“An Impossible Request”
The exact date and time is uncertain. All I remember is the request. It came from my employer and I could not believe what he asked me to do. Oh it was not illegal or immoral it just seemed impossible. There was no way I could accomplish the task in the given amount of time. I struggled with how I needed to respond knowing full well that if I refused I would be looking for a different job. So I made the decision to do what I was asked to do. At the time I had no idea how the job could be done by the deadline. I also did not know how it would turn out. But I worked hard and finished the job and was rewarded for it. Can you relate to that? Have you ever been in a situation where what was asked of you did not make much sense? If so, how did you respond? Did you follow through with the request or did you seek to go in a different direction? In today's lesson we will look at a story from the Old Testament part of the Bible. Perhaps nothing in this story will be unfamiliar or come as a surprise. And yet as we study through it, put yourself in the midst of it. Consider what your response would be if you were given the same request. And as you do, think about some things you might learn or apply to your own life. Maybe you have already done that, and if so I'm glad. If not however, look into your life and think about how you might be able to grow in your faith and obedience to the Lord. I invite you now to stay tuned to this station for the next few minutes as we open the Bible and study together.
Have you ever heard about a man named Abraham? Oh I imagine that you have, but did you realize that was not his original name. In fact it was Abram and then God changed it to Abraham later on. Well, several hundred years after the flood of water washed away everything, we are introduced to this man. After the evil and the violence was all washed away, God invites Abram to be a part of His mission in this world, and He does so by making a covenant with and a promise to Abram. We read about that in the first book of the Bible, in Genesis chapter 12 verses 1 through 3. <The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."> If Abram obeyed God then God would bless him and the entire world through him. What a promise, and what a blessing! Abram was some 75 years old, living in the land of Haran when he received this message from God. Now can you just imagine how he responded to that message when he told his wife about what happened? Her name was not Sarah to begin with, her name Sarai and then God changed it to Sarah later on. Perhaps after God had revealed this to Abram he went to Sarai and he said to her, "You are not going to believe what just happened. I have heard from a God we have never sacrificed to, whom we have never worshiped and whom we have never prayed to before. And He has asked us to pack up our belongings and to move away from our homeland and our family and go to a place that He would show us." We don't have Sarai's words recorded, but perhaps she said something like, "Abram you must not be feeling well. Perhaps you have spent too much time out in the sun. Are you sure you have heard from this God and this is exactly what He wants us to do?" Well no doubt they talked about that. They talked about whether or not they should trust God and obey Him. But before we know it, Abram and Sarah were on their way to somewhere. And as they were traveling along Abram must have thought, this might be kind of a crazy idea but really there's a big problem with what is happening here. How is all of this going to take place, because he and Sarai had no children? And, how could they be a blessing to all the nations in the world if they had no descendants? No doubt God knew Abram would have some concerns about that very thing and so He appears to him another time, in chapter 15. He reconfirms His covenant and His promise to Abram on that occasion, and we read about it in verses 5 and 6. <He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars; if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.> One evening as they were traveling, God took Abram outside and Abram looked up into the sky and he saw those stars, far too many to count. And God said, "This will be the number of your descendants. More than you could ever imagine." And then we notice there in verse 6 one of the most profound and important statements in all of the Bible: Abram believed God. And when he did, God recognized him as a man of righteousness. And yet still, even with that reconfirmation, there were some questions with Abram as to how all of this would take place, so he took matters into his own hands. He had relations with a woman named Hagar, who was a slave woman who lived with them. Through that union, Ishmael was born. Then God said to Abraham and Sarah, "No, this is not going to work. You cannot be in charge and take matters into your hands like this. Allow Me to be in control. I know what is going to happen. Just keep walking by faith and trusting Me." So finally, at the age of 100 and at the age of 90, Abraham and Sarah bring a child into the world and his name was Isaac, meaning laughter. And this is the child of promise. This is the child through whom God would bless all nations. And Isaac was a very special young man because he was the one that God had promised. Well, one day, when Isaac was just a youngster, perhaps even a teenager, Abraham's faith was tested in a most unusual manner. Perhaps you remember what happened. We read about it in chapter 22 of Genesis. <Sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”> Can you believe that? After waiting so long to have a child, now God tells Abraham, "Go and take that child and offer him as a burnt offering to Me." That's hard to imagine; isn't it? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense; and yet, Abraham dealt with that. And he again, perhaps, went to Sarah and he said, "You are not going to believe what God has asked us to do now." Once again we do not have her response, but perhaps Sarah said something like, "Well we have trusted God. We have obeyed God and now He has given to us a son. He must have a special purpose for him. Perhaps we need to keep on doing what God has asked us to do." So with that, the decision was made to keep trusting and obeying God and Abraham gathered up everything that he needed for this opportunity and this challenge that was presented to him. He gathered up the wood and the makings of a fire and he had the knife, and he and Isaac were prepared, along with the service, to go a three day journey into the land of Mariah. And then Isaac asked a very important question. He said, "What about the sacrifice? What about the lamb that we will offer? Where is it?" and Abraham made a prophetic statement. He said, "The Lord will provide." Let's notice what happens next, in verses 5 and 6: <Then Abraham 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. And the two of them went on together.> One of the most interesting things in this story is that once they arrived near the mountain, Abraham said to the servants, "You stay here while I and the son go over there and we will worship and then we will come back to you. We will return." I don't know what was going on with Abraham but he knew in the bottom of his heart that God would provide; that some how, some way, that both he and Isaac would worship and then he and Isaac would return back to the servants. Well we know what happens next, as we continue on in chapter 22 with the reading of verses 9 through 12. <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 did everything that God had asked him to do. He bound up Isaac and put him there on the altar on top of the wood and then he raised his hand with the knife in it. And in Abraham's mind he had already taken the life of his son; and yet as he was just about to do it, the Angel of the Lord called out to him. And, oh, how relieved Abraham must have been when he heard the words "Do not do anything to your son because now I know that you fear the Lord. Now I know that you respect and that you obey Him." Certainly Isaac was relieved as well as he climbed down off of that altar. And then they looked and sure enough there was a ram that was caught in the bushes and they took that ram and they offered it as a burnt offering sacrifice to God. And according to verse 14, Abraham named that place "The Lord Will Provide." Indeed the Lord did provide a different sacrifice than Abraham's son Isaac. Well, the story then concludes in verses 15 through 18. Notice what happens. <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.”> Because Abraham trusted God and because he obeyed God, God's promises would come true. They would be fulfilled. In fact, his descendants would take over the nations of the enemies and his descendants would continue to grow and increase, as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sands on the seashore. When I consider this story, I realize that God's purpose was not to take away Isaac from Abraham and Sarah; rather, God's purpose was simply to test Abraham's faith. Yes, God was seeking to create a people of faith and obedience. And perhaps that call had gone out to a number of other people and no one responded, except Abraham. Abraham answered that call. He passed the test. He proved worthy of God's trust. And that is why, today, we refer to Abraham as the "Father of our Faith" or the "Father of Many Nations." Over in the New Testament letter called Hebrews, we find a chapter, chapter 11, identifying a number of people in the Old Testament who lived by faith. And obviously, there is a summary of the faith of Abraham and Sarah that is included in that 11th chapter. I want to read it, as we begin in verse 8. <By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise, for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered Him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.> By faith, Abraham, obeyed and went. By faith, he lived as a sojourner in a foreign land, wherever God would lead him. By faith, Sarah even though she was past child bearing years, was enabled to bear a child, because she considered God, who made the promise, to be faithful. And then for at least the third time in Scripture we find that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Abraham learned he could trust God in the midst of an impossible request. And not only was there just one request, there were at least two. The first one being that he and his wife would leave their homeland and their family and go to a place God would show them, and then the great request when God said, "Take your son Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice to Me." In the midst of those impossible requests Abraham trusted God and he obeyed. So too, we can trust our heavenly Father, even in the midst of impossible requests that are made of us. In situations that seem unreasonable and out of line with the normal routine of things, we can continue to trust God and know that without a doubt His blessings and His promises await. Well, hopefully none of us would ever be put into a situation like Abraham was in. That's hard to think about; isn't it? I don't even want to go there and consider that. But if we were put into that situation, what would we do? Would we say to God, "I don't believe that's the best thing to do. Would You please consider this as an alternative?" Or perhaps, "Let's go this direction and come up with this plan because I don't want to do what You have asked me to do. It's too hard. It's too hard on my family and it does not make much sense." Or on the other hand would we say, "God I'm going to trust You. No, it's an impossible request, it does not make much sense but I'm going to demonstrate my faith and I'm going to obey and do as You have asked me to do." Oh, God still seeks people who put their faith and obedience in Him, today. And God gives us that opportunity everyday; doesn't He? We have the opportunity on a daily and a regular basis to draw close to God and to demonstrate that we are people of faith. And yet at the same time we also face the danger to drift farther away from God and to demonstrate to God we want to do things our own way. And that is the challenge that lies before us each and every day. I referred to Hebrews chapter 11 a minute ago. There is another very important statement made in the 6th verse. The author writes: <Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.