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The First Song of Ascent: Psalm 120 October 16, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Peace, Prayer, Psalms, Temple, Testimony, Worship.
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Psalms 120

This is the first of the Songs of Ascent, psalms that were sung or recited as the Jews made their way to the Temple of Yahweh to worship the LORD their God. This psalm seems to be a strange one to begin with since it certainly seems to be a downer. There is no denial here of the difficulties of life, however, almost half of the psalms, over sixty of them, are like this psalm, a lament.

Often when times get difficult people don’t go to church. They have the idea that you have to feel positive about life to worship God. This psalm reminds us, however, that even when life is miserable you can worship God. Perhaps you are going through a rough time this morning. If so, then this psalm is for you now. The rest of us will need it next week, so we will listen also.

A. Did you begin your morning by testifying to someone that you are anticipating God’s deliverance (verse 1)? These people are on their way to celebrate the Lord’s blessings or perhaps to have their sins from the past year atoned for. The first phrase here is something like, “Nobody knows the trouble I see…nobody but my Jesus.” He is going to deliver. I’m not sure how but he will deliver.

One of the reasons we have a greeting time is so that you can express your relationship with God to each other. Do you take advantage of that opportunity? When you check your email in the morning, do you drop a note to someone expressing joy that God will answer prayer in your life? Does your family hear you sing or listen to songs on Sunday morning that express confidence in God’s working?

Jack Hayford gives four reasons why we should be expressive to each other in our worship of God.
a. “It challenges the culture.” The world believes that religion is a private matter. To openly express your faith to others “….[is] one way to witness to the world about the new and full life that Christ offers.”
b. “It nurtures humility. Many times our emotional reserve is but a fearful quest to retain control of our lives…Expressive worship prevents spiritual arthritis…in the body of Christ.”
c. “It creates a climate of warmth and acceptance. When you develop an expressive atmosphere, you cultivate the spirit of fellowship, which creates a climate for evangelism.”
d. “It fosters commitment. Rather than encouraging people to be placid observers, passing judgment on what is said and done, expressive worship demands participation and , therefore, commitment” (quotes from Hayford’s “Strategic Reasons for Expressive Worship,” Leadership, Spring 1994).

B. Did you spend time yesterday asking for the Lord’s deliverance (verse 2)? This prayer is quite specific, “Deliver me from lying lips and deceitful words.” There are some of you this morning that are being attacked by the spoken word. Perhaps you know this to be true or perhaps you merely suspect it to be true. Either way, you fear the arrows of the wicked word, being burned by the hot coals of the lie. Turn to God in prayer.

C. Are you wondering about how God might deliver you from the situation (verse 3-4)? Steve Harper of Shepherd’s Care in Lexington, Kentucky tells of “a student in [his] theology of prayer course stopped [him] after class one day. ‘My cancer has come back,’ he said. He was a young man who had undergone treatment for a brain tumor four years earlier, and the therapy appeared successful. The tumor had disappeared. ‘I’m in seminary to become a preacher,’ he said, ‘and it looks like I’ll never get to be one.’ He asked me to tell him if he had heard God’s call correctly.’ Prayer is often linked with profound questions about the will of God and the mystery of suffering. Such issues force us into a position of humility. I could not answer his question with any final authority. Nevertheless we talked that day about how deeply the will to live is ingrained in all of us, and I prayed with him for his complete healing” (Leadership, 1994).

D. Are you longing for God to make all things right (verses 5-7)? The Psalmist was not among friends. He was dwelling among pagans from Meshech (in Asia Minor) and Kedar (in Arabia). He was longing and waiting for God to deliver him from this situation. What can you do while waiting for the answer that you know is coming to arrive?

a. If someone is shooting arrows at you or throwing hot coals at you avoid that person if possible.
b. In extreme situations if you can find someone to help, go to them. David went to Jonathan for help against Saul. I’m not talking about revenge but rather legitimate help.
c. Don’t take it personally and don’t shoot arrows and throw coals back at your enemy. “Never wrestle with a pig. For one thing you will become dirty; second, the pig will love it; and third, he plays be a different set of rules” (from When You’ve Been Wronged by Erwin Lutzer).
1. Your character must correspond to that of God’s, a lover of peace (verse 7a)? A lover of peace is not threatened when others have more influence, control, or power than they have. A lover of peace does not seek revenge when removed from a place of power or position. A lover of peace does not desire for someone else to “get what’s coming to them.” A lover of peace does not go around seeking for sympathy or seeking to make another person look bad.

