Archive for the ‘Genesis 22:1-18’ Category

Where’s the Lamb?!

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Lent 1 B, February 26, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My Father!”  And he said, “Here I am, my son.”  He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”  Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” [Genesis 22:7,8]

In 1984, Wendy’s Restaurant entered the hamburger wars with one purpose, to demonstrate their superiority over McDonalds and Burger King.  They did it with one question: “Where’s the Beef?!”  In commercial after commercial they hammered home the idea that while their competitor’s buns looked nice, there was very little substance between them.

Today, like Wendy’s,  the church has many competitors also; places of supposed worship and spiritual renewal that promise a way to give your life meaning and purpose.  They have strategies and techniques all designed to help you make sense of this world.  But each of them, have very little or nothing at all to say about Jesus’ sacrificial death.  So we need to ask, “Where’s the Lamb!?”  You’ve got to have real sacrifice in order to pay for real sin.  Techniques and strategies won’t do it, and neither will good intentions.  There must be life, death, sacrifice, and atonement.  That is God’s only way.

Sacrifice for sins, our sins has been God’s way since the very first sin was committed in the Garden of Eden.    When our first parents sinned,  God Himself killed an animal to provide clothing for Adam and Eve.  An animal had to die so that they could cover their shame.  From that first sacrifice, God regularly commanded His people to choose a spotless lamb and sacrifice it as a sin offering; a way to cover their sins.

In a way to teach Abraham about the quality of His faith, God moved him to offer a sacrifice.  I’m sure that Abraham had done this many times.  He knew the proper way to choose the spotless lamb, he knew how to bind the lamb so that it wouldn’t be able to run, and he knew how to cut its throat so that the blood would be shed for the sins that must be atoned for.  So when God told Abraham that it was time for a sacrifice, this did not come as a surprise, but what did come as a surprise, no a shock, was the fact that his son, his only son Isaac was to be the lamb; the sacrifice pleasing to the Lord.

As a Father, I can’t even imagine being asked to do this, let alone actually performing it.  I am afraid, I would have refused, and because of that truth, I would have failed the test, God’s test.  So does that mean I would have been punished for my disobedience?  No because God Himself has provided the lamb!

Recall from our Old Testament reading, Abraham and Isaac, and two of Abraham’s servants made their way to a mountain in the land of Moriah.  When they arrived at the base of the mountain, Abraham instructed his servants to wait at the base while he and his son went up to worship.  And what did he say to them?  “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”  He said that both of them would come back, and yet he knew that his son was to be the sacrifice!

And then as father and son were walking up the mountain, the son carrying the wood and the father carrying the fire and knife, the son looks into His father’s eyes and asks a very good question: “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burn offering?”  (And Father) “Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burn offering my son.””  But as far as Abraham knew, God had already provided the sacrifice; it would be Isaac himself, or would it?

So why didn’t Abraham respond as I truthfully told you I would; why didn’t He refuse?  Because He had God’s Word, God’s promise that through Isaac and no one else, the promised Savior, the once and for all Spotless Lamb of God would come to give up His life, spill His blood for the sins of all mankind!  Abraham reasoned with Himself that because God can not lie, and because God is the giver of all good things, even if He were to actually have the father take the life of his son, God Himself would raise him up from the ashes of the burnt offering because it is through Isaac alone, that the Savior would come.  Without Isaac there is no Savior and without a Savior there can be no Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  So, God will provide because He always does!

There on the top of Mt. Moriah, bound in death, are both the father and son.  The son is bound with physical ropes, but both of them are bound just as tight, both emotionally and spiritually.  Have you ever felt so oppressed by an experience that physical death seemed insignificant?  That is certainly how this father and son must have felt; they both felt as good as dead.  That is always the result of God’s command, which demands, YOU MUST DO THIS, BUT I OFFER YOU NO HELP OR HOPE.  JUST DO AS YOU’RE TOLD!  But then, they both remember the promise….  “Through isaac shall come the Savior.”  Their fear has now been replaced by their trust in God’s faithfulness to provide, even in death.  In this moment, all of their pride and self reliance is taken away.  They are standing helpless in front of an almighty God!  The fathers’s hand grasps the knife, finds its mark on the throat of his son and begins to come down when God Himself calls out with the gospel: “Stop!  Don’t lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for (now you know what I know) that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”. Now instead of death, God’s Word speaks life!

