The Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19)

Last week we found Abraham at the very top of the world. The local king had given him the freedom to live wherever he wanted in the land, and his wife Sarah had finally given him the legitimate son he had been waiting decades for.

Abraham’s many years of stubborn faithfulness to God had finally paid off: God had finally rewarded him with everything he could possibly want or need.

But just like all times of happiness and fulfillment in this world…it did not last.

And really, we should have seen it coming. Because, if you recall, way back at the beginning, shortly after Abraham first arrived in Canaan, just when it looked like everything in his life was about to fall into perfect place — God took away Abraham’s adopted son Lot. Ultimately because Lot’s greed, his lust for wealth, was a threat to Abraham’s household.

So it made perfect sense that, last week, just when it looked like Abraham’s life was compete, we saw God take away Abraham’s second son, his illegitimate son, Ishmael. Because, ultimately, Ishmael’s rebellion, his lust for power, was a threat to Abraham’s household.

But that did not make it any easier, of course. Losing a son is always painful.

Well, God is not finished yet:

[1] Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

Here I am,” he replied.

[2] 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.”

And this…is just stunning. On one hand, God speaks gently, kindly. It is not reflected in our translation here, but there is actually a “please” at the beginning of this sentence: “Please take your son, your only son, the son whom you love…”

But on the other hand: what a terrible request! “Sacrifice him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will show you?” Isn’t this totally out of character for Abraham’s God? He has never before asked for a human sacrifice, why does he start now?

And yet, when we look at this request again, and when we look back at the story of Abraham’s life, we see that it is not totally out of character: God did ask Abraham to give up Lot and Ishmael. So now it makes sense that he would ask Abraham to give up Isaac as well.

We also have to notice that God uses the same words here that he used the first time he spoke to Abraham. Back in Chapter 12, the Lord said to Abraham, “Go from your country to the land I will show you.” And here he says, “Take your son and sacrifice him on a mountain I will show you.”

At the very beginning of Abraham’s story, he was called to risk everything and put his future entirely in God’s hands. Here, as we near the end of Abraham’s life, he has been called again to risk everything and put his future entirely in God’s hands. So we see that this kind of test is entirely within God’s character: God has always been absolutely committed to removing every possible idol from Abraham’s life, no matter the cost.

So what is Abraham going to do? Is he going to protest? Is he going to argue? No.

Because where Abraham came from — the land of Babel in the far east — it was common for gods to ask fathers to sacrifice their sons.

In fact, when Abraham circumcised Isaac at birth, he had understood then that he was handing his son over to God, dedicating his son to God through that symbolic sacrifice. Circumcision was a mark that basically meant, “This boy belongs to God.” So for God to show up at this point and say, “I’ve decided that I would like to take full possession of my property now…” this is really no more than Abraham would have expected.

This is, after all, what gods do, isn’t it? No matter how well you seem to be doing, no matter how much you have already given up to get where you are, they always come along and ask for more. Right?

So: [3] Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.

And [4] on the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. [5] 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.”

We will come back to you?! Well…okay.

But unfortunately, for many of us, this comes across as yet another lie in a long list of lies told by Abraham to make his life easier: obviously he doesn’t want Isaac to to run away, so he pretends that Isaac is not the sacrifice! Makes sense.

— except that, if Abraham was so worried about Isaac running away, why did he decide to leave his servants behind at the foot of the mountain? If he is worried that Isaac might run, he should bring his servants with him all the way to the top. Then, if Isaac tries to run, they will be fast enough to chase him down and tie him up.

But Abraham is leaving the servants behind. So he must not be that worried about Isaac running away.

But then, why would he lie like this?

Or: could it be that Abraham is actually telling the truth for once? Does he actually believe that Isaac will come back with him? Has Abraham reasoned things through in his head, and realized that — one way or another! — Isaac is going to survive and grow up and get married and have kids and become the father of a great nation?

Well, that is what the New Testament says. In the Book of Hebrews, Chapter 11, we are told that Abraham reasoned that God could even raise Isaac back from the dead if he needed to.

