to obey God’s command Abraham had to disregard everything his heart and reason told him. In other words, if there was a conflict between God’s command and His promise, resolving that conflict was God’s business. Abraham’s business was to put God first in his life, and as a result he then pulled out his knife to kill his son. At this moment, God knew that in Abraham’s heart the necessary sacrifice had been made. Abraham passed the test by sacrificing his will, his wisdom, and his son, in obedience to God. Abraham clearly demonstrated that his trust in God was greater than his love for his son, and as a result, God immediately sent an angel to Abraham to stop him from killing his son. 

The bottom line is that God would never ask Abraham or any of us to do something that He isn’t willing to do. And He proved this many years later, when God allowed His Son, Jesus, to be taken to that same area, where He was offered as a sacrifice for our sins. But unlike Abraham and  Isaac, God did not stop the death of His only Son. Instead, Jesus was sacrificed for our sins so that we could experience the forgiveness and blessings of God upon our lives. In other words, if we were to compare what God did for us with the concept of taking a test, it would be a like a teacher handing out a test to the class with all of the answers already filled in. At the bottom of the page you read the following note: “All of the answers on your test are correct. You will receive a perfect score on your test, because the creator of the test took it for you. All the work you did in preparation for this test did not help you get a perfect score. You have just experienced grace.”  Whenever we go through serious challenges and difficulties in our lives, maybe instead of  asking, “Why me?” perhaps a better question would be, “What are you trying to accomplish in  and through me, O Lord?” After all, many times God tests us or puts us through trials to benefit others. That was certainly true of Abraham’s test of faith. Just consider how Abraham’s courageous faith and service to God has inspired others over many generations. God used  Abraham as a living example of how His commands can be fully obeyed even when they don’t seem to make sense. So when a trial comes your way, consider how God is giving you an  opportunity to demonstrate to others how believers handle difficulty. And through this demonstration of God testing your faith, others may be led to want to know more about this God who you worship and trust. 

Therefore, looking at your pink inserts today, consider how you can be faithful and passionate,  like Abraham, in your service to God. Consider how you can step up to serve God in your home,  the church, and our community so that others can see your faith in our God who loves us. And when you believe God is testing you, embrace those tests, because they prove that God really cares about you as He seeks to refine or strengthen your faith. When you see someone going through a difficult time, do everything you can to encourage that person by constantly pointing that person to Jesus. After all, if God did not withhold His only Son from us, is there anything that we should withhold from Him? No. We can surrender all things – our time, our plans, our grudges, our pride, our money; we can surrender it all and we won’t lose a thing, for with Jesus we have everything we need for this life and the next. We may go through a lot of tests and God  may even ask us to give up things for Him, but if there is a place in your life where you doubt 

God, remember the faith of Abraham, remember that God is always with you, remember that God will always provide, and let go of that doubt and trust Him, you will be amazed. 

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