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There is no other religion on the face of the earth whose god/gods care enough for their worshipers to provide anything for them. Only our God PROVIDES for his followers. But why does God even care enough to do that? Today we will look at one of the greatest evidences of how God provides for His faithful servants.

Scripture: Genesis 22:1-14

A boy and his mother had gone to the corner drug store to buy a few items. And there on the counter was a candy jar. The little boy stood mesmerized looking up the jar filled with all that candy, and the owner smiled as he watched. He gently said the boy “you want some of this candy?” The boy nodded, and the manager said “well go ahead and stick your hand in the jar and take a handful”. But the boy just stood there and didn’t move. Again the owner said, “Go ahead. It’s OK. Just reach in and get a handful of candy”. But the boy still continued to just stand there and stare at the jar. Finally, the owner reached in the jar and pulled out some of the candy and gave it to the boy who filled his pockets. When they got outside the mother asked him “why didn’t you take that handful of candy when the man told you it was O.K.?” The boy smiled and said, “Because his hands are bigger than mine”.

That’s one smart kid! He knew if he put his hand in the jar he wouldn’t get nearly as much candy as when the owner did it for him. So he waited for the owner to PROVIDE for him! Because, if the owner provided for him, he’d get more than he would have gotten by himself.

In our text today, we find that Abraham learned that very lesson. Isaac, his son knew something was missing. He asked the question, “Where is the animal for sacrifice?” Abraham said, "God will PROVIDE for himself the lamb for a burnt offering” Genesis 22:8

And later, when God did supply the Ram for the sacrifice “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." Genesis 22:14

The Hebrew phrase used here is “Jehovah Jireh” – which means “The LORD will provide.” We folks don’t often use that phrase “Jehovah Jireh. Instead we have an English term “PROVIDENCE” – which essentially means “God provides.”

Now, there are a lot of folks who don’t accept that statement that God Provides. There are a lot of folks who worship other gods. gods who have no interest in providing for them. For example, in Buddhism… there is no god. Buddhists technically don’t worship any god. As a result, there’s NO ONE out there to provide anything to those who worship this no god.

On the other end of that, another world religion is Hinduism. In Hinduism there are over 300 million gods. Hindus will pray to different gods for different requests. But these gods really don’t provide anything to their worshipers, nor do they have any love or affection for their worshippers. A man, named Sai Anand, who had spent several years in the Hindu religion, said this: “Talking about love and a direct and personal relationship with God is revolutionary for Hindus because they don’t have a connection to the gods. And that a god would love us—that’s pure gold”

Then, there’s the Muslim faith. They have only ONE God – Allah – but he doesn’t provide anything either. Muslims see Allah as simply sitting in judgment. Allah doesn’t really love or really care for his worshipers… His purpose or relation to his worshippers is that he serves as a judge. He judges. A former Sunni Muslim named Emir Caner said this: “Allah is as close as your jugular vein, which is a place of fear, not of faith. As Muslims, grace was a foreign word to us”

We could go on and on looking at, and comparing all the different religions of the world. But the point is this: OUR GOD is unique. Our God is Jehovah – Jireh. Our God is the God who provides. Our God is a personal God who loves us and cares for us and wants us to come to Him and to be in relationship with Him. And that truth is written across every aspect of Scripture.

One of the most beloved passages of Scripture in the Bible is the 23rd Psalm "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:1-3). What’s that saying? It clearly and simply says, the Lord Provides.

Later in Psalms (Psalm 34:10) we’re told that “The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Why don’t they lack good things? Because the Lord Provides!

And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declares: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). It is like a constant reminder across all of Scripture, saying, “Know this and never forget that God cares for you and He desires to provide for you.

Here, in this 22nd chapter of Genesis, Abraham first speaks of God as his Provider. We know, of course, that God had always provided for Abraham, and I’m sure that, in the back of his mind, Abraham had always thought that was true. But, maybe Abraham was a lot like us. His theology was pretty good. He believed in God and he’d done all kinds of things up to this point because he believed that God existed. But when he got right down to applying his theology in his life, his trust factor might not be really strong.

Romans 4:16 talks about “the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. And Galatians 3:9 tells us “those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” So (according to those verses) it sounds like Abraham is the epitome of faith.

But James 2:21-23 tells us something more about Abraham: “… Abraham our father was justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar.” You see there that faith was active along with his works, and his faith was completed his works. And the Scripture was fulfilled that says ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’ - and he was called a friend of God.”

In other words, Abraham’s willingness to offer up his son – his only son, who was specifically promised to him - was the point at which he truly put his faith into practice. His faith became action. It was when his faith was “completed.” It was, in fact, where his faith was tested. And that’s why Genesis 22:1 tells us that “…God tested Abraham…”

Test Abraham? Why would God test Abraham? Well, apparently because Abraham’s faith was still raw and unproven.

Someone once said that an army that goes thru basic training is not ready for battle. It’s not until soldiers have faced the battle, and been under fire, that they’re considered to be proven, hardened, worthy. In order to be quality soldiers, they must be TESTED first.

And a ship can’t prove that it is seaworthy as long as it stays in dry dock. It has to get its hull wet. It has to face a storm to demonstrate its genuine seaworthiness. It must be tested first to prove it can withstand the storm.

