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The Final Exam
Scripture: Hebrews 11:17-19; 1 Kings 17:19-23; Gene...
Track 11 of 11 in the Abraham series
It is one thing to have to take a test from a very hard professor; it is another thing to take a test given to you by God. Abraham faced a challenge to pass a test that ends a lifetime of experiences in learning to do Gods will. When I would fail a test in college it certainly was embarrassing but it would only show up in history as a very small blip in life. If Abraham had failed his test, it would have impacted the course of human history and the eternal destiny of all mankind.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

The Final Exam

I don’t know about you but whenever someone tells me I’m going to have to take a test, I immediately start to sweat. There is just something about that word that gives me shivers. I was never good at taking tests even though I got good grade in high school and college. I was never a good test taker. My kids who are very smart people both in their academics and with life also were very poor test takers. It was hard watching them agonize preparing for ACT and SAT tests and never really showing great scores. Fortunately they overcame that problem and excelled in other areas.

How about you, are you someone who loves to take tests or when a test is mentioned, you run for the hills and hide the best you can?

Tests require studying and studying expands knowledge, knowledge is power, but power corrupts, corruption is a crime, and crime doesn’t pay. So why study for tests?

What comes to mind when you hear the word “test”? What different types of tests are there in life? Which ones are the hardest to pass?

It is one thing to have to take a test from a very hard professor; it is another thing to take a test given to you by God. Abraham faced a challenge to pass a test that ends a lifetime of experiences in learning to do God’s will. When I would fail a test in college it certainly was embarrassing but it would only show up in history as a very small blip in life. If Abraham had failed his test, it would have impacted the course of human history and the eternal destiny of all mankind.

Paul wrote about the test Abraham had to pass and the impact that success had on his life as well as yours and mine:

Hebrews 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

By now in our lifetime, some of the things Paul wrote here seems pretty reasonable. Raising people from the dead is not new to us and it wasn’t new to Paul because he knew the risen Christ personally and he also knew about Lazarus. The other Apostles saw Jesus raise people from the dead so what Paul wrote was not a shock but proof of the all-powerful God, El Shaddai. But for Abraham, this was not something common. In fact, it had never been done before.

When was the first time in scripture that a person was raised from the dead? Who did it?

1 Kings 17:19-23 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

Never before Elijah had anyone actually been raised from the dead yet Abraham knew that if the promise was to be fulfilled, God would have to raise him so the seed would continue on. That to me is a stunning assumption on Abraham’s part. Many times Christian’s focus on the request being made by God and skip over the problem solving decision Abraham made concerning Isaac.

When we get to this time in Abraham’s life, a lot has changed. What is significantly different about him from the earlier Abraham? Why has he changed?

Genesis 22:1-2 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

I don’t know about you but if God would wake me up and ask me to do the very thing God asked Abraham, I would have to really think hard if the voice I heard was really God’s. This request was so bizarre and way out of the norm for what God said and did on behalf of Abraham and Sarah that one could conclude that God was asking way too much of his servant, it just didn’t make sense. What is even stranger to me, the writer of Genesis treats this as though this was no big deal on Abraham’s part because the next day Abraham gets up and prepares for the sacrifice with no commentary on what he asked of God at the point or what he said to Sarah?

Think here a minute, what was God actually asking Abraham to do? What implications did this request have for Abraham and the future generations to come? Isaac was the promised seed, he was the product of a miraculous conception, all future generations were to come from Isaac, literally God requested that Abraham cut the lifeline that would be the channel through whom God said would carry out His promise. There was no earthly way to harmonize God’s previous promise with His present command.

THE NEGEV was home to Abraham and Isaac throughout their sojourn in Canaan. This Old Testament map shows the land Abraham and Isaac journeyed in. The primary city of the Negev, or Negeb, is Beersheba. This region only receives ten to twelve inches of water a year, thus water is a scarce resource in this region. Because of this fact, numerous wells have been dug along the major wadis. Abraham is recorded in Genesis as digging many wells throughout his travels. The Amalekites, and other nomadic tribes, roamed the Negev as well.

Genesis 22:3-10 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

I told you last week that Abraham was the beginning of the salvation plan of God and it was completed when Jesus went to the cross. Many things in the Old Testament happened as a prelude to the real things to come. This test of God’s to Abraham was more than just a test of faith, it was a description of what the real sacrifice would look like when the True Seed came many generations later.

All of this is a perfect parallel of the events to come bringing our salvation and the worlds. What are the similarities to the sacrifice of Jesus by God and the one God asked of Abraham?

For those outside the faith, this event and all the details are absurd. Many look to this as a good example of a cruel God playing with the minds and emotions of mankind. What loving God would really do something like this or request such an act of obedience unless God was cruel and manipulative? Was Abraham so gullible that he actually believed God would raise his son back to life if he did sacrifice him? There is no question from Abraham’s conversation with his servants that he and Isaac would return and Abraham had every intention to plunge the knife into his own flesh and blood.

But Abraham was a different man than the one we were first introduced to. It is one thing to follow God to a place God would show him to an act of faith that required Abraham to kill his one and only son, his most beloved Isaac. Yet Abraham was totally prepared to do it because he knew God was faithful to His promises and would work out the details. No longer was Abraham willing to take matters into his own hand; he totally trusted God and was obedient to do all that God asked of him. This was so different than his and Sarah’s plan with Ishmael. Abraham and Sarah learned their lesson well.

Genesis 22:11-18 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Again, there is tremendous symbolism of events yet to come in this passage, what are they?

From this passage God uses and will continue to use the concept of a replacement being sacrificed for the sins of man. Instead of man receiving the just punishment for disobedience, the sentence of death reserved for man was carried out on a replacement. Just like in the Garden when Adam and Eve were naked due to their sin and needed to be covered, God covered their nakedness with the skins of an animal sacrificed on their behalf (the first death recorded in history). This will be the pattern until Jesus comes. He too will become sin for us and will die in our place on a cross. The difference between Abraham and God, Abraham intended to sacrifice Isaac but was prevented in doing so. God however fully sacrificed His son for us and allowed His precious Son, his only Son to die but just like Abraham believed, the seed would raise again from the dead which Jesus did on the third day.