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Trusting God’s Providence

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
September 6, 2021 12:01 am

Trusting God’s Providence

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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September 6, 2021 12:01 am

When Isaac asked his father what they would sacrifice on Mount Moriah, Abraham replied, "God will provide for himself the lamb" (Gen. 22:8). Today, R.C. Sproul considers how the faith of Abraham teaches us to trust in the providence of God.

Get R.C. Sproul's Teaching Series 'Providence: God In Control' as a Digital Download and a copy of R.C. Sproul's book 'The Invisible Hand' for Your Gift of Any Amount: https://gift.renewingyourmind.org/1849/providence-invisible-hand

Don't forget to make RenewingYourMind.org your home for daily in-depth Bible study and Christian resources.

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What will you do when your faith in Christ is challenged?

Hi, Steve Nichols here. I want to invite you to join us on September 18th on the campus of Reformation Bible College for Always Ready, a youth apologetics conference with Ligonier Ministries. Designed for Christians ages 12 to 18, this event helps you defend the gospel and talk about your faith with non-Christian friends.

Learn more and register today at ligonier.org slash always ready. In obedience to God, Abraham took his son Isaac up to the mountain to sacrifice him. Isaac asked Abraham, Father, we have the wood and fire, but where is the lamb for the offering?

Here is the first concrete reference in biblical history to the doctrine of providence. The words that Abraham speaks to his son are these, Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide. What's Abraham saying? The only hope we have right now, son, is the providence of God. That's next on Renewing Your Mind. This story found in Genesis chapter 22 is an astounding account of a man who trusted in God's goodness. Abraham didn't just believe in God, he believed God.

This week on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul examines the often neglected doctrine of providence, explaining that God works out all things for the good of His children. Doctrine is life. Now, that may sound strange to you, but as we're studying the doctrine of providence, it's easy for us to make the fatal mistake that doctrine is something abstract, something that is relegated merely to the level of cognition that never touches us where we live.

I can't think of any doctrine that touches us more frequently or more deeply than the doctrine of providence, because this doctrine is about how God is intimately related to my daily life. And again, it's easy for us to say that we believe in the providence of God in terms of a mere intellectual assent of its truth. But to believe in the New Testament meaning is to trust someone or to trust something. And to trust in the providence of God means to trust God for my very life. In the Scriptures, we see not mere abstract doctrines, but we see concrete examples taken from daily life in the lives of the people of God when they are called upon to exercise faith in this sense, in the sense of trusting God for their lives. And I think one of the most poignant examples of that found anywhere in Scripture is in the story of Abraham, on the occasion when God called Abraham to exert faith and trust in divine providence to a degree that was excruciating. I'm thinking, of course, of the record that we find in the 22nd chapter of Genesis when God comes and puts Abraham to a test, and this test is a test of one's faith in providence.

Let's look at it briefly together. Genesis 22 begins with these words, "'Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham.' And He said to him, Abraham." Now again, before we look at what follows here, we have to notice the important distinction between a test and a temptation. The devil comes to human beings with temptations, but Scripture says, let no one say when they are tempted that they are tempted by God.

God never tempts anyone in the sense of enticing or provoking them to sin. But He will put us to a test, and the test is a test of faithful obedience. And now it's time for Abraham's test, and God calls him saying, Abraham. And the Scriptures continue, and He said, here I am. Then God spells out for Abraham the content, the terms, the life situation of the test. Then God said, take now your son, your only son, the one whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, of which I shall tell you. What a test! This is the same Abraham who had years before heard an incredible promise from God when in Abraham's advanced age and when his wife was past the age of childbearing, God had appeared to Abraham in a night vision and told him that He would be Abraham's exceedingly great reward.

And you remember Abraham struggled with that. He said, how can you give me any reward? There's no reward that you could give me that could make up for what I don't have.

I don't have a child. The heir to my fortune is Eliezer, my servant. And God said, Eliezer will not be your heir, but your heir will be one from your own loins, this child of promise that I will give you.

And you will be the father not only of this child, but of a great nation whose descendants will not be able to be numbered, to be more than the grains of sand on the seashore and more than the stars in the sky. And we are told in Genesis 15 that on that occasion Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. He trusted in God's promise for the future.

That's what faith is all about. So he came home and he told his wife, we're going to have a child, and she laughed. And the Hebrew word for laughter is Isaac. And Abraham was all excited. He couldn't wait. The next morning I'm sure he's saying to Sarah, do you feel anything different?

Are you with child? And Sarah was still barren, not for one month, not for six months, but for years. The promise did not come. Abraham grew impatient.

You know the story. And Sarah gave Abraham her handmaiden Hagar, and from that union Abraham produced a son called Ishmael. But Ishmael was not the child of promise. Do you see, Abraham and Sarah tried to take the providence of God into their own hands to make it happen on their own. But God said, this is not the child of promise.

