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Monday, April 9, 2012

The Lord Will Provide (Genesis 22.13-18)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
Easter Sunday - April 8, 2012
Some Music Used
Prelude: "Fanfare and Gigue on 'Easter Hymn'" (German Paniagua, trumpet) (Albrecht)
Hymn of Praise: "Worship Christ the Risen King" (REGENT SQUARE)
The Word in Music: "Worthy is the Lamb" (Handel) 

Song of Response: "Amazing Love" (Kendrick)
 Offering of Music: "Hail the Day that Christ Arose" (Steve and Vikki Cook)
Song of Sending: "You Have Been Raised" (Sovereign Grace)
Postlude: "Trumpet Prelude" (German Paniagua, trumpet) (Roman)

The Lord Will Provide
Text: Genesis 22:13-18

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

Last Christmas we spent the season in Genesis looking at the story of Abraham and Sarah and God’s promise to send a baby that would change the world. This Easter season we have returned to Abraham and that baby, now born and grown to a young man, as we see a father and son choosing obedience to the point of sacrifice. In that story we have seen and heard the importance of obedience to God’s Word; we’ve seen and heard the gift and value of spiritual fellowship or companionship along the way; and we’ve seen and heard the importance of worship and reverence toward God in helping us stick close to God, not wavering to the left or right, running ahead, or lagging behind.

In Abraham and Isaac’s story we have also seen and heard elements of Jesus’ story in the days leading up to his crucifixion and last Sunday we left off right at the point where God intervened and told Abraham not to harm his son. Fast forward to Jesus’ time and we left off, in effect, in the middle of Passover week, with God indicating that He would have to provide for Himself the sacrifice that was needed. If you’ll remember, these were Abraham’s words to his son, Isaac. (v. 8) God not only did that in Abraham and Isaac’s story, but also on Good Friday, when God provided for Himself the Lamb necessary for the sacrifice. Today we’ll look at the conclusion of Abraham and Isaac’s story, see the connection and ultimate fulfillment of the story in Jesus Christ, and consider what all that means for us. 

“A Ram in the Thicket” (v. 13)

In the story, God literally provided the sacrifice. Having heard a Word from the Lord, Abraham stayed his hand, “raised his eyes and looked” and saw a ram caught in the thicket. I am reminded of Abraham’s faith on the journey up to the spot. When Isaac asked him about the sacrifice, Abraham responded in faith, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Abraham did not know for sure what would happen, but he knew God would provide.

And notice Abraham’s continued attentiveness. That has been a consistent theme in this story. It wasn’t just the words of an angel messenger… we don’t always get that, though we do underestimate the degree to which scripture speaks to us today. But Abraham “raised his eyes and looked.” He looked around to see what God was doing or what God had provided. Head down, eyes closed, he might never have seen it. It reminds me of our conversations about getting out beyond the church walls. There is great value in gathering to study, pray, and have fellowship; but we can’t forget to ask the question and look for the answer to “What is God doing in and around us and how can we be a part?” In looking for God’s action, Abraham saw God’s provision. 

“The Lord Will Provide” (v. 14)

I am reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice. That’s central to the Good News story, and indeed why we call Good Friday “good.” We were not capable of offering God what was necessary for our own rightness. Our sin and separation from God was and is so complete that only God can make it right. And so, destined to die IN our own sin (not FOR it but IN it), God intervened and provided an effective death on our behalf. That “good death” was the death of His own Son, Jesus Christ.

And the Bible doesn’t hide this connection from us. Jesus is called the “Lamb of God” and the significance of his death explained. You heard one such explanation in the Call to Worship this morning from 1 Peter 1:18-21. Listen again:
…you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
In Abraham’s story, I think there was a real potential for him (and us) to focus on JUST the obedience part and not the faith part. It would have been – not easier – but simpler for Abraham to create a list of actions to be followed, and expect God’s reward at the end. Load the donkey, get the young men, bring Isaac, bring rope, bring the knife, travel to the mountain, unload, make the sacrifice. But what God was looking for in all that – and maybe this was the “test” – was for Abraham to trust Him. Yes, obedience requires trust. But so does ongoing attention. Trust can turn to duty or obligation and still look like obedience. But the constant listening and attentiveness and readiness – that was trusting God in faith. And that’s what God invites from us in Jesus. There is much to obey and imitate and follow in Jesus’ life and teaching, but over and above that God invites us to TRUST Him that in Christ God was providing what we needed in the way we needed it. That is the faith and trust in which an obedient life grows. 

“Abundant Blessing” (vv. 17-18)

Now all of that is Good Friday news. But this is Easter morning. The cross and the sacrifice were not the end of the story, but just a momentary pause when God displayed in an amazing way the depth of His mercy and provision. And then, three days later, Jesus was raised! The Easter story is God’s gift of grace over and above the gift of mercy on the cross. And that, too, was paralleled in Abraham’s story.

In Genesis 22, the story didn’t end with Abraham finding the ram in the thicket and offering it as the sacrifice God had provided. After that, God spoke again to Abraham and blessed him all over again with the covenant blessings and then some. Once again, God promised blessing, and descendants as numerous as the stars and the sand; now God also promised Abraham victory over his enemies. And finally, God again said that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through Abraham.

On the cross, God showed us mercy and forgave our sins with the only sacrifice that would do so sufficiently. But on Easter Sunday, God poured it on – grace upon grace. We are not only free from sin and death, but we are raised to new life! That’s resurrection: raised to new life! And God’s blessing for us is life with Christ, both here and now, and forever. That’s the Easter gift – the gift of life with God now and forever. 


I hope Abraham’s story has helped you hear Jesus’ story with fresh ears.

We’ve been reminded of the importance of obeying God’s will and Word, not just out of blind duty, but out of living faith. We’ve been reminded of the gift and blessing of companionship along the way, as Abraham was together with Isaac, so God is with us and we with each other in the church. We’ve been reminded of the danger of wavering to the right or the left, lest we become bitter against God or place other loves before God. We’ve been reminded of the danger of running ahead of God or lagging too far behind and missing what God is doing. We’ve been reminded that sometimes God speaks far in advance and sometimes right when we need it most.

And we’ve been reminded that, through Jesus, God has provided the sacrifice for Himself that sin required. Through Jesus, God has blessed us and raised us to a new life – life with Him. The Lord will provide; the Lord HAS provided… and the Lamb’s name is Jesus! Amen.

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