2. Your actions must correspond to those of God’s, a maker of peace (verse 7b)? We need to be strong in the Lord and stand against falsehood. That was the point of 2 Timothy; yet that book reminds us that we should be gentle. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The last phrase of this psalm makes it clear that the one being slandered desired peace and spoke words of peace to those who wanted to war with him.

E. When you cannot make peace, turn to Him who can. “Few preachers have experienced the kind of criticism that Spurgeon did…More than one writer expressed doubts that Spurgeon was even converted? His sermons were called ‘trashy,’ and he was compared to a rocket that would climb high and then suddenly drop out of sight!…Hearing slanderous reports of his character and ministry week after week could have led him into defeat; but he fell to his knees and prayed, ‘Master, I will not keep back even my character for Thee. If I must lose that, too, then let is go; it is the dearest thing I have, but it shall go, if, like my Master, they shall say I have a devil, and am mad, or, like Him, I am a drunken man and a wine-bibber’” (from Walking with the Giants by Warren Wiersbe).

This Psalm teaches us two things: have confidence that God will hear and act according to the character of God. Neither is dictated by the circumstances. Both are necessary not just when going to church but every day of our lives.

Learning to Invest in the Future (Ezra 3:1-7) September 14, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Ezra, Religion, Sermons, Worship.
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Ezra 3:1-7

I am not going to live forever. For that reason, I want to do things that matter. There are a lot of good things that I can do that in the long run may not matter as much as other things, so I want to give my attention to the things that matter most.

A church is no different. Very few American churches last over a hundred years. Most churches during the last century were, humanly speaking, vibrant churches for one or two generations and then they begin decline. Again, that is why a church should focus on the things that matter now. There are a lot of good things that a church can do that in the long run may not matter as much as other things. For that reason, we need to concentrate on that which matters most.

In our Scripture passage today, we find the Jewish nation concentrating on the things that matter.

These people are recovering from one of the lowest points of their history. The nation as a whole has been in captivity for seventy years. Solomon’s temple, which had been a symbol of the pinnacle of Israel’s power had been a huge pile of rubble for fifty years. It had been destroyed because Israel was not faithful to their God. Most of the Jews had been killed or carried away captive into Babylon.

Now they have returned. Their situation is very tenuous. They have enemies all around them, who do not want them back in Jerusalem. In addition, homes must be built. Agriculture and commerce must be developed.

Despite the difficulties, there was much anticipation at this time for a great and glorious future. God had freed them from captivity as He had predicted through Isaiah and Jeremiah. What would God do for them now? And how would they react to the new opportunity that lay before them? What would they focus on? Where would they begin? On what would they set their priorities?

The leaders of the Jews understand all this and are involved in trying to establish a secure and prosperous future for the Jews. To do that, one of the things they must do is invest in the next generation. They want to accomplish the things that matter not just in their lives but in the lives of their children and their grandchildren. There are a lot of good things, needful things, to which they can turn their attention but if they do not center their attention on the future generation, they will fail. That is why they almost immediately focused on the rebuilding of the temple. God had chosen Jerusalem as the place where He would put His name and they recognized that a new temple would serve as stabilizing factor for generations to come, a place where every Jew could come to God.

Ezra 3 is the account of how they began.

