Online Worship for Trinity Ten, Sunday August 8, 2021
Trinity 10 August 8, 2021
Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Genesis 22:1-18 A Test You Have to Pass 1. Trust in Yourself is a Guaranteed Fail 2. Trust in Christ is a Guaranteed A+
In the name of Him who is our great substitute for salvation, dear fellow redeemed.
Gaokao (gow-cow), or the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, is considered to be one of the most difficult tests in the world. It is the Chinese equivalent to America’s SAT test, or British A-Level tests. Subjects on the test include the Chinese language, mathematics, and a foreign language. However, the hardest portion of the test comes in the form of essay questions. The essays can cover topics such as the students' view on history, philosophy, the environment, and President Xi Jingping’s policies. One topic students had to write on was: Write an essay on how Thomas Edison would react to the mobile phone if he visited the 21st century. Another essay was to write a letter to 18 year olds in 2035. The test is of such high quality that universities around the world such as the University of Cambridge and New Hampshire University have started to accept Gaokao scores for applicants into their colleges.
What if you had to take this Gaokao test, but instead of getting a score to determine your acceptance into a college, it was a matter of life or death? If you pass, you get to live. If you fail, you die. How would you do? Truth is, you do have to take a test that is a matter of life and death. Not just temporal life and death, but eternal. If you pass the test, you gain eternal life, but if you fail you are dead eternally. This test is leagues more difficult than any sort of Gaokao test, and yet there is only 1 question on this test: Are You Perfect? This is a test you have to pass and there are only two possible answers. If you trust in yourself, you are guaranteed to fail. But, if you place your trust in Christ, you receive a guaranteed A+.
The test Abraham faces in our text is no different than the test that we have to face. While God doesn’t come to us asking us to sacrifice our loved one to Him, He does command that we love Him above everything else in this world. This includes loving Him more than our family members. Place yourself in Abraham’s shoes for just a moment. You have waited 25 years for God to give you a son in your old age, and now, He is asking you to slaughter your child for a sacrifice. It is not too difficult to guess what might go through your head. “No way! You promised me this son, and now you want me to kill him? That makes no sense! You lied to me, God.”
That is an extreme example that, Lord willing, none of us will ever have to face. But what about in your personal life? Do you always carry a God-fearing attitude when things get difficult? Do you always honor your spouse, parents, siblings? How much are you willing to sacrifice to show your honor and love for God? I will be the first to admit that I have not been willing to sacrifice as much as God commands. It is difficult to shed the desires of our heart and pursue the good will of our Heavenly Father. Paul illustrates this perfectly in Romans 7:19, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” This is the problem living in a sinful world. Even though we know what God’s will is and despite Him giving us the answer key to the test of keeping His will perfectly, our sinful flesh takes over and we ignore what God has plainly revealed to us!
There are countless times each day we are faced with a test. One answer is God-pleasing, and the other answer is satanic. It is either right or wrong, you pass or you fail. When we fail to subdue our old Adam through God’s Word, it is a guarantee that we will fail whatever test God has placed before us. It doesn’t matter whether the temptation we face is great or small. James tells us “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it (2:10).” One little slip up is enough to catapult us into the camp of eternal damnation. This is a test we have to pass. Relying on ourselves guarantees our failure.
How can we possibly hope to pass this test? The Holy Spirit recorded this test of Abraham to answer this very question. Abraham shows us exactly how to handle each test and trial we face in a God-pleasing way. Abraham actually had to deal with that “extreme” example of God commanding him to offer his only son as a sacrifice to God. Abraham may have had many questions and doubts race through his mind immediately after hearing this command. But any doubts or questions he may have had, he quickly dispelled from his mind. What did he do instead? He clung to the promises that God had made directly to him.
God promised Abraham (chapter 17:17-19,21) that through Isaac, his own offspring, He would bless Abraham and increase his descendants more than the stars in the sky. More than the promise of Isaac, Abraham also believed in the promise of God concerning the One that would come from Isaac’s line. The One that would redeem Abraham from his sins. Because he put his faith in God’s grace and promises, he did not delay in obeying the command of God, but the very next morning he set out to Moriah in order to sacrifice Isaac to God. Hebrews 11:17-19 gives us a glimpse into the thoughts of Abraham during this time. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Abraham, in faith, knew God would keep the promise that He made. He did not know exactly how God would keep it, but Abraham didn’t need to know how, just that God will. Even if it was something that seemed impossible like raising Isaac from the dead.
The 3 days journey was plenty of time for Abraham to rethink his decision and turn away to save his son. And yet, he didn’t. Even when Isaac questions him asking, “‘Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? (7)’” He continued to place his faith and trust in God’s promise by saying, “‘God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.(8)’” This faith and trust in God paid off because the LORD Himself called out to Abraham to stop him from sacrificing Isaac because, “‘...now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me (12).’” More than simply stopping the sacrifice of Isaac, the LORD provided a substitute for him through a ram being caught in the thicket. Abraham trusted God will provide and the LORD did. Such great faith to overcome a test like this!
The question before us is how? How can we achieve such great faith like Abraham? The great news is you already have it! The promises God made to Abraham, He fulfilled. This includes the promise to send His only begotten Son to be the substitute sacrifice in your place. You and I both deserve to face the punishment of God, eternal death because of our sin. But Christ intercedes on your behalf and He says to the Father, “I am their substitute. I lived the perfect life according to Your law, I took Your punishment upon my shoulders, and My holy righteousness now belongs to whoever believes on My name.” This includes you and me. The proof? Look at your baptism. You were washed clean from your sin in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That moment is the official record that you no longer belong to Satan or your sinful flesh, but you are God’s own child. Any time you are facing a test, or in doubt over your faith, look upon your baptism and be reminded that your Savior died on the cross for you. He bought you back for eternal life. 1 Peter 3:21, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” This is your answer to the test that you have to pass: “I am perfect because of Christ.” And because you have the righteousness of Christ, you are guaranteed an A+.
Did God have to put such an extreme test before Abraham? Maybe, maybe not. Why did he have to suffer through such a tormenting trial? God did not test Abraham because He needed to know how much Abraham loved him compared to Isaac. He could see into Abraham’s heart. God sent this test for Abraham’s sake and for yours and mine. This account shows how high God’s standards are as well as the only way we can match those standards. If Abraham trusted in his own reason, like he had done in the past (Genesis 16:1-16; Genesis 20:2), he would not have obeyed God’s direction. But Abraham placed his trust in God’s grace and not himself. So we also ought not trust in ourselves. If we do, we are guaranteed to fail. Like Abraham, let us place our trust in our Savior Jesus Christ. In Him we have a guaranteed A+ and the promise of eternal life in heaven secured. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen.