The date is now December 7, so I wonder how things are coming along with your Christmas plans. Do you have all your shopping done yet? Do you have your house decorated?
Show of hands: How many of you have your Christmas tree up?
How many have two Christmas trees up?
How many have lights up outside of the house?
Have you gone out looking at Christmas lights whether driving around or a specific display?
On Saturday, November 22, I joined a group from the church to visit a Christmas Tree display at the Akron Convention Center. How beautiful it was to see all those trees decorated and lit up. How neat it was to see all the themed Christmas trees. I love walking into a room all lit up with Christmas lights.
But our lights have an effect. Do you ever look up at the stars at night? Do you notice that you cannot see as many stars in the city as you can in the country? I once saw a program that said we have to go to the middle of the Atlantic in order to truly get away from the light pollution, wow! Yet, electric lighting revolutionized the world. We were already in the industrial revolution, but when electric lighting came, wow! But we know that Thomas Edison did not invent light, just the electric light bulb. Now, we have lights everywhere. Think about night baseball games, night football games, night soccer games, indoor night basketball games at night, we have services here after dark, headlights on our cars, lights outside our houses, parking lot lights and lighthouses. Is that all because of the light bulb? I don’t think so, I think it is all because we need light. Think about it, if we did not need light, the light bulb would have been another unimportant invention. We need light.
We need light and God provided light from the beginning. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was. Later God created the sun, moon and stars. But that is not the only light which we need and needed. We needed salvation. We needed a sacrifice. God sent us the Light of the World. God sent His own sacrifice. He was prophesies about in the Old Testament.
Singer Michael Card wrote a song called The Promise, and he wrote a little Christmas devotional on this theme:
Christianity is founded on a promise. Faith involves waiting on a promise. Our hope is based on a promise.
Promises are made with words. … .that part of myself that goes with every promise is given to you through my words….
Our God is the great maker of promises… His word, our Bible, is a collection of the promises… most of these concern Jesus, who came to be known as “the Promised One”
Through all these promises, God was trying to give something of Himself to Adam, and to Israel, and finally to us. The Bible tells us that when the Promised One came, the Lord poured all of Himself into Him.
What a costly thing it can be to make a promise – it cost Jesus His life.
Today, we continue our Advent series of sermons. Advent means “waiting” The idea is that we are waiting on Jesus to come and make things right. In reality, we all know that He has come and this is why we are here. Today, we look at a very familiar Old Testament story. Yet, as familiar as this is, this is prophetic in looking towards the Christ Child. We see once again that God provides the Light. God provides the sacrifice needed for Abraham and for us.
Read with me Genesis 22:1-14:
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
3Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
6Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
9When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “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.”
13Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
The great idea in this passage is that the Lord provides. So I want to talk about how the Lord provides the sacrifice. The Lord sends the Light. Three times in verses 1-14 we see the idea that the Lord provides.
- Let’s overview this narrative.
- In verse 1 God talks to Abraham and notice that Abraham has no hesitation. Abraham immediately said, “Here I am.”
- Verse 2 has God giving Abraham instructions as to what to do. Notice how specific this is:
- Take your son…
- Your only son…
- whom you love…
- sacrifice him as a burnt offering.
- Realize that Abraham had another son, Ishmael, whom he sent away. He was not the son of the promise. He was not the son by Abraham and Sarah. Isaac was.
- This was Abraham’s only son and he loves him.
- Yet, God tells him to sacrifice him. What was this like for Abraham? What were his emotions?
- Whatever it was like for Abraham, God did this with His Son.
- John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.
- Notice that Jesus, God’s one and only Son is the Son of promise. Isaac was the son of promise to Abraham. By Isaac all the world will be blessed. The lineage goes on to Jesus and in Him, through His death and resurrection all the world will be blessed.
- Verse 3, the next verse says that Abraham got up early in the morning and he began his trip to obey God.
- I heard someone say, “I wonder if he told Sarah.” That is a thought. I wonder if he just said they were going out for a bit. Do you think he could have actually told Sarah that he was going to kill her only son? No way!