So, even though Abraham’s God is suddenly acting just like all the other gods in the world  — demanding sacrifice in exchange for blessing and protection — even so, Abraham is looking back on almost 40 years of relationship with God, and he is convinced that his God really is different from all the other gods.

For almost 40 years now, this strange new god has been proving that he keeps his promises no matter what. And since God has promised that Isaac will produce a great nation — and since Isaac has not yet produced anything — therefore, Abraham is thinking, somehow Isaac is going to live and come back home with him.

So [6] 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, [7] Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

And this is the moment Abraham has been dreading for three days.

Just try to imagine what it must have been like for him! — certain that in a few hours he will be descending this same mountain with this same son alive by his side, but knowing that between now and then he is going to have to do terrible things. He is going to have to draw a blade across the boy’s throat, dismember his body, and burn it to ash. He may be confident that God is going to raise Isaac back to life, but still: what nightmares will Abraham have to live with for the rest of his life? And — perhaps even more terrible to think about — what will Isaac remember? Is this journey Abraham’s last journey with his beloved son? Is he going to lose Isaac after all, just as he lost Ishmael and Lot: knowing that they are out there, somewhere, hating and despising his own father as he goes about his life?

And for that matter: how was he planning to break the bad news to Isaac anyway? Was he planning to break the bad news to Isaac? Clearly Abraham does not think he needs his two servants to help subdue the boy, so…is he going to knock Isaac out from behind, or something?

But now Isaac is asking, and now Abraham needs to answer.

And he does: [8] Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

And again, unfortunately, this comes across as yet another lie. Because clearly Abraham knows that God has already provided the lamb! So what is he doing? Is this just another tactic to keep Isaac in the dark until the last possible moment? Is this lie actually an expression of Abraham’s love for Isaac: trying to put off the moment of terror for as long as possible?

Or — again — could it be that Abraham is actually telling the truth? Many scholars think so. Because: ancient Hebrew has no punctuation marks. Which means that if we take away the one comma that has been inserted here and read this verse smoothly, we find that Abraham has answered Isaac’s question: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering my son.”

In other words: “My son, you are the lamb for the burnt offering that God himself will provide.”

And at this point, most of us are going to object! We’re going to say, “Oh, come on! That is just too clever! There is no way Abraham actually told Isaac in advance that he was the sacrifice, otherwise he would have just run away!”

But, actually, many ancient Jewish scholars believed that this is the moment that Isaac knew the truth. They think that Isaac was already figuring it out anyway. He was walking along there with the firewood on his back, the fire and the knife in his father’s hands; and in his culture it was the sacrificial animal that would carry the wood, while the worshiper carried the tools needed for the sacrifice.

And so, they say, Isaac asked in order to confirm his suspicions.

And Abraham answered truthfully.

And the two of them went on together.

But this interpretation is really inconceivable to us. We just cannot imagine that a teenage boy might find out that his father plans to sacrifice him — and then just accept the plan, and continue the journey.

But what happens next actually supports that idea:

[9] 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.

And it is this detail that forces us to realize that Isaac must have known, in advance, what was about to happen, and yet submitted to it: because Moses makes no mention of a struggle while Abraham tied Isaac up.

And this moment is so remarkable, so strange, that ancient scholars actually named this whole episode after it: according to ancient tradition, this story is called “The Binding of Isaac”.

So why did Moses include this detail? What did he want us, his readers, to learn from this realization that Isaac knew and yet submitted to his father’s plans?

Well, this: that Isaac truly is the heir of God’s covenant with Abraham. Isaac has just proven that he is worthy to be Abraham’s true son, and worthy to become the father of God’s promised nation.

Lot refused to submit to Abraham — he loved money more than he loved the father who had adopted him.

Ishmael refused to submit to Abraham — he loved power more than the loved the father who had conceived him.

But Isaac loves his father more than he loves his own life. He trusts his father completely.

So does he protest? Does he argue? Does he struggle? No. He submits. He lays down his life upon the altar, upon the wood.

This whole episode is a test — not only of the father, but — also of the son.

And now: the moment of truth: [10] Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

[11] But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

Here I am,” he replied.

