God will provide

May 25th, 2017

Genesis 22:1-14

There are a lot of directions one can run with a Scripture passage like this, but there is one prominent biblical truth that surfaces here, and is reinforced in the Genesis readings for the Sundays on either side of this date, as well as in a multitude of other passages: God will provide. Here is a one-point sermon. We can use these and other readings to provide varied illustrations of this axiom: God will provide.

Abraham and Sarah had long wanted a child. In fact, they grew old wanting a child. At some point, they probably accepted the fact that they simply were not going to have children. They did not understand it. They did not understand how they could be so faithful to their God, and that same God would fail to bless them in this way. Never mind the way it sounds today, in order to have offspring, Sarah gave Hagar, her Egyptian slave girl, to Abraham, and she bore him a son, Ishmael, which means “May God Hear” or simply, “God Hears.” Once there was a child in the home, life seemed better. However, it was still God’s pleasure that Sarah should have a son by Abraham. Therefore, in their old age, Sarah was found to be with child. She bore Abraham a son, and they named him Isaac, which means “He Laughs,” probably because Sarah laughed at God’s messengers when, as an old woman, she was informed that she would give birth.

When Isaac was born, Sarah became very territorial and was no longer pleased to have Ishmael or his mother in her presence. She had her son, the rightful heir of all that belonged and would belong to Abraham, and so she pressured Abraham to send Ishmael and Hagar away.

With regret, but at the direction of God, Abraham did send Hagar and Ishmael away. God had told Abraham to listen to Sarah and do what she asked, for God would establish Abraham’s line, a great nation, through his son Isaac. Abraham was not to despair, for God would also establish a great nation through Ishmael.

Early in the morning, Abraham took bread and a skin of water to Hagar and her young child Ishmael and sent them on their way. They wandered in the wilderness until their water supply was depleted. Then Hagar placed Ishmael under some brush and went off some distance and sat down. She could not bear to watch the death of her child. God spoke to Hagar through an angel. “ ‘Do not be afraid. . . . Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink” (Genesis 21:17b-19). The boy lived in the wilderness, and when he was grown, his mother got him a wife from Egypt. The moral of this lesson is that there is no cause to despair; for when you are doing what God intends you to do, God will deliver you. God will provide whatever it is that you need to see you through.

That lesson sets the stage for Genesis 22. With Ishmael out of the picture, Abraham had one son, Isaac. He loved this son very much. It seemed strange then, considering how much Abraham loved this son, and how God had waited so long in Abraham’s life to give him this son, and in light of the promise God had made to Abraham to establish a great nation through this son, that God would tell Abraham to go into the wilderness and sacrifice his son. Puzzled as he was, Abraham stayed the course, remained faithful to his God, and proceeded to do as God had requested. He cut the wood for a burnt offering, and set out with his son to a distant place where God was directing him. Abraham built the altar, he prepared the wood, he bound his son and placed him on the wood. He took his knife in hand and prepared to kill his son. Only then did God stop him. “And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 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.’ ” The Lord will provide. We cannot ask for more than that.

Genesis 24 is the story of how God led a variety of people through extraordinary circumstances to bring to Isaac the absolutely right wife for him. And again, the moral of the story is that God will provide.

In these lessons, one of the major themes of the Bible is established. God can be counted on to deliver God’s children from despair, God can be counted on to deliver God’s people, God can be counted on to provide whatever is needful for the welfare of God’s people and the building of God’s kingdom. God will provide. Further biblical illustrations of this great truth abound. It might be in sending Moses to Pharaoh to seek the release from slavery of his people. It might be in sending the young lad David to bring down the giant Goliath. It might be in bringing his people out of exile to rebuild Jerusalem and reestablish the kingdom founded through the offspring of Abraham. It might be in sending God’s own Son to redeem a lost generation. Time and again we see that God will provide.

I am reminded of an oft repeated refrain in the African American religious community that never fails to bring forth a rousing chorus of knowing amens. It goes like this: Jesus never comes when I call him, but he always comes in time. It is one more way of saying that God will deliver his people; that God will provide. Jesus never comes when I call him, but he always comes in time. And the people said, “Amen.”

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