And Abraham looked up, and there caught in the bushes by it’s horn was a ram.  And Abraham took the ram, bound it and sacrificed it as a burn offering instead of his son.  Where’s the lamb?  God will provide it.  Where’s the way to cover up our sins, to make all things right with God?  God will provide the way!  Abraham knew that God was faithful; He knew that He alone would provide a way out of what seemed to be a hopeless and helpless situation.  He knew that God would make all things new and right because somehow his son Isaac played a part in God’s ultimate way of making things right; through Isaac would come God’s own Son from heaven to be God’s ultimate spotless Lamb who would take away our sin.

Thousands of years latter Jesus Christ, true Son of God and Son of man would walk to the same mountain in the land called Moriah, a land that was now called Jerusalem.  As Isaac carried the wood intended to burn his own body as a sacrifice, Jesus also carried His own wood, the tree of woe that He would also obediently lay down upon.  But their would be no voice from heaven staying the execution; no, this execution must go on.  This son of man and Son of God must suffer and die.  He must spill his blood as a sacrifice for all sin.

Jesus is the spotless lamb that God has provided once and for all.  He is both the ultimate sacrificial lamb and the scape goat.  He is the fulfillment of God’s promise that was first given in Genesis, repeated in Exodus and every other book of the Bible.  At the cross of Jesus, God has provided the Lamb for the entire world.  At the cross of Jesus the fruit of redemption and forgiveness are yours.  But what good is the fruit if you do not receive it?

In your baptism God gives you the fruit of the cross.  From the fruit of one tree we received sin and the punishment, but in the fruit of the cross God gives us forgiveness and peace.  In your baptism, God washed away your identity as a sinner and he gave you the identity of His Son, His only begotten Son.  God did what you and I could never do, He sacrificed His Son.  On the cross Jesus fulfilled what Isaac could not; He laid down His life in obedience to the will and plan of the Father.  This atonement for sin, along with Christ’s obedience is what you have been washed with in your baptism.  It is Christ’s identity; it is your new identity!  Every day God’s Word of law speaks fear and death to your sinful flesh; putting it to death so that your new baptismal identity is strengthened in the proclamation of the gospel!

Each of us should forever rejoice that God called out of heaven to stop the hand of the father from taking the life of his son.  He did it so that His hand could give the life of His Son to save us.  But there was another call from heaven that day that we must also hear.  It is the call of promise; a promise to Christ’s church and a promise to you!  Listen: And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.  And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.

Friends, you are all brothers and sisters because you have one Creator Father, God Himself, but you also have one father of faith and that is Abraham, just  as the children sing, “Father Abraham has many sons, many sons has father Abraham; I am one of them and so are you!”  You are his children because you relate to God by grace, through faith, just as Abraham did!  Abraham believed the Savior would come through his son and you believe that He already has; you believe that Jesus is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world, even your sin!

Because we believe, because we are Christians, the world is watching how we live our lives.  They’re not so much worried about how good we are as how good our God and Savior is.  They want to see what forgiveness looks like, because if they can see you living out forgiveness, they’ll know that they can have it too!  Do you want to be a good witness for the gospel?  Good, then demonstrate what it’s like living as a sinner who’s been washed clean by the blood of the lamb!

Where’s the beef?  Where’s the meat of our Christian life?  It’s in the forgiveness of sins; our sins and the sins of our neighbor.  Everyone wants forgiveness, but we can’t receive it without the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!

Jesus Walks With Us!

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Jesus Walks With Us!
Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
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This morning dear friends, God’s Word comes to us in all 3 readings bringing parts of the same message: Repent and believe!  As God spoke to Abraham at Mt. Moriah, He also speaks to us: “Take your pride and your joy, along with your fears and worries and offer them to Me as a sacrifice of faith.  Do not doubt, but trust my work in your life.  Give these things to me so that you may draw closer to me and enter into a relationship of love, the likes of which you have never experienced before!” 

What is meant by our pride and joy, fear and worry?  Well friends, we don’t have to look any further than our present economic condition to get an answer to that question.  If you let the media and the government control your attitude, you might just become a little worried and afraid.  Questions race through our minds like, “Will my job survive this crisis and if not how will I take care of my family without that income?  Will my retirement annuity be enough to support me until I die or will I end up being a burden to my children?  When these fears and worries begin to control our thinking we may tend to lose our confidence in God’s care and love and look to other things like money as our source of strength and security.  Friends, our source of hope cannot be found in President Obama, the stimulus package, or the republican tax cuts.  If we trust in these things we will only be disappointed, and this disappointment will invariably lead us to think and do things that we would normally never dream of.  What things?  How about cutting back on your offering to God but continuing your spending on entertainment and non-essential food items and drinks?  How about lying on your taxes so that you can get a better return?  How about over charging your customers for services rendered?  How about stealing from your employer?  After all, they have more than they need, and you are in need!

I recently heard the story about a Christian woman who claimed that God takes care of her by bringing law suits her way.  If her coffee is too hot and she burns her mouth she sues.  If the floor is slippery in a store, she claims that she twisted her ankle and she sues.  If she is visiting a friend’s house and their dog jumps on her to great her with a kiss, she sues!  Why?  Well it’s because she says that they are all better off than she is, and God wants her to be blessed too!

All of these examples can only be described as sin; sin that separates us from the love of God.  What is the solution? The very same solution that Abraham gave to his son Isaac: Believe that “The Lord will provide!”  Friends, don’t trust in anyone or anything for hope but God alone.  

When testing and temptation come, we must learn to draw closer to God.  Now for some, this is much easier to say than to do.  It can be so tempting to take matters into your own hands and find an immediate solution to your problem.  For others, you might not want to hand your problems over to God because maybe you blame Him for letting things get so out of control.  Dear friends, please hear me, this is precisely the time you must turn to God by faith and trust in His promise; a promise that says that “for those who love God, all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” [Rom. 8:28] To this we might say, “But why then if God loves me is He allowing these things to happen to me?  Doesn’t He know I am hurting and in need?  Doesn’t He love me enough to help me?”  Yes friend He knows your hurting and in need, and He hasn’t left your side for a moment, and that’s precisely the point.  That’s why you should not be afraid.  He’s with you and He’s teaching you to go through the tough times with Him so that you will learn to stick to Him, trust Him, and experience His great love for you.  Now someone might ask, “How can I experience His love and concern when everything seems so dark and hopeless?”  The answer dear friends can only be learned through Jesus Christ! 

Jesus is God’s assurance that we will be protected from all of life’s hardships and He is our insurance that nothing can ever separate us from God’s eternal love, presence, and care!  God teaches us these truths through His Word, which when heard and read creates and strengthens our faith, and then in-turn creates and strengthens our love for God and our reliance on His care for us.  You see, love for God and trust in His care is really the result of our faith.  The Lord’s promises to you stimulates your love for Him; it is God’s love that assures you that He will never leave or forsake you because you love Him.  He delights in giving you the crown of eternal life.  Just as your faith strengthens you when you are under trials, so also does your love for Him who first loved you and died to save you.

Now all of this being true, someone might ask, “But why then does God choose trials and testings when He knows I will be tempted and fall into sin?”  And to this, our Epistle lesson answers, “Let no none when tempted say: “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts on one.  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by (their) own desire.” [James 1:13-14]

How many here remember that old 70’s T.V. show Hee-Haw?  In one skit, old Doc Campbell is confronted by a patient who says he broke his arm in two places, to which the doc replies, “Well then stay out of them places!”  The point is, we can’t regularly put ourselves in the face of temptation and not be affected.  You can’t pray “Lead us not into temptation” and then go right in!  God did not lead you there, you did, and this is the test.  Will you follow God’s leading our your own selfish desires and lust.  Scripture says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” [James 4:8] How do you resist the devil?  Repent!  Turn away from your sinful desires and thoughts and turn to Jesus.

Turn to Jesus as your source of strength during times of testing.  Turn to Jesus as your shield in times of temptation.  And when you fail and fall into sin, and you will fail, turn to Jesus as your source of repentance, forgiveness, and faith.

Now I can’t close this message without addressing one last question from our assigned readings this morning, and it is this: Why was Jesus baptized?  Wasn’t he perfect?  Yes friends, Jesus was perfect and He was baptized in order to fulfill all God’s righteous demands on us.  How did He do this?  By walking the slow and painful course that ended in His bloody death upon the cross.  His walk started at the banks of the Jordan River where He received John’s baptism of repentance for your sins.  It was your sins that moved the Holy Spirit to drive Him into the wilderness to be tempted for 40 days by the devil.  There he withstood every temptation imaginable and He defeated every attack that Satan threw at Him.  And when He had defeated that prince of evil, He put Him on notice that each of you had a new champion that fights for you, and His name is Jesus Christ the Holy Son of God, and wherever you go, He goes with you!  But His walk did not end in the wilderness; no, His final battle with sin, death, and the devil would take Him to Golgotha, where He suffered and died for you!  Why?  So that you might realize that where ever you go, Jesus walks with you, allowing you to experience God’s love for you through the hearing of His Word of life, which then continually moves you to repent, believe and receive eternal life…and that through this gift of eternal life you might choose to live your life here abundantly, without fear or worry. 

May God the Holy Spirit move each of our hearts by faith to know that all of these good things from our Heavenly Father are ours eternally through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior…AMEN!