Sunday Gathering – Faith’s High Point -Andy Hollingum
June 23, 2024

Sunday Gathering – Faith’s High Point -Andy Hollingum


Summary of Sermon: Faith's High Point

This sermon, titled "Faith's High Point," explores the story of Abraham and Isaac from Genesis 22 and how it relates to trusting God.

Key Points:

  • The story is read from the perspective of 21st-century readers, acknowledging the strangeness of the idea of child sacrifice.
  • The original readers would have been shocked by God providing the sacrifice, not by the request itself.
  • We prioritize things in our lives and spend effort providing for them. This passage explores how God tests Abraham's priorities.
  • The test is not about Abraham's abilities, but about his trust in God.
  • The things God provides us in life can become more important to us than God himself.
  • When we die, only our trust in God goes with us.
  • The phrase "The Lord will provide" is significant and suggests sacrifice is involved in seeing God provide.
  • God himself provides the ultimate sacrifice - Jesus Christ - not to appease him, but out of love.
  • The question is asked: Do we trust God?
  • As we trust God, He provides purpose for our lives.
  • Abraham's obedience to God leads to blessing, not just for him, but for many nations.
  • Our obedience to God can bring blessing to others.

Passages Referenced:

  • Genesis 22

Additional Notes:

  • There is audience participation where the attendees name their priorities in life.
  • The speaker mentions the "Mothers and Toddlers" group and the "Impact" holiday clubs as examples of obedience to God impacting others.



