Rembrandt_Abraham_en_Isaac,_1634Lent 1 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 18, 2018
Genesis 22:1-8, James 1:12-18, Mark 1:9-15

Sermons online:
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itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

Another week, another horrific school shooting, another senseless massacre where teachers and students are gunned down mercilessly in their school.  It is too terrible to imagine the terror, the pain, the grief caused by one evil individual bent on death and destruction.  It is incomprehensibly awful for anyone to murder another person, but it is especially appalling when the victim is an innocent child.  What kind of monster can kill a child?

And then we come to our Old Testament reading for today and we find that it is about the planned killing of a child.  And even worse than someone killing a child, a man is ordered to kill his own child.  This is truly disturbing.  What kind of monster would order a man to kill his own child?  What kind of twisted, terrible thing is this?  Who would do this?  What kind of evil, awful, sick, cruel being would do this?  Oh.  It is the Lord God Almighty who gives Abraham the order to do this monstrous thing.  God Himself orders Abraham to kill Isaac.  What is going on here?

At times I have online discussions with an atheist from Canada.  One of his proofs that God is not real is this story from Genesis.  What kind of God would order a man to kill his only beloved son?  It is a good question.

In the Old Testament God condemns the worship of the pagan god Molech.  Part of the worship of Molech was to place an infant in the idol’s outstretched arms with a fire underneath and burn the infant alive as a sacrifice to this pagan god.  The Lord God rightly condemns this perverse practice over and over again.  And yet here in Genesis we see God ordering Abraham to kill his son Isaac.

Believers and unbelievers alike read this account of Abraham and Isaac with revulsion at the very idea that God would demand child sacrifice.  We do not sacrifice our children.

It seems everyone is deeply disturbed by this Bible story about child sacrifice, but I think that society’s revulsion at the account of Abraham being instructed to sacrifice Isaac is insincere.  It is insincere because as a nation we do sacrifice our children.  We sacrifice around 3,000 unborn children each day in the United States on the altar of sexual freedom.  That is 125 infants every hour.  We need to repent of our past sins and return to the Lord our God for forgiveness.  We must continue to work to stop the slaughter of infants in our nation and the world because we should not sacrifice our children on any altar.

     Believers and unbelievers alike read this account of Abraham and Isaac with revulsion at the very idea that God would demand child sacrifice.  We do not sacrifice our children.

And this is why this lesson is so disturbing.  How could God command Abraham to do such a terrible thing?  What kind of monster is our God?

But as we slow down and look at this lesson we can see what God is really doing here.  The horror of child sacrifice is a big part of this.  God is testing Abraham to do the absolutely unthinkable.  Genesis 22:2 (ESV) 2 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.”[1]

But hold on.  Something is happening here.  God is painting a picture.  “Take your son, whom you love.”  Take your beloved son.  Where have we heard this today?  “Beloved son?”  This is what God the Father says to Jesus at His baptism.  Mark 1:11 (ESV) 11 …“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” [2]  It is what God the Father calls Jesus at the Transfiguration.  Mark 9:7 (ESV) 7 …“This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”[3]

We see Abraham take the wood of the burnt offering and lay it on Isaac his son as they head up the mountain for the sacrifice.  Isaac is carrying on his back the very wood on which he is to be put to death.  Who else do we see carrying on His back the wood on which He will be sacrificed?

We hear Isaac say, “Genesis 22:7 (ESV) 7 … “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”[4]

Abraham replies, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”  In the Gospel of John, When John the Baptist sees Jesus approaching he says, “John 1:29 (ESV)…“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world![5] God Himself provides the Lamb for sacrifice.

Isaac is a type for Christ.  Through this account we see God painting a picture of what is to come.  We see the future when God provides the lamb for sacrifice.  We see God’s plan.

God never intends for Abraham to actually sacrifice Isaac; instead He is giving us a picture of what is to come.  The horror of child sacrifice is part of the test and part of the future picture.  What God asks Abraham to do is shocking, and because of that we get a better picture of the shocking love God has for us; sending His only begotten son to die for us.  God was never going to let Abraham harm Isaac.  As Abraham raises the knife to kill Isaac, Genesis 22:11-12 (ESV) 11 …the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”[6]

Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah bring into focus the horror of sacrificing your only son.  It shows how absolutely appalling this is.  It shows that God takes this appalling horror on Himself by offering His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as the Lamb of God.  Jesus, the beloved son, carries the wood of the cross to Calvary.

For Abraham, God provides a ram with his horns caught in a thicket.  For us God provides the Lamb of God with His head caught in a crown of thorns.

Jesus is stripped and laid on the cross.  A nail is place on his wrist and the Roman soldier raises his hammer.  God was there with Abraham to protect his beloved son Isaac.  No one is there to protect Jesus.  No one is there to stop the Roman hammer driving nails into Jesus’ flesh.  God the father has forsaken Jesus; He has given Him over to be punished for the sins of the world.  The Father allows Jesus to suffer and die for your sins and mine.  God provides the divine sacrifice.  Jesus passes the test; He conquers sin and death by rising from the dead.

The Lord tests you and you so often fail to do the hard things that He calls you to do.  The devil tempts you and you so often give into the temptation.  Jesus passes the test.  After the Lord Jesus is baptized into our sin the Holy Spirit drives Him into the wilderness and God the Father tests Jesus by allowing Satan to tempt Him in the wilderness and Jesus passes the test.  Jesus resists the lies and deceptions and accusations of the devil.  Jesus passes the test where we would fail and then offers Himself up as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world.  You are baptized into Christ.  His perfection has been given to you.  In Christ you pass the test.

We do not sacrifice our children on any altar.  God does not ask for human sacrifice from any of His creatures.  God Himself provides the Lamb.

Amen.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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