And Yet, God will Provide
Sunday, September 19, 2021
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier
Genesis 21:1-3; 22:1-14
In worship at Augustana, we follow what is known as the Narrative Lectionary during the program year. The Narrative Lectionary is a schedule of scripture readings that follows the sweeping arc of the story of the Bible- starting with creation and continuing through the Old Testament, the life – death – and resurrection of Christ and into the early church.
Last Sunday we began this epic journey in Genesis 1&2. God created the world. Birds, fish, mountains, galaxies, sunsets, and us. And it was good. Very good.
This Sunday we are leapfrogging 1000 years ahead into a world that is a mess. People are rebelling against God – big time. As a result, evil, suffering and destruction are running rampant. Even a massive flood bringing a hopeful new start didn’t change this downward spiral.
So — God lands on a new strategy – a new plan. One faithful family will be chosen – and through that family, all the earth will be blessed.
God chose and called Abram and Sarai. And they left everything – their country, kinspeople, security – and followed God into an unknown future. Scripture tells us that they did not even know where they were going. All they had to hold onto was a promise from God.
Can you even imagine?
It is like they got into a sailing vessel and launched out from the shore. Leaving their past lives behind them without a clue where they were headed. Soon they are miles out in the middle of the ocean with no shore in sight. All they are holding onto is a promise from God for a future blessing.
Hmmm…. Does that sound familiar to anyone?
Trusting God, you left the solid ground of one shore, but you have not yet landed securely on another shore. Instead, you are in the middle of a seemingly endless sea of uncertainty – praying for answers and hanging on to God’s promises for dear life.
Yup, me too.
You may have heard the story of Abraham and Sarah. They believe God. But when Sarah reaches her late seventies, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She has strong evidence that suggests any child born to Abraham is not coming from her aging body. So, she convinces Abraham to have a son and heir through her handmaid Hagar. This was an accepted practice in that culture. And so, Ishmael is born. But he is not the child of the promise, God says.
The situation is so absurd that when the now 89-year-old Sarah overhears a messenger from God tell Abraham that she would have a child in a year’s time – she laughed. I don’t blame her. Romans 4:19 states that Abraham considered his body as good as dead.
And yet. And yet. And yet, when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90, she gave birth to a son. Impossible. But here she held a nursing infant. Isaac. The child of the promise. The child through whom God’s future salvation would come.
God kept the Promise.
But then, in today’s scripture we read…God said to Abraham, “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 shall show you.”
Wait. WHAT? Did you say offer your son, whom you love, as a burnt offering? Are you kidding me? Isaac is the child of the promise…. he holds the future…he is the one through whom all nations will be blessed. And now, God is asking the unspeakable – He wants Abraham to sacrifice this cherished child and cut off the future salvation that Isaac represents!
What are we to make of this passage? It is beyond offensive to our modern ears to think that God would ask Abraham to even consider such a thing. At this point, it is good to take a step back and remember that this account was written in ancient times – thousands upon thousands of years ago. It was written for an ancient audience and reflects an ancient world view and ancient customs. Abraham and Sarah were surrounded by pagan tribes worshipping angry deities that often required the sacrifice of firstborn children.
The question is: Was Abraham and Sarah’s God any different?
Abraham thought so.
Maybe it was seeing God’s faithfulness throughout all those years of uncertainty and waiting. Against all the odds – God came through. Those promises? They are rock solid. And Abraham believed them – No matter what.
Listen to this from Hebrews 11. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.
Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.
He knew – no matter what – God would keep God’s promises. EVEN if that meant raising Isaac from the dead. You can see his confidence when he told his servants that he and Isaac would return after they worshipped God on the mountain. You see his faith when he tells Isaac that God would provide the lamb.
And you can see God’s provision in the ram, caught in a thicket by its horns.
14 So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
Just for the record, texts in Leviticus, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel explicitly forbid child sacrifice. This was never ever God’s intent. But God knew that Abraham would be faithful. And to us who find ourselves adrift in uncertain times, he is an example of faith in our gracious God who provides us a future and a hope.
Our reality may be one of transition and uncertainty… and yet. And yet. God provides.
Here at Augustana we have left the shore of what always has been… and find ourselves in an ocean of uncertainty and transition. Some of us had to be dragged onto the ship kicking and screaming. Others of us are up in the crow’s nest scanning the horizon with excitement and anticipation. All of us are waiting on God’s promise of a new future.
It is a hard place to be. And Yet, And Yet. The promise is sure. God will provide.
Our future is sure. How can we know?
Because unlike Isaac, God’s only son, Jesus, did die a sacrificial death on a mountainside. Out of love. For you and for me. Jesus – the true Lamb of God willingly gave his life, that we might have life – Now and forever.
Abraham’s reckoning was right. God was able to bring his son back to life again. Conquering death and grave, Jesus rose and opened paradise. Life eternal is ours – and our promised future is secure in God’s hands.
We may be living with the uncertainty of transition, and yet – God will provide.