The Psalm 23 Adventure, Part 56
September 8, 2017
This is the third week of our study in the life of Abraham and considering the goodness of the Lord that followed him. Now we will see the final overcoming of fear in Abraham's life -- specifically, the Fear of Death -- and just how the goodness of the Lord brought Abraham to this place.
If it seems like I’m belaboring this whole story, it’s just because I want you to see how God continues to generate His goodness in spite of Abraham’s screw-ups. It’s the same goodness that is eventually going to follow Abraham for the rest of his life, once his obedience to the Lord and his final act of faith in the face of death are complete. Let’s not forget. Abraham has suffered with the Fear of Death his whole life. God is about setting him free from that fear — not only for Abraham’s sake, but for the sake of his descendants.
When one lives and walks obediently to the Lord, no matter the circumstances, and no matter how things appear to be the direct opposite of God’s promise, there is no place for fear of any kind. Our obedience to the Lord in the face of negative circumstances prepares us for the goodness of the Lord to follow us, all the days of our lives.
I remind you of Dwain McKenzie’s statement (and I’ve quoted this hundreds of times in the past 40 years): Things are not what they seem to be, they’re what God says they are!
Thirteen years pass for Abraham with a close relationship developing between Abraham and Ishmael. He is now 99 years of age. Genesis 17 unfolds for us the most expansive nature of the covenant that God is making with Abraham. He makes it abundantly clear that His covenant with Abraham will come through a son whom Sarah will bear (her age notwithstanding)
That son will be named Isaac. He will be the son of covenant — not Ishmael. God’s command to Abraham is, “I am the Almighty God, walk before me and be thou perfect.” (The Hebrew text gives us El Shaddai — the God of more than enough — and this is the first time God has revealed Himself to Abraham this way.)
The Lord next appears on the scene in the form of three angels whom Abraham instantly recognize as having come from the Lord. He insists that they remain with him so that he can prepare a feast for them. They do so while Abraham’s servant goes and kills a calf, dresses it and roasts it. With bread, butter and milk, he serves his angelic guests and stands by under a tree while they eat.
Finally, they call for Sarah to come out and Abraham tells them that she is in the tent. The angelic visitors proceed to tell Abraham that nine months hence, Sarah will bear a child. Sarah, knowing that she is well past child-bearing age gets tickled at the idea and begins to laugh within herself. The angels reprove her for her laughter and declare the following:
Genesis 18:14: Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.
And God keeps His promise. Sarah’s youth is regenerated, her youthful beauty is restored, and sure enough she gets pregnant and brings forth Isaac nine months later. But something happens while Sarah is pregnant, and it is a demonstration that Abraham is still not free from the fear he suffered with when he was in Egypt and told Sarah to tell everyone that she was his sister.
They decide to take a journey into the south where the Philistines are in power.
Abimelech, the Philistine king, sees Sarah’s beauty and immediately takes her, thinking that he’s going to have her for his wife. Once again, the Lord has to step in and demonstrate His goodness and blessing to Abraham. Before Abimelech can consummate his intentions to take her as his wife, the entire court of women — his servants and their wives — cease in childbearing. We can read into the Hebrew text that describes what happens. Women who may be pregnant cease to continue in their pregnancies. Everything comes to a halt.
God speaks to Abimelech and tells him that he has taken the wife of a prophet — Abraham — and that if he doesn’t restore her to him, he is a dead man, along with all of his household. Abimelech quickly obeys and gives Abraham a thousand pieces of silver at the same time.
Two more tests are still in store for Abraham in order to bring him to the place where the goodness of the Lord will be firmly developed and implanted into his character and nature. This first test is going to be one of the toughest tests Abraham has faced to date. This is a test that addresses human compassion. If the goodness of the Lord is to become our goodness, we cannot substitute human compassion for the Word of the Lord.
When God commands us to do something, we are prone at times to let our own reasoning get in the way. If that which God commands requires something that defies our own human-ness and our personal feelings, His Word can require us to shut off our emotions and compassion in order to obey. And that’s exactly what God is about to do with Abraham. Watch!
