Sunday, September 16, 2007

Humanity in Sin Part 27 - Give Me Your Only Son

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 2nd September 2007 in GRIIS. It was preached in Indonesian and I personally translated to English. Newton Life has it preached in Mandarin with English translation.
Note: I did not attend the service but did my transcript by translating from Indonesian transcripts.

Passage: Genesis 22:4-18

On the third day, Abraham looked up and knew that he had reached the place where he was to sacrifice his son to God. This is a very good example for us to follow. He was very sensitive and responsive to God’s command. Once he heard it, he headed towards the right direction, he did not turn to the left or to the right and reached the correct destination. How many of us could follow God so closely?

When God asks for our “only son”, we should be willing to dedicate him to God. Genesis 22 is the only passage in the Bible where God asked man to sacrifice his only son to Him to see man’s reaction towards Him. But more important than that is the significance and meaning behind this event, that is the fact that God gave His One and Only Son to us. In the Old Testament, there is only one instance where a man gave his only son to God. In the New Testament, there is only one instance where God gave His only begotten Son to men.

When God asked Abraham to offer Isaac to Him, Abraham did not discuss with his wife. He simply obeyed. When he was about to kill Isaac, God asked him to stop. We need to be sensitive to God’s leading, to be ready to change and not have our thinking bounded by tradition. In our difficulties, we too often complain to God and judge Him. But God cannot be judged. When men judge God, He keeps silent. When He keeps silent, instead of becoming irreverent, we need to quiet our heart and ponder how we should react before Him.

What is the meaning of the fear of the Lord? That means we are willing to accept everything under His sovereignty, even when we cannot understand. Faith is acknowledging God’s sovereignty and submitting our soul to our Maker who reigns over all.

Abraham did not discuss with his wife in this matter. There are times where husbands have to make tough decisions in ministry and avoid the influence of emotions from their wives. Many ministers fail because their wives have too much say in their ministry and they obey their wives while men ought to be the head of the household. God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of woman. This order cannot be violated because God has ordained it according to His will. If we want to do God’s will, God has to be the first before our family. The church has to be more important than ourselves.

Abraham asked his servants to stay while he continued to walk with Isaac. The Bible said Abraham carried the fire and the knife while he placed the wood for burnt offering on the shoulder of Isaac. A father who allows burden on his son is a very good father. A father who gives all the facilities his son needs deprives his son of fighting opportunities. Young people who are willing to work hard and to face difficulties, but willing to live a simple life, will be used by God. The world will become a better place when there are people who are willing to sacrifice and deny themselves. This is the teaching of the Scripture.

On their way up, Isaac asked Abraham where the lamb of the burnt offering was. At this point, Abraham continued to walk up. There was no point of return. This is the way to obey God. Many people give God promises but never fulfil them. But Abraham simply told his son that God would provide the lamb. Is this an honest statement? The Scripture did not comment. Isaac might run away and told Sarah if Abraham told him that he was the lamb to be sacrificed.

When they reached the place, the prepared the altar together. After that, Abraham bound Isaac and laid him on the altar. This is an existential moment for Isaac, where he realized that he is a human being and not a lamb. But at this point Isaac was submissive. Serving God is not easy. We need to be willing to obey first. When we willingly obeyed, we will see the glory of God. The Levites need to step their feet on the Jordan river first before the river was split into two. Without obedience, we will not see the glory of God.

Did not God promise Abraham that his descendants would multiply as the sand of the sea and the stars in the sky? But the reality was that Isaac was the only son of Abraham at that time. Abraham was already very old and it would be even harder to have another son. But when God speaks, that is final, supreme and there is no return. Great artists like Rembrant and Carvagio take this theme as an inspiration to draw how Abraham killed his son. They would have read and reflected the Bible many times to capture the significance and detail of this event. In this way, their drawings could portray the meaning of the passage. In the same way, pastors and preachers ought to deeply reflect on the Scripture to deliver preaching responsibly.

Just when Abraham was about to slay his son, an Angel called out and asked him to stop. And God re-confirmed His promise to Abraham that He would make his descendents to be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand of the seashore. Here God swore by His own name. The book of Hebrews in the New Testament quotes this. God swore by Himself because there is none greater than Him.

The Book of Hebrews gives very amazing and accurate arguments on why Abraham was able to sacrifice his son Isaac. It is because he could see with the eyes of faith. Since God promised that his descendants would multiply through Isaac and since God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, he believed that even if Isaac died, God had the power to raise him from the dead and God would raise him from the dead. Here we see the concept of resurrection for the first time in history. The concept of resurrection did exist in one of the Egyptian myth at that time. So did Abraham get his inspiration from these myths? Not at all. Myth is myth but what Abraham was facing was the reality of sacrificing his own son and he believed God would resurrect him. This is true faith. Faith is walked out in daily life and does not rest in mythology.

Abraham did not sacrifice his son because God stopped him. However, God did sacrifice His One and Only Son. When Christ came to earth, He really suffered and died and rose from the dead. God tested Abraham whether Abraham really loved Him by asking him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. But more than that, God let us see how much He loved us when He sent His Son to be born in a manger, to suffer persecution and to shed blood and die on the cross. Only once in history did God ask man to sacrifice his only son as an expression of love to God. And only once in history God sacrificed His Only Son for our sin. This will never be repeated.

Are we willing to give our best to God? What and who is our “only son”? It could be our career, our hobby or our loved one. God has the right to take anything away from us. A lot of times His demand seem to be illogical based on our fallen logic.

When Jesus asked Matthew to follow Him, he simply left everything and followed Him. When Jesus asked Peter to follow Him, likewise Peter left everything and followed Him. But today we like to follow half-heartedly. We want to hold both worldly and spiritual riches. If God calls us fulltime, we should not dedicate ourselves as part timers.* If God calls us part time, we should not dare ourselves to be fulltimers. It is not by might nor power, but by the Spirit of the Lord.

* Translator’s Notes: According to the doctrine of vocation, all Christians are fulltimers in that we do everything unto the Lord. In the past, being a parttimer and fulltimer are more straightforward. But in today’s society, in the age of labor mobility and globalization, there is blurring distinction between what is “full time” and what is “part time”.


At 1:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

* Translator’s Notes: According to the doctrine of vocation, all Christians are fulltimers in that we do everything unto the Lord. In the past, being a parttimer and fulltimer are more straightforward. But in today’s society, in the age of labor mobility and globalization, there is blurring distinction between what is “full time” and what is “part time”.

Sorry, I didn't get it. I thought it's even worse. In postmodern work place, employees do not have the liberty to share their faith openly. Companies were afraid that if they did not restrict their employees they could get themselves in lawsuits.

Globalization??? I think it make things worse. One company might start up being 'Christian friendly', but when it started interacting with all other companies from different countries with different cultural and religious background, that company need to adjust their 'own culture' to be more 'polically correct' in order that others to feel comfortable working with them. They do that all in name of "Business".

I think that the separations are even worse now a days. Unless, if we were those who subscribe to the 'modern religions' (relativist, atheism, environmentalist, etc). When you start saying there is one truth, then you are out.

Just ask yourself this. Could you say anything which you could say or do in the Church, in your campus, or workplace (mobile or not). If not then it can not be fulltime, but part time only.


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