jump to navigation

Tears of Regret – Esau May 1, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Esau, Forgiveness, Genesis, Hebrews, Holiness, Isaac, Jacob, Rebekah, Regret, Tears.
add a comment

TEARS OF REGRET
Genesis 27 with Hebrews 12:14-17

When I was growing up, there was a Southern gospel song that we used to sing that went something like this:

Part of my life brings tears of regret and part of my life I would rather forget.
Part of my life is the story of shame but the rest of my life, I will honor God’s name.
Yes, part of my life to false idols I bowed and part of my life I just followed the crowd.
Part of my life is the story of shame but the rest of my life, I will honor God’s name.

Freely I drank from life’s glittering cup, so deep in my shame, I could hardly look up.
Tears of regret are the price I must pay but the rest of my life, God can have his own way.

A. Most of us experience tears of regret.
1. Tears of regret result from not foreseeing the consequences of our actions (Heb. 12:16 and Gen. 25:29-34). Patrick Morley in The Man in the Mirror tells how he as a young businessman “made it a habit to always ask older men what their greatest regrets were, hoping [to] glean some wise tips…two [regrets] showed up on virtually every man’s list…” not being financially ready for retirement at the age of fifty and not getting to know their kids before they left home. These men had not seen the consequences of their chosen lifestyle.

2. Tears of regret come when we realize the past cannot be undone (Heb. 12:17 and Gen. 27:30-40). Esau was being a little hard on himself. After all, before he was born God had already denied him the blessing he wept for. He, however, had thought that he and his father could get around God’s will. Esau could have decided to follow God’s plan as Jonathan did when David was chosen by God to be king but instead he chose to work for his own self-interests.

3. Tears of regret can easily become the fuel of bitterness (Heb. 12:15 and Genesis 27:41-28:9). The writer of Hebrews describes the root of bitterness as something more than what the hate of Esau became. It seems to be akin to unbelief, spiritual stubbornness and rebellion. There is emotional bitterness which is painful and hurtful but the greatest danger is when that bitterness results in rejection of Jesus Christ but that often happens.

B. How do we avoid tears of regret?
1. Pursue peace with others and holiness before God (Hebrews 12:14). Thomas Jefferson valued the pursuit of happiness, which in the culture of that day meant the pursuit of property. God values other pursuits. We are to pursue, to chase after, to make peace and holiness priorities in my life.

Pursuing peace: In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

Erwin Lutzer in his book, When You’ve Been Wronged, tells of a missionary to Muslims in Egypt. The man received a letter from an angry Muslim that said, “Cursed be you, cursed be your wife, and cursed be your children. Cursed is the home in which you live, cursed is the car that you drive.” Rather than worrying about the letter or ignoring the letter, the man wrote a reply, “This is my prayer for you: blessed be your wife, blessed be your children, blessed be your home, and blessed is the car that you drive.”

How do you pursue peace? Erwin Lutzer suggests the following:
I. Offer a gesture of genuine goodwill. It may be small like a handshake and smile. It may be a gesture of generosity. It may be personal sacrifice. You may not feel like offering goodwill. Your gesture may be regarded with suspicion but that is where you can begin.
II. Humble yourself before God. If you are going to pursue peace with others you must first submit your will to God. Until you are convinced that God wants you to reconcile, to pursue peace, you will almost always find an excuse not to do it.
III. Humble yourself before others. Proverbs 15:33 says, “The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” To pursue peace will cost you in pride and dignity and rights. It is the only way, however, to pursue peace. Don’t misunderstand, humbling yourself does not mean you never hold others accountable or set necessary boundaries but as you hold them accountable and as you set up the boundaries, humble yourself before others.

Pursuing holiness: Jerry Bridges in Pursuit of Holiness tells of “Jonathan Edwards, who resolved never to do anything he would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of his life, [he] also made this resolution: ‘Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.’”

How then do you pursue holiness? The context of Hebrews 12 (see verse 10) implies discipline. Hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Bible is necessary. The Holy Spirit wrote the Bible for this purpose (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As we learn the Scripture the Spirit brings to our mind and illuminates what we have learned and then we obey it. That, however, takes daily discipline.

2. Pay attention to each other’s spiritual condition (Hebrews 12:15; see also 3:12-14:1; 10:24-27). The book of Hebrews is difficult for us to understand at times because the author does not do what we often do, we compartmentalize our belief and our practice. The writer of Hebrews indicates that if there is a problem with how you live, there may well be a problem with what you believe.

There is another area that makes the book of Hebrews hard for us. The writer is willing to reserve judgment on the spiritual condition of others without shrinking from his responsibility for others. We find this hard to do. We take one of two extremes: either “judge not that you be not judged” or we condemn those who we feel do not meet our standard. Both extremes are irresponsible and wrong. The writer of Hebrews says, “Know each other, become so close to each other in every way so that you will recognize the root of bitterness when it begins to produce a sprout.”

What should you do? The answer is found in Hebrews 12:25, “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks.” God has spoken. Will you do his will?