How these people dealt with these problems have application for us as a church also. God has been working through a group of believers associated with this church for almost a generation. I am convinced God desires to accomplish His will through this church in future generations. That will take much investment in the future generation. Based on what God had done for us in the past and what He desires to do through us for the future generations, we can determine what we should be doing now. Those are the lessons that we want to learn today from Ezra 3:1-7.

THE LESSONS OF THE PAST – The foundation for lessons from the past are grounded not in experience or history but in the Word of God (3:2b, 4).

The Word of God reminded them of their priorities (verses 2 and 6). The first priority was not the building of the Temple nor even a wall of protection but rather the first priority was the regular service of God, which is the outward show of a heart attitude of worship and submission to God. God’s Word reminded them that God’s first purpose in this world was not to take care of them nor was it to make them secure and prosperous but rather, God’s first priority was to make a name for Himself on the earth and that Jerusalem was the place in which He had chosen to do that. That is why they built the altar. They could have waited for the temple before offering sacrifices but they understood that the temple alone is not what established God in Jerusalem. No, God established Himself in Jerusalem and then invited the Jews, “Come and worship me! Come, submit your lives to me! Come, bow before me and fear me!” Now there are lots of ways to do that but they went to the Word of God and saw that God desired an altar where God’s people would regularly consecrate themselves, seek forgiveness, and bring thanksgiving.

That is to be our priority also. Jesus made it clear that we are to serve the Lord God and Him only are we to serve. It is imperative that we look into God’s Word, and understand that what God desires and demands from us is our worship as evidenced by our service. This altar was first and foremost a place of consecration, a place where people came to exalt God and humble themselves, a place where His people submitted themselves to God, bowing before Him.

That is our investment capital. If we are going to invest in the future generations, we must have more than clean living. We must have more than good Bible teaching. We must have more than attractive programs. We must serve God in total submission to Jesus Christ. That is what I mean by worship. That is what the Bible means by worship. This altar was the center of the Jews’ worship. They were obviously not Americans. There were no songs to be sung, no lessons to be taught, no prayers to be prayed, no offering to be taken. There was simply the sacrifice of animals symbolizing their submission to God, both in the acknowledgement of their sinfulness and in the acknowledgement that everything good, they had from God and they were thankful to Him for it.

The Word of God reminded them of God’s work in their lives (Compare verse 4 with Leviticus 23:40-43 and Deuteronomy 31:10-13).

The purpose of the Feast of Tabernacles was to remind Israel of what God had done in their history. To remind them how that they had left Egypt and had dwelt in tents on their way to Mount Sinai, where God met with them and established His covenant with them. They needed to remember that God took care of them every step of the way, providing deliverance in parting the Red Sea, providing water at Marah through the miracle of turning the bitter water sweet, providing food through the giving a manna, providing victory when the Amalekites came out against them to destroy them. And during all of that they lived in tents waiting for God to tell them when it was time to march and leading them to their next destination through the pillar of cloud.

That is why, every seven years the nation of Israel was gathered during the feast of Tabernacles to hear the Word of God. It was not just so that the next generation would know the rules they were supposed to keep. It was so they would have a sense of who they were as God’s people and how that God had done great works in their lives.

In the same way, we as a church, need to be reminded of what God has done in our lives through this church. Fellowship Bible Church has a wonderful history. God has brought it through low times and through high times. Although we have not always been faithful, He has. During the times when it seemed that the greatest challenge was having a place to meet, God intervened and through His working gave this church land and helped them to build and to pay off that building. He has brought the church from a missionary work to a self-supporting, self-sustaining body. During just the past three years, He has revitalized a Sunday School program that was down to three children to one that has averaged four or five times that number. Sunday morning attendance has grown and despite people moving on, attendance has remained consistent. During that time, yearly giving has continued to grow.

Sunday night and Wednesday night are both much better attended than they were three years ago. Although our youth and Awana programs are down from a year ago, the youth group is rebounding and I am confident that the Awana clubs will rebound also. Teacher training has continued to take place. Musically, we have more people involved than we have ever had before.

