Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Lord Will Provide

Genesis 22:1-14
     Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!"  And he said, "Here I am."  And He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you."
So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.  On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance.  And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you."  And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.  And Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!"  And he said, "Here I am, my son."  And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"  And Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."  So the two of them walked on together.

Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there, and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood.  And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.  But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!"  And he said, "Here I am."  And He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."  Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.  And Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.

Sermon for Judica Sunday                                              3/29/20

                          The Lord Will Provide

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
     Picture this: Abraham has waited his entire life – over 100 years – for this one son to be born.  He left home and family to follow the promise of God over twenty-five years before.   Then Isaac was born.  When Isaac was thirteen or fourteen, he was undoubtedly passed through the ritual of the coming of age, the predecessor to what the Jews call "Bar-Mitzvah" today.  So, it was some time after that in which the events detailed in our text take place.  Sarah was still alive, so we know that Isaac was under thirty-five, or so, and that is all we can tell.  The point is that Abraham has waited a long time for Isaac.

Abraham is probably about one hundred and twenty-five years old.  Now God tells him to take his son out into the wilderness and offer him up as a burnt offering to God.  It is difficult to imagine what must have been going on in the mind of Abraham.  The Bible only tells us of his faithfulness.  The most revealing thing our text tells us is Abraham's response when Isaac asks about the lamb for the sacrifice, "The Lord will provide."  And that is our theme this morning.

The Lord will provide.  Abraham had to be crushed and frightened.  Nevertheless, he followed the command of God.  We could make all sorts of judgments about why – Abraham's wealth, God's previous faithfulness, you know, all of the worldly reasons to understand Abraham's willingness to be faithful in this extreme command.  None of them are certain, however, and none of them are likely to be true.  Abraham was faithful because Abraham believed.

His faith is demonstrated in his answer to Isaac – God will provide for Himself the lamb.  Isaac was the miracle child, and Abraham did not question God's ability to do more miracles.  Abraham thought God would raise Isaac from the dead.  That is what the book of Hebrews says.  By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac;  .  .  .  He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.

Abraham trusted God to provide, and so he was willing to sacrifice his son.  And God provided.  He provided for Abraham in a way I suspect Abraham had never envisioned.  He stopped Abraham at the very last moment and provided the lamb for sacrifice, caught by its horns in the bush nearby.  Abraham passed the test and worshiped God, and everyone went home happy.

Hebrews tells us that it was a type.  Abraham received Isaac back from the edge of destruction as a type of the resurrection from the dead.  The type goes deeper, however.  Abraham was the father who was sacrificing his only son, just as God did for us.  God was under no command from another.  It was His plan and His will to sacrifice His Son for us and for our salvation.  But Abraham acts out in his struggle a human example of what this takes, and a human picture of the father giving his son.

Men marvel when they stop to consider it, that Isaac went along with the whole thing.  We usually have this picture of the young boy, twelve or thirteen, and that could be possible, but I suspect that he was older and well able to flee or to fight this hundred and some year old man, if necessary.  But Isaac carries the wood for his father – and that would be no small pile of sticks, for the kind of sacrifice that they intended.  He must have allowed his father to tie him up and lay him on the pile of wood in the altar area for the sacrifice.  No matter what may have been going through his mind, he humbly did what his father asked him to.  In this, Isaac is a type of Christ.

Christ humbly followed the plan and will of His Father.   He knew throughout His life who He was and where He was going to end up.  He walked that road and was faithful.  He faced the wrenching sorrow of the garden of Gethsemane, the awful dread.  He went to the cross, and the torture that led up to it, humbly, willingly – in so far as it was His will to be obedient to His Father.  He allowed Himself to be tied and placed on the altar of the cross for sacrifice.  The only real difference of consequence is that no voice from heaven stopped the hand of the executioner for Jesus.

Abraham looked up, when God commanded him to stop, and saw the ram caught by its horns.  God told Abraham that he had demonstrated his faith and absolute trust in God, being willing to give up that which was most precious to him for the sake of his God.  Similarly, God demonstrated His great love for us, and His desire to rescue us from sin and death and hell by offering up that which was most precious to Him – His only-begotten Son.  Because Jesus suffered the torments of hell and died in your place, you are forgiven, and you will never die.  Your body will, and it will rest, as did the body of Jesus, in the grave for a time, but like Jesus, you will commend your soul into God's presence and keeping, and you will live — both between the day of your body's death and the day of resurrection and, following that day of the resurrection of all flesh, you will live in joy and glory with the Lord eternally.