> If we desire to have a relationship with God it begins with faith. If we want to draw close to God through His Son Jesus Christ, we do so by making faith the primary and first thing in our life. We believe not only that God exists but that His Son, Jesus Christ, came to this earth and He died on a cross and was buried in a tomb and then rose up from the grave. And that faith is demonstrated by the way we live. We live in obedience to God, even when things do not make sense. Even when we are challenged to wonder what God is up to and we try to make sense out of all the things going on this world, we continue to live by faith and by obedience to God. As we consider this story I believe there are two things that stand out, at least that stand out to me. The first one is genuine faith produces obedience. If we want to please God then our faith will be demonstrated in the way we obey God. We will act upon our faith and we will allow our faith to change the way we live. Oh it is so easy for any of us to say, "Well I have faith in God. I believe that He exists. I believe in His Son Jesus Christ." But we know that even the demons believe and tremble in the presence of God. Our faith must make a difference in our life. It changes who we are. It changes the way we live to the point that we obey God in what He asks of us to do. So first of all, genuine faith produces obedience. The second thing I want us to think about is that faithful obedience brings blessing. God blesses us when we obey Him. When we live obedient lives God provides and He is faithful to give His blessings and His promises. Yes, God is faithful. His promises never fail; and that is something we can count on each and every day. And so, faithful obedience brings God's blessing. Living with faith and obedience is the way God wants us to live. In fact it is the very best way to live. We might ask our-self the question; can my life be described as one of faith and obedience? There is coming a time in our lives when we will no longer live here upon this earth in our current condition. And as we approach that time we ask our-self a series of questions. And it makes no difference who we are or where we live, it makes no difference how much money we have or how much money we do not have, it makes no difference what kind of house we live in or what kind of automobile we drive, the only thing that will really matter at the end of our life is whether or not we live by faith and obedience. The next time you are presented with impossible situations or requests, I encourage you to trust God and to obey God and to always remember that He will always provide.
What is the most difficult thing you have ever been asked to do? Have you ever received an impossible request from someone at work, at school or perhaps even around the house? And you think to yourself there is absolutely no way that can be accomplished. You even begin to wonder, why did somebody make that kind of request in the first place? You think to yourself, there's no way I can do that. It takes too much time, it takes too much money, and I just cannot handle all of the stress and pressure of that. You know sometimes we are called upon to do certain things and we just don't know how to handle them. Some of those times may even involve our own family members. You've been there before. I know I have been there in the past. I was called upon to make some important and life changing decisions in regards to my family and I did not know for sure what to do or how to handle that situation. I was overcome with some grief and anxiety and worry; and yet I tried to make the very best decision possible for everyone concerned, and today I have no regrets. In the midst of all of that I did one thing, I trusted God. I sought His council and I depended upon Him to provide wisdom and insight. And He did. And I'm thankful. The next time you are presented with an impossible request, don't launch out on your own, trying to find a solution by yourself. Go to God in prayer. Ask Him for guidance and wisdom. Seek direction from Him and know that He will provide when those impossible requests come your way.
Thank you for watching today's program on "Key to the Kingdom." From time to time we all need to be reminded of the importance to live with faith and obedience. Abraham's example is certainly worthy of our consideration. This lesson is titled "An Impossible Request" and it can be found on our website. If you have not visited keytothekingdom.com, lately, I hope you will take a few minutes to do so. A variety of lessons like this one can be found and downloaded absolutely free. Short videos and one minute daily devotional thoughts are also available. By calling the number on the screen you can leave your name and address and we will be happy to send to you a no obligation Bible study. It contains six lessons and can be completed at your own pace. It provides an overview of the Bible's message and of God's love for mankind. Our ministry has recently been expanded on Facebook. If you have not already done so, please like and follow what is happening at "Key to the Kingdom." Our goal is to provide a number of ways through which you can access practical messages from the Bible. All of them are designed to bless you spiritually and to assist you in your personal study of God's Word. Remember, everything offered requires no cost or commitment of any kind. Every week at this same time, it is our privilege to share these messages. I hope you benefit from them and that you will plan to join us as often as you can. Thank you for being with us today. I hope you will tune again next time as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."