The biggest struggles in life seem to show up when we least expect them.
Have you noticed? Without warning, the doctor finds a suspicious lump, or one of your children announces out of the blue that he's chosen an alternative lifestyle. Today on Inside for Living, Chuck Swindoll turns to the Old Testament to recount a dramatic story about a man and his son. The unthinkable happened, and their response to a crisis provides a model for anyone who's reeling from an unwanted surprise. Chuck titled today's message, When Unexpected Tests Rattle Our World. We're looking into God's Word together in Genesis chapter 22. If you have a Bible, please turn to the first book, chapter 22. I'll read for us the first 14 verses. I'll be reading from the New Living Translation.
Yours will perhaps read a little differently, but basically it's the same. This is just a little more simple to listen to for those who come without a Bible. So Genesis 22, beginning at verse 1, Because of our respect for God's Word and the God of the Word, may we stand together for the reading. Sometime later, God tested Abraham's faith. Abraham, God called.
Yes, he replied. Here I am. Take your son, your only son, yes, Isaac, whom you love so much, and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will show you. The next morning, Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey, took two of his servants with him along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Stay here with the donkey, Abraham told the servants.
The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back. So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac's shoulders while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, Father, yes, my son, Abraham replied, we have the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering? God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son, Abraham answered, and they both walked on together. When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood, and Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment, the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, Abraham, Abraham, yes, Abraham replied, here I am. Don't lay a hand on the boy, the angel said. Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son. Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh Yirra, which means the Lord will provide. To this day, people still use that name as a proverb on the mountain of the Lord, it will be provided. You're listening to Insight for Living.
To study the Bible with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to insight.org slash hope. And now the message from Chuck titled When Unexpected Tests Rattle Our World. I want to begin with several statements regarding epical moments nobody expected. I've never brought this series before, though I have spoken often on the individuals involved. But this particular series is designed to take us to a place where no one at that particular time in the story even imagined it would happen. Something so extreme, so extraordinary, so unexpected, what occurred must have taken their breath away.
It will be a somewhat serious series in that epical moments are like that. Not only are they unexpected, they're unprecedented. So there is no way we can be prepared for them specifically. Because when they come often they cut our legs out from under us. It's a moment they happen, we can't imagine anything good ever coming from them.
It looks as though at the time all is lost. Now why would I speak on a subject like this? Actually, three reasons came to my mind when I was preparing. The first is more epical events await us, even in this lifetime. Because we would not expect them, they will be a surprise.
More on that later. Second, even today you would never imagine the things that could happen. You could sit there and try hard to do so, but the plan of God is so incredible you would never outguess what he has in mind. Third, each story will remind us that God has his way in life's storms and shocking moments. When we are so stunned in disbelief, nothing of God is surprised or at a loss in knowing what to do.
As a matter of fact, his plan is unfolding perfectly. There are no surprises in heaven. Now unfortunately, you and I, most of us, are rather familiar with each of these epical moments, so some of the suspense is gone. So we must rely on our imagination as we return to those ancient days when these things occurred to enter into the world the person in question was going through. Unfortunately, we also know the outcome. I say unfortunately because when an outcome is a result of an event like that and God is in it, it is always so great you could never have expected that.
But we know both ends. However, I beg of you during our time in these messages, try to enter into the story as if for the first time. Try to put yourself in the sandals of the individual in question. To begin with, an old man well beyond 100 years of age named Abraham, who by now has a son probably in his mid-teen or older years. I've seen pictures of this setting and invariably it's a picture of an old man holding the hand of a little boy. But if I read the story correctly that the firewood was placed on the shoulders of the boy, he certainly was no little boy. He's old enough to carry a pile of firewood on his shoulders.
I suggest he is now 16, 18 perhaps early 20 years of age, which means the old man is 115, 18, perhaps 120 or more. God graciously fulfilled his promise to Abraham and his wife Sarah. It came late in their lives but he fulfilled it. He had told them, you will have a son. You too will have a son. When the child was born, Abraham was 100, which means Sarah was 90.
Genesis 21, 5 tells us Abraham's age at the birth of Isaac. Such a surprise he was that they laughed when they were told they would have a child. They named him Yitzchak.
Sounds like a sneeze, doesn't it? It literally means laughter or he laughs. But there was no laughing matter about Isaac. It would be through this son that the nations of the earth would be blessed. This was a child of promise. Not only did he mean much to Abraham because of Abraham's age, but he was the fulfillment of the wonderful promise of God.
So their lives became inseparable. The affection, the intense love between father and son cannot be put into words. Not just an old man loving a little baby, this is a son of promise.
Finally arrives. However, all the way through the life of Abraham, his faith is tested. He must rely on God when he leaves Ur and sets out for a land that God would show him. He must rely on God during days of warfare as well as dealing with Lot and all of those crazy days related to Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham all through the years is being reminded again and again that God will give him a son. He will give him a son a decade past, two decades past, on their way to three decades before God finally said, you'll now have a son. Abraham had waited in faith, trusting in his God. And along came the boy, the child of promise. We're not given many conversations between father and son, but you can be sure they were intimate and they were endearing.
That dad loved that boy. Out of the blue, with no time to prepare, not even having had a premonition that such would occur, God broke the silence and spoke to Abraham and the epical event was initiated. We are told why, but Abraham is not. The reader is given insight into this test that not even Abraham is given. All Abraham knows is the command to sacrifice his son. We're told why at the very beginning of the 22nd chapter of Genesis, God tested Abraham's faith. It wasn't a test between the love of a father and a son. It was a test of faith between a man and his God. God came to the place where he needed to have proof or he chose to have proof of Abraham's faith in him. Will his faith in me be greater than his love for his boy? God chose to put it to the test in an epical event that is unthinkable and in fact it is unprecedented.
Read it for yourself. Abraham, Abraham, God called. Yes, he replied, here I am. He did not know what God was going to say next. Please don't rush ahead. He has no idea why God calls to him out of the blue.
Here I am. Take your son, Isaac, whom you love so much and go to the land of Moriah, go and sacrifice him as an olah. The Hebrew word means a whole burnt offering.
If it were of an animal, it would be from the snout all the way to the end of its tail. Every part of the animal was to be consumed in the fire. That's the word used. Offer him as a whole burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will show you doesn't even tell him which mountain yet. That's all Abraham knows.
That command is an epical moment no one expected, least of all 115 year old or more father who adores his son. At the risk of being overly literal I want you to enter into what the sacrifice meant. Isaac was to be tied up. The wood was to be stacked as an altar. Isaac was to be laid on top of the altar. His throat was to be slit like the throat of an animal.
The torch was to be put under the wood. Isaac would be consumed in fire as an offering like he had been an animal. Abraham had often sacrificed animals. That wasn't anything new.
This is unbelievable. Before I go further, you must put yourself in the place of Abraham. What would be your response? He's not told that I'm testing your faith. He's simply told take Isaac and sacrifice him. I find here three responses in the verses that follow.
The first response is immediate. Notice in verse 3, the next morning Abraham got up early. There's nothing said about the night before. We're not told of any complaining, any pleading, bargaining, discussion with God in prayer. We're not told of any wrestling, any reluctance. We're told only he got up early.
He got up early, saddled his donkey, took two of his servants with him along with his son Isaac, probably had to awaken Isaac. There is no clinging. There is no clutching. There is no crying. He awakens Isaac.
Come with me. Isaac gets up, comes along with his father. The test continues. There are no words of explanation. In the narrative, there is no dialogue until later.
The second thing I notice about the response, it is based on faith alone. He chopped the wood. He got the torch. He set out for the place God had told him to go. It was a long ways away, three days journey along the way, and it's all based on faith in his God. Abraham knew that his God has never done anything wrong, nor would he ever be cruel, though he will be filled with mystery and surprise.
You remember that if you're clinging to something and you cannot figure out why you can't hang on to it because it is slipping from you. Abraham knows it's only a matter of time before his son will literally go up in smoke. There is no hesitation. Please observe the first one to break the silence is the son, Isaac. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Stay here with the donkey, Abraham told the servant. The boy and I will travel a little farther.
Please read carefully the next words. We will worship there and then we will come right back. Will you observe what he calls the sacrifice? Worship.
Then will you also notice the pronoun in the return? Not I will come back, but we will come back. He was told to sacrifice his son, but he says we are going to worship and we will return.
How could he do it? It's called faith. We will worship. We will return.
Many of us are familiar with this dramatic scene in the Old Testament when Abraham offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice, but most of us haven't heard the story told quite like this. Let me urge you to keep listening as Chuck Swindoll continues his message called clinging to hope when unexpected tests rattle our world. You're listening to insight for living.
To learn more about this ministry, we invite you to visit us online at insideworld.org. Right now we're pleased to offer Chuck's brand new book. It's the one that compliments this teaching series. It's called clinging to hope. The subtitle gives you an idea of what you can expect to read. What scripture says about weathering times of trouble, chaos and calamity.
Well obviously we're living in chaotic times. It's hard to watch the news without feeling our emotions rise and this book brings us back to the solid foundation of God's timeless word. You see the chaos in our world may seem like a new phenomenon, but there's really nothing new under the sun and Chuck helps us view our disappointments, our setbacks and the scandals that shock us through the comforting lens of scripture.
Again Chuck's new book is called clinging to hope. You can purchase a copy right now by going to insight.org slash hope or by calling us. If you're listening in the United States call 800-772-8888. These daily programs and our many other Bible study resources are made possible through voluntary donations from people like you. We're especially grateful for those who give on a monthly basis as a monthly companion. Through their consistent giving our monthly companions are helping countless listeners around the world who may not be in a position to give regularly. To become a monthly companion today call us.
If you're listening in the United States call 800-772-8888 or to give a donation online go to insight.org slash monthly companion. You've heard him teach about the Holy Land using word pictures to make us feel like we're actually strolling through the old city. Learning about Jerusalem is fascinating for sure but seeing the land of Israel with your own eyes is life-changing.
In fact it's absolutely magnificent. And now you can see Israel with Chuck Swindoll and the gracious hosts and experts assembled by Inside for Living Ministries. Join us on an unforgettable 12-day tour March 5th through the 16th 2023. At special sites along the way I will teach from God's word. We'll worship at the Mount of Beatitudes and share the Lord's table at the Garden Tomb. In fact we'll sail the Sea of Galilee together and we'll visit places where Jesus walked and taught. To learn more call 1-888-447-0444.
Just imagine walking along those sacred sites and seeing the Bible come to life before your very eyes. Mark your calendar for March 5th through the 16th 2023 and make your reservation by calling 1-888-447-0444 or go to insight.org slash events. Insight for Living Ministries tour to Israel is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us when Chuck Swindoll explains what to do when unexpected tests rattle our world. That's Thursday on Insight for Living. The preceding message when unexpected tests rattle our world was copyrighted in 2019 and 2022 and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2022 by Charles R Swindoll Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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