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The Lord Will Provide
Spring Quarter: Acknowledging God
Unit 1: Follow in My Ways
Sunday school lesson for the week of March 4, 2018
By Dr. Hal Brady
Lesson Scripture: Genesis 22:1-3, 6-14
Background Scripture: Genesis 22
- Describe the events surrounding Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac.
- Explain the implications for Abraham of obeying God’s command to sacrifice Isaac.
The theme of the third quarter is “Acknowledging God.” As we are reminded, most of us are familiar with the child’s mealtime prayer, “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.” In that prayer we note that God is indeed great. And that greatness is seen again and again in the studies of this quarter.
Unit 1 is called, “Follow in My Ways.” Lesson 1, which is based on Genesis 22, records Abraham’s willingness to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering. When Isaac questioned where the lamb for the burnt offering was, his father Abraham replied, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8). And God did provide the lamb, sparing Isaac.
Scholars then remind us that the very place where this incident occurred (Mount Moriah) became the site of the magnificent temple built by King Solomon (2 Chronicles 3:1). The focus of the following lessons 2-4 are on the events surrounding the Temple’s dedication.
Moving to today’s lesson, it is one thing to say we trust God, and entirely something else to place our own future completely in God’s hands. Before us is Abraham’s opportunity to do just this. Because he rose to the challenge, he is, indeed, a model of faith for us all.
While the Scriptures acknowledge that Abraham was a man of faith (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:16-22; Galatians 3:6-9), they do not suggest that his was a perfect faith. For instance, Abraham demonstrated great faith in leaving his home in Ur (Genesis 12:1-4). But by the end of the same chapter, he was telling his wife, Sarah, to lie and say she was his sister in order to save his own skin (12:10-20).
As you recall, later, Abraham had a “home” problem. When Sarah failed to conceive, Abraham impregnated her maidservant Hagar rather than seek the Lord’s will. This created serious tension in Abraham’s household (Genesis 16:1-6). Then, after God made it clear that Sarah would give him a son, Abraham handed her over to the pagan king, Abimelech (20:1-18), once again, failing to trust God.
But in spite of all this, God remained faithful to Abraham and Sarah. Scholars remind us that God delivered them from several powerful kings and watched over the circumstances that involved Lot, Hagar, and Ishmael (Hagar’s son). And, of course, God provided the son of promise for whom Abraham and Sarah had been waiting: Isaac.
However, by the time we get to our scripture lesson, (Genesis 22:1-3; 6-14), we are wondering about God’s patience. You see, Abraham was definitely a man of spiritual highs and lows. He had faith alright, but it was inconsistent faith. Perhaps, at this point, Abraham himself was wondering about his faith—was it a great faith or had the years taken their toll on it?
1. God Tests Abraham (Genesis 22:1-3)
After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And Abraham replied, “Here I am.” God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will show you.” (Genesis 22:1,2).
The Hebrew underneath the word “tested” is the idea of proving the worth of something. Consequently, we can be sure that God is testing Abraham for Abraham’s own good.
As for Abraham himself, he didn’t know whether he had enough faith to follow God’s leading until he was tested. Again, that’s the purpose of testing: to discover strengths and weaknesses. Thus, God’s testing of Abraham’s faithfulness is essential if God is to move into the future with him.
According to scholars, God’s request of Abraham is startling in at least three ways (Verse 2). First, it is odd that God identifies Isaac as Abraham’s only son. We recall that Abraham’s firstborn son is actually Ishmael, even if he was born to Sarah’s servant, Hagar. Ishmael is still Abraham’s son.
The explanation for this curiosity is found in Genesis 21. There we see that discord within the family causes Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. At this point, God relieves Abraham of his parental responsibility, by looking after Ismael’s growing up years himself. Besides, Isaac is the “only son” in fulfillment of God’s promise (21:12).
Moriah is mentioned only one other time in the Bible (2 Chronicles 3:1). That passage informs us that many centuries later Israel’s King Solomon would build the temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.
Second, it is odd that God asks Abraham to perform child sacrifice! This directive not only wrecks our sensibilities, but God is clearly opposed to child sacrifice in the Old Testament (for example, see Jeremiah 32:35).
