Mt. Moriah: The God Who Is Provider
MT. MORIAH: THE GOD WHO IS PROVIDER
Genesis 22:1-8 (ESV) 1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He 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 of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 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?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
Late last year, as I began to pray for the sermon themes that we will cover for this whole year, the Lord led me to this book written by Dr. Jarrett Stephens entitled, “The Mountains Are Calling.” I was immediately intrigued by the book because the author approached some of the major stories in the Bible in a unique way. He highlighted the events that happened on the mountaintop and focused on how God revealed Himself to the main characters of those stories. Dr. Jack Graham, the pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, gave the Foreword for the book, and he appropriately summarized the main reason why the book is worth studying. He wrote:
“The Christian life is a series of mountaintops and valleys, and the way up is not always a straight path or an easy road. There are many obstacles and challenges along the way. But once you reach the top, you realize the climb was worth it. . .. So often God met His people and pointed them to a better future from the vantage point and clear perspective of a mountaintop.”
So, for the next ten Sundays, we will follow the lead of Dr. Stephens in studying together these mountaintop narratives—both from the Old and New Testaments—and discover together at least two things:
A. What God has revealed about Himself: His beautiful attributes B. How we can effectively relate to Him: Our humble response to Him
As we begin our series this morning, the first mountain we will study is associated with the story of Abraham found in Genesis 22. What makes this story so significant is the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice what was dearest to Him in order to gain a more intimate relationship with God. How many of us are willing to acknowledge the fact that intimacy with God will always demand a sacrifice from us? If we have not considered this truth, there’s no way to avoid this reality when we examine this story of Abraham and Isaac in Mount Moriah.
If you are not very familiar with the story of Abraham, allow me to give you some background. Abraham is well recognized as the father of the Hebrew nation, and his story started in Genesis 12. He was introduced in that chapter as a man called to leave his extended family in Mesopotamia and go to a foreign land, a land he had never seen. Here was the specific command: Genesis 12:1-3 (ESV) 1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
This demand was quite a command! And like many other places in the Scriptures, the command from God came with a promise. He guaranteed Abraham that if he obeyed, he will tremendously be blessed and, ultimately, he will become a great nation that will be a blessing to the whole world. He was about 75 years old when God gave him this command. So, at this age, he courageously stepped out in faith and started his walk with God.
Now, Abraham’s journey of faith with God will be a series of hit and miss. There were times he was on track in trusting the Lord, and there were also times he was afraid and were making decisions ahead of God. Some examples would be the occasions he lied about his wife, Sarah. Instead of introducing her as his wife, twice he decided that for their safety, he would introduce her as his sister. He did in Egypt and Gerar. Another huge blunder was his unwillingness to wait on the Lord, and he agreed with his wife to sleep with Hagar to have an offspring. This mistake led to the birth of Ismael—and today, Israel as a nation is still dealing with the consequences of that sin.
It is obvious that Abraham’s journey of faith was not perfect, but despite his failures and sins, God kept His promise. In fact, at their old age, he and his wife will welcome Isaac, the son whom God has promised. By this time, Abraham was 100 years old, and his wife about 90 years old. With the long wait and with their ages, we would understand why Isaac would become the object of so much affection. This scenario certainly set us up for our text. Let’s divide our story into three essential stages:
I THE CALL TO THE MOUNTAIN (vv. 1-2)
As we begin to read our text, once again, God will give Abraham a very clear command in verses 1-2, “After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He 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 of which I shall tell you.” When you examine these words, you will find the Lord telling Abraham to climb Mount Moriah in order to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to God. The command was plain and clear, and so, there’s really no possibility of misunderstanding. I want to emphasize this because, on the part of Abraham, he also knew exactly whether his response would be obedience or disobedience.
However, these are also two things, which I believe we should not miss:
A. The Test.
For us who are reading this account, we are told in verse one, “After these things God tested Abraham.” Of course, Abraham did not get the benefit of knowing this truth before the command of God. But for us, this is so important. Why? It is because, in our own personal journeys of faith, we also are subjected to some trials of faith. We have lots of reminders about this throughout the Bible:
James 1:2-4 (ESV) 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
We should put these words of James always at the front and center of our hearts and minds because these remind us to rejoice during our trials. Now, is this even possible? Well, James tells us that it can only happen if “we know” (this is the key) that God is able to shape our character through our trials.