[12] “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.”

Then [13] 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.

[14] So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

And [15] the angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time [16] and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, [17] 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, [18] and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

This is the last time God speaks to Abraham — the last recorded time. And so it is appropriate that what he says here is a summary of everything he has told Abraham since the first time he spoke to him, way back in Chapter 12.

In the beginning, Abraham was called to travel to a land the Lord would show him, and put his future entirely in God’s hands. Here, at the end, he was called to travel to a mountain the Lord would show him, and put his future entirely in God’s hands. And he did. Abraham has passed the test, and so has Isaac. Abraham placed his last remaning son on the altar, and his son consented to be placed upon the altar. And as a result God is confirming every promise he ever made to Abraham; he is confirming the covenant.

And with these final words he is confirming that he really is different from all other gods. All other gods in the world say, “You must sacrifice to me, you must keep on sacrificing to me, and in return I will bless you and protect you.” But Abraham’s God says, “No: I swear by myself — I swear by my own existence! — that I will surely bless you, and that through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.” Because Abraham was willing to make this one sacrifice, God has promised to bring blessing and protection upon all nations on earth, even if they have not sacrificed enough to deserve it!

[19] Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

So Abraham returns to the well of living water that he dug in the desert, he returns to the tree of life he has planted. He is going to bring order and worship back into the wilderness; through him God’s blessing is going to be poured out upon the earth. He has fought the good fight, he has finished the race, he has kept the faith. And now it is time for him to retire and pass the promises of the covenant on to the next generation.

So…now we come to the part of the sermon where we ask, “So what?” That was a nice story — a traumatic story, a shocking story — but what did Moses want his readers to learn from it?

Well, Moses’ original audience was his own people, the ancient people of Israel, who had just escaped from slavery in Egypt. Moses was their messiah, sent from God to lead them home to freedom. But the people were often afraid. They needed to know for sure that Abraham’s God was with Moses, and would be with them as they set off into the desert.

And so: the first time Moses reminded them of Abraham’s history, he would have been highlighting the parallels between their experiences and Abraham’s experience:

For instance: God had called the Israelites to go and seek out a mountain that God would show them — a three day journey away.

So also: God had called every father in Israel to sacrifice a lamb in exchange for the life of his first-born son. And the consequences of failing to do this were demonstrated to terrible effect on the night when all the first-born of the Egyptians died.

And then, when they arrived at the mountain that God showed them, Moses told the people, “Wait here for us until we come back to you.” And then he and Joshua alone climbed the mountain.

And then: on the Mountain of the Lord it was provided. On God’s mountain: Mount Sinai, in Arabia, the Lord provided the Law — the 10 Commandments — plans for the Tabernacle — the sacred tent where God would live and meet with his people — and a system of sacrifices that would allow the people to find forgiveness for their sins.

And it was on that Mountain of the Lord that God confirmed his covenant with the ancient people of Israel — a covenant he confirmed not because the Israelites were worthy of it, but simply because their ancestor Abraham had been worthy.

And then, more than 40 years later — when the next generation was camped on the borders of Canaan, about to enter the land — this episode would have been a reminder of their parents’ experience at Mount Sinai, reassurance that God had made an everlasting covenant with them.

But for that generation this story was not just a reminder of the past, it was also a prophecy for the future: Moses had already told them that, after they entered the land and cleansed it, the Lord would send them to make sacrifices on a mountain that he would show them. That mountain would become the Mountain of the Lord, where God would provide salvation for his people, where God would actually live with his people forever.

And sure enough: this is what happened. During the reign of King David, God tested David to see if he — like Abraham — was willing to put his future entirely in God’s hands. David actually failed that test — you can read all about it in 1 Chronicles, Chapter 21 — and the Angel of the Lord appeared on the top of the mountain just outside Jerusalem’s city walls, ready to bring judgement upon the city because of David’s sin.

And this mountain was known as Mount Moriah, interestingly enough…

Anyway: when David saw the angel on the mountain above the city, he cried out to God. He said, “I have sinned, I have done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall on me and my family.”

