PRAISE THE LORD, O MY SOUL; ALL MY INMOST BEING, PRAISE HIS HOLY NAME. PRAISE THE LORD, O MY SOUL, AND FORGET NOT ALL HIS BENEFITS – WHO FORGIVES ALL YOUR SINS AND HEALS ALL YOUR DISEASES, WHO REDEEMS YOUR LIFE FROM THE PIT AND CROWNS YOU WITH LOVE AND COMPASSION… (Psalm 103)
WELCOME TO OUR SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP.
OPENING HYMN (CH-497): – GOD OF MERCY, GOD OF GRACE, show the brightness of Thy face; shine upon us, Saviour, shine, fill Thy Church with light divine, and Thy saving health extend unto earth’s remotest end.
Let the people praise Thee, Lord; be by all that live adored; let the nations shout and sing glory to their Saviour King, at Thy feet their tribute pay, and Thy holy will obey.
Let the people praise Thee, Lord; earth shall then her fruits afford, God to man his blessing give, man to God devoted live – all below and all above, one in joy and light and love.
LET US PRAY:
GRACIOUS LORD GOD, we thank You for this time and place set apart for these moments when we can enjoy Your presence and fellowship with one another. Help us to use this time You have given us to hear Your Word, discern Your will, and grow closer to You, so that we may return to our daily lives renewed in hope and vision, strengthened in our faith, and equipped to offer thanksgiving not just with our lips but through everything we are and do, to the glory of Your name. For all the ways You touch our lives, we thank You from our hearts, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – GENESIS 22: 1-14.
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.” 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 THE 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. 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.”
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – HEBREWS 11: 1-3; 17-19.
NOW FAITH IS BEING SURE OF WHAT WE HOPE FOR AND CERTAIN OF WHAT WE DO NOT SEE. THIS IS WHAT THE ANCIENTS WERE COMMENDED FOR. BY FAITH WE UNDERSTAND THAT THE UNIVERSE WAS FORMED AT GOD’S COMMAND, SO THAT WHAT IS SEEN WAS NOT MADE OUT OF WHAT WAS VISIBLE…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.
Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Romans 4: 3). The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (Romans 4: 23-25). This is Apostle Paul’s summary on Abraham’s testing, with clear reference to Jesus’ Sacrifice, that offers to all believers the required JUSTIFICATION THROUGH FAITH to not perish but have eternal life from God Almighty, our Heavenly Father. FAITH IS A LIVING SACRIFICE: – By faith Abraham, when God tested Him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice … Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death (Hebrews 11: 17, 19). The Summit of Faith is, when God tests us, to surrender to Him what it is most precious to us, and we have to count on Jesus to keep His promises. Promises of God abound in the Bible; let me share with you my favourite biblical verse that always keeps me going, including during this pandemic,- …Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God… Do not be afraid, for I am with you… (Isaiah 43: 1, 2, 5). The testing of Abraham is not about human sacrifice; in fact, it is the opposite. Being called to sacrifice his one and only son, Abraham had been stopped, because God wanted a living sacrifice of Abraham’s faith, as Psalm 51: 17 says,- The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Mount Moriah was the very place where later the Jerusalem Temple was built. Today there stands the Dome of the Rock, built over the altar on which Abraham was to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, and from where Moslems believe Mohammed and his horse ascended to heaven. It is still a very religious and historic site for pilgrimages.
ABRAHAM BELIEVED IN GOD. Abraham was known for his obedience to God, who called him to leave his family and homeland and journey to a land that God would later give to his descendants. He just stayed in the land when he got there, believing that one day God would fulfil His promise. There are two things we must believe about God: – that He exists, and that He rewards those who seek Him. But believing is not enough. The Bible says, – You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder (James 2: 19). Abraham did not pass all the tests that God gave him. Venturing to Egypt, he failed the test of faith that God would preserve him. But then, he believed God’s promise to give him and his barren wife a son when he was 100 and Sarah was 90 years old. We can imagine how lovingly Abraham and Sarah nurtured their precious son with the best food they had, and with the most comfortable environment they could provide. Isaac was their precious and miraculous son, who was their great hope and their future. But now the very God who had given Abraham this son was about to tell him to do the unbelievable : – to sacrifice him as a burnt offering to the Lord. The command is made up of three simple verbs: – Take. Go, Sacrifice him. It seemed so contrary to all that God had spoken before to Abraham. We can imagine the great shock that Abraham might have felt when he heard it. He most probably had spent the whole night without any sleep. But finally at daybreak, Abraham took his son with him up to Mount Moriah. He built an altar and laid Isaac on it. But at the last moment, just before the knife was used, the Lord sent an angel to stop him. Abraham’s FAITH had been proven and his son saved.
WHY DOES GOD TEST THE FAITH OF HIS PEOPLE? I do not believe that God tests our faith that He might know how genuine and personal it is, but to show us how real or shallow it can be. As our faith is tested we discover that God is faithful in one situation after another, and this will cause our faith to increase.
