Lonnie Melashenko, Speaker/Director, Voice of Prophecy
Abraham! . . . Abraham!" "Who are you?" "It's the Lord." "What do You want?"
"Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you" (Gen. 12:1, NIV).
Abraham grabbed hold of God's stupendous promises and took off on a life detour as the most colossal dare-taker in salvation history. He never imagined he'd spend the next 115 years walking around the Land of Promise and existing on nothing but promises.
According to Newsweek and Time, we live in a world of liars: From No. 10 Downing Street to the White House, to Ottawa and the Kremlin. We live in a society in which you can't trust anybody anymore because of broken promises.
Have you ever been tempted to doubt any of God's fantastic promises? Ever wondered about Jesus' closing promise, "Surely, I come quickly"?
Why is Abraham so huge? Why are the promises to him so special that they form the backbone of Genesis? so far-reaching that it takes the entire Bible to tell the rest of the story and will take all of eternity to fulfill?
Let's fast-forward to the grand climax of Abraham's story in Genesis 22. He's 120 years old. God has patiently worked with him through a lifetime of flaws (not just one): 12 long chapters in wicked technicolor. He's down to the final issue; the last act in the drama.
"Take your son, your only son, Isaac . . . and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering" (Gen. 22:2, NIV).
"O God, speak to me again," Abraham begs. "Did I really understand You? Tell me it wasn't my old age, a bad dream." But he hears only the eerie sounds of silence.
Abraham rouses two servants and hurries to Isaac's tent. He pulls the flaps aside, steps inside, and kneels down. In the glow of dawn he can barely make out the strong, young features of his son of promise. Oh, how he loves that boy.
Four men travel north. No one speaks in the barren solitude. It's the most poignant and eloquent hush of all literature. Brow furrowed. Body swaying. Abraham's worried lips move silently in prayer: "O Lord, speak to me like before-You know, all those times in my painful past. You were there leading me, step by step-as I struggled with my fears I learned I had You for a friend."
Abraham's mind flashes back to his fears when he first got to the Promised Land. Famine. Pull up stakes. Move down to Egypt. Live by your wits.
Then as he got near Egypt he took one look at his gorgeous wife and said: "Sarah, I'm afraid. Listen: To save my neck, lie to Pharaoh." His fears got him into more trouble. Poor Sarah was taken to the royal harem. But God proved faithful.
Abraham remembers another night when he threw Molotov cocktails at Chedorlaomer and the Palestinian Border Patrol. He came home quaking so badly God had to appear to him in vision (see Gen. 15).
And now, as he journeys to Moriah, again he feels so apprehensive.
And of course Satan is right there, pressing in on him. "Abraham, you're no 'man of faith.' Remember your tryst with Hagar? You trusted righteousness by virility. Salvation by sperm. This trip to Moriah? You're going to offer human sacrifice after all these years you've preached to the heathen. No, Abraham. Go home."
All day Abraham prays. All night he wrestles with his thoughts. When the sun comes up in the morning his tears mingle with the dust of the Palestinian soil.
Lord, Deliver Me From Fear
Have you ever been frightened? so paralyzed you are filled with dread?
For me it was June 1978. I was 31 years old. The dreaded words: Cancer. Melanoma. Fourth level. I'll never forget Jeannie and me slumping to our knees and crying out, "O God, no! We're scared. Am I going to die? Lord, speak to us!"
And more recently an AVM (arteriovenous malfunction)-I would have died just a year ago. For nine months I had a terrific pounding inside my head. Doctors couldn't find the problem until specialists at Loma Linda University and Medical Center diagnosed a rare "dural fistula"-just in time to save my life when I was at the University of California at Los Angeles. For nine months Jeannie and I wrestled with God.
I thank God for a world church that prayed for me; for God's miracle power that got me through two terrifying times. We were traumatized. But God is faithful. Jeannie and I claimed Psalm 34:4: "I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears."
Abraham has fears. Suddenly he shakes himself awake from his inner thoughts and realizes that after he and Isaac and the two servants had been traveling all day it was time to make camp again. After supper Abraham slips away from the campfire, kneels down, and begins to pray as he's never prayed before: "O God, please! Speak just one more time. Lord, You know I love You. But my son-the promise! My only son . . . I'm so afraid!"
As he prays, Abraham remembers something he learned despite his debacles of breakdown and moral collapse when he chose not to trust-God came through! He was faithful. Time after time God rewarded his faith despite Abraham's fears and failures.
Abraham remembers the time he even remonstrated with God. He got so frustrated with God's promise-he even told Him so during the argument: "God, Sarah is barren. I've figured out a logical, legal way to make Eliezer the lawful heir of promise."
Dialoguing with God. Objecting. Protesting. Getting personal with daring questions. Amazingly, God kept right on loving him.
God told him He enjoyed this new, deeper level of intimacy. He patiently smiled, "Trust Me. You and Sarah will have a son of your own-not Ishmael."
Abraham remembers finally letting go, and simply exclaiming: "OK, God, You win. You said it. I believe it." "And he [Abraham] believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness" (Gen. 15:6).
Do you have fears about your future? Fears when you go back home to Bangladesh? Haiti? Sudan? Afghanistan? You wonder how you are going to face your future in your homeland? Civil war . . . disease . . . destruction . . . famine . . .