It is important though that we recognize that all that has been accomplished in the past is the work of God. That is why we need the Word of God. Those of you who have been saved through this church, the Bible says that it was God’s doing. Those of you who have grown and have learned to serve God through this church, the Bible says it was God’s doing.


The uncertainty of the short term drove them to God (verses 3 and 6). In fact, in chapter four we find that those opposed to God and to His people were successful in getting the building stopped for a short time. Rather, however, than letting the uncertainty of the short term hinder them, they chose to meet their problems head on and turn to God. As we talk today about how that God would have us invest in the next generation, we must understand that this is no sure thing. There is no guarantee of resources, no sure plan of success. There will be opposition both overt and covert when we invest in the future. There are risks to be taken and much will be demanded from us. Hidden sins might come out into the open. Apathy, pride, self-seeking behaviors will all seek to undermine our investment. That is why we need to turn to God. These people built an altar to God because they needed God. Not as a lucky charm who will guarantee success but rather as our Lord, who leads and guides us and makes the way possible before us. Are the dangers and difficulties real? Yes! Then let us turn to God for strength and insight and wisdom and success.

They understood their mission and committed themselves mentally and practically to accomplish that mission (verses 6-7). Two phrases are important.

First of all, they began to offer burnt offerings. For fifty years no burnt offerings had been made. Individuals had continued to serve God but as a nation there had been no public commitment to serving God. It was time for that to change. Think of the mental change that was taking place in their lives. They were as a nation returning to God. As a nation, they had been hidden from the public eye for a long time. Now the time had come for them to proclaim publicly through the burnt offerings that they served the one living and true God. They were not yet ready to build the temple but their minds have been set on the future. They were ready mentally to invest in the next generation.

Secondly, they gave. It would be another four and a half to five months before the work would begin but they did not wait. The future depended on their faithfulness now. Now this mentions money but there were other things that were also given. Before that altar could be built, rubble had to be cleared away. It is likely that some type of temporary shelter had to be built. Time was spent in planning and organizing. As with any great task, there was much to be done before the first stone could be laid. Looking at what it would take to invest in the future generation, the people realized we need to do now what can be done. So they gave and they cleared rubble and they planned and they organized. They did what was practically necessary to accomplish that mission.

Now what is that mission for us? It involves investing in the next generation. The investment in children whose only exposure to the message of Christ is through our Awana and VBS programs. It is the investment in a nursery which has as its purpose more than babysitting but an early exposure to godly men and women who present through loving care to infants and toddler their first taste of Christ-likeness. It is an investment in teens and young people on whom God has His hand, chosen to serve Him in significant ways. It is an investment in a Sunday School program that grounds our children, young people, and adults in the faith and the application of that faith. It is an investment in our children and having them in church on Sunday night where they can gather with the rest of the body of Christ and learn the Word of God. It is an investment in visiting and following up on those who visit us with the intention of finding a way to evangelize or to edify our guests.


The demand of commitment from the community (verse 1), from the leaders (verse 2), and from each individual (verse 5).

The presence of the community was necessary for several reasons. The seventh month, which roughly corresponds to September/October in our calendar was the time of three great festivals, the Feast of Trumpets which began on the first, the Day of Atonement which was on the tenth, and the Feast of Tabernacles, which was from the 15th-23rd. Three times a year they were supposed to gather as a nation together (Deuteronomy 16:16-17) and one of those times was the Feast of Tabernacles. But they gathered early because they wanted to serve God through the burnt offering and they came prepared to give as the Lord had blessed them. If we are going to invest in the next generation, yes, it will cost us money, it will cost us labor, it will cost us energy and time but there is another cost that seems very obvious but which we often forget. It will demand our presence. Showing up only on Sunday morning is a very small investment. When you come to prayer meeting, when you come to Sunday School, when you come on Wednesday night, you are investing your life. There are three ways to determine how someone is investing their life. By how they spend their money, by how they spend their time, and with whom they spend their time. All three of those are covered in the gathering of the people for this feast.