B. The Timeline
If you examine the timeline of Abraham’s journey, this test happened after 40 years of walking with God. This truth is so important also. Abraham started his walk with God at the age of 75. He had Isaac when he was 100 years old. By this time, Isaac was probably 15 years old. Therefore, Abraham was about 115 years old. Which means, Abraham had a deeper experience of God’s goodness and faithfulness that would allow him to take a test like this. This principle is in harmony with what Paul taught us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV): 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Notice, “he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability.” This promise simply means that God in His goodness never gives us a test beyond our capacity to bear it. Do you believe it? So, when this test came to Abraham, this was something that God made sure that he was prepared to handle. This truth goes for all of us. Every time we are tried, it is always within our capacity. Plus, God assures us that there is absolutely a way to escape the test. I hope we take these truths to heart.
II THE COST OF THE CLIMB (vv. 1-10)
For many of us who are familiar with this story and know how the story ends, it is so easy to read past at what the Lord was asking Abraham to do - “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” (v.2). However, if you have children, I’m sure just like me, you would struggle with what God asked Abraham to do.
Of course, for the sake of emphasis, we have to highlight the phrases – “your only son” and “whom you love.” You see, these words allow us to feel the weight of the test on the part of Abraham. Can you imagine what went through the mind of Abraham after he clearly heard what God said?
The truth of the matter is that this was a critical crossroad in the life of Abraham. I’m sure that Abraham understood clearly the implications of what God was demanding – Isaac represented what Abraham treasured the most. He was Abraham’s life, his whole world, and God was asking him to surrender everything. In a way, God was saying to Abraham – “I’m inviting you into intimacy with me, Abraham. You are going to know me as you have never known me before, experience me at a deeper level than you could ever imagine. But you have to be willing to trust me. You have to be willing to sacrifice everything that you have and all that you are.”
The invitation that the Lord gave to Abraham is the same invitation that He is giving to all of us. There is always a cost to knowing God fully. Knowing God requires us to lay everything on the altar of sacrifice. And only those who are serious about their relationship with God will ascend to this mountain.
I love how Abraham would respond to God. Let’s read verse 3 – “So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.”
Notice that Abraham didn’t negotiate or hesitate. There was no indication of objection in our verse. Despite what must have been very troubling for him, he decided to obey what God told him to do. This is how the journey to knowing God begins – it all begins with a choice, just one step of faith. This is how Abraham made it up to the mountain, and it’s what will get us up to the mountain.
Folks, if you want to experience God in a deeper way, it starts by surrendering your entire life to God’s will and His Word. Remember, there is no other way. We must be willing to pay the price for intimacy. The temptation as we ascend to the mountain is to focus on what we are giving up or what we are called to sacrifice. This lack of focus will only stall our progress up the mountain. The best way is to put our focus on God and trust Him one step at a time, one day at a time. The reality is that it is a daily decision to walk in obedience, and by faith, leave the rest to God. Matthew 13:44-46 (ESV) 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Just like these parables, there is no way we will acquire the best treasure in life, not until we give up everything that we have.
III THE CLARITY ON THE MOUNTAINTOP
Lastly, after Abraham took his son up to Mount Moriah by faith and laid him on the altar just as God commanded him, then, it would be so clear to him why God allowed everything to happen. Let’s read these verses: Genesis 22:10-12 (ESV) 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
Abraham’s absolute obedience ultimately confirmed his love and loyalty to God. And once this was settled, Abraham will also see the provision of God for a sacrifice: Genesis 22:13-14 (ESV) 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
As a result, Abraham was still able to sacrifice, but in the end, it was God who really provided the sacrifice. Was following God up to the mountain worth it? Absolutely! On that mountain, Abraham came to know God in a new way. He met God as the Provider, the One who saved his son.
God calls us to the mountain so that we can know Him in His fullness: as provider, fulfiller, and loving father. It’s a call we don’t want to miss out on. Anyone who decided to ascend to this mountain will tell you that it’s all worth it. In reality, it’s the only thing worthy of our lives. Lately, there is this praise song that became so precious to many of us, and I want us to close this message with it. The title is “Build Your Life.”
Worthy of every song we could ever sing Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe We live for You.
Jesus, the Name above every other name Jesus, the only One who could ever save Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe We live for You Oh, we live for You.
Holy, there is no one like You There is none beside You Open up my eyes in wonder And show me who You are And fill me with Your heart And lead me in Your love to those around me
And I will build my life upon Your love It is a firm foundation And I will put my trust in You alone And I will not be shaken