ABRAHAM, GOD’S MAN OF FAITH. There are a few things about FAITH that we can learn from Abraham. 1. – We must learn that the reason we need to have faith in God In any difficulty is OUR INCOMPLETE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD’S PLAN. There are many things God has chosen not to reveal to us, yet. He wants us simply to trust Him. I love this biblical verse: – For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways – declares the Lord (Isaiah 55: 8). In every crisis we face, we must believe that God has a good purpose for whatever He does, and for whatever He allows to happen in our lives. We ought to realize that the trials we face have a divine purpose. They are not always by chance or accident, but by God’s plan. We must be aware that there are things to be accomplished that we do not know about. For Christians, where knowledge ends, FAITH in the Lord must begin. 2. – FAITH OBEDIENTLY SUBMITS TO THE WILL OF GOD. Abraham obviously loved Isaac very much, but to him obedience to God’s will became even more important than loving his son. Faith, like aim for success, makes us willing to give up, or offer up, what is required from us, even things that seem to be most precious to us. This is how to become a Living Sacrifice. Our faith must be a FAITH that makes God fully the Lord of our lives. God must be made Lord of all, or He will not be lord at all. To achieve it, we need to focus on His power and providing. God’s requirements are not designed to deprive or destroy us, but to bring blessings to those who believe. 3.- FAITH DEPENDS ON GOD’S POWER AND PROVISION. Although we do not know all that Abraham felt and thought as he was ready to sacrifice Isaac, we have a reference in the text that showed his faith in a Loving God, as he said to his servants, – We will worship and then we will come back to you (Genesis 22: 5). If we suffer any loss, we must believe that God will either sufficiently provide and return whatever we have lost – as he did for Job – or that God will provide us with sufficient grace and strength to bear the loss – as He did for Paul. We must know by faith: – The Lord will provide! 4. – FAITH BENEFITS BY BEING PROVEN AND REFINED IN CRISIS. Do not lay a hand on the boy,- God 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 (Genesis 22: 12). This verse reveals the hidden purpose of God for the strange command He had given to Abraham: – to prove Abraham’s love and devotion to God. It was God’s plan that Abraham’s FAITH should be fully revealed and refined, not for God to see, but for Abraham and all his descendants – including Isaac and all believers down to this day – to learn from, and live by it. This event not only revealed and refined Abraham’s faith, but also Isaac’s faith, exercised in a humble, passive manner. Nearly two thousand years later our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated the same kind of humble obedience when He went to the Cross at Calvary, and in this way, Isaac became a graceful foreshadow of Christ, who yielded Himself as a Living Sacrifice for our sins and provision for our eternal life – promised by His Father, our Father.
We can’t really tell what our next trial, after Coronavirus, will be or when it will happen, but we now know what we should do when it comes. Let us, then, ask God to help us in the same way as He helped Abraham, whenever our FAITH will be tested again. AMEN.
LET US PRAY:
LIVING AND LOVING GOD, we thank You today for the Message of Hope that lies at the heart of the Gospel, the assurance that, whatever may seem to deny it, Your love and salvation will emerge victorious. We thank You for Your Word of Hope that runs through the Bible – Your promise, as You tested Abraham’s faith, that through his offspring all the world would be blessed. We thank You for Your Son born from the line of Abraham, as Your promised Deliverer, born in Bethlehem; for Your Power seen in the Resurrection of Christ, and given to us through Your Spirit as the gift of FAITH. We thank You for what that means for us today – that we can live each moment with confidence, and look forward with anticipation, whatever our circumstances may be, whatever times of testing may befall us. So we come in FAITH to offer You our prayers for others. We pray for those suffering the consequences of Coronavirus– livelihoods overturned, families shattered, economies destroyed, millions killed, and even more carrying the scars of the infection. Bring Your support to the lonely and the poor, healing to the sick, and comfort to the bereaved. In our homes and our families, our schools and care-homes, our country and our world, may Your loving care bring hope and healing. Bless Your Church here and everywhere, and hear our prayers for all those whom we now quietly name before You, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN (81): – MY FAITH LOOKS UP TO THEE, Thou Lamb of Calvary, Saviour Divine; now hear me while I pray; take all my guilt away; O let me from this day be wholly Thine.
May Thy rich grace impart strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire; as Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee pure, warm, and changeless be, a living fire.
While life’s dark maze I tread, and griefs around me spread, be Thou my Guide; bid darkness turn to day, wipe sorrow’s tears away, nor let me ever stray from Thee aside.
When ends life’s transient dream, when death’s cold, sullen stream shall o’er me roll, Blest Saviour, then, in love, fear and distrust remove; O bear me safe above, a ransomed soul.
MAY THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THE LOVE OF GOD, AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BE WITH YOU ALL. (2 Corinthians 13: 14).
Sandor, your Minister.