Friday, February 27, 2015

“The Moriah Messiah?” (Genesis 22:1-2)

S-1478 1SIL/3B 2/22/2015 Hymns: (O) #40; (S) #245; L.S. #311; #427; #309 (C) #155

Texts: Genesis 22:1-18; James 1:12-18; Mark 1:9-15

Theme: “The Moriah Messiah?” (Genesis 22:1-2)

Question: “How many things has God provided you without you expecting it?”

This sermon will be preached as a first person narrative. Abraham is the speaker. (He enters the room slowly and look out at the congregation. Pulling his beard he begins to speak).

It is so very hard to make it through life without having one of those of those moments where you simply feel...God you are really going too far...really asking too much...stretching me beyond what you have designed a body, mind, and soul to be able to go through.

My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?

I felt that way. I felt like God had just thrown me over a cliff and my world was coming to an end. I didn’t have the book of Job to comfort me as you do. I didn’t have the message of the cross to steady my thoughts. Nor did I have the end of the story as it is now written in your book in Genesis 22. Except for the flashlight of faith I was in utter darkness.

My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?

For fifty years MY God had shown Himself to be loving, reliable, powerful, and perfect in keeping His Word. I had the sense when I talked to God or God talked to me this was the God who created the universe, who held the stars in their patterns, and gave life to all things. The miracle birth of my son some thirty years earlier sealed the deal for me and my Sarah. Yes, this God works in strange, mysterious ways, but He keeps His promises. He even humbles Himself to visit me and break bread with me as He did when He declared a year in advance Sarah would give birth to Isaac.

This God was all-powerful, yet intimate. This God was holy. He is different by far from all the other gods around me. BUT I, ABRAHAM, WONDERED… PAUSE.

Has God now taken leave of His senses? He wants me to do the unthinkable! This is how I felt some time ago when God came to me and said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you” (Gen 22:2). (Abraham moves and looks up and down)

When God first commanded me to do this...I felt utterly forsaken, utterly shaken. The instructions seemed seemingly senseless. How can a good God ask me to sacrifice the dearest thing in the world to me—and to my wife Sarah? All these years God has been teaching me to take Him at His Word. Fair enough.

If He asked me to take a trumpet and march around a city seven times blowing that trumpet and expect the walls to fall—I would do it! If He asked me to take 3,000 soldiers and whittle it down to 300 and take on 30,000—I would do it. If He told me He could make the sun stand still for 48 hours—I would be on board for He is ALL-mighty.

But this...asking me to sacrifice my dearest treasure, my only son, for no good reason other than as a test of faith—this seems to be...pardon the Hebrew, be absurdunheard ofunthinkableunimaginable. How can the Giver of logic be so illogical? How can the changeless God, change His mind? How can He demand such a test? He promises Sarah and me a son—from whom nations will come with people of faith—as many as the stars in the sky and the sand on the sea shore. PAUSE. (Abraham look directly at the crowds and speaks)

Pray tell me this. How on earth will this take place if the son of promise is burnt up as an offering on some mountain called Moriah? The whole night before my journey to the place called Moriah my mind waged war making my brain feel like it was ready to explode. I tossed and turned. I studied the night with my ears. One solid and confident voice entered my ear canal and said, “You know that God keeps all His Words of PROMISE. He has protected you. He has shown love to you. He has given you the Son of promise with a miracle birth.”

Yet, within me raged another voice—a voice of humanity that screamed at God: “What good is a promise if the son is dead? After waiting 25 year to hold the gift of a son in my hand, 25 years later He asks me to slit his throat and offer him as a lamb on an altar. This is absurdunheard ofunthinkableunimaginable. How can you trust in a God who would ask such a thing? I bet He wouldn’t sacrifice His Son upon an altar on Moriah? No way? Not in a million years.

My God, My God, why have You forsaken me—was the abject feeling of despair that left me almost bleeding drops of blood. PAUSE. (Abraham climbs the stairs slowly)

It was a long uphill exhausting journey to Mt. Moriah, a place that one day three hundred years later be named Jerusalem. On Moriah one day the temple of Solomon would be built...forty cubits long. On Moriah the Messiah one day would be the supreme sacrifice for the world. But none of this I knew when God called me to go up there with a donkey, my two servants, enough tree wood for a sacrifice.

On the third day I could see the mount on which the sacrifice was to take place. On the third day I could see where the acid test of faith was to occur. On the third day a thought crystallized in my mind. The Spirit of God took everything I knew about God and pressed it deep into my heart, a deeper logic to contend with God’s seemingly illogical request.

This gospel born conviction was this. I was persuaded that if I went ahead with the sacrifice—yes, even the burnt offering—that the God of all grace would raise my son from the dead—bodily! Without a doubt, He who took the dead womb of my wife and brought forth life was able...moreover, I had His promise to hold before Him. I would hold Him to His eternal oath.

Resting on this resurrection hope, I told my servants that Isaac and I would return from that mount—both of us and worship with them. Isaac and I scaled the final stretch together—father and son, my only son. Isaac carried the fire and knife. When he asked me “where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” my pulse quickened, stomach sickened, brain thickened, but I kept my answer on this one truth, “God Himself will provide.” He will provide the Lamb—son. Indeed, He who is faithful and true will PROVIDE!

For fifty years He has abundantly provided. I had learned that every time I tried to help Him along with His promises, I just made a mess of things. Be patient. Remember His perfect record. Recall His perfect love. Recollect His might.

When we reached the summit I began to build an altar. Quietly, quickly I constructed an altar. I arranged on it the wood. Binding my son Isaac and placing him on the altar was the most agonizing thing I ever did laying him on that altar in the cruciform shape of a cross. Amazingly my son trusted me—obediently submitting... like a lamb... to the slaughter. PAUSE.

In fear and trembling, quivering and shivering, I paused. The knife felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. With the ultimate promise of Isaac being the father of more descendants than the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, I was able to lift up the knife. But before I could do the unthinkable and the unimaginable, before I could bring the knife down, that Mysterious Messenger of the Lord, the very One who dined with me over thirty years before bringing the good news of Isaac’s birth, appeared. With solemn Divine authority He called out to me, Abraham, Abraham, do not lay a hand on your son. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only Son.”

Then out of nowhere God provided a ram caught in a thicket...This Messenger, this Eternal I Am provided a Ram... With laughter both in my heart and face, I rejoiced at His providing what I couldn’t imagine. The Great I Am, assured me what I knew deep in my heart. Furthermore, His promise would come true; namely, through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed Me.

On the third day it was like Isaac rose from the dead, a grave was opened, and the Lord provided a different, unexpected sacrifice on the Mountain. Later, I would learn that on this very mountain the most extravagant display of God’s love in history would take place. Indeed, the Great I Am would kill His Son. Talk about absurdunheard ofunthinkableunimaginable. Here, God would Passover the sins of the world. Here the Promised Messiah would atone for the sins of the world. Here the very One who provided the ram would become the ultimate Lamb...the eternal I Am. He, my Deliverer would be my ultimate Descendant who rises from the dead on the third day to overcome death for all the world.

My test was a picture of the test that God’s only SON would go through for all mankind, all nations, all peoples. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to die on the cross of Mt. Moriah (the very same mountain) that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. On that mountain indeed the Lord did provide. And all the blessings of that Moriah death and Moriah resurrection, the Moriah Messiah bestows to you today. In the Gospel you hear the One who provided for us speaks to you. In the body and blood of the Lord’s Supper you receive the Moriah Messiah Himself. Giving you manna greater than what the children of Israel received in their wilderness journey.

I am so thankful that the Moriah Messiah is my God and Lord. (Abraham leaves quietly)

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