Cutting the Covenant
Abraham remembers something he can cling to. He remembers that God "cut a covenant" with him in Genesis 15. God swore; staked His own life on His promises.
Abraham remembers the time he split apart the sacrificial animals and laid out the pieces facing each other, and God came down and passed between the two rows of dead animals.
God swore by an oath of self-malediction (calling down a curse on Himself): "If I ever break My promises may My own body be torn in pieces just as these animals are split in two. As sure as I am God, My covenant promises shall be fulfilled. Always. Forever."
This is a promise that swells with cosmic significance down through redemption's story. God's pledge to the death foreshadowed the cross of Calvary, where He staked His very life on His promises, promises that echo down the corridors of time through the New Testament. On to the Second Coming. Resurrection. Reunion. Heaven. Eternal life.
Abraham has been learning to walk and talk with God. When he began the process-learning to walk by faith at Ur and Haran-he wasn't ready to climb Mount Moriah. But now he is.
"Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off" (Gen. 22:4).
Moriah. Abraham knows that God is waiting for him there. The final issue; the final branding into the mind and soul of Abraham this thing called "faith." The old man is tired. No sleep for nights. His heart breaking. For nearly 120 years he barely had faith to live with the promise in view. Now does he have the faith to put the promise on the altar and cancel out the only concrete fulfillment of the promise he has experienced?
Finally everything is ready: the fire, the altar, the wood. Except no lamb. No miracle. No voice from heaven.
This is the most awkward pause in the plan of salvation. Isaac turns to his father. "Father, what now? Where is the lamb?" That is the greatest question of the ages.
Abraham long predates John the Baptist's statement in the New Testament, "Behold the Lamb of God
. . ." (John 1:29). But in absolute faith Abraham replies: "God will provide himself . . ." (Gen. 22:8).
Little does Abraham realize that those are the very words God has been trying to teach him for 100 years. In every circumstance God will provide.
Slowly the old man gets up and moves near to the altar. He places his trembling hand on Isaac's shoulder and draws him close, his 120-year-old arm quivering.
Abraham must walk down one of two pathways. On the one side total trust.
The other path? Fear. Rejection of all his past experiences with God over 45 years. All the hopes and promises he's clung to for every mile he's walked since Haran-all hallucinations, including the fact that his son was not born a miracle.
Abraham makes his decision. With great hot tears flooding down his cheeks Abraham announces, "Isaac, my son-you are the sacrifice."
With terror and amazement Isaac's whole being trembles, repulsed with the thought. "Child sacrifice? No, Father!" It would have been so easy for Isaac to push him aside and walk away.
But the greatest tribute ever given by any child to any parent is given by Isaac to Abraham. Isaac looks trustingly into those loving, tear-filled eyes and knows that his father is a man of God.
Last words of love are spoken.
The last tender embrace is given.
The last kiss.
Then laying his only visible hope for the future on the altar, Abraham raises the dagger and begins to bring the knife down, when suddenly an invisible force stays his arm.
And then a voice: "Abraham! Abraham! Stop! It is enough! You have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me" (see verses 11, 12).
They hold each other and weep in love and relief. They hear a sound in the bushes. They both turn and look. God Himself has provided a lamb! God just wanted to make sure Abraham really wanted His provision (instead of his own) before He let Abraham see it.
Why did God ask Abraham to do this? To test him? Yes, that's one reason.
To show us that faith takes time to develop? Yes. It takes time to trust someone you hardly know; to trust them with your home/wife/family/business/future.
There's a far more meaningful reason. All of the universe had been watching for 120 years, but especially the last three days-focusing on Abraham and Isaac.
Two thousand years before-in Eden (Gen. 3:15)-God announced to the entire universe His plan to redeem humanity. He'd allow His precious Son to die to restore men and women back to the original image designed for them.
Here on Mount Moriah God the Father was now using Abraham and Isaac as a great object lesson about the personal agony God would go through to save humanity. Abraham and Isaac had become a type of God the Father and God the Son.
And nearly 2,000 years later at that very spot, on Mount Moriah in Old Jerusalem, another Father and Son together climbed that very hill. And when they got to the top of that mountainside, that Son, too, voluntarily laid down His life.
Only this time there was no hand to reach out to say, "That's enough!" This time the knife came down and plunged, not into the heart of a mere man, but into the very heart of God Himself. God went to hell and the grave because God is faithful to His promises. "God will provide Himself a lamb!"
The single most important message we can preach-the final message to a dying world-is God's character of love: God will provide.
Paul tells us in Romans 4 and 5 we are coheirs with Christ. We have an equal inheritance with Christ. Imagine walking right into the throne room of God on an equal basis with Christ. Someday we'll sit on God's throne. Jesus promised: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne" (Rev. 3:21).
Hebrews 11-that marvelous "Hall of Faith"-says that whoever you are, this promise is for you: "God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they [all the heroes just listed] be made perfect" (verse 40, NIV).
World church, God says tonight: "I have a plan-for you. I had a plan for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And Jesus. And Paul and Martin Luther and William Miller. But I promise: It won't be fulfilled until you're there."
Do you love Jesus this evening? Do you love the Father? Why don't we tell Him so just now as we pray?