HIS VOICE: If We Hear, Shall We Do? There are times

Genesis 22:1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham! ..... i Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Faith of Leap-Embracing a T...

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Pastor David Staff

HIS VOICE: If We Hear, Shall We Do? Abraham’s response to God’s Voice – Genesis 22

There are times when the word of God makes no sense at all. It is of course one thing to believe God for the impossible; it is quite another thing to be asked by God to do the unthinkable. Have you ever been asked by God’s clear voice arising fro God’s written word to do the unthinkable? I mean, of all the things God could ask you to do, what would be the very last thing that would come to your thinking, even to your imagination? What could God ask you to do that would be just out of the question?     

How about an action of self-less love/blessing that neighbor who has never, in all the years you’ve lived near each other, spoken a kind word to you? How about refusing to ignore that person and demonstrate love? How about taking the step of verbally sharing your personal faith and relationship with Christ with someone who likes you but ridicules the very idea of God? How about standing and espousing a Christian world-view in your history or philosophy class? How about forgiving someone who frustrates you, or even has spitefully tried to ruin your reputation? How about actually standing in the waters of baptism and openly declaring your walk with Jesus?

“I can’t do that,” you say. “I mean, even if God were to ask such a thing, I just couldn’t.” Don’t you wonder what Abraham thought when God said this to him? Genesis 22:1 After

these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “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.” 2

Read Abram’s life – you’ll discover God asked him to do a lot of tough stuff:  leave your home country and your relatives (12:1)  move to a place you’ve never seen, to a place where you do not know where you are going (Heb.11:8)  declare My name in a pagan area (12:8)  stay in Canaan during a severe famine (12:10)  tell the truth no matter how vulnerable or threatened you may feel (12:13)  give Lot the pick of the countryside (13:8)  take on a group of marauding kings and their armies (14:1-16)  worship Me rather than pander to the King of Sodom (14:21)  count the stars and believe that so shall your descendants be (15:5-6)  wait for decades on My promise of offspring without devising alternative plans (16:1-6)  circumcise yourself and the members of your household as a sign of my relationship with you (17:914)  believe without wavering that Sarah will bear you a son (17:15-27)  dialogue with Me about the wicked people of the valley (18:22-33, Sodom) 1|P a g e

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 send your son Ishmael and his mother Hagar off into the wilderness, and trust I will take care of them (21:8-21)

It’s fascinating. The older Abraham became, the more challenging the voice of God was upon his life. Here’s what Abraham teaches every one of us in this room who desires intimacy with God. A friend of God trusts the will of God by obeying the voice of God. Notice, first, that A friend of God may hear the voice of God direct him/her to do the unthinkable! (Gen 22) Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." {2} [God] 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."

Say what? “My only son…after years of waiting…a burnt offering?” This may be the most startling passage in all of Scripture, because in it, God openly asks wat is utterly unthinkable. God reveals He was testing His friend (22:1, please note!) with what didn’t make any sense. Who knows what Abraham is thinking? We’re not told. In their book titled The FAITH OF LEAP, Frost and Hirsch write that for Abraham to hear and obey took a leap of faith, to be sure, but it is also a near perfect example of what we call the faith of leap. When Abraham acted in response to God’s command, and stayed the course…he gave us faith’s best-model in human expression…it is called “faithfulness” in the Scriptures...[and he became] the father of the faithful.i Notice, second that A friend of God obeys and trusts even when facing the unthinkable. A moment ago we wondered what Abraham might have been thinking. Vs. 3 reveals That means (a), being God’s friend, Abraham focused on prompt, quiet obedience. {22:3} 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.

The verse reports an almost methodical response from Abraham. No dialogue, no arguing, no second-guessing. Strangely Sarah is not mentioned; perhaps she knew nothing. If God’s word came at night, within hours Abraham selected two helpers, saddled up animals, woke Isaac, split wood, and took off.

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4} On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. {5} Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you." {6} 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.

Three days later, God indicates to Abraham’s spirit and eyes the elevated place where the sacrifice must take place. Arriving, he and Isaac trek up the final distance, Isaac carrying the wood on his back, Abraham carrying the tools of slaughter in his hands. Together, perhaps silent. But what was Abraham feeling? Chapter 21 indicates he grieved when Ishmael was sent into the wilderness. But feelings are not spoken of here. Just quiet, purposeful obedience, silence…until Isaac is overcome with curiosity. {7} 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?" {8} Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together.

Tremendous focus - quiet, simple, prompt obedience. Abraham knew that was his part. It means, being God’s friend Abraham was confident God was up to something not yet fully revealed. This is clear from two statements Abraham makes. Number one (vs. 5), to the helpers, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; we will worship and return to you.” Number two (vs. 8), to Isaac, “God will provide for Himself the lamb…” Not only was Abraham convinced God was up to something, It also means, being God’s friend, Abraham expected His Friend [God] to do the impossible…again. {9} 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. {10} Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

Ask as you read – What was Abraham expecting as he raised the knife? The Holy Spirit tells us in Hebrews 11 (p.1008 ESV) (Heb 11:17-19) By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, "IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED." He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.

