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In time of trial

Genesis 22:1-14

Pastor David Ernst

First Sunday of Lent
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, Mar 5, 2017 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today we begin another season of Cuaresma, the time to reflect on the suffering and death of our Lord. Cuaresma is derived from fortieth and means 40 days until Good Friday. In fact, there are 46 days until Good Friday because we do not count the six Sundays. However, forty is a number that in the Bible often symbolizes a time of trial. The first example is found in the book of Genesis, chapter six and following, the story of Noah's ark. He and his family were locked in the ark during a deluge of 40 days. Also, the people of Israel traveled in the desert for 40 years after crossing the Red Sea and before reaching the Promised Land.

But in addition to these examples, our model for Cuaresma is the temptation of our Lord for 40 days and 40 nights by the devil in the desert (Matthew 4: 1-11). Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights before the devil came. Fasting is an ancient practice to express repentance and humiliation before entering the presence of God. It is not obligatory for us for salvation, because Jesus has done it and much more in our places. However, fasting may be helpful in remembering the Lord's suffering and focusing our thoughts on our sins if, according to the Lord's counsel, we do not make the practice a show to gain the admiration of others (Matthew 6:16).

The devil tempted Jesus first with the bread, because after 40 days of fasting, He was hungry. If you are the Son of God, say that these stones become bread. But He answered and said, It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."

Now I want to talk about our Old Testament reading, Genesis 22: 1-14. The devil tempted Jesus to deceive him, because if Jesus had fallen into sin, he could not have been our Savior. But, God tested Abraham, not to deceive him, but to teach Abraham something.

 Abraham said to him. And he said, Here I am. And he said, Take now your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will tell you.

What was the point? God had promised Abraham many offspring, more descendants than the stars in the sky or the sand on the shore, through Isaac, the only son of Abraham and his wife, Sarah, in their old age. Furthermore, according to the promise, from the lineage of Isaac would come the Seed of the woman promised in Genesis 3:15 to overcome the devil and death.

Abraham relied on the Word of God in a difficult situation that made no sense to Abraham. God had promised him descendants through Isaac, but ordered the sacrifice of a son of Abraham to satisfy His righteousness. So had Jesus trusted in the Word of God in the desert, also on the pinnacle of the Temple. When the devil said unto him, it is written, He shall command his angels for you, and lift you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot upon a stone (it refers to Psalm 91:11), Jesus answered him, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 6:16). We must listen to the whole Word of God to avoid the traps of the devil.

God kept His promise to Abraham. And when they came to the place which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and made the wood, and bound Isaac his son, and put it upon the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the sword 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 your hand upon the lad, neither do unto him any thing; That I know that you fear God, because you did not refuse me your son, your only son. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and behold, and beheld a ram behind him, bound in a bush by his horns: and Abraham took the ram, and offered him as a burnt-offering instead of his son.

And God fulfilled His promise in this way too: He ordered the sacrifice of a son of Abraham and did it Himself. For the sacrifice to satisfy the righteousness of God was the same Seed promised to Abraham to be the Savior of the world. For this story of Abraham and Isaac is a messianic prophecy.

Jesus Christ was the Son of Abraham, also the Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, sent to this world to suffer and die in our places. Then, in the season of Cuaresma, we remember the price of our salvation and give thanks to God for the promise of eternal life and peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.

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