And that’s what God was doing here with Abraham. He was testing Abraham’s faith. He was putting Abraham’s faith into a struggle; into a storm. God wanted to challenge Abraham by putting his faith to test.

And that’s what God does with us sometimes. There are times that God will put us in the midst of a struggle or the middle of a storm. God wants to know at least two things about us in relationship to Him. 1. He wants to see our reaction when our faith is tested and challenged.

2. He wants to see our faith strengthened. And it will be at those times that our faith will be tested and challenged. And at those times our faith will be strengthened.

You see, God has saved us from our sins. But He doesn’t want to stop there. That isn’t the end of it. He wants to challenge us in our faith. He wants to provide opportunities which will make us grow up to be true men and women of God. God will not be satisfied if we come up out of the waters of baptism to remain as immature and untested children.

Most of us here today have children or grandchildren. Some of us have great-grandchildren. Have you ever noticed that with those children, there comes a time when they have to make a decision? They have to make choices… and you can’t help them. They have to make those decisions all by themselves. And, if we have raised them and nurtured in a Godly manner, they will have a better opportunity to make solid decisions. It is at that point in their lives that the decision they make tells you what kind of adults they’re growing up to be. It tells you if they’re selfish and self-centered, or if they are strong in faith and courage.

That’s what God does with us. He puts us through a test to help us become more powerful in our faith. And, when we come out of that test strengthed, we are often left with a testimony. There can be no testimony without a person’s character being tested. Someone put it this way: “Only God can turn a MESS into a MESSAGE; a TEST into a TESTIMONY; a TRIAL into a TRIUMPH; and a VICTIM into a VICTORY.

It’s only in those uncomfortable and trying times of life that our faith is tested and shown to be the act of men/women of God. It’s at those times that our faith becomes focused and strong and our witness becomes powerful.

A very touching and powerful testimony came about a little over a year ago. You probably saw it on the national news. A police woman in Dallas, Texas shot and killed an unarmed black man in his own apartment. On October 1st the officer was convicted of murder and given a 10-year sentence. During the sentencing phase, family members were allowed to address the court and explain how the crime has impacted their lives and their families. During that time extra-ordinary occurred.

When the murdered man’s brother - 18 year old Brandt Jean – took the stand, he said this, (speaking to the convicted officer) “I don't want to say twice or for the hundredth time, what you've done, or how much you've taken from us. I think you know that. But I just … If you truly are sorry -- I know I can speak for myself -- I, I forgive you. And I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you. I love you just like anyone else. I'm not going to say I hope you rot and die, just like my brother did. ... I personally want the best for you.” Then he asked the judge if he could go down and hug the defendant.

Why would he do that? He did that because he was a Christian man – member of the Dallas West Church of Christ. He’d just lost a brother - not just a physical brother, but a Christian brother - in a senseless act of violence. But in the midst of this tragedy Brandt Jean’s faith in God was on full display. His forgiveness became national news. Most people praised him, but some condemned him. But no one could miss the fact that – like Abraham - this young man’s faith had been tested… and he had proved himself to be a man of God. Perhaps a stronger man of God than any of us here.

And Brandt Jean did what he did because of the one passage about God providing for us that I haven’t mentioned yet. We all know that verse: “For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Begotten son…” God provided His only Son so we could be forgiven… just like Brandt Jean forgave the woman who had killed his brother.

The uniqueness of the story here in Genesis 22 is that it shows that God had been planning the giving of His only begotten son centuries before Christ came. Isaac was the mirror image of Jesus. Both were offered as sacrifices by their fathers… and each was described as the only begotten son of that father. Genesis 22:2 describes Isaac as “Abraham’s only son, whom you love.”

And as the story unfolds, we find that these “only begotten” sons had much in common: Isaac had a 3-day hike to Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:4); Jesus had 3 days from the cross to the grave to the resurrection.

Isaac was accompanied by two servants (Genesis 22:3); Jesus hung on the cross between two thieves (Matthew 27:38) Isaac carried the wood for his own sacrifice (Genesis 22:6); Jesus carried the wood of his cross (John 19:17)Isaac willingly laid down on the altar (Genesis 22:9); Jesus willingly was laid on the cross (Luke 22:42)

God provided the sacrifice to save Isaac from death (Genesis 22:13); God provided the sacrifice of Jesus to save us from our sins). And Abraham believed his son would be brought back from the dead. After all, that is why he told his servants to wait at the base of the mountain, and he and his son would return to them when the sacrifice had been made. Of course, because God provides, Isaac did not physically die, but in a sense he was brought back from the dead.

.” By contrast, Jesus DID physically die, but He didn’t stay dead. Jesus came back from the dead, and He did that so we would know that – because HE now lives… so will we. That’s the promise that has been given to us. And that promise was driven home by the one physical deed that God requires of us to become Christians: baptism.

Romans 6:3-5 says “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

Every time we see someone accept Jesus through belief, confession, repentance, and baptism, we see this truth reenacted over and over again. Why would God do it that way? Because He wanted to remind us that although He is a God who can provide all our earthly needs. And, if that’s all He did, eventually we’d die and be buried… and we’d stay in the grave and ultimately go to hell. But because God provided His only begotten Son for us, that doesn’t have to happen.

Jesus said in John 11:25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). In Genesis 22 God revealed to us that He had planned to send Jesus centuries before He was born of a virgin in Bethlehem. And God provided that story to us… so that we might believe. So - do you believe?

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