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February 18, 2024

Mt. Moriah is a Great Getaway Destination

Passage: Genesis 22:1-14

What is your ideal vacation destination? For some it’s Florida, California, Hawaii, Arizona, all with the heat of the sun and their various tropical qualities. For others, it’s Alaska, Colorado, Montana, British Columbia, all with dazzling majestic mountains and alpine skiing. And yet, for others, they might not like to go anywhere on vacation, but prefer to take “staycation” at home. Regardless of your ideal vacation spot, perhaps your working years have taught you that it is good to take vacation time to recharge and get away from the stress and bustle of work and life.

It's important to take vacation time, and for your next vacation, I would like to offer you a wonderful idea for a vacation destination. This place is arid, tan looking, and doesn’t have a whole lot of trees to look at. It’s elevated with shrubs everywhere…that may sound not very exotic to you. Sounds like you’re driving through eastern Wyoming, west river South Dakota, or something similar. I’m referring to Israel, Jerusalem to be exact. In Jerusalem is situated an elevated land called Mt. Moriah. It is a significant landmark, and it is what I would call the perfect getaway destination.

Now, to explain why I say this, I’m not telling you that you should all buy tickets to go to Israel to see this place. I’m saying it’s a perfect getaway destination because of what our gracious God has shown to us on several times on this mountain. At Mt. Moriah, that place that literally means, ‘provided of the Lord,’ God has shown us that we can get away from all that tempts us and hurts us. This place is where we read in the books of Chronicles that an angel of wrath was stayed by the Lord from striking Jerusalem. At that time, 70,000 men had already fallen in Israel because of David’s pride and insistence on numbering the people. The prophet Gad told David to offer a sacrifice at the threshing floor, located at Mt. Moriah. David bought the threshing floor and did so. David went to Moriah to getaway from the pain and to get the people of God away from pain. A generation later, Mt. Moriah became the place where Solomon built the great Temple. This temple would be the place where the Old Testament sacrifices, all foreshadowing the Savior, would be carried out. At Mt. Moriah, all the sacrifices which preached the comforting promise of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, provided the Jews a vacation getaway from all their pain and temptations. And of course, very close to Mt. Moriah, on a skull-shaped hill called Calvary just a few miles away, Jesus would die and rise for our sins. He would give Himself for us, providing for us the perfect getaway. Indeed all things for our salvation have been procured through Christ at the Land of Moriah—Provided of the Lord. When struggles come into your life, do not be afraid to go to Moriah with them and to give up everything, even your dearest treasure, for God’s mercy. Trust Him. At Moriah the Lord has seen to it and has provided for you in Jesus, giving you the perfect getaway from temptation, pain, and the guilt of every transgression you’ve committed. And so, seeing our theme, namely that Mt. Moriah is a great getaway destination for our souls, we turn to the very first story concerning Mt. Moriah, a story going back to the days of Abraham where Abraham would teach himself, Isaac, you, and me that even in the hardest of trials, the Lord will provide the healing balm; in the most trying of temptations, the Lord will provide the way of escape; and with the deepest feelings of guilt, the Lord will provide the forgiveness.

(We pray…)

In this account from Genesis, we see God’s test to Abraham, a test of his faith to strengthen his faith in the promise made to him by God, the promise that through his seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed. In this account we see that all the previous accounts of Abraham come to a point here. Here’ a brief recall of the legacy of Abraham: He left his home country by faith, he counted the stars and was promise the Seed of blessing, He remembered Sarah’s laughter at the promise of a son, he remembered the hardships with Hagar and Ishmael, he saved Lot, he prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah, he met Melchizedek and Abimelech. All the drama and build up ensued to finally end up with the son he always wanted: Isaac. And finally, after all this hardship and drama, the Lord speaks to Abraham in a tender and winsome way, telling Abraham follow Him to the perfect vacation from his labors. Abraham well knew of God’s gracious, patient, and forgiving dealings with him, and His promise of the Seed of the Woman would come from Abraham’s family for him and all the world, and so he followed. Yet, what was about to transpire was still the most challenging of tests. Imagine how close Abraham and Isaac had become at this point in their lives. Look at how the text speaks of their relationship: “his only son, whom he loved.” And now Abraham was asked to take his teenaged son and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. “This is your vacation, Abraham…” Doesn’t sound very stress relieving, and yet he did this at once. Right away in the morning, Abraham and Isaac started packing for their trip.