However, we are informed that from Abraham’s perspective, the practice in and of itself may not seem so odd. Some of the Pagan gods of his time were worshipped this way. In addition, Abraham does not know as much about God as we do, having all the scripture at his disposal. Also, the law prohibiting child sacrifice was given by Moses five centuries later.
This leads to the third strange aspect of this passage: that God asks Abraham to sacrifice the child of the promise. No doubt, this is what disturbed Abraham the most. Abraham’s whole relationship with God is built around the promise that God will make him into a great nation with countless descendants (Genesis 12:1-3). Now, God is asking Abraham to kill this long awaited for special son.
In verse 3, we are not told that Abraham says anything in response to God’s command. His actions speak for him as he rises early the next day to begin the three-day journey.
Scholars tell us that Abraham has been directed to offer his son at Moriah, the same place where priests would later offer Israel’s legitimate sacrifices to God. It is also very near to here where God would offer his only Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for sin.
II. Abraham Trusts God (Genesis 22:6-10)
After leaving the two men, Abraham and Isaac walked on together toward Mount Moriah. As they walked along, Isaac asked Abraham “Father, we have the wood and the fire, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And Abraham responded, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (22:7,8).
Does Abraham really believe that God will provide the lamb for the burnt offering? Scholars point to Hebrews 11:19 as a helpful commentary in answering this question.” He (Abraham) considered the fact that God is able to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Earlier, when telling his two servants to stay behind, Abraham had added, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship and then we will come back to you.” So, Abraham seems to expect that God would intervene in some way on his son’s behalf.
“God will provide…,” Abraham said. Either that is the silliest statement ever made or Abraham has made one of the most profound statements in all the Bible. Abraham is saying, “No matter the circumstances, I’m still going to trust in the goodness of God’s grace.
Upon their arrival at Mount Moriah, Abraham quickly builds an altar of stones, lays the wood across the stones and gently places his son on the wood. Then Abraham slowly lifts the knife. It is suggested that the level of Isaac’s terror is probably matched by the level of Abraham’s anguish. At any rate, only God’s intervention can make a difference now.
III. God Spares Isaac (Genesis 22:11-14)
Scholars declare that for the second time in this story, Abraham responds, “Here I am” when addressed. This is the climax of the story. Abraham is interrupted just as he is about to carry out the sacrifice commanded of him. The two-fold calling of “Abraham! Abraham!” carries a real sense of urgency. In verse 12, God says, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” These words tell us that Abraham has indeed passed the test that God has set before him. In essence, God has asked him, “Do you trust me and me alone to fulfill my promises to you? Are you willing to give up all control and place your entire future into my hands?” Abraham’s answers to these questions is a resounding, “yes!” When he raises the knife, Abraham boldly declares his conviction that God is his only hope. And with that unspoken confession of faith, he receives his son back, as though from the dead (Hebrews 11:19).
It is important that we not misinterpret the phrase “I know that you fear God.” To be sure, God is not glad that Abraham is afraid of him. Rather, fear is another way to express worship. Clearly, God is Abraham’s ultimate motivation. And this is the heart of true worship. As the writer of 1 Samuel 15:22 expresses it, “Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice…”
Now, to Abraham’s delight, his own words about the “substitute lamb” come to pass. God does indeed provide the animal to be sacrificed. Scholars inform us that the mention of Abraham looking up and seeing the lamb is important given what occurs in verse 14.
Since God has faithfully provided for Abraham, Abraham names the location “The Lord will Provide.” Abraham fully understands that the one true God always provides for his people. In fact, this whole account has been about God’s faithfulness and whether Abraham truly believes that God will keep his promises. No question, God is faithful, and Abraham truly believes.
As I mentioned earlier, it is one thing to say we trust God, and entirely something else to place our own future completely in God’s hands. With Abraham’s faith as our model, what can we learn from this story and lesson?
Hear me now! Since God’s people are continuously in a battle with various powers, both human and supernatural, that wages war against us, the temptation is always to compromise our faith. Inevitably these evil forces invite us to trust in our own strength. Like Abraham, however, we must trust God and God alone to provide for all our needs. We must live in the light of His promises to us. Equipped with God’s armor (Ephesians 6:10-18) and through Him, we will certainly triumph.
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries (halbradyministries.com).
- In what ways does God test a believer’s obedience today?
- Have class members write a brief prayer of trust in God’s continued provision.