And then finally after years of struggle and wrestling with their confidence in divine providence, finally Sarah in the midst of her barrenness conceived. And God's providential promise became a reality. And you can imagine the delight and the joy and the relief from anxiety that came into Abraham's soul. Now I know that I can trust the promise of God.

I know that He is faithful in all that He says. And now we can all live happily ever after because I have an heir, even Isaac. And if ever a father doted on his son, it was Abraham. And now this joy, this comfort, this peace, this hope is rudely interrupted when God comes and said, Abraham, take your son and offer him to me as a sacrifice on the mountain where I will show you.

Now if you're following the text closely, you know that I didn't just give the whole text, did I? Because that's not exactly what God said to Abraham. He didn't just say to him, take your son. Because if God said, okay, Abraham, now to fulfill this test, I want you to sacrifice your son to me. And if that's the only thing that God would have said to Abraham, if you would have been Abraham, if I were Abraham, what would we have done?

We would have gone straight for Ishmael, and we would have offered him. But God didn't give Abraham that option, did He? He said, Abraham, take now your son, your only son. You know the one I mean, Abraham, the one whom thou lovest. And if there's still any doubt in your mind what I mean, Abraham, take Isaac and offer Isaac as a sacrifice to me on Mount Moriah. The Scripture in its typical understatement and an economy of language continues almost brusquely in verse 3 when we read, so Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son, and he split the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God told him. Soren Kierkegaard once wrote a little book called Fear and Trembling, where the Danish philosopher tried to get a handle on the internal agony that often accompanies a believer's exercise of faith, that so often our life of faith is not characterized by a glib kind of assurance, but it takes place in the midst of dread, in the midst of fear, in the midst of trembling. And in order to give a historical example of that struggle, he points to this episode in Abraham's life and he asks the question, why did Abraham get up early in the morning?

The Bible doesn't answer that question, but Kierkegaard speculates in many different ways. He said maybe it was because he was so devout, so godly, so spiritual, so willing to obey every command of God that even when God comes to him and says, give me your son on the altar of sacrifice, Abraham said, so let it be said, so let it be done. I'll set my alarm clock for five o'clock.

I can't wait to comply with this command. Maybe Abraham was like that, but if he was, he wasn't like any other believer I've ever known. I like to think that he got up early in the morning because he couldn't sleep. He tossed on his bed all night and he said, how can this be God? How could God ask me to do such a thing? But the Scripture said he did get up early, and he went out and he chopped the wood for the sacrifice himself.

Again, you let me speculate here. Luther said when he would be overcome with depression or fear or anxiety to calm his soul, he would seek the relief of physical labor to get his mind diverted from scary things. Here's Abraham, the richest man in the world, servants in abundance. If he hadn't picked up an ax in years, he could just say to a servant, go chop that wood, and they would go.

He didn't saddle his own livestock. He had servants to go and get the saddle and put it on the beasts of burden, but this morning Abraham got up and he took the ax and he began to chop the wood, and with every thrust of his arm with the ax, all of the emotion, all of the fear was going out of his heart from his chest down his arm through his hands into the ax handle, into the wood, as he's contemplating the unthinkable. And so he embarks on the journey, and we read that on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off, and Abraham said to the young men, stay here with the donkey. The lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you. I don't know whether Abraham was stating a bald-faced lie here, if he was trying to protect his servants from the tragedy that Abraham was anticipating, or if this was a manifest expression of unprecedented faith when he said, we will come back to you. If he said it, he had his fingers crossed, because this is what he was hoping against hope, that somehow God would provide a way out, a resolution, a redemption of a seemingly unredeemable situation. On the other hand, what could he say to the servants? Well, you guys stay here.

I'm going on further with my son, and I'll come back by myself afterwards. I don't think he could have said that either. So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son and took the fire in his hand and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, my father and Abraham said, here I am my son. And then he said, look the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?

Isaac isn't stupid, but he cannot contemplate what's going on here. He said, Father, you've given me the wood. We're carrying the fire. We have all the implements we need to make a sacrifice except the one thing that's most necessary. Father, you forgot to bring a lamb. God requires an animal. He requires something living to be killed on the altar of sacrifice, and we don't have anything. And Abraham said, my son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.

Here is the first concrete reference in biblical history to the doctrine of providence. The words that Abraham speaks to his son are these, Jehovah Jireh, which has become a title for God because it captures the very essence of God's character and His activity towards His people. Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide. What's Abraham saying? What he's saying, somewhat cryptically perhaps, is that the only hope we have right now, son, is the providence of God. If God wants a lamb for the sacrifice, He will provide it. We must trust to His providence.

I've spoken on this passage many times in preaching and in teaching, and I've told the story of the occasion I had when we first moved to western Pennsylvania and began Ligonier Ministries. We were given the gift of two young German Shepherd puppies, both of them bred from champion stock. And the male of this pair was the actual son of the Canadian grand victor, a magnificent, handsome specimen of an animal. And I loved this dog, and when he was still a puppy, four or five months old, he went out in the early morning, and then he came back inside through the dog door. And when I looked at him, I was horrified because his head was swollen to twice its normal size and its eyes were closed.