The commitment of the leadership was also necessary. Jeshua and the priests as well as the royal family represented by the governor, Zerubbabel and his sons took a lead in establishing the service of God. It is also necessary, if we are going to invest in the next generation, we must as leaders of the church be in the forefront in giving, in church attendance, in prayer, in participation, in inviting kids to VBS and Awana and youth group, in finding ways to reach out more effectively, in finding better and more effective ways to edify the believers, in finding better and more effective ways in establishing our people in the faith, this and more God expects of us and the congregation should expect of us and the next generation should expect of us. The leadership sets the tone. Our families set the tone. If we fail to live up to our commitment, others will follow us and fail to commit to theirs.

There are several different types of sacrifices offered on this altar. There was the regular burnt offering which was a lamb in the morning and a lamb in the evening. That offering was a sacrifice of consecration, of submission to God by the whole nation. Then there was the New Moon offering which also a national offering. The offerings of the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles were also national offerings of thanksgiving or in the case of the Day of Atonement, for forgiveness. We are talking about an enormous number of national offerings. Individuals though also brought offerings. You see commitment should come from the body of believers and it should come as well from the leadership as a group but there is for each and every one of us a place where we must ask ourselves individually, “What am I willing to do?” We are talking about of our own free will. Not what must I do nor even what can I do. Although these first questions are important, it is essential for us to commit ourselves willingly to serve God. We are presenting ways in which you can do that but you must be willing.

The necessity of work to clear the rubble, build the altar, organize the service of God (verses 2-7, see also chapter 2). What are you going to do? We have been calling for help to work with Awana, there are other areas where you can help. Why have you not volunteered? If we are going to invest in the future, there are some things that must be done and everyone of us is capable of finding a way to help, to work, to give of our energy and time. What have you done? What skills do you have that you are willing to use to serve God? What will you give? Are you willing to invest in the future?



The need for sad songs in Christianity August 15, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Psalms, Religion, Worship.

Preparing for the discussion in Psalm 3 tomorrow. As you probably know, David wrote and prayed this psalm while on the run from his son, Absalom. This also seemed to fit in with my thoughts about last Sunday morning. As we closed with “God Be with You”, I was aware that many think of this as being a sad song and for that reason, we prefer not to sing it, I think. I wonder if we have made in Christianity a god out of “feel good” emotions? Well, that’s my two cents worth. I think the link below will lead you to something better.


Ideas on Worship August 13, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Blogroll, Religion, Song of Solomon, Worship.
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Jay Wright gives some great thoughts on the function of the “worship leader” in the church. He asks the question, “Are we too spiritual?”

Jay also has also posted an article by the late Robert Webber on worship that views Christ romantically. Hmm… 

I have added Jay to my blogroll for now. His blog is new but is worth I look, I think.

Jay Wright’s August 11 post on Song of Solomon

A Sermon from Ray Pritchard to Prepare us for the Lord’s Table July 31, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Character, Communion, First Corinthians, Forgiveness, Judgment, Lord's Table, Repentance, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Worship.
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Revelation 5 (Q and A) The Seven Sealed Book July 5, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Gospel, Praise, Prayer, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Throne of God, Worship.
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Revelation 5

1. What is the significance of the right hand in verse 1?

The right hand is a place of authority and honor. The scroll appears to be something of great importance that has the authority of God behind it.

2. What do we know about this scroll and the seven seals according to chapter 5:2-9 (not chapter 6)?

  • It is intended to be opened and read, i.e., made known.
  • Not just anyone is worthy to open it and reveal what is in it.
  • Only one was found who was worthy, Jesus Christ.
  • He is worthy because He is victorious (verse 5).
  • This victory was won through His redemptive sacrifice (verse 9).

3. What about Christ is emphasized in verse 5? What about Christ is emphasized in verse 6? What are the differences in the two emphasis (compare also with verse 9b)?