And then, on that mountain where the Angel of the Lord had appeared, the Lord provided salvation for his people. He told David to build an altar there, and perform a sacrifice, and save his people from judgement. And David did. And that place did become the Mountain of the Lord: King Solomon built God’s temple there, on that mountaintop, and the city grew up to surround it, and God lived with his people just as he had promised.

So when Moses first wrote this down, it was intended to be both a reminder of God’s faithfulness at Mount Sinai, and a prophecy of God’s salvation that he would provide on Mount Moriah, the Mountain of Jerusalem. That is what Moses wanted his readers to learn from this episode in Abraham’s life.

But we know that the story did not end there. The people of Israel believed that the temple on Mount Moriah was the final fulfillment of Abraham’s ancient prophecy that the Lord will provide. They believed that God had provided  a final system of salvation: a system of sacrifices that would last forever, and save each succeeding generation of first-born sons.

But the system failed. Not because God failed, but because that system of sacrifices was incomplete. It was only the shadow, the prototype of a greater system. The problem with the old system is that it depended on the faithfulness of human fathers. And the problem is: human fathers — even the very best of human fathers — are not faithful enough. And so, with every generation that passed, more and more fathers forgot — or decided not to — sacrifice a lamb in exchange for their first-born sons’ lives. They failed to teach their children how to live according to God’s Law. They became complacent. They became unholy, corrupted by false systems of worship. And as a result the entire system of sacrifice fell apart.

Basically, even the best systems in the world are only as good as the people who operate them. God is not the weakest link in the system; we are.

And so, really, what the people of Israel needed — what all of mankind needed — was a system that did not depend upon human faithfulness. Really, what people needed was a system that depended entirely upon God’s faithfulness.

And Moses knew all this. He knew that the system he was helping to put together was only a temporary system. He knew God’s people needed a system that depended upon God alone. He knew that the true final fulfillment of Abraham’s prophecy that the Lord will provide would only happen when God himself would descend upon the Mountain of God and provide the perfect, final sacrifice, the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.

That is what Moses was hinting at when he emphasized the fact that God’s covenant with Israel depended upon one man’s obedience: Abraham’s obedience, a once-for-all kind of obedience. Abraham failed God’s tests multiple times throughout his life. But because he passed this test — because he was willing to give up his only remaining son — this was the test that counted. And so the benefits of Abraham’s obedience got promised to Isaac’s descendants through generation after generation.

Moses was pointing backwards to God’s covenant with his people at Mount Sinai in Arabia; he was pointing forward to God’s covenant with his people at Mount Moriah in Jerusalem; but he was also pointing even further forward to a covenant that would be greater than them all, a covenant that would depend upon the obedience of only one man, a king who would represent his people perfectly.

And more than 700 years later, Isaiah the prophet picked up Moses’ message and pushed it even further forward. As Isaiah watched Moses’ system of sacrifices begin to fall apart in Jerusalem, he prophesied a time when God himself would tear the heavens open and descend to become the perfect priest, the perfect king. And this priest-king would offer a perfect sacrifice upon the Mountain of the Lord.

This is how Isaiah describes it:

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine — the best of meats and finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.

So — Isaiah is saying — this king will be like David, laying out a sacrifice upon the Mountain of God in order to save God’s people from death and judgement forever.

But this king would actually be the opposite of David. Because in David’s case, it was the king who failed the test and broke God’s covenant and brought judgement upon his own people. But in this future king’s case it will be the people who fail the test and break the covenant and bring judgement upon themselves — and yet, this perfect sinless king will love his people so much that he will go out upon the mountain and perform the sacrifice on their behalf, and fulfill the covenant they have broken.

But what kind of sacrifice can be great enough to forgive the sins of an entire nation — of all nations? If we think of sin and sacrifice as opposite weights of an old-fashioned scale, where each sacrifice is supposed to outweigh the sin on the other side, and if we put the sins of all the nations on one side of the scale, then what possible sacrifice can be valuable enough — heavy enough, holy enough! — to lift that weight of darkness and set all things right again?