And I thought, oh my goodness, he's gotten his head into a hornet's nest and has been stung many, many times. And so I took the dog and took him to the vet. And the vet came to me and he said, R.C., he said, I found three fang marks on the face of your dog. And this is the worst case of snake bite in an animal I have ever treated. Yeah, I don't think your dog is going to live.

He said, the first 24 hours are crucial. Well, the dog made it through 24 hours and through the next day and the day after that. And finally, after about two weeks, the vet called me and said, the dog is going to live. You can come and pick him up now. He's out of a critical care unit of the veterinarian infirmary. He said, you can take him home.

And I went and I got the dog. And when I looked at him, I was horrified because necrosis had set in, the rotting of the tissue of his skin. His face had literally fallen off. And in its place, his sinus cavities were open.

He'd take a drink of water, it'd come right out of his face. He was grotesque. And the smell of putrefying flesh was more than I could bear. But the doctor said, if you're going to have this animal live, you'll have to treat him every day with this ointment.

Two times a day, you're going to have to rub it on his face so this face will heal. And so he gave me rubber gloves to use. And when I took the dog home and put him in our garage and stooped to apply the first application of this ointment, I almost vomited.

And I could hardly bring myself to touch this horrible nurse. And the animal seemed to sense it. He kind of shrunk back in embarrassment. But when I applied the ointment to his face, his response was as a wounded person who was totally at the mercy of his physician. It was a tender moment. I don't want to get sentimental, but it was a tender moment between me and his dog. And all of a sudden, all the repugnance of this business left me, and I took the gloves off, and I used my bare hands to spread the ointment on his face. And I did that every day, twice a day, for weeks, until his face healed up into a mass of scar tissue. His face was frozen into a perpetual smile is the way I looked at it.

Other people thought it was a snarl. And I've never in my life had a relationship with an animal like I had with that dog. But then two years later, residual effects of the poison took place. They were so bad that his situation became incurable. And the doctor said he had to be put away. And I said to my wife, we have to put him to sleep. I said, but I can't take him to the vet.

You get a student, you get somebody to take him there and tell me when it's over, because I could not take my dog and put him in my car and drive him to the vet, knowing that I was taking him to my death. But beloved, this was my dog, not my son. Abraham was taking his son. And so they came to the place where God had told him. And Abraham built the altar and placed the wood in order, bound Isaac his son, laid him on the altar upon the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to stay his son. And you know what happens at the last possible second when Abraham raises this dagger over the heart of his own boy. Isaac is looking up at him with ropes binding his chest. He's fixed to the altar.

It dawns on him that his father is about to kill him. And as Abraham raises the knife at the last possible section, the voice of God comes to him and says, Abraham, stretch not thy hand against thy son, for now I know that you trust me, you've passed the test. And behold, Abraham turned, and there a ram caught by his horns in the thicket. And Abraham dropped the knife, ran to the thicket, took the animal, took Isaac from the altar, and offered the substitute in his place. Two thousand years ago, in exactly the same spot, God took his son, his only son, the one whom he loved, Jesus, and put him on an altar of wood to be sacrificed.

But this time, nobody hollered, stop. And the ultimate provision for God's people was made by Jehovah Jireh. The Lord will provide.

That's Dr. R.C. Sproul from his series, Providence, God in Control. Not only does God supply all things, but He arranges them according to His plan and for His glory.

And as Christians, we find great peace and comfort in that fact, even when it appears that all is against us. We're returning to this series each day this week here on Renewing Your Mind. And while we're airing only five of the messages, we'd be happy to send you all 15 lessons as a digital download when you give a donation of any amount to Ligetier Ministries. When you contact us today, we'll also send you the 25th anniversary edition of Dr. Sproul's classic book, The Invisible Hand.

In this book, you'll rediscover the comforting truth that God is concerned with every detail in our lives and in the universe. Request these resources online today at renewingyourmind.org. And because of the holiday today, this is an online offer only, so we invite you to go to renewingyourmind.org to make your request and give your gift. And we thank you for your generosity. It is your gifts that equip us to continue this important work. You can always visit our online archive of past Renewing Your Mind programs, and one easy way to do that is with our free Ligetier app. Download it today and begin exploring the resources available there. You'll find audio and video clips, devotionals, and many articles on the providence of God.

Just search for Ligetier in your app store. You know, when we talk about God's providence and sovereignty, the question is often asked, is God also in charge of suffering and sin? Every time my body aches and every time my heart aches, I second guess the wisdom of God, because it sure doesn't seem redemptive to me at the moment. Please join us again Tuesday for Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-03 14:44:15 / 2023-09-03 14:52:52 / 9

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