LENT 1, B – February 22, 2015

SCRIPTURES – Genesis 22:1-18; James 1:12-18; Mark 1:9-15

 

     “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” Gen. 22

 

Boy, there’s nothing like an hour of shoveling heavy, wet snow to get you ready to worship! But, a hot shower, some ibuprofen, and I’m ready to go! At least I didn’t have to cut some wood, saddle my donkey, and prepare to sacrifice my child.

 

The God we worship is not an easy God. In fact, sometimes He’s very hard and unreasonable. And yet, He expects us to worship Him. He demands that we worship Him.

 

What is worship? If you were to ask people, you would probably get answers like, “Worship is choosing to gathering together with others to sing religious songs, pray, and listen to sacred words.” Well, how about this for a definition: Worship is obeying God. This is what we see in Abraham. And so, in this story from Abraham’s life we see that:

 

THE WORSHIP THAT PLEASES GOD IS OBEDIENCE TO HIM

 

  1. OBEDIENCE TO HIS WORD OF COMMAND.

     

    Why did Abraham worship as he did? God commanded him to do so. Never forget that you are commanded to worship God! “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy,” is the 3rd of God’s Ten Commandments. How can you be honoring God and keeping His day holy if you are unwilling to listen to Him and worship Him? You are sinning greatly against Him; and He will not ignore this or take this lightly. His anger and displeasure will rest upon you and bring many sorrows upon you.

     

    But, who wants to think of worship as obedience? Worship should be the free and glad response of our hearts to God, right? Worshiping because you have to—how mechanical this sounds! It would surely not be very satisfying, neither to you nor to God.

     

    Realize something, however: in commanding us to worship God is stating that He wants us to know Him and be united with Him. He is not distant, uninvolved and unconcerned. He cares for us, and even for how we respond to Him. Is not this a great blessing? But a relationship with God must be directed by Him. He alone is truly holy, and so He alone knows what is truly right and good.

     

    Consider the account from Genesis 22. God commands Abraham “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.” What kind of a God would give such a command? Child sacrifice—this is utterly wrong! Such a command is offensive, utterly contrary to what is right and good. God here seems to contradict His own command to not murder. Who could worship such a God, much less obey Him? Doesn’t this story make you squirm?

     

    But, this is in our Bible. This is our God! We see here very clearly that God is not One with whom we can always be comfortable. Now, you can ignore stories like this and pay attention only to the comfortable and pleasing stories about Him in the Bible. You will then have a false god, an idol. If you want to have Him as your God and have Him receive you and your worship, you must have Him completely, as He is. You cannot accept some things the Bible says about Him and some of His commands but ignore or reject the things you don’t like.

  • Just as you cannot have a part-time spouse. Along with the things you love about your spouse come other things you don’t like.

     

    This difficult story from Genesis 22 is important because it teaches us that it is in the uncomfortableness of God that we are truly blessed. No matter what the command of God may be, no matter how wrong or harsh it may appear, following it in faith will result in blessing. It will because God is good, unfailingly and completely good. Therefore, whatever He says is for our blessing.

 

Learn what the Bible reveals about Him and the great promises God gives, and you will be sure of God’s goodness. And, like Abraham, you will be able to worship Him with your obedience.

 

  1. THE WORSHIP THAT PLEASES GOD RESTS UPON HIS PROMISE.

     

    Is God truly for us? Outward appearances, events in your life, and even at times God’s own commands may make it seem that God is not on your side, or that He doesn’t care. At such times you must trust and follow God and turn your back on everything else: on what seems right; on what people say; and even on how you feel.

     

    Consider Abraham. He expresses such great trust and confidence in God as he gets up early the next morning and sets off to sacrifice his son! He speaks confidently: “I and the boy will worship and come again to you.” They will both return! How could he be so confident? He knew his God. He was confident because God had been good to Him many times previously and faithful to the promises He had given him.

  • God had promised Abraham a son, and, even though it was many years until He kept that promise – both Abraham and Sarah were far beyond child-bearing years when Isaac was born – God kept His promise. Isaac was a gift!

  • Also, God had promised that all nations on the earth would be blessed through Isaac. Abraham believed that God would keep this promise, even if it meant that He would have to raise Isaac from the dead.

    Abraham obeyed and worshiped as God directed because he believed that God would be faithful to His promise and save his son. He saw God do so by providing a substitute: a ram that was caught in a thicket.

     

    This story was written down for us so that we would learn about God our Father and in Christ be assured of His love for us and His great desire to save us. We think of Jesus when we hear this story, for in so many ways Isaac reminds us of Jesus.

  • Like Jesus, Isaac is called “your son, your only son, whom you love.”

  • Like Jesus, Isaac carries the wood for his own sacrifice;

  • It is on the 3rd day when they worship and Isaac is set free from death.

    Isaac’s life here foreshadows Jesus’s life. But, don’t miss the real focus of this story: Abraham. He is a type of God our Father and illustrates His love for us.

 

Can you imagine how difficult, how heart-wrenching it must have been for Abraham to carry out God’s command? He loved his son so much! Sorrow and grief, along with hope, must have filled his heart and mind as he walked up that mountain and carried the fire and the knife with which he would slay and consume his son.

 

God the Father carried the fire and the knife as His Son, His only Son whom He loved, carried the cross up the hill on which He would be crucified. No angel cried out to stay His hand that day, however. He plunged the knife in. Jesus did not die from the suffering of being crucified. He died because His Father made Him responsible for the sins of us all. He punished His Son for them; and with the punishment for sin – death and hell – God consumed Him.

 

How could God the Father do this to His Son? He did so out of the greatness of the love He has for us sinners. His love is so great that He is willing to slay His Son to save us from the death and hell we deserve because of our sins. Abraham was willing to say his son Isaac because he loved God and trusted in hope that God would somehow save his son. Even so, God our Father offered up His Son in the hope of our salvation. This is the kind of God, the kind of Father, we have. How can we not listen to Him, obey Him, and gladly worship Him?

 

Don’t ever reject any of God’s words or let any of them be taken from you. Cling to the promises of God to you in Christ! Cling to His promises and follow His commands. By them God will then enable you to worship with the worship of obedience; and your heavenly Father will be pleased with you. He will be pleased to complete your worship and perfect it by raising you to eternal life heaven and adding your voice to the eternal worship of His angels! Through Him who for us was perfectly and completely obedient to His Father, even unto death: Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.