Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lesson 7 - Do you love the Giver more than the gift?

One of the most troubling accounts to understand in the Bible is the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. One of the very important points in this is whether Abraham loved the giver more than the gift. Read Genesis 22:1-19.

Let’s look more closely at this passage.

Let’s look for some important truths in those first few verses. How old do you think Isaac was at this time? He was actually an adolescent. He had to be old enough and big enough to carry the wood for the sacrifice. From pictures I remember as a child Isaac always looked young, but he was at least a teenager possibly a young adult.

What do you think God tested Abraham means? God wanted to prove the authenticity of Abraham’s faith. God and Abraham had all ready been through many things together. God knew how desperately Abraham wanted a son by Sarah. God wanted to know if Abraham worshipped the gift – Isaac, or the giver – God.

This is a troubling question for us. Do I adore the gifts God gives me more than I adore the giver? How does it show in my time? Do I assign more worth to my child than God? My job? God is a jealous God and he wants us to worship him alone.

When we look at this specific burnt offering, it was one where the whole sacrifice had to be consumed. Some sacrifices in the Old Testament were not wholly consumed; sometimes the priest would eat a part of the sacrifice. This one was to be consumed.

We don’t see anything about what Abraham was thinking. We see simple obedience. We don’t see questioning, weeping or gnashing of teeth. I’m not sure it is clear if he told Sarah. I would venture a guess if he had told Sarah; she may have tried to stop him. Abraham did as he was told.

Let’s read verses 4-5: I have read these verses many times and never saw this verse before. What does Abraham tell the young men? We will worship and we will return to you. How can he say we? When Isaac is going to be sacrificed. This makes no sense. Let’s read Hebrews 11:17-19 for some hints.

Abraham knew three important facts for his faith:
Isaac was to be the vehicle of God’s promises.
God always keeps his promises.
God’s power is absolute, even over the power of death.

Abraham’s only logical conclusion was God will do what he says, so even if my son if burned up in death, God would restore his life. To my knowledge no one had been resurrected from the dead at this point. Didn’t make a difference to Abraham. He knew God would keep his promise to have descendents through Isaac and that couldn’t happen if he was dead.

Doesn’t that just blow you away? Total faith. Abraham just had to be obedient and he left the rest in God’s care. When I say “just” be obedient, it still wasn’t easy.

Look at verses 6-8.

Abraham as a loving father did not tell Isaac everything. Then, Abraham tells Isaac God will provide, that is up to God. We are doing his will and the rest is up to God.

Oh, how I need to hear that. How many times do I do it all in my own strength and don’t realize it is my job to obey and the rest is up to God. We are to trust him and get out of the way.

Look at verse 9.

We are focusing on Abraham, but what about Isaac? Isaac was old enough to run away or even over power his father, but he didn’t. He was willingly bound and placed on the altar. Abraham had been teaching Isaac about faith and what it meant. Isaac did learn to trust God through his own earthly father. Can you imagine what it was like to be Isaac?

What do we hold so tightly that we are not willing to give it up to God? Children, possessions, jobs, homes, you fill in the blank. This is radical obedience and it is difficult.

Read verses 10-12.

Again, God speaks and calls Abraham by name. Also, Abraham knows God’s voice. He knew who was speaking. Do we know God’s voice? Can we recognize him speaking to us? God and Abraham were on a first name basis and had a relationship.

God in effect was saying to Abraham you love the Giver more than the gift. You have demonstrated your faithfulness.

Something that is often missed in this passage is how this whole story points us to Christ. Look at verses 13-14 and let’s see how we can see the foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice.

First of all why do you think it was a ram and not a lamb? Most sacrifices were spotless lambs. The ram represents Jesus Christ as a man. When we see Abraham saying the Lord will provide, he is pointing us to a ram became Isaac’s substitute and Christ became ours.

There is another important point. The sacrifice was done on Mount Moriah. Do you remember how many days it took to get there, 3 days? Any significance about 3 days? Jesus was resurrected after 3 days in the tomb. Also, Moriah is where Jerusalem was built and the temple. Today, the Dome of the Rock is there with an altar of rocks that are thought to be where Isaac was sacrificed. Years later Christ would be sacrificed for us in the very same place. Doesn’t it give you goose bumps?

We are also painted a picture of the covenant God made with Abraham and how Jesus ultimately becomes the mediator of the covenant for us. What are the similarities between Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac and Jesus sacrifice for us?

God the Father showed us how to live when he released his dear Son to us. He willingly gave his perfect son for sinners and placed him on the altar. If God was willing to release his Son for us, how can we withhold anything from him?

God the Son showed us how to die when he released Himself to the
Father. Isaac’s quiet obedience to his father illustrates this and points
us to Christ. Jesus did not fight when he went to the cross, he did it
willingly. Isaac didn’t fear death, we should not as well.

God the Spirit will show us how to live and die as we learn how to
release what we hold so tightly. What do we need to let go of?

Isaac is a picture of Christ willingly being bound to die for us. Also, that we need a sacrifice. Abraham is teaching us we need to give it all to God, we need to die to self. Abraham trusted God’s promises enough to know God would provide a way. Do we? or do we second guess God?

Some things for us to think about:

Spend some time thinking about what you are holding to tightly and won’t let go.

Spend time listening to God’s voice so you recognize him.

Look over your life and the many times God has been faithful. Can you
trust that he will continue to be faithful?

When you read the Scripture look for God’s covenant promises.

Do you love the giver or the gift more?

Please share any thoughts or comments you have about this Bible Study.