Well, Isaiah said that there could be only one sacrifice valuable enough to counter-balance the sins of mankind: if that perfect sinless king was willing to lay down his life upon that altar, and shed his own blood, then this and this alone would have the power to swallow up death forever.

Isaiah said that there could be only one life valuable enough to exchange for the lives of all the sons and daughters born on earth to sinful parents: if that perfect sinless king was also the first-born Son of God himself.

And Isaiah predicted that the Lord will provide his people with a king who could do this, who would do this. In fact, Isaiah was so certain that God would provide a king like this that he actually wrote his prophecy in the past tense, as if it had already happened. And we actually already read that prophecy today during our worship, it is right there in the middle of page 4: He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah, like Moses, was looking backwards at the Binding of Isaac, and seeing how father and son worked together to fulfill God’s covenant: how Isaac submitted quietly to his father’s plan, and went quietly to his death. And so, in the Binding of Isaac, the prophet Isaiah saw the seed of God’s future redemption: how Father and Son would work together to fulfill God’s covenant, how Father would provide Son as sacrifice, how Son would submit even to death on a cross, and how — through that one man’s obedience — all nations on earth would receive the blessings of that eternal covenant.

So Moses was telling the ancient people of Israel to look back at the covenant God had made with them at Mount Sinai. He was telling them to look forward to the sacred mountain of Jerusalem where God would provide a system of sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sins, a mountain where his Holy Spirit would live with his people. And he was telling them to look even further forward to a new covenant and a greater mountain where God would provide his own first-born Son as the sacrifice, a mountain where God’s Spirit would not simply live with his people, he would actually live within them.

That is what this story was meant to teach them.

But what is it supposed to mean to us? What are we supposed to learn from it?

Well, at this point in history — more than 4000 years after Abraham — we get to look back at the new covenant that Moses’ people had to look forward to. For us, this is not a matter of faith, this is a matter of historical fact: it all happened just as Moses prophesied, just as Isaiah prophesied.

It actually happened exactly as King David prayed it would. On that day in the Old Testament when David saw the Angel of the Lord descending upon Jerusalem, he cried out and said, “These are but sheep! Instead, let your hand fall on me and my family.”

Well, the Lord heard him. Almost 1000 years after David prayed that prayer, the penalty for David’s sins, and his people’s sins, did fall upon David’s family: a man named Jesus of Nazareth, who was from David’s family, was born in the land of Israel, claiming to be the first-born Son of God. According to all reports, this man lived a perfect, sinless life. And at the end of it he climbed Mount Moriah with his Father, following the desert road that goes from up Jericho into the mountains where Jerusalem is built. There he was arrested and bound. There he was forced to carry the wood of his own sacrifice upon his back to the place of crucifixion. And when they arrived there, the soldiers laid him on top of the wood and sacrificed him. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

More than 2000 years before Jesus was crucified on that mountain, Abraham had called that place The Lord Will Provide. And sure enough: “On the mountain of the Lord it was provided.” Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, fulfilled his Father’s covenant, he submitted to death — and by so doing he swallowed up death forever.

Now: yes, people still die. But for Jesus’ people, death is no longer a judgement to be dreaded; now it is a reward: the promise that they will wake to find themselves in the arms of our heavenly Father, the tears wiped away from every face.

So what are we supposed to believe and do because of this?

Well, if you are here today and you have never thought about these things — if you have never considered how heavy your sins must be on the scales of justice — then think about these things now. Because, unless you are completely consumed with pride, you must be aware of how imperfect you are.

Now, I’m not saying that you are a monster! — most of us aren’t. But you are a human being, and our scriptures say that you are created in God’s image. And what this means is that you have a built-in sense of how your actions affect the world around you — and you have a built-in sense that, no matter how hard you try, you are not as good as you should be. You know that you ought to be kinder to yourself and to those around you, less selfish, more self-controlled. Because you are a human being, made in God’s image, you have a deep longing to be better than you are.

And that sense that you have — that longing — is your awareness of the weight of your sins.

