Sermon Notes June 10, 2012

“What Does God Want Me to Do with My Isaac?”

Genesis 22:1-19

In her book, “When I Lay My Isaac Down,” Carol Kent tells her story of a devastating event in their family. She recounts how her and her husband were enjoying a night together and shared their joy by saying, “does life get any better than this?”

Everything was going well for the mid-aged couple. Their only son, Jason had just graduated from the US Naval Academy. He was a stellar student. Throughout high school and the US Naval Academy, Jason was an outstanding Christian leader. He was given his first assignment as a US Naval officer, soon transferring to Hawaii.

Carol describes how their lives changed when the received a late night phone call informing them that their son was arrested for first degree murder. He shot and killed his wife’s ex-husband. The unraveling of Jason’s life was impossible to comprehend, and the couple were overwhelmed by emotion and struggled to help their son and daughter-in-law, as well as maintain their devotion and love for the Lord. Throughout her story, the author relates how she identified with ABRAHAM in Genesis 22.

This event in Abraham’s life is presented to us as the culmination of Abraham’s journey of faith. It is both the greatest struggle and the greatest victory for the “father of our faith.” James describes this event in Abraham’s life as the evidence for his faith and obedience to God. He writes, “Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 2:21–22, NIV84)

As we study Abraham’s test of faith, we need to examine our lives and ask whether we are prepared to answer God in the way that Abraham did. I believe that every man or woman that desires to walk with God will have to answer the same question that Abraham did, “do you love God more than the most cherished possession in your life?” For Abraham, it was not difficult to spot the object of his heart’s devotion - it was the son of promise miraculously born in his old age as a gift from the Lord. God tested Abraham to ensure that Abraham’s devotion was still sound, and to free Abraham from the snare of making an idol out of something that was given by God as a gift.

You see, our love of self, and our hideous assumption that the world revolves around us cause us to take the very gifts that God gives us and make idols out of them. We do this with our children, our possessions, our abilities - just about anything good that comes from God can become an object of inordinate affection, turning the gift that God intended for our good into a devilish entrapment replacing our dependency on the One who gives good gifts to his children. God calls us, as he did Abraham, to lay our Isaac on an altar of worship, not because God wants to deprive us from blessings. (After all, he gave us these blessings in the first place!) But rather, to provide us with the opportunity to demonstrate to God and to ourselves that He is first in our lives. Only then can we enjoy the gifts he gives without the entrapment of idolatry that comes when we put the things in our lives ahead of the One who gave them to us.

Let us examine the text of Genesis 22 to learn our lesson from Abraham.

1. God’s Test.

This test came late in Abraham’s life, when he perhaps said the same thing as the woman quoted above. “Does life get any better than this?” The text only gives us the indication, “Some time later” (22:1) When was the “some time later,” we must ask? We read in the previous chapter of the birth of Isaac and the expulsion of Ishmael. Years have passed, but we can observe the following:

“Some time later” was when Abraham thought everything was settled. Isaac was born, and was now growing into adulthood. The boy was healthy, and the promises of God were embodied in his life. Abraham could see the finish line of life, and rejoiced that his greatest concern was being fulfilled right before his eyes. Abraham looked to Isaac with great satisfaction and comfort, realizing that his legacy would be passed on and the promises of God would be fulfilled. Perhaps for the first time, Abraham felt that he was in control. Perhaps he said to himself, “this is the result of my walk of faith with God.”

“Some time later” was when prayers were answered and victory was close.

Isaac was approaching MANHOOD. Abraham could breathe a sigh of relief. Isaac’s age is not given in the text, but let me suggest that it was when the boy was thirteen years old. We cannot know for certain, but this makes sense in light of the fact that Isahmael was thirteen when God revealed to Abraham that Ishmael was not the promised son. It seems fitting that at the same point in Isaac’s life, God would test Abraham just as Isaac was being recognized as entering manhood. We also know that Isaac was old enough to take a three day journey in the wilderness, and strong enough to carry the wood for sacrifice up the steps of Mt. Moriah.

Isaac was the PRIDE and JOY of Abraham’s life. In a powerful chapter in his book, “The Pursuit of God,” A.W. Tozer writes concerning Abraham’s love for Isaac, “From the moment he first stooped to take the tiny form awkwardly in his arms, Abraham was an eager love slave of his son. God went out of his way to comment on the strength of this affection. And it is not hard to understand. The baby represented everything sacred to his father’s heart, the promises of God, the covenants, the hopes of the years and the long messianic dream. As he watched him grow from babyhood to young manhood, the heart of the old man was knit closer and closer with the life of his son, till at last the relationship bordered upon the perilous. It was then that God stepped in to save both father and son from the consequences of an uncleansed love.” (Tozer, 24)

Genesis 22 makes it clear that this event is a test in Abraham’s life, even though Abraham did not see it as such. Gen 22:1 says “some time later, God TESTED Abraham.” The conclusion of the story is found in Genesis 22:12 in which God pronounces the verdict on Abraham’s faith, “now I know that you fear God.”

The New Testament confirms God’s purpose in testing Abraham. Heb 11:17-18 indicates, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”” (Hebrews 11:17–18, NIV84)

And James 1:22-23 “Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.” (James 2:21–23, NIV84)

The emphasis on Abraham’s faith is made clear if you compare Genesis 22:2 with Genesis 12:1. This demonstrates that Binding of Issaac on Mt. Moriah marked the culmination of Abraham’s faith journey with God.

Genesis 22:2 “Then God 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 about.”” (Genesis 22:2, NIV84)

Genesis 12:1 “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1, NIV84)

In these two passages we find a clear literary connection. Notice how the three parts of God’s command are repeated in this event in Abraham’s life, almost 40 years after God first spoke to him in Haran.

Gen 12:1 / Gen 22:2
Leave your country, your people and your father’s household / Take your son whom you love
go to the land / go to the region of Moriah
I will show you. / Sacrifice him there on one of the mountains I will tell you about

2. Abraham’s Response

The most obvious part of Abraham’s response is obedience. We see this in the following ways.

Gen 22:3 “early the next morning....” Abraham did not delay in his obedience!

Gen 22:3 “when he had cut enough wood.” Abraham took direct responsibility to dcarry out God’s command. Abraham had many servants, but HE must cut the wood himself.

Gen 22:4 “on the third day.” Abraham went directly for Moriah. This journey was about 50 miles and included a rise in elevation from 650 feet to 2500 feet. For three days, Abraham walked patiently with his son, without revealing to him the purpose of their journey.

21:5-6. Abraham leaves the servants. Abraham again demonstrates full responsibility and obedience to God’s command. Only Father and Son would make the journey up the hill.


The second part of Abraham’s response is not presented in the text, but clearly Abraham agonized over the reality of his obedience to the voice of God. Abraham kept this from Isaac for the three day journey. For THREE DAYS, he carried this burden in his heart, without telling Isaac.

IMAGINE the conversation in Abraham’s heart.....

Abraham wrestled with God.... “why?” “Isn’t there another way?”

Please, take me instead! I’m old and ready to die.

Is this a miniature picture of Jesus wrestling with the Father in the Garden?

3. My Test

Like Abraham, God uses the things that are closest test our walk with him and to REVEAL to ourselves the things that have taken up residence as objects of worship in our hearts. He does this not to take these things away, but to allow us to see how tight we are holding on to it! This gracious act of God provides the knowledge that He really does come first.

“Our Issacs are the heart sacrifices we make when we choose to relinquish control and honor God with our choices even when all seems lost.” Carol Kent, “When I Lay My Isaac Down,” (Colorado Springs: NavPress, Kindle Edition, 2004), location 62.

Tozer suggests THREE AREAS that are the prime “Isaacs” in our lives

PEOPLE. The affection we DESIRE from others. The possession we CRAVE from others. The dependence we HAVE on others.


ABILITIES. “The blessed ones who possess the Kingdom are they why who have repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing. These are the ‘poor in spirit.’ ... Though free from all sense of possessing, they yet possess all things.” (A.W. Tozer, “The Pursuit of God,” Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1982, p. 23).

4. My Response.


Don’t expect to understand! One such moment came in my life a number of years ago. I had visited Ghana Africa to view the ministry of FIM missionary John Kwow. Faith Bible Church was considering a large gift to help John establish an orphanage and Bible training center in that country. Before making the contribution, I went with Max Hunt to visit John and view his ministry first hand. We were impressed with his plans and the evidence of his work for the Lord. John had plans for an orphanage and Bible training school. He was a successful missionary, pastor. He spoke 5 languages. His wife Dinah a nurse. Their 3 children were walking with the Lord and supportive of their ministry. And then, three weeks after returning to the US, I received a phone call that John had died from a bout with Malaria. I remember receiving that phone call vividly. My first reaction was, “Lord, why would you allow this to happen?” I could not understand God’s purposes. In my plans, John was irreplaceably. There was no one else to take up his cause. His ministry plans died with him.

In his sovereign plan, God has not yet revealed to me the answer to my questions. And this side of heaven, I don’t expect that he will.

When God reveals your Isaac, don’t expect a warning.

Secondly, don’t doubt God’s intentions. God is always seeking our good. “Our Lord came not to destroy, but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.” (Tozer, 28).


NEWSONG sings a song “Your Defining Moment”

There comes a time in every heart A time of real decision

When we reach the point of choosing How we will live our lives

All our hopes, all our dreams Will rise up from that moment

The moment we surrender And choose to follow Christ

When you believe He's all you need That will be your defining moment

As you live your life walking in His light Trusting Him completely

That will be, that will be your defining moment

When God reveals your ISAAC, it is only for ONE PURPOSE..... So that you can ENJOY all that you were created for. IT is so that you can find your sufficiency in CHRIST.

Jesus is the central figure in Genesis 22.

Moriah is where the Temple was built. 2 Chron. 3:1 “Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.” (2 Chronicles 3:1, NIV84)

Moriah is where GOD PROVIDED forgiveness for generations of Israelites presenting their animal sacrifices at the Temple.

Was God seeking child sacrifice? NO!

This was a TEST.

Abraham did not know this.

ATHEISTS object to this story, accusing God of being a child abuser. Atheist evangelist Richard Dawkins writes, “God was only joking after all, tempting Abraham, and testing his faith. A modern moralist cannot help but wonder how a child could ever recover from such psychological trauma. By the standards of modern morality, this disgraceful story is an example ...of child abuse.” (Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion,” 242).