Ruth Hassall 9.15am 17th March 2013

St John’s Small Group Study Notes

From Ruth’s sermon on 17th March 2013

Passage: Genesis 22:1-19

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As we come to the end of this series looking at the life of Abraham, it’s good to remember where we started back in chapter 12 with God’s promise to Abraham:

• God had promised him a great nation
• that would be in the land that God would give them
• and they will be blessed

and all of this would come through Abraham’s own offspring – no small thing when at age 75 he and Sarah have no children. As we’ve travelled with Abraham and Sarah we’ve seen the ups and downs of their journey resulting in their joy as the promise begins to be fulfilled and Isaac is born.

And so they lived happily after? Not quite. In the midst of their joy God gives this disturbing command to Abraham.

What strikes you about Abraham’s response?

Why do you think God is testing Abraham in this way?

Faith and Action

Immediately we see Abraham’s response of obedience. His faith is seen in his actions. In his letter, James commends Abraham for this – look at James 2:21-24.

What is it that James picks up on?

But Abraham’s faith is also seen in his words to his servants: “I and the boy will go, we will worship, we will come back.” And not only to them but also in response to Isaac’s question about the lack of a lamb to sacrifice: “The Lord will provide.”

We see Abraham demonstrating faith that runs contrary to human reason and any possibility of the fulfilment of the promise. Abraham is demonstrating through his statement a faith that has been developed over the long years of waiting.

Has there ever been a time when you’ve felt God ask you to do something that seemed to go against human reason?

Some commentators suggest that Abraham was bluffing with the servants because he didn’t want them to know what he was about to do. But it’s in moments like this that we need to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.

Read Hebrews 11:17. What does this passage suggest Abraham was demonstrating?

Abraham had a faith in a God who was able to bring life out of death, and a God who keeps his promises, and as we reach the dramatic climax of the story we see Abraham’s faith in God as the promise maker and the promise keeper vindicated. God does indeed provide.

The focus of the passage is very much on the obedience of Abraham, and in the way in which he was willing to put his faith into costly action.

A W Tozer wrote this:

“Any faith that does not command the one who holds it is not a real belief: it is a pseudo belief only. And it might shock some of us profoundly if we were brought suddenly face to face with our beliefs and forced to test them in the fires of practical living.
Many of us Christians have become extremely skilful in arranging our lives so as to admit the truth of Christianity without being embarrassed by its implications.”

How do you respond to this quote?

Are there any areas that you are struggling with right now in bringing belief and action together?

The nature of testing

In this passage it is very clear that God is testing Abraham, but we need to ask what kind of test was this. Often when we talk about God testing his people it can sound as if he’s an insecure God who does these things just for us to prove that we love him. But that is not why and how God tests us.

Many people are currently training for the marathon, pushing their bodies to incredible limits to see what it is capable of. Faith is really only faith when there’s nothing else to rely on other than God. The nature of God’s testing is so that we can see that he is faithful, there is nothing beyond his control and also strengthens us as we see what our faith can stand up to. We sing many songs about being willing to follow God anywhere but we only actually know that this is true when we actually have to follow through in obedience.

Here we have a real life picture of what faith and obedience look like – it was not until Abraham’s faith was realised in this extreme act of obedience that it was fully known and revealed for what it was.

The nature of God

This passage also shows us something more of the nature of God.

Has it ever troubled you that God would ask this of Abraham?

What we don’t know from the recorded passage is that at that time, many of the other tribes would sacrifice their children on a regular basis in order to appease their many gods. Life for them was a fragile dance – if things were going well they needed to sacrifice to make sure that their gods stayed happy, and if things were going badly they needed to sacrifice to try and turn things around.

God was using a common occurrence in their culture to show that he was completely different – holy other – to those gods – this was something he would not ask his people to do, in fact later on he completely forbids it amongst his people.

The Christian life is without a doubt costly, Jesus makes no bones about that, and it certainly does require sacrifice. There are times when God asks us to lay things down for the sake of his kingdom, but really the question he is asking is “Do you trust me with that which is most important to you?” “Do you trust me to do what I have said I will do?”.

The Bigger Picture

It’s difficult to read this passage without picking up on the parallels with the Easter story. They are both stories of a Father who was willing to give up his son. However, in this passage we see that Issac is saved from death, and in Jesus we know that he saves through death. Isaac’s resurrection was a figurative one, whereas Jesus’ death and resurrection were literal. God did indeed provide the lamb, just as he had promised Abraham in his own situation, and for us too, making provision for what we could not provide ourselves.

Spend some time thanking God for his goodness, his faithfulness and his provision.

Bring any requests that the group have to God and pray for his leading in those situations.

20th Mar 2013 Posted in: Sermon Notes by Fran Varley 0

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