We are not to think that Abraham believed God would stop him from obeying. We are to think of what 3|P a g e

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Abraham was confident. Namely, that God – his friend - would raise his son from the dead after the sacrifice, after the burning. This was Abraham’s great expectation—that God would reconstitute his son to life from the scattering ashes. Ross says, “There is not the slightest hint in the story that he wavered in his faith or doubted.”ii “God will provide” had become Abraham’s life motto…his was “complete certainty” in God.iii A friend of God trusts the will of God by obeying the voice of God. Third, being God’s obedient friend, God illustrates in Abraham’s His surprising graceprovision for us, and for others. {11}

But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." {12} 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." {13} 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. {14} 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."

Oswald Chambers once said, “Never try to explain God until you have obeyed Him. The only bit of God we understand is the bit we have obeyed.”iv Because Abraham obeyed God’s voice in doing the unthinkable, not only did he understand God better, but he through his obedience gave us a unique picture of God’s plan and powerful love. “So long as men live in the world, they will turn to this story with unwaning interest. There is only one scene in history by which it is surpassed; that where the Great Father gave His Isaac to a death from which there was no deliverance. God and Abraham were friends in a common sorrow up to a certain point; though the infinite love of God stepped in to stay the hand of Abraham at the critical moment, sparing His friend what He would not spare Himself.” (F.B. Meyer, Patriarchs of the Faith, p. 153).v

You see, no Old Testament story more clearly foreshadows what God intended to do again, for us, on this same mountain 2000 years later. 2 Chronicles 3:1 indicates that the area to which Abraham and Isaac traveled would someday be the city of Jerusalem and its temple. There is good reason to believe this mountain the site of the where 1st century criminals were crucified. With the tools of slaughter in His father’s hands, Christ carried the wood of His sacrifice. Isaac’s question on the hillside became Jesus’ prayer in the garden. Like Isaac, Christ knew what was coming, but questioned. Like Isaac, He would be laid across the wood, the lamb God Himself provided for the

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world. But 2000 years later, no one stopped the Father’s hand. This time the Son would be sacrificed. Finally, being God’s obedient, tested friend, Abraham would experience God’s richer blessings. {22:15}

Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, {16} and said, "By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, {17} indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. {18} "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." {19} So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba.

Allen Ross helps us with these observations: The test for Abraham was designed to determine whether he feared God or not. The test carried him to the limits of his emotions, for it called for him to surrender to God the one person he loved the most and had waited so long for—the heir of the promises. Abraham’s obedience demonstrated that he recognized that God was the Lord of the promise. Abraham could have no power over the fulfillment of the promise, no power over life or death, apart from God’s granting it to him or requiring it from him. Here Abraham demonstrated what it meant to fear God; here readers learn what is at the heart of true worship.vi A friend of God trusts the will of God by obeying the voice of God. Even when the voice asks for the unthinkable… Quiet-prompt obedience Confident God is up to something not yet seen Becoming a picture of God’s grace Experiencing – through obeying – greater blessing CONCLUSION C.S. Lewis learned,

“You never know how much you really believe anything,” C.S. Lewis once noted, “until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life or death to you.” Without fully understanding this episode in the life of Abraham, no one can fully understand what Isaiah and James meant. Isaiah 41:8 (ESV) “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you (are) descendants of Abraham my friend” Quoting Isaiah, James writes this: James 2: 23 and

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the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

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James reminds us that there were two big stages in the development of Abram’s relationship with God. Stage One was early on, in Genesis 12 and 15, where “Abraham (simply) believed God” (i.e. specifically God’s promise in Genesis 15:1-6 that Abram would have has many offspring as the countless stars of heaven). When Abram simply believed (or trusted fully) God’s promise, God “counted his faith as RIGHTEOUSNESS.” In simple faith, God gives us righteousness. But there was a Stage Two. Stage Two happened when God asked Abram to hear His voice and obediently trust him for the impossible and even the unthinkable. When God asked Abram to act on His word and do what He directed. It was then Abram put his faith into obedient action, and laid his most precious possession on the altar and was ready to give him up…it was then Abram in impossible even unthinkable obedience could be called “a friend of God.” What step are you willing to take with God in the days to come? Friendship with God means to give God should He ask for it, the very thing in our lives that we might think we could never give up… only to receive through obedience His greater, unforeseen provision. Pastor David Staff

Copyright 2016 © David A. Staff All rights reserved


Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Faith of Leap-Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure, and Courage (Baker, 2011), 14-16. Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 392. iii Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1975), 143-144. iv Oswald Chambers, Run Today’s Race. v Patriarchs of the Faith (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1995). vi Ross, 401-402. ii

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