- I bet if he told her that she would have stopped it. That is not saying that she had less faith, but this was her only son.
- Verse 5 shows that this is about worship. There were two servants with them. Abraham has the servants wait. Abraham says that they will worship and then they will return.
- Isn’t that interesting? Abraham was told to sacrifice his son, yet he tells the servants they will return. Maybe Abraham did not wish for the servants to come with him and try to restrain him from following the Lord’s command? Or, maybe Abraham thought that Isaac was the child of promise and so God would raise him up again. Maybe he thought his son, Isaac, was the Messiah. They were waiting on someone to make things right.
- They have the wood, the fire and the knife and they are going up to make the sacrifice. Isaac is carrying the wood for his own sacrifice. Hmm. You know that in John 19:17 it says that Jesus carried His own cross?
- By the way, Isaac is not a young child. He is an adult. The Jewish historian Josephus says that he is probably twenty-five years old. We never think of him that young.
- In verse 8: Abraham says that God will provide the lamb. Isaac knew what he would need for a sacrifice. But see that. Abraham had strong faith. God will provide.
- We look at this today and we are looking back and we see that God provided Jesus, our eternal lamb.
- Abraham places his son on the alter and pulls the knife. He is about to kill him when an angel interrupts him. The angel may have been a normal angel or he might have been Jesus in the Old Testament. Sometimes when the Bible says the Angel of the Lord it is referring to Jesus.
- Abraham is stopped and then they see a ram caught in the bushes by its horns.
- God provided the sacrifice.
- God provided a sacrifice for Abraham.
- God provided a sacrifice for us and the sacrifice was His own Son.
- John 1:36 John the baptizer says look at the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. 1 John 4:9; John 3:16 both talk about God sending His one and only Son.
- Isa 53:7: Jesus is like a lamb to the slaughter.
- Verse 14: Abraham calls that place the Lord provides.
- Abraham needed a sacrifice. God gave him the sacrifice.
- But the sacrifice for Abraham was foreshadowing the sacrifice for the rest of the world. Truly through Abraham all the world would be blessed.
- Close to two thousand years later a descendant of Abraham would be born and raised. He would be just over twenty-five years old at the age of thirty-three. He would be God’s Son and He would carry His own cross and this time the angel would not stop the death. This time He would die. He would die as our sacrifice. God provided the Light. But praise God He did not stay in the grave. He became the first fruits of the resurrection. (1 Cor. 15)
- Our Lord provides! Amen! Jehovah Jireh is how that name is translated.
That through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.(Hebrews 2:14–15)
But not just to die. Jesus was born to be raised from the dead (Revelation 1:18). He is the Resurrection and the Life and whoever believes in him “though he die yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem it was the dawn of death’s destruction. It made possible the fast-approaching time when,
He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8)
Today is the second Sunday of Advent, the season on the Christian calendar that climaxes at Christmas. “Advent” means “something’s coming, something’s about to arrive.”
It is called “Advent season” because the Christian church takes this time of the year to intentionally do what all of creation is doing. Creation is enslaved, held captive. Sin and Death hold the world in their grip, and we all feel it. Life hurts. We get depressed. Our bodies break down, or they just break. People hurt us, reject us, people hurt themselves. Families fall apart.
In this condition, what is creation doing? It is waiting. It is expecting. A long time ago the people of God were waiting for their redeemer, the one who was promised, who would come and deliver God’s people from oppression and captivity. God sent Jesus into the world to provide salvation, to make God’s initial move to redeem the world. So we celebrate Christmas.
But we celebrate not only the singular day that commemorates the arrival of the Son of God, we participate in the entire Advent season, since we still find ourselves in a posture of waiting. We are waiting for the return of Jesus to come and save, to redeem us from oppression and save us from our brokenness and sin. We are waiting for God to come back and fix the world finally and forever.
This is the prayer from http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearA_RCL/Advent/AAdv1_RCL.html