Genesis 21:9-14: And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.
And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son. And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.
And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
Abraham had to really set aside his emotions and human compassion. He argued with the Lord over this command, but the Lord made it clear that He would bless Ishmael. Ishmael could never the son of covenant since he was the son of a bondwoman, but He would still bless Ishmael because he was Abraham’s son. There’s a whole lot revealed in this that I don’t have time to explore today, but it is critical for us to understand that God knew the end from the beginning. There was no way that the son of the flesh could co-exist with the son of covenant. The two just don’t mix!
Now Abraham faces the supreme test of his life. The Fear of Death, which he has suffered with, must be overcome! It cannot continue in his life if the covenant is to be fulfilled. It cannot continue for the blessing of the Lord to be manifested throughout the generations to come.
Genesis 22:1-19: And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
Let me break into this narrative to point out that the Hebrew word that the KJV translates as "tempt" actually means "to put to the test." God wasn't tempting Abraham. He was putting to the test everything that had been accomplished in Abraham's life up to this point.
And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.
And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.
I watched this happen when the Lord took me into Abraham’s life to watch things unfold. The wheels were turning in his head when the Lord spoke to Him and instructed him to take Isaac and offer him up to the Lord as a burnt sacrifice. Every argument the mind can construct went through his thoughts. But something has developed between God and Abraham by this time. Isaac is roughly 30 years of age. God speaks. Abraham obeys. His obedience is almost automatic. But that doesn’t mean that his mind isn’t arguing against this. Nevertheless, he can’t help himself. God has never failed to perform exactly what He said He would do. And that’s what rules Abraham’s spirit!
By the time they get to the base of the mountains of Moriah, something has happened in him. For the first time, he is going to speak the Word of the Lord. Faith is going to come forth.
Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
You see it, don’t you? I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again unto you. And that’s despite the fact that God has instructed him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice!
Paul tells us the following in Hebrews 11.
Hebrews 11:17-19: By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
Still, you had to see the resolute trudge that Abraham made as he climbed the hill with Isaac. What he spoke to the servants was absolutely fixed in his spirit when Isaac spoke to him.
And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
The Fear of Death is literally being burned out of Abraham as he makes this journey. And it is going to confront him one last time as he and Isaac build the altar and Isaac is bound and laid upon the altar.
And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
Have to tell you that I wept when I watched this unfold. Seeing the provision of the ram in the thicket, seeing the sacrifice take place with the ram in Isaac’s place, and understanding the prophetic significance of all that was unfolding gripped me in ways I don’t know how to put into words!
All of this unfolded within view of the citadel that Shem/Melchizedek had built for his bride hundreds of years prior. (In fact, Shem was still in residence when Abraham prepared to offer Isaac.) All of this unfolded where, many hundreds of years in the future, David would build his tabernacle. All of this unfolded where Jesus would be crucified as the lamb that was slain from before the foundations of the earth. Prophecy was unfolding visually.
In the past three weeks, we've mostly focused on the picture of God's goodness. Next week, we'll show you His mercy -- perhaps from a different perspective than you've ever considered.
For those of you who’ve been participating in our Monday night Healing Prayer Conference Call, we just want to let you know that beginning with the month of July and continuing until the first Monday night in October, we will be taking a break for the summer. We’ve found during the past three years of doing this call that participation during the summer months drops significantly because of folks taking their vacations, and being involved in other activities. That said, we will resume our prayer calls on Monday night, October 2nd.
At the same time, in case you are missing out on real fellowship in an environment of Ekklesia, our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:45AM Pacific. That conference number is (712) 770-4160, and the access code is 308640#. We are now making these gatherings available by Skype. If you wish to participate by video on Skype, my Skype ID is regner.capener. If you miss the live voice call, you can dial (712) 770-4169, enter the same access code and listen in later. The video call, of course, is not recorded – not yet, anyway.
Blessings on you!
Regner A. Capener
RIVER WORSHIP CENTER
Temple, Texas 76504
Email Contact: CapenerMinistries@protonmail.com
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