The Lord will provide - Genesis 22:1-18

At this time of year we often take a little time to pray and fast and hear from the Lord. In the last year we have taken some significant steps in obedience to what we heard Him say previously. Most obviously the move into Headingley last October. Also some role changes in the leadership and some other developments.

When you surrender completely and comprehensively and unconditionally to the love of Jesus there will always be challenge and change in your life. That’s why some of you are struggling with things at the moment – you are surrendering to Him and finding that is bringing things in your life to the surface. And it is happening to us as a community.

I used to play a lot of basketball (I went to an American boarding school in the Himalayas as a kid and had no choice!). A basketball game is quite fast and furious. Lots going on, moving from attach to defense and back into attach very quickly. You can be trying out a new defense strategy (for example) but not have much time to figure out whether or not it is working. So every now and again the coach will call a “timeout” and the teams will step to the side of the court for a minute or so to review strategy and make changes.

iStock pregnantWe need to take a timeout from the full programme of church life and review how we are doing. We need to listen to the coach. We are calling this, “Waiting on a Promise”. We are on the right track but so much has changed and there is so much going on that we need to stop and wait and check that we’re OK.

So, for the month of January w
e’re going to pause the game and step to the side of the court to listen to what the Coach has to say to us. Since moving to Headingley we are in a different league. Our commitment to win Headingley and then Leeds for the Kingdom means we have to up our game. We have to listen more carefully to the Coach.

Instead of our usual programme there are four main things in which you are invited to participate (more information on the website);

1.    Fast
2.    Meditate & reflect (week One handout)
3.    Make a weekly witness
4.    come to the bunker

Before Christmas, when I explained all this I framed it with the words of the prayer, “Lord prepare me for what you have prepared for me.” What I want this month to be about is personal preparation - sorting ourselves out for what God has lined up for us. This isn’t about plans and programmes, it’s about being in His presence; it’s not about the fixture list, it’s about getting fit.

Each week this month I will teach on a name of God from the Old Testament. Each one will challenge us about our own personal growth, discipleship. 


Genesis 22:1-18

I want to talk about Abraham’s life and response to this extraordinary invitation from God.

The scene is set in the first 6 words, “Some time later, God tested Abraham.” (V1)

Why does God test us? It would be much nicer without any testing. This isn’t a success or failure type of test. Tick, passed that one, on to the next level of spirituality.

No, God tests us to expose our hearts. It is about discovering who we really are, what we are really like, are we growing closer to the person God has created us to be?

Let’s look at the bigger picture of Abraham’s life.

This event took place some 4,000  years ago. Abraham was a middle-eastern bronze age tribal chieftain minding his own business. And then in chapter 12 of Genesis we are told that God selected Him out of everyone else (and not because he was a particularly splendid chap) and gave him an astonishing call and promise,

“I’m going to make you into a great nation, the whole earth is going to be blessed by you”

(Abraham probably had no concept of anything much beyond his own town and farm).

And God calls each one of you in the same way. “Come on a life adventure” He says, “see what I have for you”. He promises us His presence and power as we are filled with His love.

As we live out that call we find we are tested, he is asking us, “Do you believe I love you and have a plan for you? Do you believe I will provide for you, heal you, be your righteousness, be with you?”

Abe up sticks, leaving his home and tribe, and starts trekking. But he doesn’t know where he is going and he has no children by his wife. Then he has to give Lot the best land. He makes some stupid mistakes and could be forgiven for wondering, “What have I done?”. God speaks to him a couple of times over the subsequent decades and eventually, when both Abraham and Sarah were too old, biologically, to have children, she gets pregnant with Isaac.

By chapter 22 Abe has done pretty well, he is wealthy and has this one son. He can take care of stuff. And then God decides to test him - again. Because he wants to expose his heart and test whether he is tending toward self-sufficiency.

This is one of the main tests we face? Our culture is of independence and self-sufficiency. We know that God provides but do we believe in our hearts?

What were Abraham’s choices?

  • Doubt his hearing – can’t be right, if I was too old a few years ago then I certainly can’t risk trying to make a baby now. God can’t possibly be asking me to do that, makes no sense, I can’t see the way that will work out.
  • Indemnify - take a sheep along as an insurance policy. I know God said this but I’m sure that I can sort out something better.
  • Discuss – are you sure you mean this God? Remember the long discussion he has with God about destroying Sodom?
  • Disobey – God’s promise hadn’t been dependent on behavior and obedience although most of the time Abe had done what he had been told.
I think all that went through his mind. But he shook his head, got his gear together and set off. Why? Because He believed God would provide. Discussion with son. A bit awkward. What shall we talk about?

“Dad, we haven’t got a sheep for the sacrifice - and why have I only got a one-way ticket?”

Abe’s response, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering." (v.8)

God sees a heart that isn’t self-sufficient but fully reliant on God. 

Afterwards "Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide”. (v.14)

And then God renews His promise to bless him.

I wonder what father and son talked about on their way home? "That was a fun outing wasn’t it? When shall we do that again?"
 Abraham knew that God provides. For all his faults, stupid decisions, daring to question God, Abe knows that God will provide. From day one he trusted God to provide and he learnt to live that way. Even when things seems desperate, impossible, God provides.

Abraham lived within the bookends of promises and blessings … but still God tested him because Abe, just like you and me, will always have a part of his heart that seeks to be self-sufficient.

Some of you are feeling that test at this time. Why is He testing your self-sufficiency? Because He wants to expose your heart. 
And you are going through the same things Abe went through - doubt, indemnify, discuss, disobey?

Some ways in which God tests our heart:
  • People – we look after people here. But sometimes we forget that the answer is in Jesus and we think that people need us. Some of you are very compassionate & caring. God might be saying to you – let that go. Trust me to look after them, I will provide for their needs.
  • Children – those with sons & daughters. We want to provide for them, get them into the best school, ensure they get the top grades, get to do all the hobbies they love (or you love!), keeping them safe & healthy. God might be saying – let them go. Trust me to look after them. I will provide for the children.
  • Future – you are carefully constructing a career path and plan for the future. Making tough decisions to get on for the best in the long term ahead. God might be saying – let it go. Trust me to look after the future. I will provide a long-term.
  • Money – pursuing financial independence, paying off the mortgage, building up your pension, saving your money (all good things). God might be saying – let it go. Trust me to look after the money. I will provide all the money you need.
  • Identity & reputation – another qualification, another promotion, an extra responsibility to burnish your cv, to safeguard your reputation. God might be saying – let it go. Trust me to look after your identity. I will provide all the reputation you need.
  • Church – working hard to do good things, keeping up the programme, making sure everything honours God. God might be saying – let it go. Trust me to look after my church. I will provide what she needs.
God loves you. He is on a mission to demonstrate His passion for you. When we surrender completely to the love shown to us in Jesus we embark on a journey following His call on our lives. And from time to time He tests our hearts to help us identify and deal with our self-sufficiencies.  Nothing changes in His love for us, nothing can separate us from His promises, He is always the Lord who provides.

Surrender to His love and may you discover the full provision of the Lord for you and your life.


David Flowers, 05/01/2014
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