Verse 5 emphasizes His connection to Israel, especially that He is the Messiah prophesied by the Old Testament Scriptures. Verse 6 emphasizes the truth of Christ as the sacrificial Lamb of God which is primarily made known in the New Testament. His revealing as the Lamb brings His Messiahship to believers from every ethnic group and not just to the nation of Israel.

4. What is represented by the harp and golden bowls (verses 8-10)?

Worship in the form of song and prayer.

5. What is the basis for the praise of the Lamb and the one on the throne who lives forever (verses 11-14)?

The Lamb was slain and the rule of the one on the throne is forever. 

Revelation 4 (Q and A) July 5, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Eschatology, Praise, Rapture, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Throne of God, Worship.
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A bit late this week with the Q&A. I am also posting the Q&A for chapter 5 which we didn’t quite finish and for chapter 6 which we should get to this Sunday evening.

Revelation 4 

1.     To what do the phrases in verse 1, “these things” and “after this”, refer (Compare with Revelation 1:19)?

The events following the present situation in the seven churches described in chapters 2-3 as well as following John’s vision of Jesus Christ in chapter 1.

2.     Who is the voice speaking with John in verse 1 (Compare with 1:10-13)?

 Jesus Christ

3.     Is there any reason within the text to believe that verse 1 refers to the Rapture (Compare with 11:12)?

No. Although a voice like a trumpet (Christ’s voice) says, “Come up here…” there is no indication in the text that John is intended to symbolize the church at this point. This does not mean that the Rapture does not take place at this point in the eschatological chronology, only that it is not to be found (as thought by many) in verse 1.

4.     Everything in chapter 4 is described in relationship to the throne of God. What do we already know about this throne and what is the significance of this knowledge so far (1:4-5; 3:21; see also Ezekiel 1:26-28)?

The Trinity is pictured as directly related to each other and equal with each other at the throne of God. This is also the hope of those who overcome (believers in Christ), to be with the Father and with Christ throughout eternity. Many of the things mentioned in relation to the throne are also mentioned in one or more Old Testament passages that describe the presence and glory  of God.

5.     What is the significance of the number of elders seated around the throne (Compare with 21:12-14)? What is the significance of the white robes and the crowns, i.e. victory laurels in verse 4?

The twenty-four elders seem to symbolize the unity of Israel and the church as represented by the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles. The God of the Old Testament is also the God of the New Testament. The white robes are worn by the true believers both from the Old Testament and the New Testament (testament = covenant in this context). They are also united in their victory as “overcomers” over the wicked one.

6.     What is the significance of the lightnings, thunderings, and voices (Compare 8:5; 11:19; 16:17-18 with Exodus 19:16)?

This seems to be an Old Testament allusion to the presence of God on Mt. Sinai. In the book of Revelation these phenomena also seem to be connected to the coming judgment from God on the world.

7.     What is the significance of the seven lamps of fire representing the seven Spirits of God, the sea of glass, and the four living creatures when taken together as one picture (See Exodus 37:23; 38:8; Number 2:2ff compared with Ezekiel 1 and Isaiah 6)?

These all allude to the furniture of the Tabernacle and the Temple where God’s presence housed itself during the time of the wilderness wandering through the time of Ezekiel. There were visions of God’s glory by Ezekiel and Isaiah. Isaiah’s was connected to the temple but the vision in Ezekiel 1 is apart from the temple although chronologically, the glory had yet to depart.

8.     Is there any reason in the text to assume that the four living creatures are referring to the four gospels or the four aspects of the character of Christ?

No, this is allegorical interpretation which should be avoided even when the interpretation seems to be benign or perhaps even inspirational.

9.     What purpose do the elders and living creatures serve?

To worship and glorify God throughout all eternity.

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.
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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 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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.       


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.


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.” 


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?

Links to Sermons on Abraham Getting Isaac a Wife June 22, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Genesis, Prayer, Sermons, Will of God, Worship.
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John Piper


Ray Pritchard


Charles Haddon Spurgeon


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.


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.


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 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.


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 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.


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?