Next Week’s Sermon: Remember this Place

Advertisements

Does God Hate Some People? April 23, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Esau, Genesis, Isaac, Jacob, Malachi, Rebekah, Suffering.
add a comment

DOES GOD HATE SOME PEOPLE?
Genesis 25:19-34 with Malachi 1:1-5

The Bible says that God hated Esau. What does that mean? Does God hate any of us? Our hate usually involves a sinful attitude. What is involved in God’s hate?

“Helen Rosevere was a British medical missionary to the Congo during the uprising of the Mau Mau revolutionaries. Though she had gone to the Congo to serve God and to share the gospel, she was personally and brutally…raped, but hung on with her life to a faith in God that refused to be shaken…Recovering from her ordeal in the Congo, Helen wrote a statement that each of us should consider. She wrote a question as though spoken from God’s own mouth: Can you thank Me for trusting you with this experience even if I never tell you why?” (taken from Gripped by the Greatness of God by James McDonald, 2005).

A. There are many things about God’s dealings with us which we do not understand. When we look at life, there are times when God seems good and other times when He seems cruel. We could easily draw the conclusion that we cannot trust Him.

1. We may not understand why answered prayer results in pain (Gen. 25:21-22). Isaac prayed for his wife to bear a child. The couple knew that they were praying according to God’s will; God had promised that the world would be blessed through Isaac’s seed. Abraham had given Isaac everything (Genesis 25:5-9; see also Genesis 17:18) because he was the promised seed and Abraham’s other children were not. God answered Isaac’s prayer but the answer was so painful for Rebekah that she began to question the answer.

How often have we longed for God to answer our prayers and then when he answers them, we are disappointed because the answer brought its own set of problems. God did not have to allow Rebekah to have twins. There needed not to be an Esau. What blessings has God given you that did not work out (from no fault of your own) the way you had hoped?

2. We may not understand why God blesses one and curses another (Gen. 25:23-24). Who decided that Jacob would continue the promised seed instead of the older brother, Esau (Genesis 25:21-23, 29-34; 27:1-17, 27-41; 28:3-4, 10-15)? God. Neither son is presented as particularly spiritual. God, however, laid his hand on Jacob.

Are we then just puppets on God’s string? Certainly not. Our choices may not be capable of changing God’s plan but that does not mean that they are not our choices. James McDonald tells of being “in Indonesia and [getting] to play against a chess master…There were ten [players]…and he played [them] all at the same time.” McDonald writes, “He would walk down the row of boards, crushing each of us with his speed and incredibly insightful moves. In fifteen minutes, we were all out of the game” (taken from Gripped by the Greatness of God by James McDonald, 2005).

3. We may not even recognize God’s blessing (Malachi 1:2-5). Israel was so obsessed with their own problems that they did not recognize that God had blessed them above all other nations, but particularly over Edom, the nation descended from Esau. God’s purposes are too great for us to grasp but it is clear that God wanted Israel to recognize their honored position and live accordingly.

B. Whatever God does, we should be prepared to live according to what He reveals of His ways.

1. What we know God has favored, we should favor (Genesis 25:27-28, 29-34).
a. Is it good when the parents favor one child over another? Is it possible for a parent to love all their children the same? Why or why not?
b. How do you think the children would react to being the favorite? How about not being the favorite?
c. What if one parent loved one child more and the other parent loved another child more?

Obviously we see this as a negative thing, yet Rebekah showed more faith than Isaac. She saw that God had chosen Jacob and she was going to go the way of God. Isaac should have known better, after all, he himself was also the chosen one of God and selected by God over all of his brothers. Yet he allowed his personal desires to get in the way of God’s will.

2. What we know God has commanded; we should do (Malachi 1:6-8). God had favored Israel, destroying Edom and yet they did not honor him but rather gave him what was inferior in their lives.

a. If God is the one who decides things and not you, what should you do? Submit to God’s will, His ways, and His Word.

b. What if you don’t understand or don’t agree with what God has decided? Ask him for mercy (Malachi 1:9) and seek to obey His word (Malachi 2:4-9).

c. What will happen if you fight against God’s chosen ways (Esau would be a good example)? You will be cursed (Malachi 1:14-2:4).

In today’s bulletin we have a synopsis of the life of Fanny Crosby. Fanny wrote a poem at the age of eight:
O what a happy soul am I!
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be,
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t!
So weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, and I won’t.

When it seems that God is frowning on you, you can get closer to God or push back away from Him. There is mercy for those who get closer and only a curse for those who push back. Which path will you follow.

Next Week’s Sermon: Tears of Regret

The Two Jerusalems April 3, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Galatians, Hagar, Isaac, Palm Sunday, Promises of God, Sarah.
add a comment

TWO JERUSALEMS
Galatians 4:19-31

When Jesus rode the donkey on Palm Sunday, the people were celebrating because he was riding into Jerusalem. The Jews knew that Jerusalem, specifically the Temple, was where God had chosen to place His name. They knew that from Mount Zion the Messiah would set up the kingdom where he would rule in justice over Israel and that it is there where the nations would come and worship God and submit themselves to His Messiah. It is no wonder that they were so excited.