The test builds up as the vacation trip progresses. Abraham lifts his eyes to Mt. Moriah, his getaway destination. Imagine the feeling. Perhaps reluctance from the thought of the deed he’s about to perform. Perhaps determination motivated by the God whom He trusts. Perhaps relief from finally reaching the destination so that he doesn’t have to ruminate about the task anymore. Perhaps a mixture of all three. Upon arrival, he tells his servants with confidence, “We will go and worship, and we will return.” Such confidence, and that confidence shines brighter as he and Isaac then go and build the bonfire set up a top Mt. Moriah. Isaac says, “Father, where’s the lamb?” Abraham says, “God will provide it, Isaac.” What a stress relieving getaway, right? It only costs the life of a teenaged boy…

And so, Abraham places his son, who’s literally named “laughter,” on the pyre to be slaughtered and burned. What a paradox. There is no laughter on this vacation.  Abraham than wastes no time and, as the Hebrew puts it, “throws” his hand in a deliberate and forceful motion to kill Isaac.

So Let’s stop there. Does Mt. Moriah sound like your vacation getaway? No, it sounds like the worst trip one could ever imagine having to take! Would you go on this trip, take your child or loved one, and sacrifice him if asked by God Himself?? Perhaps you don’t want to imagine that, and I understand, so we’ll move on to the point. What is God teaching? Trust in Him. Trust in Him to give you the getaway you need. And so, seeing the lesson, can you think of times when God has taken you to Mt. Moriah. What hardships have you gone through that challenged you to cast the knife down, trusting in God that His will will be done and His kingdom will come. What temptations have you endured that made you want to drop the knife and not do what God asks you? What sins have you committed because you could not do what God has asked you. Remember, even though Abraham threw the knife down to kill Isaac as if it were simple as cutting butter with a butter knife, how many times did he drop the knife in disobedience. He lied about his marriage, he conceived with a woman that was not his wife to get what he thought was the promised son even though that’s not what God had in mind…Abraham had sins. He had failures. He had a long road of sin and guilt behind him that led up to this point, to his vacation destination, Mt. Moriah. He learned the hard way how to trust in God. And so, through experience, he stands in his vacation getaway about to kill his son…

And then he was stopped...Who’s intervening? The Angel of the Lord, also known as the preincarnate Jesus. Jesus got Abraham’s attention. “Don’t kill him, Abraham…it is done. You have not withheld him.” In God’s eyes the sacrifice was actually offered. Isaac was offered up, given up, in Abraham’s heart of faith. What a comfort for Abraham to hear from the Lord, at this time. Abraham had learned to trust in God. He learned to trust in God as the way of escape from trial, temptation, and transgression. He saw at this very moment why Moriah was the perfect getaway. The Lord provided the getaway, and He will do so in every moment of trial, whether it’s comfort for pain, resolve for temptation, or forgiveness in Christ for guilt.

And so, this is your get away as well, for you can learn the same lessons for yourself. From Abraham’s experience, this is what we learn of the God who teaches both you and me in similar ways. We learn of God just as Abraham learned of Him that this God is Jehovah, that is the God of free and faithful grace! Abraham surely realized his lies about Sarah—twice—and his child by Hagar—all of which, and more, the Lord forgave. And we turn to realize the same, that God as forgiven us as well. This Lord is the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. What a relief for Abraham in the stress of the situation to hear gracious words from the Lord. What joy to Isaac’s heart as well. No, Isaac didn’t have to die that day, and Abraham and Isaac were able to worship the Lord after this dramatic scene, for the Lord offered them a ram caught in the thicket. And so, we must ask, was God bluffing in all this? No, He was working to strengthen Abraham’s grip on Him, faith in Him like never before. Just as the buffeting prairie winds make the grain and the tree’s root more firmly into the ground, so God was rooting Abraham deeper into his trust and faith in the God of his salvation. If God does this with His beloved Abraham, a sinner in need of His mercy, does He not also do the same with you? And we ask further to that point, did Abraham know how this was going to turn out? How did Abraham ever carry on with God’s request? He didn’t know the exact details of how it would turn out, but he did know in general how it would turn out. Remember him Abraham saying to his servants: “We will return to you.” Scripture also reveals more in the New Testament concerning the faith that God gifted Abraham with. In Hebrews we see this, “when (Abraham) was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead…” We also see in Romans, “Abraham hoped against hope.” And what gave Abraham such strong faith? The promise of Good News, the Gospel which says to Abraham, “In your Seed all families of the earth shall be blessed.” Isaac needed to stay alive to make sure that the Savior of the World, the Seed, could come and save the world. Even if Abraham killed him, Abraham knew that God could raise Isaac from the dead if He had to.