Morning, everybody.
So, I grew up in 146 this morning, so I just come from there,
greetings from the church at 146, to the church at Unit 3,
and we brought our gifts and offerings with us as well, so.
That's good. They did want to know if I was going to speak there,
and we were going to video it back to here.
So, I did get asked that question.
So, we're in Genesis chapter 22, if you're following this,
Genesis the first book in the Bible.
I'm just going to move this over here.
Can no PowerPoint today?
We've gone back to old school technology.
Put it there, sort of a better chance of it appearing on the camera.
Is that right, Mike? Can we see that?
Brilliant. Fabulous.
What? Let's pop that in there.
I'm probably going to kick it and knock it over.
Let's see how we get on.
So, Genesis 22, I'm just going to start by reading most of the chapter together.
If you want to follow along, I'm reading from the new international version,
and we read this.
Sometime 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 Mariah.
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'd 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.
He did? I lost my place.
He 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 is said, on the mountain of the Lord, it will be provided.
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said,
I swear by myself, declares the Lord,
that because you have done this and have not withheld your son,
your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky
and as the sand on the seashore.
Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies
and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed
because you have obeyed me.
Then Abraham returned to his servants and they sat off together for Bersheba
and Abraham stayed in Bersheba.
And then there's a bit of genealogy stuff about his brother, which we won't go through.
So chapter 22, what a fascinating story, right?
And if we've been following this well so far,
I think we're into about the 10th chapter of the story of Abraham.
And we've been following that, how God made a covenant, a promise to Abraham
of how he was going to bless him, of how that was going to happen.
We've been following how God promised that he would have a child and through that child,
all descendants of Abraham would be blessed.
And we've been following how during that time,
Abraham muffed it up a little bit.
He pretended his wife was his sister because he was scared of the people where he lived,
that he and Sarah together thought God's promises in coming,
let's try and help it along and do our own thing.
And his smell was born.
And so there's been ups and downs along the way.
And then we got to two weeks ago, if you can remember before,
partly on the precinct, we got to two weeks ago when Isaac was born
and the fulfillment of that promise after 25 years.
And now we get to this chapter.
God tests Abraham.
God response, Abraham responds to what God is calling him to do
and God provides this sacrifice.
So before we get into it, there's just a couple of things for us to think about
about how we read this chapter today.
Because reading this chapter with 21st century UK eyes,
it's kind of a bit odd, right?
We've got to be really clear, God isn't into child sacrifice.
That's really, really clear about that because in these days,
in the age you just never know, right?
But as we read this through our 21st century eyes,
we're drawn to that issue.
We think this is really strange.
Why would God, even at the beginning of the chapter,
put the idea of child sacrifice being something to do?
But for the original readers that read this, okay, way back when,
when they read what Moses was written here,
and they read the story, the idea of child sacrifice
was something that happened sadly in other religions.
And so that wouldn't have been the thing that shocked them so much.
But what shocked the original readers of this
is that God provided the sacrifice.
Because when you worship another God,
you provide sacrifices to them in order to get something back.
When you worship other religions, you give stuff up
in order to appease the gods or to get them on your side.
But here we see something completely opposite
that God himself is providing the sacrifice
in order to bless the person in the first place.
And we see that.
What an amazing thing is that now would have been a revelation,
something that would have shocked them.
And the second thing that would have shocked them,
and actually it's probably a question we could all ask,
why is God trying to sabotage his own plan?
Doesn't follow in Jesus sometimes feel a bit like that?
You think you've promised this?
And now this has happened, you know,
you promised that my descendants will be as numerous as the sand on the seashore
or the stars in the sky.
And you've given us this sun in our old age.
And now you're saying we should sacrifice it?
Why is God trying to sacrifice it?
It just makes no sense whatsoever.
And so it's confusing.
So that would have been the second thing
that would have shocked the original readers of that.
So if you can kind of do that,
you know, get our heads a little bit out of the 21st century
perspective and society around us
and think a little bit about how the original readers would have written it.
That helps.
The second thing to note here is this passage
like so many in the Old Testament,
they point to the main event in the New Testament.
This passage is a pointer to something about Jesus.
It's a pointer to ultimately God providing the sacrifice for you and me on the cross.
But before we get into the into the into a little bit more,
I want to ask you a question first of all.
This is why I've got the flip chart up.
And I want to ask first of all,
what are the things that we prioritize in our own lives?
Let's have a bit of audience participation.
It's always risky.
But so what are the things that we prioritize in our own lives?
Family, yep, brilliant.
Friends, yep.
What else?
Health, yep, sorry.
I need that.
Oh, South.
Not health.
And health.
Okay, very good.
South, yep.
Work, work, work, brilliant.
What about your home?
Does anybody prioritize something out of their home?
Yep, yep, there's a yes down here.
Hoovering, okay, we'll broaden that a bit.
Some say golf.
Okay, okay, we're pushing the boundaries a bit now.
So, but this is a good list, all right?
This is a good start.
So, these are the things that we prioritize
or some of the things that we all prioritize