Yet Jesus on that first Palm Sunday did not set up a throne at the Temple but rather did a house-cleaning, driving the money-changers and the animal-sellers off of the Temple grounds. You see something had happened at the Temple. Money had become more important than prayer.

Later on that week Jesus was talking to the disciples. As they admired the Temple, Jesus told them that it would be destroyed and all of Jerusalem with it. This happened less than forty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.

When Paul wrote Galatians though Jerusalem and the Temple was still standing. It was a symbol for every Jew of their special relationship with God. In fact, the Jews had fallen into a special type of false worship. They had begun to worship their relationship to God as symbolized by the “present Jerusalem,” the place where God’s Temple had been built.

1. If we worship what we do to maintain our relationship with God; we are enslaved by those works (verse 21-25).

Paul uses two women to illustrate his point: Hagar and Sarah. Both had sons by Abraham. Hagar was a slave. The son she bore was not promised by God. Sarah was Abraham’s wife and bore a son because of God’s promise. Her son would carry the blessing that God had given to his father. Hagar remained a slave for the rest of the time she lived in Abraham’s household. She was probably a good mother but she remained a slave. Paul says that you who are trying to keep the Old Testament law to maintain your relationship with God are like Hagar. You are slaves.

There is probably no one here trying to keep the Old Testament law but there may be someone trying to maintain their relationship with God by works. We encountered this in Europe. There were people who refused to leave the state church they grew up in because they were afraid they would lose their relationship with God. This happens in America also though. This may be out of fear, that is, they have been taught that if they make a mistake or too many mistakes or too serious of a mistake then God will forsake them.

It may, however, be because of pride. Spiritual pride is often behind the works of the law. The people, who crucified Jesus, were a proud people. They were convinced that no one else could be as close to God as they were. They were quite convincing. All over the Roman Empire there were Gentiles like the Ethiopian eunuch and Cornelius who were longing for a God who they could respect and worship but they were shut off unless they were willing to undergo circumcision, to establish that special relationship with God.

These Jews were enslaved by their pride. We think of those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and we often think of them as enslaved by their addictions. Their addictions drive them to do irrational things. Some of the Galatians had become enslaved by the works of the law and it had caused them to do the most irrational thing of all, leave Christ for the works of the law.

Imagine that someone has been given an unlimited gift card for a five-star restaurant. They go in and they order the finest of food and drink but then they feel compelled to go out on the street and start cleaning the sidewalk in front so that they can earn their meal. Once inside they brag to everyone about how industrious they were and how they had earned this fine meal. We would say they are crazy.

Are you enslaved by the pride of your relationship with God? None of us can earn a relationship with God. God does not give away brownie points.

2. If we worship the God who promises spiritual freedom through Jesus Christ, we are free because He has kept His promise (verses 26-28).

Relationships can be joyous but they can be enslaving. There is no joy in enslavement but there is joy in a promise. When in Lynchburg, I looked for a souvenir because I knew that my daughter was rejoicing in the promise of one. Just because we have a relationship is not guarantee of joy. There are lots of daughters who dread their father coming home but she had received a promise and she rejoiced in that promise.

If you were to choose between your relationship to God and the promise you have in Jesus, which would you choose? If you hold to maintaining that relationship, you may miss out on the promise, on the Jerusalem that is above; but if you hold to the promise provided through Christ’s death on the cross, you will also have the relationship.

(Here is an illustration taken second-handedly through Ray Pritchard.) “It goes something like this. Consider for a moment the deeds of Jeffrey Dahmer…he was a pervert, a murderer, and a cannibal. After he was arrested, he professed faith in Jesus Christ. That is, he claimed to have seen the error of his ways, confessed his sins, and cried out to Jesus to save him. We’ll never know the full story of what happened because he was beaten to death in prison not long after that… [Does God’s promise of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ apply to Jeffrey Dahmer?] …When we think about Jeffrey Dahmer and the possibility that he might truly have been saved after those heinous crimes, our first response may be to say, “There is grace even for people like Jeffrey Dahmer.” That statement, true as it is, reveals at least as much about us as it does about him. All of us would like to think (and in fact do think) that we are “better” than he is. Or we’re not as “bad” as he was. I make no bones about the fact that I think I am “better” than Jeffrey Dahmer. I’ve never done the things he did. I’ve never even thought or dreamed or imagined about some of them. So when I say there is grace “even” for the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, while I’m willing to include him in the circle of those God might save, I’m not putting myself on his level. I truly believe I’m better than he is…But then (as you can tell I’m partly telling the illustration and partly thinking my way through it at the same time) the preacher said it’s not enough to say there is grace even for the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer. In truth, he said, there is grace only for the Jeffrey Dahmers of this world. They alone can be saved” (taken and slightly adapted from “Amazing Grace,” a sermon by Ray Pritchard, found at http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1999-10-03-Amazing-Grace/ ).

