Why failure brings rest

Posted: May 24, 2011 in Words

Sunday mornings at Peachtree, I’m preaching through the book of Genesis. (It’s probably going to take a very long time but will be well worth it.) This week, we looked at Genesis 22. It’s a story that involves three things every good Bible story has- Faith, Angels, and human sacrifice. (Say what?! You heard.)

Here’s the deal: Abraham and Sarah have tried to have kids for thirty years. They finally have a son, Isaac, and love him. When he gets to be about twelve (nobody knows how old he was, this is a guess) God shows up to Abraham and says, “Hey- kill Isaac. Sacrifice him. Go to a mountain build a fire, cut him up into little pieces, and burn him up.” And Abraham, being the obedient man he is, starts chopping wood.

Gen 22:3 says, “When he had chopped enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.” Pause and think on that. While he was chopping wood, he was sizing up his own son. He had to think, “Is this enough? No, probably need a little more.” Abraham was not enjoying this task, but when he had enough wood, he saddled a donkey, took a couple of servants, grabbed Isaac, and they started walking.

When they get to the scene of the sacrifice (three days later), Abe and Isaac start up the mountain, without the servants. On the way up, Isaac asks, “Hey Dad- I see you’ve got wood, and some fire, and a knife. But, um…where’s the sacrifice?” Abe just answers, “God will provide a sacrifice.”

So, they get to the top of the mountain, stack the wood, somehow Isaac gets tied up and laid on the pile (v. 9), Abe raises the knife in the air, and—

God intervenes. An angel stops his hand and says, “Don’t touch him. God has seen that you are willing to give up everything- even your own son- for Him. Let Isaac go.” Then they see a ram caught in a bush, and sacrifice it to God instead. Here’s what I see…

God would be totally justified to take everything from us, because our sin is so great against him. (Psalm 51:4) It’s like we have this huge debt that we owe, and even if God took every single thing we have, we’d still come up short. Our sins are so grievous, and God is so holy, that we could never, in a million years be able to pay the penalty for our offenses. So what do we do? We trust, like Abraham did, that “God will provide a sacrifice.” And he has, in Jesus Christ.

I won’t spend a lot of time on this because you can read the Bible (Isaiah 53:4-6, 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Peter 2:24), but the fact that we can never be good enough to earn salvation should bring a huge amount of relief. The onus is no longer on us. The pressure to “perform for God” is gone. Jesus died on our behalf.

We are Isaac, He’s the ram caught in the bushes. He was sacrificed so we could be set free.

*Important note. You know it’s important because I marked it with an asterisk and put it in italics.

Be sure to also read Romans 6. Just because you can’t be perfect, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Christ’s death on your behalf doesn’t give you license to sin. While we are free from the pressure to earn salvation (which can only be gained through faith in Christ’s work), we are not free from the obligation to live according to God’s laws and standards. For example: you know your kids are going to mess up sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you give them permission to be openly insubordinate and rebellious. They’ll make mistakes, but you expect them to be obedient. God feels the same way.

  1. I’m always amazed at the fact that the ram was on its way as Abe & Isaac were on their way. Abe went to the mountain God told him to go to. He didn’t just sacrifice on whatever mountain he felt like (something that comes up again from Moses), he went exactly where God told him to. Without doing anything on his own, a perfect sacrifice shows up. Had he been anywhere else, however, that sacrifice would not have been there. This corresponds to us thinking we can go to any old church and get any old word from any old pastor and be okay. How many of us really understand that where we go to hear from the Lord matters?

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