in our own lives, right?
They're important to us.
And actually, rightly so.
But because we prioritize them,
we then spend effort providing for them, don't we?
Right, so if we'll spend time trying to work at our friendships
or spending time with people,
we'll spend time investing in our children
or our grandchildren as we just heard earlier.
We'll spend time working or making sure we can get our benefits sorted out
that we do in order to look after our home
and in order to have an income that enables us to do these things.
And so, we will work effort at providing for the things
that are the priorities of our life, right?
Agreed, yeah, we all do that.
Yeah, yeah, it's good.
Well, what I'm saying is, there's a consequence of that.
There's a point for all this, by the way.
There's a consequence.
There's relevant to the passage.
Right, there's a point of doing that is,
those two things together give purpose to our lives.
Right, so because we're bothered about these things,
we spend time providing for them,
and those two things together means our lives' purpose is often driven around these things here.
Right, that's the priority.
That's the, so that list of priorities is important.
Now, why have I said that?
Because in this passage that we've just read,
we see that Abraham, we see that God rather, is testing Abraham.
He's actually asking Abraham what are the priorities in your life, Abraham?
What is the thing that's most important, Abraham?
And we'll see this in a minute.
And he's asking him, what is it that is most important for you, Abraham?
And as we go through that, we see that ultimately,
when we'll talk about it in a minute, what that priority is,
that actually, with the priority that Abraham gets to,
it's God who does the provision.
God provides, not Abraham himself.
Right, remember, we said with this lot, these are our priorities,
we're spending time providing for them.
And what we're going to see is, God is the one who provides.
And the combination of that change leads to a purpose in Abraham's life
that is far greater than anything that you and I could get,
just by focusing only on these things together.
We'll see if this works. It's a little bit different.
So in the first five verses, we see that God sets out to test Abraham.
Now, I don't know about you, but I hated tests at school.
Clearly, Harrison is very good at them, as we've heard.
But I remember that when I reached that point in life where I thought,
I no longer ever have to do another exam.
Yes! What a fantastic feeling, that was good of you, you know,
is it's a great feeling that when you reach that point in life,
you don't have to do this, sitting down for three hours,
writing five essays, cramming revision at the end,
you know, your hand aches like mad at the end of the exam
because you're writing furiously and you're worried about how you're going to do
compared to your mates and all that sort of stuff,
all of that has gone, you know, and I hated tests.
And those tests that actually we all did, they were tests of our abilities,
tests of our performance, tests of our knowledge,
tests of our skills and our gifts.
But in this passage, Abraham isn't being tested on his performance.
He's being tested on his trust.
Does he trust God?
To see what is in his heart.
To see if this son of promise, this Isaac that they longed for for 25 years,
that God are provided for him, is something that actually will now remove his trusting God,
and he'll be more bothered about his son than he is about trusting God.
Now, now God knows the answer, he's not testing Abraham
so that God can figure out what his Abraham really liked.
He knows the answer, right?
But the testing for you and me always comes for that we may know truly what is in our heart
and that we may discover actually I'm passionate about Jesus
and that he's the one I want to trust.
Because the problem is for all of us is the blessing,
the good stuff that God provides in our lives can become the very thing
that we turn to and become more devoted to than we are to God himself.
They can become the things that can consume our time
and we focus on them and we prioritize them.
And this is important because there is an end game that we're coming to
when we get towards the latter part of this chapter that we'll see.
So what we've got over here, if I can just draw down here,
is that if we'll use a cross to symbolize God,
we used a little stickman to say here's Abraham down here,
and he's now got this son, Isaac.
But God has provided, and the question being asked,
does Abraham now trust, spend all his time and prioritize Isaac,
because Isaac now sits between him and God?
And the reason why that's important is because for us up here,
we might argue that God has given us these things,
and as we sit over here, we expend all our effort doing this
and we lose sight of God over here as a consequence.
And that's what's going on in chapter 22 here, as we read this.
And that's the challenge and the test that's happening.
And I'll say this now, I'm going to say it again,
but the issue is not God or this.
Right? This stuff's important.
Right? All of this is important in our lives.
The issue is, if we trust God first,
that affects all of these things.
And affects how we do this.
But if God is competing with these things,
if God is competing with Isaac for Abraham's trust and commitment,
that's going to affect how this works out.
Because ultimately, these things, as I said,
we spend time providing for these things.
But I tell you what, when we die, when our life ends,
when we go to glory, and we spend time with Jesus forever,
and worshiping forever, all the effort we've put into this
doesn't matter.
This irrelevant is finished.
But all the effort we've put into trust, God,
car is on, way beyond us leaving this world.
And that's the promise we get to the end of chapter 22.
So I'm getting ahead of myself.
So the God tests Abraham.
And then in the middle bit of the chapter,
in verses 6 to 14, we see three times this little phrase is mentioned,
the Lord will provide.
You know, and it's a significant statement in the chapter
that we're reading.
And I just noticed in passing, this is just in passing.
If we want to see God provide, if you want to see God provide,
we need to be in a place of worship and sacrifice.
You see, Abraham says, on the mountain of the Lord,
God will provide.
He'd gone to the place of worship.
He'd gone to the place of sacrifice.