This is the promise we have of eternal life through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is by grace not by maintaining our relationship with God. Will you claim God’s promise as to you? A promise is no good if it is not claimed. It gives no hope unless you believe it.

Believer, are you living according to promise or in the pride of your relationship to God?

Christmas is of the Jews (Christmas Foundations in Genesis) December 14, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Christmas, Genesis, Isaac, Jacob, Religion, Sermons.
add a comment

CHRISTMAS IS OF THE JEWS

Genesis 28:10-22

As we continue to look at the foundations of Christmas found in Genesis, we should remind ourselves that if there had been no Jewish nation, there would be no Christmas. Our Scriptures today explore some of the characters who played a major role in the founding of the Jewish nation and how God’s promises to them led to the Christ of Christmas.

 

God chose the Jews according to His mercy. It was God who decided that Jacob would continue the promised seed instead of the older brother, Esau, as was the custom of that day (Compare Genesis 25:19-28 with Romans 9:10-15). One thing should be made clear about this passage. It does not say that God chose Esau to go to hell and Jacob to go to heaven. The choosing here involved the promises of God to Abraham and His descendants. In fact, there is evidence that Esau may have eventually reconciled himself with his rejection by God (Genesis 33:1-16 and 35:29).

 

Jacob and not Esau valued the promises to Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 25:29-34 with Hebrews 12:16).

 

Everyone in this family knew about the promises. Everyone also knew of the promise that God had made to Rebekah while these two boys were still in her womb. Not everyone, however, valued these promises. Esau came in from hunting but he had no success and was hungry. Jacob his brother had something akin to a thin oatmeal soup cooking. Esau asked for some and Jacob, knowing his brother, offered a trade. “Give me your birthright as the oldest son and I will let you have something to eat.”

 

The sin of Esau was valuing the temporary benefits of the physical over the eternal benefits of the spiritual. There is nothing wrong with oatmeal. There is nothing specifically wrong with spontaneity. There is nothing wrong with many types of momentary pleasure. The writer of Hebrews, however, identifies those, who exalt the physical over the spiritual in the same way that Esau did, as fornicators and profane persons, that is, ungodly.

 

Jacob made a lot of foolish decisions in his life. What made him different from Esau was not that he made fewer foolish decisions than Esau but rather that he valued the promises of God above the things of this world (Genesis 32:24-32).

 

God showed mercy to Jacob and justice to Esau (Genesis 27).

Isaac intended to bless Esau (Genesis 27:1-4). We know from Genesis 25 that Isaac loved Esau more than he did Jacob and we also know why. Esau was a skilled hunter and there was nothing that Isaac liked more than fresh game to eat. This father and son shared a special bond. Then there was Jacob. Jacob preferred to stay home instead of spending days on a hunt. He was satisfied with milk and cheese and yogurt and maybe roasted lamb on holidays. That was what his father, Isaac, had known all his life. There was no excitement there. No spontaneity. There is nothing wrong with being a homebody but that quality did not endear Jacob to his father. Jacob was a mild man. He was a good boy, we might would say today. He was not a troublemaker. Although we know Jacob as a conniver, it does not appear he began that way. He might have been boring but he was a good son. That was not good enough for Isaac.

Isaac is now getting old. He knows that the time of his death could come at any moment. He also knows that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob. Now the birthright, generally speaking, was the property of the father passing down to the oldest son but in Isaac’s case, he got a lot more than just cattle and sheep and slaves. His birthright was the promise that God made to Abraham (Compare Genesis 17:18-21). Jacob has bought the birthright but Isaac wants to take the privilege of giving the family blessing and bestow on Esau the promises of God, which he had sold for meal (Compare Genesis 27:28-29).

 

Rebekah wanted the blessing for Jacob (Genesis 27:5-10). Rebekah was not unfamiliar with the value of the blessing. In Genesis 24:58-61 we find that Rebekah herself had also received a blessing amazingly similar to that received by Abraham and Isaac and which she obviously wanted for her son, Jacob. Although it was not her right to give the blessing further to Jacob, she decided that he was the one who should have it. This does not justify her deception but it does emphasize for us the importance of that blessing in her estimation.

 

God wanted the blessing for Jacob. He did not allow Isaac to reverse himself (Genesis 27:27-41 with Hebrews 12:17 and Malachi 1:2-5). In the midst of all of this family conflict, it is God’s will that was set forth. Esau wanted Isaac to change his mind. It is likely that Isaac wanted to change his mind. Esau begged his father for a blessing but what he received was as much a curse as anything. God not only did not allow Isaac to reverse himself but underlined clearly to the whole family that God had made His choice and that no matter how they might manipulate one another, God’s choice is the one that would be selected.

He confirmed the blessing to Jacob Himself (Genesis 28:1-4, 13-15 with John 1:51). The confirmation of Isaac brought with it responsibility, assurance, and clarity. Jacob was responsible to marry someone who served the same God that he served. Then he was assured that the LORD God would be with him. Finally, Isaac made it clear that the blessing of Abraham was Jacob’s and Jacob’s alone and that the reason Jacob had this blessing was because God had given it to him. That is exactly what happened in Genesis 28:13-15. God came and assured Jacob that he was the one to receive the promises of Abraham. It is interesting that Jacob’s first reaction was very similar to that of Abraham. He set up an altar before the LORD (28:16-22). He then promised that he would return to Canaan and that he would serve the LORD.

 

Three years ago in the Middle School Sunday School Class, Pat and I studied these chapters with the young people and at the end of the class, we asked our young people three questions. These questions are also appropriate for us as adults.

 

If God is the one who decides things and not you, what should you do? Submit to God’s will.

What if you don’t understand or don’t agree with what God has decided? Believe God’s promises and live a life that is not focused on this world but rather on the world to come.

What will happen if you fight against God’s chosen ways (Esau would be a good example)? You will live your life alienated from God.

 

The blessing is fulfilled in the Jewish Messiah: You see, the story of Jacob is vital to the Christmas story. God had a plan. It was greater than Adam and Eve and Satan. It was greater than Abraham and Sarah. It was greater than Isaac and Rebekah and Esau and Jacob. It was even greater than the Jewish nation through whom Jesus came. But all of these were necessary that we might have the Christ of Christmas. This blessing was fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:8,16; Romans 9:4-5; and John 4:19-26).

Christmas is about submitting yourself to God’s will.

Christmas is about believing God’s promises.

Christmas is about focusing on eternal things.

If you celebrate Christmas without submitting yourself to God’s will, without believing God’s promises, without focusing on the eternal things of God; you may be surrounded by family and friends and loved ones but you will remain isolated and alienated from God. Perhaps you need to change your Christmas plans and focus on things eternal.

Next Week: THE GOVERNMENT WILL BE ON THIS CHILD’S SHOULDER (Genesis 49:8-12)

The Last Sermon in the Series on Abraham (Isaac Gets A Wife) June 24, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Faith, Genesis, Isaac, Prayer, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Will of God, Worship.
1 comment so far

DO YOU WORSHIP WHEN GOD ANSWERS YOUR PRAYERS?

Genesis 24 

Sometimes the best way to understand a person’s heart is through their reactions. The world of acting understands this very well. Think of those characters in movies and plays and TV shows who are supposed to not show emotion or are very constrained in their emotions. When Spock raises an eyebrow, it is enough to tell us that there is a deep emotion present. When Columbo stares at someone walking away from a conversation it is enough to tell us that he smells a rat.  This is true in real life also and especially in our understanding of God. Genesis 24 gives us a wonderful example of how the reactions of one man show the depth of understanding He has of God. 

As we begin this chapter we find that Abraham is old. He has walked with God for many years. His wife, Sarah, has died. He can look back on his life and see that God has always been actively involved. He has been blessed of God. This is clear from verse 1. Why did God bless Abraham? The answer we find in verse 27. God’s blessing in Abraham’s life was based on His mercy and His truth, i.e. His promises.      

GOD DOES NOT HELP THOSE WHO HELP THEMSELVES?

God works in our lives in much the same way He worked in Abraham’s life. His blessing and working in our lives is based on His mercy and His truth, i.e. His promises.

We know nothing about Abraham’s life before God called him out of Ur of the Chaldees. We assume he feared God, that he lived a life of righteousness. That is, however, a big assumption. We make this same assumption about other characters in the Bible also. For example, in Genesis 6 God says I am going to wipe out the whole earth because of their wickedness. In verse 8, when Noah is introduced to the story, the Bible does not say, “Behold, there was one good man on the earth!” rather it says, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” Noah and his family deserved to die in the flood with the rest of the wicked world.

It concerns me when we get up and say God has blessed America because of its Christian influence or because we are good to Israel or because we have had compassion on the weak or because we have the Ten Commandments hanging in the Supreme Court. As if God is impressed with us! God has mercy on whom He will have mercy is the way He expressed it when giving the Ten Commandments. Even when we are obedient, it is still of God’s mercy that we are not consumed.

MERCY AND…TRUTH

God’s work is not based solely on His mercy (verses 2-9). This misunderstanding of God is what causes many to turn from Him when bad things start happening. They feel betrayed by God. They do not want a God who allows bad things to happen. They want a God who makes them feel good. They want a God who winks at what they do and lets them get away with evil and then blesses them in spite of their evil. That is not the way God operates. His ways are mercy AND truth. When God called Abraham, He gave to him the way of truth. He said Abraham, “I am going to bless you. I am going to make from your seed a great nation. I am going to bless the world through your seed.” That was the way of truth for Abraham. What did Abraham do? He walked in the way of truth. He left Ur. He left his family in Haran. He went to a country that God would show him. He believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness when God told him that he would have a son. He believed God, when he was told that this son would come through his aged wife, Sarah. He believed God, when he was tested and commanded to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering. Abraham did many commendable things and he did them because he walked in the way of God’s dependable, faithful truth. In other words, Abraham believed God’s promises. The promises of God are what guided His life.