And so, to conclude, does Mt. Moriah sound like your vacation getaway? It does to me, for the picture that this mountain provides is the picture of how one lays their cares and concerns of God. Even if it seems impossible to do sometimes, like killing your son on an altar, God will provide, for that’s what the name Moriah means. And so, in our conclusion, let’s see how God’s grace shows us that He is the perfect getaway in three areas: trial, temptation, and guilt.

 In trial, God will provide for you. Abraham thought his son was going to die, but He knew that God would provide. And God did. Jesus did, telling Abraham to stop what he was doing and loot at the lamb in the thicket. In whatever trials you are going through, God will provide for you the resolution and comforts you need. For remember, God gave you a lamb in the thicket. Whereas Abraham relented to kill his only son, God dealt the multiple nail and hammer blows to His only Son to provide you with greatest way of escape and vacation getaway, namely that comfort that all things work out for your good including your eternal good that one day all your trials will go away.

In temptation, God will provide a way of escape, another getaway. Abraham was no doubt tempted to just drop the knife and say no to God, but He knew His God’s will. And how was Abraham’s resolve so strong? Remember, his faith was not always this strong, but it grew stronger as the mercy shown by God during the trials of his life made his faith stronger. Abraham’s faith and strength during temptation was made stronger by the Gospel, the promise that through His Seed all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. And so, how is your faith and resolve to not to give into temptation made stronger? Through the same merciful God, showing you forgiveness for your failures and teaching you to trust in Him by sending you every trial. He does this through the Good News of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Seed of Abraham. Jesus did a far better job than Abraham when it came to temptation, and He did it for you. Just look to our Gospel reading where he sent the devil away reeling because He conquered every temptation thrown His way. He even did this on calvary, never coming down from the cross even when He was goaded to all to give you the gift of eternal life and the Gospel motivation to lead you away from temptation.

And finally, in transgression, when through trial and temptation you have fallen into sin, God has provided the way of escape at the most beautiful getaway destination. Abraham knew that the Seed promised was his salvation. Abraham was not perfect in his whole life’s walk-through trial and temptation. He fell many times, and he deserved to be punished. He deserved justice. He forfeited his right to live according to all holiness. Abraham and his son deserved to die…but what makes Mt. Moriah such a beautiful getaway destination is that that’s where we learn that though we deserve to die and deserve to surrender our children’s and loved one’s lives, God provides the getaway, the way of escape, the peace and rest for our souls in Jesus Christ. For it was here at the getaway destination, just outside of Jerusalem and close to Mt. Moriah that Jesus offered His life for our souls. Here at this location of rest God provided for us. He God spared not His Son Jesus so that you and your children may be spared eternal punishment. Here Jesus does for you as He did for Abraham by pointing you to a different lamb caught in a thicket. He points you to Himself as the sacrifice necessary to save you, offering His perfect life on the cross in exchange for your reconciliation with God. And here, at your vacation destination, here at Mt. Moriah, the Holy Spirit leads you by His Word to look to the most comforting blessing: God will provide. So then, through trial, during temptation, and to see our salvation, let us go to our vacation destination: Mt. Moriah. Literally, Mt. “the Lord will provide.” And let us go there so that we may find rest for our souls. Amen.