February 22, 2015: First Sunday in Lent

Let us pray: Dear Savior, with You it was an all or nothing proposition when it came to saving us. You gave Your all, invested Your life, to earn us a place in heavenly glory. For that we thank You. Likewise, when it comes to our faith in You, it is also an all or nothing proposition. So today we again give You our entire being because You already purchased it on the cross. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE ONLY SAVIOR!

TEXT: Genesis 22: 1-18

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

For us humans, life is all about: hedging our bets. We don’t know the future with absolute certainty, so we hedge when it comes to investing our money, following certain medical information, purchasing insurance—the list is voluminous. If you happen to live on Plum Island, hedging your bets is very prudent when it comes to the shifting sand dunes. Likewise, even though your roof has withstood many winters, hedging your bets by having it shoveled is probably wise this winter.

Contrast this mindset to the Christian faith. Our faith is not about hedging our bets at all. We jump into our allegiance to Christ whole-heartedly with all our being because He gave His all to save our souls eternally on the cross. Our lesson today is about this scenario being played out in a very graphic way by Abraham and God. So, let’s examine it.

I

We all know the story of Abraham and how God had promised him a son from whom eventually the Messiah, Abraham’s soul’s salvation would come. We all know how Abraham had to wait until he was 100 years old for God to deliver on this promise. We all know how Sarah, Abraham’s scheming wife who was past child-bearing years, basically bribed her maid to sleep with Abraham and from that union Esau came to be. But, he was an illegitimate son, not an heir to God’s promise. And Sarah, Abraham, Esau, and later Isaac all had tempestuous relationships as a result of this sinful action.

But then, finally, Isaac was born! God kept His word. Our God never lies. And then one day when Isaac is in his late teens and his father is approaching 120 years old, God tells Abraham: “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

In retrospect, we know that this was the ultimate test of Abraham’s faith. This was one test he could not hedge his bets. God is very specific. Take your son—your only legitimate son, the one you dearly love—in other words, not Esau but Isaac—and kill him and burn his body as a test of your fidelity to Me. What an emotionally crippling blow to this old man! And since Abraham also knew that from Isaac his soul’s salvation would emanate, killing Isaac would mean: no salvation, no heaven, no glory in the hereafter. This was an all or nothing proposition from God Almighty that Abraham could not wiggle out from.

II

You know what happens next. The very next morning, Abraham sets out for Moriah with Isaac. Now, Moriah was the early name for the region that later became Jerusalem. And many traditions say that the mount God chose for Isaac’s sacrifice would later become the temple mount or Calvary itself. Of course, this all dovetails with Christ being the ultimate sacrifice for sin for us and the high altar of the temple being the apex of it all. So, in all this Isaac becomes a type of Christ, a forerunner of the greater sacrifice that would later take place. But Abraham didn’t know any of that.

Abraham simply obeys. He listens to God, even when his emotions scream otherwise. And after three days of travel (again the time frame is prophetic) they arrive on scene. Abraham builds the altar with Isaac’s help. He has his beloved son carry the wood and pile it upon the altar. Then he binds his son, just as Christ was later bound with our sins, and lays him on the altar. He lifts high the obsidian knife and prepares to strike the death blow. And just then, the angel of the Lord, pre-incarnate Christ calls to him and stays his hand. Note well that Isaac seemingly goes along with all this. He appears willing to accept his fate because he loves and trusts his father. So, too, Christ. He embraced the cross to save you and me and did so willingly. That’s all or nothing love in action, isn’t it?

III

As you listen to these next words, think of how God did not hedge His bets when it came to sacrificing His own Son to redeem your soul. “Do not lay a hand on the boy. 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.” The irony of all this is profound, beyond human comprehension. Indeed, God went all-in to save us!

Of course, the story has a happy ending. A ram was caught by its horns in a nearby bush—put there by God’s providential care. Abraham then took the ram and used it to replace Isaac. The sacrifice was complete. And Abraham renamed the mount: The Lord will provide—because He did, and has and does on nearby Golgotha.

And after this all takes place, the Angel of the Lord, Christ Himself, pronounces blessing on all involved. “I swear by myself, that because you have done this and not withheld your son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

We are those descendants today. We are recipients of that promise of eternal blessings through Isaac’s direct descendant, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God Who has taken away the sins of the world! My friends, here is the meaning of Lent played out before your eyes today! God didn’t hedge His bets when it came to saving us and we shouldn’t hedge our bets when it comes to trusting in that salvation. Amen