In verses 2-6 we see how that Abraham’s understanding of the promises of God guided His decision making. First, Abraham decided that Isaac must have a wife. Now to our knowledge God did not command Abraham to get Isaac a wife. Look at verse 7. In Abraham’s command to his servant, he gives the basis for his actions. “God has promised to give my descendants this land.” Up to now, Abraham does not have descendants (plural) to whom this promise applies. He has another son, Ishmael, but God has already made it plain that Ishmael is not of the chosen seed. God has also not promised another son alongside of Isaac. All of God’s promises and Abraham’s hope both earthly and spiritual are tied up in Isaac having descendants. God’s character is riding on the outcome of Isaac’s life. If Isaac does not marry and does not have children, then God’s way is not the way of truth. Therefore, Abraham does not have to wait for God to command him to get a wife. He already knows God’s will based on God’s word, God’s promises.   

 ABRAHAM CONTINUES TO DISCERN GOD’S WILL

Abraham also decided that Isaac’ wife must not be a Canaanite woman. Why? Was Abraham a racist? We find the reasoning behind Abraham’s decision in Genesis 15:16. John Piper writes, “God tells Abraham that his descendants will be oppressed 400 years in Egypt and then says, ‘And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.’ The Amorites here represent all the pagan peoples of Canaan. They are marked out for judgment because of their sin, but God will not drive them out until the history of their sin is so appalling no one will accuse God of injustice when he sweeps through Canaan destroying these nations. Now if God had said that to you about the people surrounding you, would you not hear a warning against forming marriage alliances? Abraham saw a trajectory in God’s Word that probably went something like this: ‘Through your son I will fulfill my covenant to be the God of his descendants and to bless all the nations through him. So take heed lest he marry a woman who worships other gods and could bring him into a snare.’ That’s the way Moses warned Israel hundreds of years later when they were about to enter the Promised Land: ‘You shall not make marriages with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons. For they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods’ (Deuteronomy 7:3, 4).”

Based on his understanding of God’s promises Abraham made the decision, “You will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites” (24:3). In fact, you will go to my people, to my relatives, to those who know and worship the true and living God.

OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S PROMISES IS BETTER THAN OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S LAW.

Finally, Abraham decided that his son, Isaac, should not go to Nahor, where these relatives lived. There are really two parts to the promise God gives Abraham. I will give you seed and I will give you this land. For Isaac to leave the land was not against God’s law but it was against God’s promises. God promised in chapter 12 and chapter 13 and chapter 15 and chapter 17 that Isaac’s seed would inherit that land of Canaan. There was no reason to leave the Promised Land. In fact, Abraham seems in verse 7 to states this promise not only as the reason why he would not let Isaac go back to Nahor but also as the reason why he was confident that his servant would find success in finding Isaac a wife there. So we see that Abraham’s decision making and his confidence in his decisions was not based on his wisdom but on his knowledge of the promises of God.

GOD’S MERCY AND TRUTH AFFECTS OUR PRAYERS. 

Now if God works in our lives in the same way, then it will affect how we live. One way that it will affect us, is in how we pray. Our prayers will be based on God’s mercy and on God’s promises (verses 12-14).  The servant here is not bargaining with God. He is not asking for proof that God exists. He is basing His prayer on the mercy of God.

We sometimes have the idea that God only answers the prayers of good people. If that were true, God would never answer prayer. I know what some of you are thinking. David wrote, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me.” That is certainly true. God hates sin and one way that God deals with sin is by not answering the prayers of his children who tolerate sin but the answers to prayer come not because we have been good little kids but because he is merciful.

We are in the midst of toilet training our little girl. This has been a new experience for us because our son was relatively easy to toilet train. We have resorted to the “chocolate for poddy” method. We tend to view God that way, do we not? “Lord, come, see! Lord, come, see! Will you not now answer me?”

That is not what the servant is doing here. He says, “Lord, I know if you answer this prayer it will be because of your mercy! If you answer this prayer the way I wish, then I know it will not be because of my faith but because of your mercy.” Not that this was not a prayer of faith. It was but it was not based on the servant mustering up faith in God but on the promises that God has made to Abraham.

His confidence in God’s working, like that of Abraham, was based on God’s Word. How do we know this? When God answered his prayer, the servant’s response was worship.

A WORD ON THE OUTWARD FORM OF WORSHIP 

Now we are primarily interested in the basis of his worship but I do want us to look a bit at form. Since I have known anything about Christianity, which is over thirty-five years now, the American church has been involved in the  “Worship Wars.” Hymns versus praise songs, liturgy versus spontaneity, congregational singing versus special music, the music of the older generation versus that of the younger generation, corporate prayer versus private prayer, a suit and tie versus casual wear, seeker services versus traditional services, three services a week versus one main service and small groups. I could go on and on.

Obviously form interests us very much, so let us look at the form of this servant’s worship. He bowed before God. In verses 26-27 we find he bowed his head before God. In verse 52 we find he bowed to the ground before God. Let me say this about form in worship. The “Worship Wars” are about us. True worship is about God.       

THE BASIS FOR A WORSHIPFUL RESPONSE TO ANSWERED PRAYER

Now what is the basis of a worshipful response to God’s answers to prayer? There is recognition that God has not forsaken His mercy (verse 27). Worship is not making a connection with God. Worship is recognizing that God has made a connection with us and that connection is one of mercy.

A worshipful response is also based on the fact that God has not forsaken His truth, i.e. promises (verses 26-27). That is why the servant spent so much time retelling his story to Rebekah’s brothers. They needed to know that God was at work here and they recognized that God was at work (verses 48-52).

Now think about this. The brothers’ response was not based on any miracle that they could verify. It was somehow obvious to them though that God was working in the matter. They knew about Abraham. In fact, in verses 59-60 it appears they might have even known about the promises that God had made to him. Perhaps they had heard from traders about what God was doing in Abraham’s life or had even during some of the silent times in Abraham’s story had direct or indirect contact with them. What was obvious though to them and to Abraham’s servant and should be obvious to us is this:  God keeps His promises.

Last week I spoke about finding promises in God’s Word that we can depend on when the times get rough. Did you do that? Did you think on God’s Word, read God’s Word, meditate on God’s Word, memorize God’s Word and internalize a promise from God for your future or did you let it leave you like water on a duck’s back? One possible reason that we do not truly worship in our church services and in our lives may be because we live oblivious of what God has promised us. I understand that not every promise in the book is mine. I understand that God has not promised peace and prosperity to me if I keep the law. But I also understand that God’s Word was written that I might understand God’s working and that when I understand God’s working, I understand God’s promises and when I understand God’s promises I have a foundation in troubled times and guidance for the tough decisions of life. When I understand God’s promises, I have a reason to pray and a reason to worship when God answers my prayers. When I understand God’s promises, I have a motivation to tell others about those promises and how that God fulfills them.

OTHERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GOD’S WORKING IN YOUR LIFE.

Confidence in God’s working is strengthened by the telling of God’s works (verse 66). When the servant got home, he told Isaac not Abraham what had happened. He told Isaac about his prayer. He told Isaac about God’s answer. He told Isaac about Rebekah’s response and her brothers’ response. Why? Isaac needed to know that God was able to work in his life, just as He had worked in Abraham’s wife.

“Where did you get your wife, Isaac? Was she some beautiful slave girl that you took a fancy to? Is she the daughter of some rich Canaanite chieftain with whom you made a deal?”

“No, God in His mercy made a promise and this woman is the part of the fulfillment of this promise in my life.” 

A PROMISE FROM GOD FOR YOU 

God has made a lot of promises in His Word. The most important one has to do with the promise He made to Abraham and to Isaac, “In your seed will the nations of the earth be blessed.” The New Testament explains to us who that seed is and how through Him the nations will be blessed. The seed is Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, the son of Isaac. God became the seed of Abraham and Isaac and lived blamelessly on this earth and died for your sin according to the Scriptures and was buried and rose again and ascended to heaven. In Him is eternal life. In Him is forgiveness of sin. In Him you can be transformed from death to life. This only applies to you though if you believe God’s promises. Will you believe Him, trust Him today?

Abraham Sacrifices Isaac (A Father’s Day Sermon) June 17, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Faith, Father's Day, Genesis, Isaac, Sermons, Will of God, Worship.
2 comments

FATHER AND SON – WORSHIPING AND TESTED

Genesis 22

Oftentimes when God evaluates a father, the evaluation shows great shortcomings in the father. I think of Eli, of whom God said in 1 Samuel 2:29, ‘‘Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?’’ This is a sad commentary on a man who should have known better.

(For more on this story see The Father Who Would Not Say No)

How much better it is to be like Abraham. This is what God said of him in Genesis 18:19, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

In Genesis 22, we see the ultimate example of a father, whose worship of God and testing by God, allowed his son Isaac to practice the righteousness and justice of God in his life.

God tested Abraham by commanding an act of seemingly foolish, submissive worship (Compare Genesis 22:2 with 21:12). Why then would God want to kill Isaac? God did not want Isaac killed but rather wanted to test Abraham.

TWO TYPES OF TESTING

There are at least two types of tests with which God tests believers. There is the test of authenticity. That is the type of test where it is proven that someone really is a believer. That is not the test here. This is a test of quality. God was not testing to see if Abraham’s faith was real or not. That had already been established. God was testing Abraham to show the quality of his faith in God. This is an extreme test. This is not a test where you determine whether you have fool’s gold or real gold, this is a test to determine the purity and the quality of gold that you already know is real. This is a more precise test. This is a more exacting test. This is a test, not whether you have real faith but rather what will your faith withstand.

Perhaps we should look at this test a little closer. This test seemed to be contradictory. God had promised in 21:12 that Isaac’s seed or descendant would be the promised one through which all nations of the world would be blessed. It is hard to see how that could happen if Abraham offered Isaac as a burnt offering.

Secondly, this test was extreme. Isaac was to be offered as a burnt offering. Abraham was to take his son to Mount Moriah, where he was to build an altar and lay wood for burning on the altar. Then he would tie his son up and lay him on the altar. Then he would take a knife and cut his son’s throat. After his son had died, then he was to set the wood on fire and burn up the body of his son.

“This is what God told Abraham to do. At that point the man of faith only has two options. Either you obey or you don’t. If you stop to argue, that in itself is a form of disobedience. If you try to talk God out of it, that too is disobedience. If you offer an alternate plan, that is also disobedience.” Ray Pritchard

ABRAHAM TALLIED UP GOD’S ACCOUNT BOOKS. 

Abraham was willing to obey God because he had concluded that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead so that the promises of God might be kept (Hebrews 11:17-19). He believed God’s promise as well as God’s ability (inherent power) to keep that promise. When Abraham believed God, it was accounted to him for righteousness. In other words God tallied up the books and found Abraham righteous. In this situation we see Abraham tallying up God’s books and when he looked over God’s books He found that God had the ability on the books to raise Isaac from the dead. Remember, there had never been a resurrection of any kind before. Abraham had no biblical accounts of a resurrection but He did know a God of great ability and power who was more than capable of bringing Isaac back to life even after being offered as a burnt offering.

This willingness to obey had been shown repeatedly over the past thirty or so years. Abraham had seen God’s blessings in his life. He had seen God visually several times. God had enabled him to win battles. He had seen God’s power in destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. God had opened up the womb of his ninety year old wife and given them a son. He had seen God protect them when they were in the foreign lands of Egypt and Gerar. In all of these things Abraham was willingly obedient to God.

ABRAHAM’S WILLINGNESS REVEALED HIS FAITH.

This willingness was revealed by Abraham’s statement in verse 5. They were going to worship God, i.e. bow down before Him in submission. Abraham was not just going to fulfill the letter of the law. He was going to bow down to the ground in worship before God during this great test. He was going with an attitude of submission to God’s will.

Verse 5 also tells us that Abraham said they both were going to return. God had not said that Isaac would return. We know what Abraham thought God might would do according to Hebrews 11 but God had not promised a resurrection. What God had promised, however, is that through this son there would be a great nation through whom the whole world would be blessed. He based his obedience during the test from God on the promise of God.

We know that Abraham trusted God because of what Abraham did when he was tested (James 2:21-24). By revealing his faith through his works in this test, his faith was made perfect or was completed. His faith was not maintained by works but was brought to its logical end by works.

Abraham began his journey of faith in Genesis 12. God repeatedly confirmed His promise to Abraham. God made an unconditional promise but faith in that promise still demanded works. That is what faith is. It is a belief that demands action. That is why the journey of faith was not completed when Isaac was born but rather when Isaac was rescued from death. Faith and works are inseparable. If you have faith and no works, your faith is dead. You never had true faith to begin with. If you have works and no faith, your works are dead. There is no salvation in works. There is, however, completion of faith in works.

GOD’S RESPONSE 

God provided a ram as Isaac’s substitute and He reconfirmed His covenant with Abraham emphasizing the obedience of Abraham. (Genesis 22:7-14). The word “provided” is literally “sees.” When Abraham named the place of sacrifice, “Jehovah provides”, he was saying, God sees what is going on. He is actively involved in my test. He is actively involved in my obedience. There is no test that God is going to put me through in which he is not active in my response to that test.

WE NEED FATHERS LIKE FATHER ABRAHAM. 

Fathers, those of you who are believers, what do you love? What is it or who is it that is so important to you that you would take off work to give time to that person or thing? What is it that receives the best of your spare time, spare money, and spare strength? If God was to take it from you, what promise would you fall back on?

Let’s slow down. Think about this question. What promise would you fall back on? What has God promised you that commands immediate, unquestioning obedience when the test comes? Do you have such promises?

If not, then you need to get alone with your Bible and with your God and establish some promises that will hold you up when the test comes. Your faith is only as good as the promises you depend on. You need some promises that will produce quality when you are tested. You need some promises that will produce works that will complete your faith.

If you have not put your faith in Christ, the quality of your faith cannot be tested. Whether you even have faith in Christ can be tested, however. What is the test? Are you trusting Christ alone for salvation? Are you trusting His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins? Or are you trusting something or someone in addition? Are you, sinner that you are, hoping that you will be good enough to please God? It will never happen. God cannot tolerate sin. If you have sinned once, someone must die. Jesus died for your sin, if you will trust Him and Him alone, but as long as you are trusting your good works, there is no hope for you. Will you trust Him today to save you?