And I know that you have been trying to be better than you are! You have been making sacrifices, you have been trying to change the patterns of your life in this way and that way. You have given up things that are precious to you, hoping to improve yourself. Perhaps you have given up certain foods, because you are wanting your body to be better than it is. Perhaps you are giving up your time to go to the gym. Perhaps you are giving up friendships so that you can focus on your studies. Perhaps you are giving up family so you can make more money and improve your life that way.

And the reason you are making all these sacrifices is because you know how the world works. You know that this is what the gods demand: no matter how well you seem to be doing, no matter how much you have already given up to get where you are, they always come along and ask for more. Don’t they?

But you also know, in your heart of hearts, that more will never be enough to truly satisfy them, or you. You know that no matter how many sacrifices you make, they will never be enough to truly counter-balance the wrongs you have already done. Those sacrifices you are making might improve you as a person! — but they will never be able to undo the unkind things you have already done, the unkind words you have already spoken into the world, the unkind thoughts you have already thought about yourself and others.

And our scriptures have a name for that: it is called “injustice”. It is unjust for you to go on, and make sacrifices — and perhaps improve yourself — without reversing the damage you have already caused with your thoughts, words, and actions. No matter how “good” you become in this life, no matter how kind, you will never be truly Just. The fruit has been eaten; it cannot be uneaten. The damage has been done; you cannot undo it. You will never be good enough to counter-balance the weight of the sins you have already committed.

Basically, friends, if you do stop to think honestly about these things, you will soon have to admit that you are the weakest link in your own system. Any system that depends upon your own faithfulness is doomed to fail. And you know it!

In fact, your situation is actually even worse than that: because your system has already failed. Your system failed before you even knew what faithfulness was, because you did damage to your mother’s body even before you were born — damage that you can never fully repair. Your very existence cost somebody something; you began your life with a debt that you can never repay.

And what I am trying to do here — what God’s Word is trying to do here — is convince you to admit to something you already know: that you have a problem, a problem that you cannot solve. The purpose of our Christian scriptures is to help us recognize our own human despair. We are supposed to experience the darkness Abraham experienced that day as he toiled up the mountain to make his sacrifice. We are supposed to realize that our entire lives — our past and our futures — are in the hands of God, and that there is nothing we can do, no sacrifice we can make, that can set things right and compel God to forgive us and bless us and love us.

But that is not the end of the story. The promise that comes down to us from the Binding of Isaac is that God himself will provide the sacrifice, that God himself will undo the damage we have done, that God himself will wipe away the tears from all faces. And he has done it already! — he is doing it, even now.

So if you are here today and you are aware of the weight of your sins, then do this: ask Jesus to be your king.

All other kings sin, and bring the judgement of God upon their people. All other gods demand that you pay for your sins. But Jesus is different. He alone of all gods and kings promises to lift the weight of sin from his people. And all we have to do is ask to be his people!

So ask! Do it now, and let your debt be paid, once and for all. Risk everything! — and put your future entirely in God’s hands.

Now, if you are here today and Jesus is already your king, then this is our application: remember, and believe, and act with confidence. We have been adopted into God’s family, and our adoption does not depend upon our faithfulness, it depends upon Jesus’ faithfulness. He was obedient, and we are blessed.

But here is where the tension comes in for us: we are possessed by the Holy Spirit, which means that — in many ways — we feel the weight of our sins more than those who do not have the Spirit. We are even more aware of the debt we owe to God and to one another, and in a strange irony this can make it even harder for us to believe. Because how is it possible for Jesus’ death on the cross to pay back and restore all that we have done to ourselves and to others? How does that work?

We don’t know. All we know is that it does work. By some grace that is beyond our comprehension, our Father and his Son, and the Holy Spirit between them decided that Jesus’ sacrifice would be enough, and that through his blood all things would one day be made new.

And so, for us, even though all this is not a matter of faith, it is a matter of historical fact…this is still a matter of faith. What is past is proven. What is future is hoped for. But because our Father said, “I swear by myself” — and because he does not change like shifting shadows — we have every reason to believe that one day “He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”

So, brothers and sisters: let us believe, and continue to put our future entirely in our Father’s hands.

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