FBC RB 1/15/12
"What Motivates You?" Genesis 22:1-12
Do you trust me? Are you sure? I need one volunteer to prove it. One volunteer who has a one dollar bill, please come forward. Do you trust me? Do you believe that I would never do anything to hurt you? Do you believe that I want you to leave here better off than when you came? Then give me the dollar bill. You will not get it back. Still trust me? There is a big rock sitting on a chair outside the side door. Please bring the rock in here and set it on this chair.
Thank you. Well done. You passed the test. I believe you trust me. You may be seated. That took a lot of trust. Why on earth would I ask him to do such a thing? I don't know about you but trust is hard for me to give sometimes. I have trusted people before and gotten burned. I really have to know you and even then, I may be leary. Sometimes people who you think are solid as a rock will let you down and prove themselves untrustworthy and what happens? Your world is turned upside down. (Turn rock over and there is a five dollar bill.) Oh, this is for you.
Psalm 118:8 says, "
It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man." I appreciate the trust you put in me but be warned that putting your trust in people will often disappoint you. We all know that God is trustworthy and we all say we trust Him but do we really trust God? What if God asks you to do something that doesn't make sense? What if He takes away your most prized possession? What if that prized possession is your young son?
Our text for today will be in Genesis 22. As you turn there I want to remind you of what God has promised to Abraham starting in Genesis 15:5 where God says, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars--if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." And that's when Abe's trouble started.
Nearly every passage after that involves that promise being threatened. Over and over again it seems that there is no way that promise is ever going to come true. Starting with the fact that Abe and Sarah are pretty old to begin with, it continues on with Sarah being barren, then she is taken twice to be the wife of somebody else, and time goes on and on and Abe and Sarah are getting very old. Then, about 25 years after God promises him a child, it says in chapter 21, verses 1-7. Read.
So, God finally comes through with His promise and all of Abe and Sarah's worries are over. And they lived happily ever after. Until...the very next chapter. Until Isaac is in his mid to late teens. Now let's pick up with our text for today which is chapter 22:1-12. Read.
Now, I know what you are thinking after reading this. Here we go again. Obedience, obedience, obedience. Abe was obedient, Isaac was obedient, the ram, the rocks, everybody was obedient. And that's true. And I would not apologize for preaching on obedience from this chapter. This chapter is about obedience. It is there to show Abe's obedience and to be a guide for us but this morning I want to also ask my favorite question. Why?
I want us to look at the motivation for Abe being obedient but I also want to look at the motivation of God to make this request of Abe and hopefully we can adjust our motivation as the application of this story. Let's start with God's motivation for asking Abe to sacrifice Isaac.
It would be easy to reflect on this passage and see all the torment Abe went through and all the work that was done and think, "Wow, God, that was just mean." But everything God asked him to do was asked for a reason. It was difficult for a reason. It was time-consuming for a reason.
God told Abe who was well over 100 years old to walk from his home in Beersheba to Jerusalem which is the equivalent of about here to Ft. Worth. He could have stopped right there. That would be hard enough. Now you might have noticed that he saddled his donkey but have you ever ridden a donkey? At 115 years old? It doesn't say he packed the trunk on the Lexus. This was a physically demanding request especially for an old man.
Then think about the mental anguish Abe must have suffered on this 3-day tour. Genesis is again painfully silent about what was going through the mind of Abe and through the mind of Isaac and even the servants. I do want you to notice that Abe started early the next day after God spoke to him. No delay. And for 3 days his brain fought every step. He fought himself. He fought Satan. He fought God. He fought Sarah, Isaac, the servants, his friends. Nobody would ever understand. Least of all Abe. But he never quit moving forward.
In verse 7 it says that Isaac spoke up and asked Abe where the lamb was for the sacrifice. Can't you imagine the thoughts going through Abe's head at that point? "God, this isn't funny! What have I done to deserve this? Why Isaac? Why not one of the slaves? Why not ME? God, take me! Why, God why?" But all he says is "Son, God will provide."
The Bible answers the question of "why" in verse 12. It's the key to the whole passage and I want to point it out right here. God's motivation for testing Abraham was to see if Abe feared God. "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."
Now, if God was wondering if Abe feared Him, couldn't He have just asked him? Why make Abe go through all of that? Well, the answer is that God already knew that Abe feared Him. God wanted Abe to know that Abe feared Him. He wanted Isaac to know. He wanted the slaves and Sarah to know. And He also wanted you and I to know.
If Abe was to be the father of a great nation, they had to know that they had a great father, a father who feared God more than he loved anything in this world. If Abe feared God, had awe, reverence, adoration, honor, worship, confidence, thankfulness, love, and, yes, fear, then all of his descendants would understand the importance of it as well.
God's motivation for asking Abe to do all of this was to show everyone that, as it says in Proverbs 9:10, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Now, let's look at the motivation behind Abe's decision. We understand why God would ask Abe to do this because it says so in verse 12 but why would Abe agree to do it? To find this answer we have to turn to the great "faith" chapter of Hebrews 11. In Hebrews 11:17 it says, "By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice." It says that it was because of Abe's faith.
And we resprect that in Abe. We know he was a man of faith but I bet all of us would say we have faith in God, right? Nobody here would say that they have no faith in God and yet if God were to ask us to give up anything more than a Sunday morning we would make excuses, much less if He asked us to give up anything precious. So what makes the difference in Abe's faith and our faith?
This is an easy sermon because that answer is right there in Hebrews 11 as well. In verse 8 it says that by faith Abe left his home. In verse 11 it says that by faith Abe was enabled to become a father. Year after year, day after day, Abe saw God proving Himself to be faithful. God proved Himself worthy of faith. All Abe's life he saw God's power. When God said he was going to provide, He provided. When God said he was going to destroy, He destroyed. Abraham had a relationship with God based on Abe's fear and faith in Almighty God.
Abraham's motivation for obeying God was based on experience with God. His friendship with God grew and developed every time God asked him to do something because when Abe was obedient, God delivered on His promise.
What is God asking you to do today? Some of you may not have a good answer for that. Some of you may feel that God just won't speak to you anymore and you may be right. You know why? Because God has already spoken to you about something and you are not being obedient to that so why should He say anything else to you? If you can't follow the basic instructions then He is not going to give you more.
When He says to keep the sabbath day holy and you go to work, don't be surprised if the Heavens seem silent. When He says to tithe 10% of your gross income and you insist that you can't afford it, don't cry that he won't reveal His plan for your job. When God says He wants you to go on a mission trip and you pretend you don't hear Him, why should He answer your prayer for a vacation on the beach?
When God told Abe to sacrifice his son, his only son, whom he loved, Abe knew that God would provide, whatever that meant. He didn't understand. He couldn't imagine but he knew that God's ways are not our ways and that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. How about you? Do you have that kind of relationship with God through His sacrificed Son, Jesus? God's Son, His only Son, whom He loved? You can and today is the day of salvation.