S-1102 3/01/09 1SIL/3B Hymns: (O) #262; (S) #142; (C) # 400
Texts Genesis 22:1-18; James 1:12-18; Mark 1:9-15
Theme: “Held His Hands” (Gen. 22:10-12).
Question: “How do you use your hands?”
SOLI DEO GLORIA
“Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here am I.’ 12He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me’” (Gen. 22:10-12).
Children of God, I want you to do me a favor right now. Stop what you are doing, empty your hands of everything and just study them closely. What do you see in those hands? What story do they tell? What images do you grasp?
Someone asked a young lady of 93 at a nursing home, why she was looking at her hands? Here is her response: "Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands though wrinkled shriveled and weak have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life. They braced and caught my fall when as a toddler I crashed upon the floor. They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child, my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots. They held my husband and wiped my tears when he went off to war. They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special. They wrote my letters to him and trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse. They have held my children and grandchildren, consoled neighbors, and shook in fists of anger when I didn't understand. They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day when not much of anything else of me works real well these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer. These hands are the mark of where I’ve been and the ruggedness of life. But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when he leads me home. And by His hands He will lift me to His side and there I will use these hands to touch the face of Christ.”
Hands are very special, because they permit us to do the things we need to get along in life. In the text before us today, God asks Abraham to do the unthinkable and unimaginable with his hands. God puts Abraham to the test, saying: “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Gen. 22:2). Can you believe what God is asking Abraham to do with his hands? I certainly can’t fathom that request from a loving God. Yet Moses in this Chapter tells us that is precisely what God asked of Abraham—to use his hands to sacrifice his son, his only son as an offering to his God.
And in our reading we see the obedient Patriarch going with God’s request to the mountain. He takes his son, saddles him with the wood for the burnt offering and heads up the mountain to sacrifice him. PAUSE.
What if God asked you to give the most important thing in your life to Him? What if He asked you to sacrifice your job, your position, your house, your car, or the life of your children, would you be willing to carry it out? We have to admit this kind of testing challenges us to the core. It challenges us to acknowledge who hold the first place in our heart. It challenges us to put God first. As the Lord Himself taught us in the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me”. God doesn’t want us to have anything or anyone to take His place. But this is what God asked of Abraham. And we know that Abraham heard the call, and headed to the mountain to carry out God’s command. PAUSE.
Before you get too far ahead of me to the Ram that is caught in the thicket, consider with me the emotions, the pain, the anguish that father Abraham is facing. He is to give up his only son, the son of Promise for whom he waited 25 years. And now that he is blessed with this gift from God in his old age, God wants Abraham to give him up. Oh, how his heart was bleeding from the inside. Oh, how his heart was aching for what he was about to do. Oh, how his heart was screaming for a way out.
Yet, without hesitation, Abraham marches up the mountain, lays his son on the altar he built and draws his knife to sacrifice his son as a sweet offering to the God he worships. But before he could cut his son’s throat, he hears the voice of God saying, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here am I.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me’”
God held Abraham’s hands from hurting or harming Isaac. God held Abraham’s hands before the knife would slit Isaac’s heart. God’s angel intervened and wouldn’t permit Abraham to carry out the death order. Instead, God provides a substitute—a ram. The ram in the thicket dies and Isaac lives.
What God wouldn’t permit Abraham to do, He did Himself. He sent His Son, His only Son, the One He loves, the Son of Promise to earth to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. God sent His Son to the appointed mountain—Calvary to be offered as a sweet smelling offering for the sins of the world. God held His hands back from reaching out and stopping the soldiers from beating His Only Son. God held His hands back from stopping the nails to go into His Son’s flesh. God held His hands back from stopping the thorns to be implanted into His Son’s head.
There on the altar of the cross God held His hands back from reaching out to save His only Son, from the knife that would put Him to death. God held His hands back and turned away His face from His only Son, when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” God for the first time in history didn’t come to the aid of the One who cried out to Him for deliverance—He held His hands back, and let His Son die our death. Bound to the wood of the cross in place of Isaac, Abraham and all, Jesus is the answer to the saying “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
Think with me please what it was that God endured to secure your salvation? Consider the emotions, the pain, and the anguish that God was enduring. He couldn’t look at His Son because His only Son became the worst sinner in the world. God shut His ears to Jesus’ cries. God held His hands back from helping Jesus in the hour of need. Oh, how his heart was bleeding from the inside. Oh, how his heart was aching for what He was doing. Oh, how his heart was screaming for a way out. But there was none—the sentence needed to be carried out. The promise needed to be fulfilled. Sin had to be taken care of. So, God Held His hands back and let His Son be put to death on the altar of the cross. God Held His hands back as they lowered Him from the cross and carried Him to the tomb. Our loving God gave up His only Son, so that you and I may be sons and daughters of our awesome God.
I can’t fathom that. I can’t understand that. I even have a hard time believing that God would love me enough to exchange my sins with His Son’s righteousness. But it is true. What an Amazing God we have. His Words are true. His promises are sure, and He fulfills them as He uses His hands to bless us.
Study the Scriptures and you will see the mighty hands of God at work for the benefit of His Sons and daughters. In Psalm 145 we read these words: “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing” (vv. 15-16). In His powerful hands the fish sandwiches grew into enough to feed the crowd. By His hands life is given, sickness is removed, sight is restored and forgiveness offered. God’s hands are at work among us.
Saints in Christ, take another look at your hands and ask yourself this question. How will I use my hands for the glory of God and His kingdom? Will you use them to lead a young child to the house of the Lord? Will you use your hands to open the Bible and read it to others? Will you use your hands to open your wallet to further the kingdom of God? Will you use your hands to embrace the hurting and help the needy? I pray that we will use our hands for the benefits of our neighbor and for the glory of God.
But more importantly know how Your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ extended His hands to save you and deliver you. Remember faithful saints that Jesus means “Savior.” As the Savior of the world He permitted the hands of the enemy to nail His hands to the cross of Calvary, and by these pierced hands He opened heaven’s paradise for us. During this Lenten Season, I pray that the readings of the Passion History, hymns and sermons, YOU will see Jesus and His incredible hands of mercy at work in your lives more clearly. And I hope you hear again God’s call in your life as Abraham did and said, “Here am I Lord.”
Now the peace…