God Will Provide

June 26, 2005

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

Genesis 22:1-14

Abraham Tested

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning. The theme of our sermon today is “God will provide.” I’ll bet people have come here today with a lot of different needs on their hearts. Sometimes we’re wondering where the next bit of prosperity will come from. Sometimes we’re wondering how we will regain our health. Sometime we’re wondering where we’re going to get that inspiration for the next composition or the next case or the next painting or whatever it is that we have to produce. And we get all tight and frozen inside with fear.

 

But I’m here to tell you to let go of fear and take on faith and to know, inside your heart, that it’s not the end of the road, it’s just a bend in the road. God will provide. I hope that will be a source of hope and comfort for you this week. When it seems that you’re facing a brick wall, remember that there’s a door in that wall. Let God provide for you.

 

Let’s see how our scripture speaks to that this morning. We’re looking at the story of Abraham. You remember who he was. He lived thousands of years ago. Abraham was a man who had a deep desire to follow God. He had a God-shaped hole in his heart. Can we identify with that? I bet every one of us can. There’s something within our hearts that is empty until we fill it up with God. And though we may try to fill it with other things, nothing quite fits until God fills that emptiness. St. Augustine put it this way: “Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in Thee.” Well, you and Abraham can identify with that. Abraham was a man with a God-shaped hole in his heart. He sought after God.

 

And we know that the person who seeks after God finds God. Abraham began to meditate and listen deeply for the voice of God within him. God did speak to Abraham, in his inner heart of hearts, in that still, small voice that is God’s. God promised Abraham that even though he was advanced in years, he and his wife Sarah would have a wonderful son. They said, “Can’t be.” And God said, “Oh, yeah? Watch this.” And they had a wonderful son, Isaac, the apple of Abraham’s eye.

 

Now, as you remember, Abraham’s life was not problem-free, because he’d already had a son with a servant-girl, Hagar. Sarah asked Abraham to send them away, and that was a real heartbreaker for Abraham.

 

Abraham loved Isaac with all his heart. He kept listening for God, and Abraham believed that he heard the voice of God asking him to prove his love by sacrificing Isaac. Our minds recoil from this thought! But it’s understandable how Abraham might have thought this. He did not live in the modern world that we live in. he lived in a primitive world, thousands of years ago, where there were a lot of different religions. And as you might recall, they included primitive religions that practiced human sacrifice.

 

So it came to Abraham’s mind that maybe that was what the Lord God wanted to prove Abraham’s ultimate love. Abraham was faithful and said, “There’s nothing I would withhold from you, God.” So he saddled the donkey, he split the wood, he took his servants, and he set out for the mountain of sacrifice. The Bible does not tell us how heavy his heart must have been, but the pain must have been unspeakable.

 

They arrived at the mountain, and Abraham told the servants to stay with the donkey. He told Isaac they were going up the mountain. He put the wood on Isaac’s back. It’s kind of a metaphor for the cross to come later. They walked up the mountain, and Isaac said, “Father, father.”

 

Abraham said, “Here am I.”

 

Isaac said, “Here’s the wood and here is the fire. Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”

 

And out of Abraham’s mouth came one of the most remarkable theological statements of all time. “God himself will provide the lamb.” God inspired Abraham to say those words, my friend. “God himself will provide.”

 

So they walked together, and they got to the place for the sacrifice, and Abraham arranged the wood. He tied Isaac’s hands and put him on the wood. Abraham picked up the knife. Just as he was about to strike, the angel of the Lord came upon Abraham in a burst of theological sunshine, in a burst of God’s will, and said, “Wait! No! Don’t do it! Abraham, Abraham!”

 

And Abraham looked up and said, “Here I am.”

 

The angel said, “Don’t touch the boy. Don’t harm him. If you must make a sacrifice, there is a ram over in the bush. His horns are tied up in the brambles. Sacrifice the ram.”

 

And Abraham said, “I will.” He unbound Isaac, and he sacrificed the ram.

 

God calls us not to be perfect, but to be faithful. Abraham was faithful. In that remarkable outburst of the will of God, God let us know that He doesn’t want sacrifice like that. He doesn’t want blood sacrifice. And later on in the Old Testament, it would be revealed and made clear to the minds of the people that God didn’t want animal sacrifice. He wants our hearts, our minds, our love.

 

Then Abraham saw that all things were good and in order, and he gave that place a special name. In verse 14: “So Abraham called that place “‘The Lord will provide’; as it is called today.” One of the most important things about this story is that it is a metaphor and a symbol for the love of Almighty God for all of us. For God sent His son, Jesus Christ, into the world to give His life and not withhold it. God sent the flower of His creation to be with us, and when all the evil of the world was upon Him, God did not pull Him out. God did not spare Him, but let Him go through with it, to say that He would pay the bill. He would take care of everything. It was as though God was saying, “I take it on as my own fault. I take it on myself, so that I can love you and you can love me.” God gave His son willingly so that we could love God and be free to go to heaven. That is the most important thing to remember about this story: God will provide. God Himself provides the lamb.

 

Also, friends, I’d like you to take home this idea: God also provides for our everyday needs. Let me ask you this. Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t know how something was going to work out? You didn’t know how you would pay for something or take care of a certain situation, and all of a sudden it was provided for? I know I have, time after time after time. God provides, if we just open the door and let Him in. He provides in a solid way.

 

Think of a block of dry ice and a glass of cool water. The dry ice is like fear. The cool water is like faith. I invite you to put aside the fear and take on faith, in the knowledge that God can and will provide for us.

 

God provides for us abundantly. I saw a great image of that the other day. My godson Dylan and I decided that we have a farm together. We have a farm at the parsonage. Did you know that? And you do know what our principal crop is? It’s mint! We have mint. We decided to make some tea out of it; we also decided to dry some for the winter to remember the happy summertime. We started to harvest that mint. We discovered that God’s blessings and providence are greater than we can harvest. I don’t know if you’ve had that experience with mint. We harvested till we had more than enough for mint tea, more than enough to give to friends. It is a symbol of God’s plentiful blessing. God wants to bless us abundantly.

 

Last image when you consider God’s providence: in verse 11, the angel called, “Abraham! Abraham!” and Abraham said, “Here I am.” “Here I am” means “I’m listening. I’m available to the voice of God.” Are you?  Am I? We go along in our ruts; we don’t change our paths or our thinking. But if Abraham had done that, things would have been a lot different. Let your ear be open to the voice of God, who may be calling us to a different path. And when God nudges us and calls us, be willing to say, “Here I am.” Whatever your name may be, be willing to say, “Here I am, Lord. I’m willing to take a different course, maybe to talk to a different person.” God may be nudging you into a different prosperity.

 

I’d like to close with a little bit of singing, a verse of “Amazing Grace.”

 

The Lord has promised good to me.

His word my hope secures.

He will my shield and portion be.

As long as life endures.

 

The Lord will provide, because He loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.