God provided the sacrifice.  He provided it for Abraham in the ram caught in the bushes, and He provided it for you in Jesus Christ.  That was the type, and Jesus the antitype – the reality which fulfills the meaning of the symbol which comes before.  "In the mount of the Lord, it will be provided."  Back then it was a specific unnamed hill in the land of Moriah.  In 30 A.D. it was a hill named "Golgotha," just outside the city walls of Jerusalem.  Jesus wasn't trapped, however, but willing – out of love for you, and for His heavenly Father.  Because of Jesus, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved."

Abraham received Isaac back from the dead, as it were.  That is how Hebrews put it.  Isaac hadn't really died, but he was marked for death and as good as dead at his father's hand if God had not intervened.  His release from death was a type – it demonstrates to some degree the resurrection of Jesus.  It is for us a type of Jesus' return from the dead.  And Jesus is the first-fruits of our resurrection – that is to say that we shall also rise from the dead as Jesus did, as part of His resurrection, because we are His body, and we have joined Him in His death and resurrection through baptism.  Just as Isaac pointed forward as a type to the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus points forward to our own.

The Lord will provide.  And He has.  But this text is not just about history.  It shows us that the Lord will provide.  When God wants us to serve, to do some specific thing, or just to be faithful, the Lord will provide.  We will never face any situation where God cannot meet our needs.  We will never face any circumstance where God will not provide what we need in order to be faithful to Him.  Just trust Him.  That is the other message here.

Trust God and be faithful.  You cannot need more than God can provide, and if you are faithful, and are doing what is faithful, the Lord will provide.  We are "the mount of the Lord" today.  He does not identify with any geographic location any longer.  It is not Mount Sinai.  That was once the place, but when the children of Israel left the holy mountain, God went with them.  He provided Manna and water and guided them to the holy land, promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Then they built the temple, and God claimed it as His place – the place of His presence on earth among men.  Then He came in the person of Jesus.  He was Immanuel, "God with us."  When Jesus left this earth, He made His holy people the place of His presence.  That place is not ancient Israel, or their modern descendants, according to the flesh.  That place is us — the Church!

"In the mount of the Lord it will be provided."  We are that "mount".  When we are faithful, God will provide.  He provides for us all of the time, even when we are not, but certainly, we may have the greatest comfort and confidence in His provision and blessings when we are faithful, as Abraham was faithful, and as Jesus was faithful!  So we should never be discouraged or tempted to find a better way than simply being faithful.

Our age offers us programs and gimmicks and "new measures" to grow the church and ensure success and survival.  I find it is an interesting historical note that the term, "new measures", was the one that liberal Lutherans were using at the time our Synod was founded, a century and a half ago, for their efforts to abandon faithfulness.  God, however, has called us to His Word, and the Sacraments, and to trust in Him.  If we walk together in God's Word, and encourage one another in faithfulness and trust in God, and do those things which the Lord lays before us to do, the Lord will provide.

He may not do everything we would like Him to do, nor bless us in the ways that we dream about.  God's will is that the Gospel be preached, and His people demonstrate it by their lives of faithfulness, grounded in His Word, and trusting in His promises.  His will is that you live the faithfulness so thoroughly that others see it and ask you about it, and you witness to them the hope that is in you.  His will is that you come here to hear His Word, to eat His holy Supper, and to encourage one another and love one another in the fellowship of His holy ones in the body of Christ.  And, of course, His will is?? 
.  .  .
His will is that you trust Him.  Trust Him, not yourself.  Trust Him, not your own wit and wisdom.  Trust Him, not the opinions of those around you who think they know better.  Abraham did the unthinkable because God told Him to do it, and God said.  "Now I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."  God did the impossible in Jesus Christ, to save you, to show you His love, and to teach you to trust in Him.  Now it is your turn.  Now it is time for you to be faithful.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight."

Trust in the Lord, and walk faithfully.  Then you may know with absolute certainty that the Lord will provide.

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