There is sacrifice involved in seeing God come and provide for us.
I think we might be coming to that,
discover that for ourselves with 146.
There is sacrifice involved in seeing God provide for us.
As we want to see God move in the community,
cross Jordan, Thorpe and Batemore,
guys, there's sacrifice is going to be involved in order to see God
going to provide and do things that we long for and hope for.
There is sacrifice involved in seeing him provide for us.
But as I said earlier, like many Old Testament passages,
this points to some aspect of Jesus.
This points to a God that ultimately provides the sacrifice for you and I.
Not of a ram, but of his own son.
Not caught in a thicket, but of his own choice going to the cross
and dying for you and for I.
See, sacrifice in all of our religions was to bargain with God.
As I said earlier, it was to appease them.
It was to get them on your side to give something in exchange to get something back.
But there is no sacrifice to you and I can make to appease the Lord.
Well, there is no sacrifice to you and I can make and give to him in order to get something back.
Ever, and we need to grasp hold of that.
Otherwise, we end up going in a rabbit hole of law.
But there is nothing you and I can do to appease God.
But the good news of Jesus Christ is that God loved the world so much
that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish,
will not die just here, but will have everlasting life.
What is good news?
It's absolutely outrageous, isn't it?
You know, and that's why I think it's important to get our heads a little bit in the space of
those first readers to think about, hang on, there's a God here who we worship,
and he is the one who is providing the sacrifice.
And through that sacrifice brings blessing to you and to me,
and through that sacrifice brings purpose to your life and to my life.
God has freely provided the sacrifice.
So how does the fact that God has provided the sacrifice change everything?
He provided, but we could not.
Mercy and grace has come to you and me through Jesus Christ.
And then coming to him, God tests the motive of our hearts,
like he's doing with Abraham.
God is testing the motive of our hearts as we come to him,
as we look up on the sacrifice of Jesus on that cross.
And as we gaze upon that, the question it asks is,
do you, Andy, trust me?
That's all he's asking.
And the same question is to every single one of us this morning,
as we gaze upon the cross of Jesus.
He asks you, do you trust me?
In fact, in the language that I read the verse, I read it,
it uses the word, do you fear me?
Which is slightly stronger, and it's not fear, I said,
it's an old scar, it's fear as in a sense of a you in all of who this God is.
But he should provide a sacrifice of his own son in order for you to me,
to take the benefit of the good things that he's given for us,
and to take the purpose of that he has for you and me to be out working our lives.
We should be in all of who he is, in healthy respect of who God is.
As we own the sacrifice God has provided in Jesus,
as we gaze upon the cross and think about what he has done, the cost.
We consider him who endured the cross and despised it's shame.
We consider him who for the joy set before him endured the cross,
despised the shame and is now sat down at the right hand of God.
Of course, these things are important, right?
Is that a reiterate?
But the question we're discussing is what is the number one thing amongst all of this lot?
And the number one thing is to trust Jesus.
My response has got to be Jesus, it's you first, it's not my income, it's not my house,
it's not my stuff, it's not my benefits, it's not even my family, it's Jesus first.
See, he is worth it, right?
He is worth it to see lives changed, to see communities transform,
he is worth it, to see Jesus that work in the community,
to see baptisms that we have in this building and hear the lives of men and women
testify how Jesus has changed things around for them,
to hear the transformation that's going on in our 62nd Testaments and see God at work,
Jesus is worth it, to see lives surrendered, to see hearts changed,
to see men and women set free from addictions of drugs and alcohol and pornography and whatever
else that evil things are out there that grip people's lives today and then snare them.
Jesus is the one who sets them free, he is worth it.
Therefore we say, yes, Jesus, we will trust you, we will get a hold of you and we will fight
to have that you in our lives as the number one thing and see his kingdom transforming people's lives.
Okay, finally, in verses 15 to 19 we see what happens as a result of Abraham's test.
The end result of all of this, the end result of Abraham being tested and of God providing
the sacrifice is the blessing of God comes to Abraham.
It's a confirmation of the word God has spoken over the years to him,
it's a reiteration of the purpose that God has for him.
But what's happened is Abraham is saying, what is most important to me is that I trust you, Lord.
Yes, I've got to do all this stuff. Yes, we love Isaac dearly and he's our son and we're
passionate about him, but number one father is you and we trust you implicitly.
And as Abraham does that and God provides the sacrifice to enable Abraham to have that
relationship with God in the same way, God provides the sacrifice in Jesus to enable you and
I to have that relationship with him as those two things come together. God speaks purpose
into Abraham's life and as you and I resolve in our hearts to trust God first and foremost
and as we come to the cross and see how God has provided his own son Jesus for us,
as those two things come together, God will speak purpose into your heart and into your life.
Now, as I said, Abraham didn't love Isaac any less. It's not that this stuff is replaced,
but it's about where is God in the pecking order of those things of our lives.
But also want to just draw our attention to the size and scale of God's purpose.
He says to Abraham, all nations will be blessed because you have obeyed me.
How many nations are there in the world today? Anybody know? Roughly?
Loads, yeah. Loads, yeah. 240 ish, something like that, I think, yeah. So, you know, all of those
nations will be blessed because of one man's obedience to God. How many people in the world today?
Four billion is it? Six billion, yeah. The percentage of those people, and that's just today,
