The Test

Scripture: Genesis 22:1-17

1 Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” 
2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” 
3 The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. 
4 On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 
5 “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” 
6 So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, 
7 Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” 
8 “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together. 
9 When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 
10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 
11 At that moment the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!” 
12“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” 
13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 
14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the LORD will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” 
15 Then the angel of the LORD called again to Abraham from heaven. 
16 “This is what the LORD says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. 

Introduction

I was driving to the hosptial and listening to a song that providentially popped up on YouTube and the words of the song sparked the flame of inspiration and I wrote the outlne down on an old receipt that was laying in my truck. What we have here is an old, old story that ends with our Savior getting glory. When I read this story, I see some beautiful pictures. This story is an object lesson that teaches.

I. THE FIRST PICTURE IS THAT OF AUTHENTIC WORSHIP

Of course you have the elements of O.T. worship in the story, the Altar and the Sacrifice but we will come back to those symbols later. Our worship today is not what it should be and I think I know why. On Mount Moriah, Abraham gave God the best that he had. He gave God his most prized treasure, his son Issac. Our worship today is not about our giving to God, we come here to get, not to give. I’m not talking about the offering although that is a central part of worship and another area where we fail–I’m talking about our attitude. We have the idea that we are supposed to get something out of worship and we are so focused on getting a blessing, a fuzzy feeling, inspired, convicted, etc. that we forget that worship is not about us recieving from God but giving to God. Worship is about HIM, not us. We have made it about ourselves and have thus corrupted the entire process. The result is: we come in here and expect someone to do something for us. We don’t enter thinking, what can I do for Christ. What kind of praise can I offer my Savior. We are probably better at giving our money than we are our devotion, attention, praise and adoration. Think about it, how many of you give your absolute best when we stand to praise the LORD?


I wonder if Jesus would say the same thing to us that He said to the Pharisees… You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ ” 


Abraham experienced authentic worship because he was focused on pleasing God, not himself.

II. I SEE A PICTURE OF TOTAL COMMITMENT 

Abraham waited a long time to be a father and in a manner of speaking, Issac was his only son. His only child by his beloved wife Sarah. There is no question that he loved this boy dearly, more than life itself. Abraham’s future was bound up in his son. It is not hard for me to understand what was going on. Abraham was beginning to put more faith in his son that the One who gave him the son. He was allowing Issac to become his idol, the chief object of his love and devotion. This can easily happen to any parent, we begin living for the child instead living for the ONE who gave us the child. Abraham fully believed that God wanted the child and he was willing to make that sacrifice although it was killing him. But God didn’t want the child, He wanted Abraham’s full commitment.


What we have here is a picture of Abraham giving to God his most prized treasure. God knew and so did Abraham, that if he was willing to give his son, there was nothing that he would withhold because the son meant more to him than life.
  • What do you love more today than Jesus? God wants it…
  • What object or person have you put before God? God wants you to lay it down!
  • Who are you living for? Who are you trying to please more than Christ? God wants you to lay it down today.

God wants you to pray the Jame L. Nicholson prayer

Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
I want Thee forever to live in my soul;
Break down every idol, cast out every foe
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

God did not want Issac’s physical life…He wanted Abraham total devotion

III. I SEE A PICTURE OF SAVING FAITH

Jesus disciples had a problem, they had a little faith. Matter of fact, Jesus nick named them “Little Faiths.” Do you remember what Jesus said to Peter when he failed to stay above the waves, when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink in Matthew 14…this is what Jesus did and said, Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  [Remember, Peter is the only one who had enough faith to get out of the boat but Jesus assessed his faith as “very little.”


Father Abraham had big faith. The writer of Hebrews said… It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead. 


We see this incredible faith not only in what Abraham did but in what he said…[v.4-5] 

On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 

“Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” 


This leads us right into the next picture…

IV. I SEE A PICTURE OF THE RESURRECTION

First of all, the writer of Hebrews says that Abraham did experience a resurrection in type. I believe that Abraham believed that even if he took the boys life, God would raise him up. Why else would he tell his servants, “We will return to you.” I also believe that Abraham entertained the thought that Issac could possible be the Messiah. Issac is the most Lamb like figure in the Bible other than Jesus. How many 14 year old boys are going to carry the wood for their own sacrifice. When I was 14, I could run like a deer and you can bet your last dollar that had my dad been leading me to the slaughter, I would have broke and run. My daddy was 40 years older than me: he could not outrun me at that age. Abraham was 100 years older than Issac. What I am saying is this…The boy was willing to die just to please his father.


Of course, God does not approve of Child Sacrifice.  God said through Jeremiah the prophet,  “Such a horrible thing has never entered My mind.” The only Child Sacrifice that God approved was that of His own Son. Thus God stopped Abraham from slaying his own son but it was like a resurrection because Abraham had already went through the agony and grief of giving his son up.

V. FINALY, IT IS A PICTURE OF THE ATONEMENT

God does require a sacrifice but that sacrifice has to be His doing. Adam and Eve learned this lesson the hard way. They tried to cover their sin and shame with a puny fig leaf apron but God would not accept that as a suitable sacrifice because it cost them nothing and it was the work of their own hands. Folks, no one has the ability to save themselves and no one can present a worthy sacrifice for their sins. THE LESSON ON MOUNT MORIAH is….GOD MUST PROVIDE THE SACRIFICE.


This is exactly what God did in Christ…

  • Romans 8:3–God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins
  • Hebrews 10:4-5–It is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 
    That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer
  • I John 2:2–He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world

Like it or not, Jesus love you and He died for you…there is absolutely nothing you can do about it…it is an accomplished fact. Perhaps this does not impress you but it should. The old hymn ROCK OF AGES comes to mind…

  1. Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
    Let me hide myself in Thee;
    Let the water and the blood,
    From Thy wounded side which flowed,
    Be of sin the double cure,
    Save from wrath and make me pure.
  2. Not the labor of my hands
    Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
    Could my zeal no respite know,
    Could my tears forever flow,
    All for sin could not atone;
    Thou must save, and Thou alone.
  3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
    Simply to Thy cross I cling;
    Naked, come to Thee for dress;
    Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
    Foul, I to the fountain fly;
    Wash me, Savior, or I die.
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Extravagant Love

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 26:6-13, NLT

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head.

The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10 But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? 11 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. 12 She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. 13 I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”

INTRODUCTION

This story is told in two gospels: Matthew and Mark. John alludes to the story and tells us it was Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Mark’s account adds some detail. Luke tells a similar story but it happens at Simon the Pharisee’s home and this is Simon the Leper. Obviously, he is no longer a leper but perhaps he still bears the scars or people identify him as the man who once had leprosy. We are not told but I think there is reason to believe Jesus had healed him and this banquet is in honor of Jesus his Savior. We know there were at least 17 people there but probably several more. Martha was being Martha and was helping with the serving. The story Luke tells is of a woman who has a reputation on the street and this does not seem to fit Mary although she did love deeply like the woman in Luke. This is a fantastic story about worship and love which you really cannot separate. I think the degree of your worship will be determined by the degree of your love and vice versa. Mary excelled at worship. You might say, “It was her strength.”

FIRST OF ALL: MARY HAD THE ABILITY TO FOCUS ON ONE THING

Remember the story in Luke 10 of Martha preparing lunch for Jesus and Mary sitting at His feet listening to every word. Martha came to Jesus an complained about her lazy sister…do you remember what Jesus said to Martha?  “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Mary had this ability to tune everything out other than Jesus. I honestly believe that our worship is corrupted by vain thoughts. We come in here thinking about everything in the world except the right thing which of course is Jesus. We have had some tough Sunday School lessons lately and the one today was very hard on me. I struggle not to be distracted. I have the Martha tendencies. Luke says that Martha was distracted with all the preparations [Luke 10:40]. I sit on the front row so I will not be distracted. I close my eyes at times to keep from being distracted. There is no one in the building trying to distract me. My problem does not lie with others, my problem is within. I do not maintain my focus. Mary was a laser; Martha was a shotgun. A shotgun can make a lot of noise but a laser is much more powerful. When we come in here {Sanctuary}, we have to tune the world out. We have to tune everything out except Jesus.

I love the last verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn LOVE DIVINE ALL LOVES EXCELLING….

Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise

Mary was lost in wonder, love and praise. What is it like to be lost in wonder? I think it is to be absorbed into the infinite greatness of Christ to the point that you don’t exist. Our self is consumed by his glory. Isaiah got lost in wonder and he cried “Woe am I, for I am a man of unclean lips.” Peter got lost in wonder and he cried, “Go away from me LORD, for I am a sinful man.”

A SECOND FACTOR IS THAT MARY WAS UNINHIBITED

As far as Mary was concerned, there was only one man in the room and that was Jesus. She did not enter the room thinking about Simon or Judas. She was focused on Jesus to the point that no one else was in the room. Mary was just being Mary, she was not distracted by all the others in the room. She really didn’t care what they thought about her gift or her manner of presenting it. She was so focused on Jesus that He is all she seen. This is why Mary can teach us tons on worship. She did not allow the distractions or the others in the room to hinder her worship.

Mary lived in a man’s world and the room was filled with men. It is very possible that those seated around the table were all men. We know Martha was there but she was serving which is what women are supposed to do in that culture. Mary in uninterested in the meal or serving the meal: she goes directly to Jesus and anoints his head with the costly perfume.

Is there anyone else in this room who thought like Mary? Is there anyone in this room that would embarrass themselves for the sake of Christ? Was there anyone else in the room who didn’t give a rat’s rear end what the others thought?

None of the men with the exception of Jesus appreciate what she did. They looked down on her with contempt and were openly critical. Mary did not use her brain, she wasted a year’s wage by pouring this expensive perfume on Jesus head. The men in the room were indignant. Why such waste? This perfume cost a small fortune. Today it would be worth 50-60 thousand dollars. The rational men in the room jumped on Mary, what she did was so dumb to them. But she did not do it for them.

Jesus rebuked them for criticizing Mary. “Leave her alone. She has done a good thing. She has done what she could.” Mary could not take Jesus place on the cross but she could anoint his body for burial. She was making every attempt to lighten Jesus load.

How inhibited are we in worship? I would say ‘extremely!’ We are self-conscious and crowd-conscious. We are more worried about pleasing or displeasing the person sitting beside us than we are Jesus. Mary gave her best; she refused to hold back. Do you give Christ your best when we sing? I know the answer. Very few people in this building give Him your best and the number one reason why you don’t is your lack of courage. You are afraid of what others will think of you. Who give a rip. Did they die for you? Would they die for you? He died for you!

A THIRD TIP THAT MARY COULD GIVE US IS BE EXTRAVANGANT IN WORSHIP

This bottle of perfume was costly, very expensive, much more than Mary could afford. The men were thinking…”This woman is crazy. Jesus is going to be dead by the end of the week, why the entire bottle. Why didn’t she use a few drops and save the rest.” You are thinking like rational men, she was thinking like a person in love. Love never gets out the calculator. Love does not think, “How little can I give and this gift still be respectable.” Love is self-sacrificing. Mary would have given 10 bottles of perfume had she had them. She wanted Jesus to have the most precious thing in her possession. She is probably wishing she had more while they are thinking, you did too much.

ONE FINAL TIP FROM MARY: SHE WAS A SPONGE–A CONTEMPLATIVE LISTENER

Mary was a listener. The first time we meet her she is sitting at the feet of Jesus soaking up every word. Mary was the only one of Jesus followers who seemed to sense that the end was near and I am not surprised because men are not good listener, she picked up on things they had missed. She could tell by what Jesus said and how He said it, the cross was immanent. She sensed His burden: the men didn’t have a clue. Jesus has less than a week to live. She acted before it was too late. She seized her opportunity. These men are going to have some regrets but Mary did all she could when she could. They accused her of wasting the perfume but nothing done for Jesus is a waste. Dr. Vance Havner use to say, “We have but one life and it will soon past and only what we do for Jesus will last.” Mary was a good worshipper because she was a good listener and very sensitive to what Jesus said.

CONCLUSION

Jesus lived a lonely life. No one understood Him. His disciples did not want Him to return to Jerusalem. They knew the Jewish leaders were hostile and were capable of anything but Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem and He would not relent. On the trip in, Jesus walked several feet in front of his entourage. He had talked of His death openly but no one wanted to hear it so they just tuned the part about the suffering and death out. Mary was one of the very few who had listened. She was sensitive to Jesus burden. She may not have done much on the grand scheme of things but she did what she could and Jesus appreciated her devotion, her love and her gift. Who can say what her act of kindness meant to Jesus? I don’t know and have no way of finding out but I can tell you how it would work in my life. If I had a rough ordeal in my path, an act of devotion, love and kindness like that of Mary would be a treasured memory. I would use that memory to help me get through the tough times. We know that Jesus thought of others while He was on the cross but He may have thought of Mary’s loving kindness. REMEMBER: Mary had a small window [6 days]. She anointed Jesus for his burial before He was crucified. It was a timely act. A once in a life time opportunity and Mary did not let it slip by. Who do you have the opportunity to help? Is there someone in your life that needs their roses before their funeral. You can wait until the funeral to send the roses but it would mean more to them if you did it now.