right? It's a less not go back from today all the way back to when Abraham was living, but all
nations blessed because of one person's obedience. One person said, I will trust God,
and there's a consequence that the impact of that, the implications of that rolling down through
the years is absolutely massive. You see, your obedience and my obedience to God
leads to the blessing of God. Yes, for us, but actually for many, many, many others beyond us.
That's why God blesses us. As we obey him, he blesses us for the benefit of other people.
Look at Abraham here. We are all here because we have been on the receiving end of the fact God
has blessed other people's obedience to him. Every single one of us in this room today.
That's the effect about whether we choose to obey God or not, and the effect that has on other
people. It's not just about me, and what God can do for me. In fact, that's a tiny, tiny, tiny,
tiny fragment of God's work in your life. It's for the benefit of other people.
I was thinking about this. We were chatting in grit the other day, and Mel was saying how they've
been running mothers and toddlers here for, I think, 15 years. Mel and Ruth faithfully weak him,
weak out, doing that for 15 years, and they're now seeing the children of the first toddlers that
they had when they started it coming through. The impact of their simple obedience to God and
getting on and doing it, and affecting other people down through the years, I think in
of Jill and Pete, running impact on holiday clubs for two decades now. The stories we hear of
grown-up people and teenagers still talking about when they came to it. The impact of that of
their obedience 20 years ago, plus now seeing today is it rolls on down through the years.
This passage reminds us that every single one of us has the gift of bringing God's blessing to
other people simply by our obedience to him. It reminds me of my granddad, right? He was
he was wounded in the First World War at the Battle of the Song, and the story my mum told is that
he was in a shell crater and a nurse went past him, and this nurse just so happened to come from
the next village to where he lived in Somerset, and she recognised him. And as a consequence,
she dealt with his wounds, got into a casualty clearing station, he was invaded out and this
started with honor from the army, and then he met my grandmother, and then they had children,
one of which was my mum, etc, etc. From that nurse's one action, the implications are incredible.
You have somebody else speaking this morning which you might prefer, right? But if she hadn't done
that, right? But the implications, and that's an example of what's going on here,
there's God works in your life and God works in my life, as you choose to obey God,
as you choose to say, Jesus, I will trust you in this, the implications of that, and not just about
you, it's about your children, and your children's children, and beyond that, and your friends
around you, and the neighbours in the street where you live, and the community around you,
and the people that you're up shoulders with, it's huge. It's absolutely huge. That's why grappling
with God's word is so important, that's why meeting up and encouraging each other is so
important, because the word of God in us has such a massive impact on so many others. It is not
about us, and so often we make it about us, but God's work in your life is to purpose that he
might bless other people. So to conclude, a couple of things, I just want to draw it into,
is I said at the start, this passage is a pointer to a future event in the New Testament,
and whereas God's son was spared, sorry, whereas Abraham's son was spared, God's son wasn't.
Romans 8 tells us that God did not spare his own son, but freely gave him up for us all.
Let's want to read a few verses from Hebrews 10, let's talk about the sacrifice of Jesus for us.
Hebrews 10 and verse 10 says this, when I find it, here we go.
And by God's will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once
for all. Day after day, every priest stands and performs his religious duties again and again,
he offers the same sacrifice, which can never take away sins, but when this priest, this Jesus
had offered for all time, one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice,
he has made perfect for ever, those who are being made holy. That's the word of God that's
truth to you this morning. You may not feel like it, that's irrelevant, because the one
sacrifice of Jesus is making you holy, it's changing you, it's changing me, it's transforming our
lives, and that's why we want to respond to who he is, that's why we want to come and kneel
at the cross and say, Jesus, we love you. Oh man, I want us to get a gripper that this morning,
maybe, you know, sorry, to walk in the good of that, to inherit the purposes for which Christ
I'm walking to the blessing of God for ourselves and other people, we need to prioritize Jesus,
and say, Jesus, you are number one, and now we mean it, and now we're going to change our life,
so it shows, and now we're going to adjust things so that that is worked out day by day.
Maybe for you, it's the first time you've never really tweaked that, and maybe for you,
this morning is an opportunity, the first time to come to Jesus, kneel at the cross and say, Jesus,
I want you to know, I trust you, and I want you to be number one in my life, and I'm going to
need your help to do it, that's fine, that's a great prayer. Maybe for you, you need to do it for the
umpteenth time, because like all of us, me included, from time to time, these things get a bit heavy,
don't know, in a bit intense, and there's times we have to just simply come back to Jesus,
because you know what, the door is open, and we need to come back to Him, and I want to encourage
you, if that's you this morning, come back to Jesus, say, Lord, I trust you, I want you to be
number one in my life, I'm struggling to make that happen right now, please help.
Or maybe for you, the issue is testing, my Abraham was being tested, you may feel you're being
tested by God at the moment, I want to come back to the fact that that is not a test of your
performance, not a test of your value, not a test of your gifts and abilities, it's simply a test
of your trust. All Abraham had to do was continue to take God at his word, and all the time when God
tests you and I that we have to do is to take God at his word. Amen.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *