Skip Heitzig - On a Hill Far Away
Would you please turn in your Bibles to the Book of Genesis, chapter 22. Genesis, first book in the Bible, the 22nd chapter. There's an old hymn that some of you are familiar with that this sermon is named after. "On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame. And I love that old cross, where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain."
We are looking at the blood line that runs from Eden to eternity and this week goes through the life of Abraham. We're seeing a picture. I love pictures that tell a story. On my phone, my lock screen is a picture of my wife. It just sort of captures her, sitting in a chair. Her smile is just wonderful. A quick little embodiment. And even though I see it every time I turn my phone on, I never get tired of that picture because I never get tired of her. So I love to be reminded of our love.
So too, we'll see a picture here that reminds us of God's love. We're considering how one experience is a preview of another experience. That is, what Abraham and his son Isaac will experience at a place is what God the Father and His son Jesus will experience at that same place. So that Genesis chapter 22 and the story of Abraham and Isaac become one of the greatest examples of faith, even in the New Testament.
In Hebrews 11, the author writes, "It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God's promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, though God had promised him, 'Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.' Abraham assumed that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead."
Now you know that Abraham was one of Jesus' actual physical descendants. In fact, all Jews trace their heritage back to Abraham. But also, we're tracing the bloodline, the scarlet thread of redemption. And that scarlet thread comes to the surface vividly in the 22nd chapter of Genesis, so that Abraham's experience of almost sacrificing his son points to when God would actually sacrifice his son.
Several years ago, one of the department store chains in America came up with a new idea, a business venture, a commercial venture that proved disastrous. They marketed a little doll. It was a baby Jesus doll. And they marketed the doll as being unbreakable, washable, cuddly. They had it in a little straw manger. A manger of satin on plastic and they had straw around it. And they had appropriate scriptures put on the box and on the crib itself just to make the scene complete. It was a disaster. It was a flop. It didn't sell, as you can imagine.
So one of the store managers in this chain of stores kind of panicked and decided, we got to make one last ditch promotional effort to get rid of these dolls. So he hung a huge sign in front of his department store that read this. "Jesus Christ marked down 50%. Get him while you can." There are several mistakes in this whole venture. In fact, the whole idea, I think, was a mistake. But number one, the mistake is trying to confine Jesus to being just a baby. And that's how a lot of people like to think about Jesus, the cuddly little Jesus in the manger, when in fact, he was born and lived for one purpose, death. He came to die.
A second mistake is that a store could mark Jesus down in value, when in fact, to God, he was invaluable. He was the most precious thing ever, His only son. The third mistake is that you could buy Jesus. The truth is, he came to buy you. He gave his very best. He paid the ultimate price for you. With these thoughts in mind, we're going to look at the story in Genesis chapter 22 and we're going to mark it in four phases that describe the story. They're written for you. I put them in your worship folder for this week. I organized my thoughts around these four: preparation, examination, submission, and anticipation.
Let's read a couple versus. First one, "It came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, 'Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.'" I've always liked that. I don't know why. And "Then He said, 'Take now your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.'"
The first phase is preparation, for notice how verse one begins. It says, now it came to pass after these things. After what things? Well after all the things that are mentioned in the previous chapter. After all those things. In chapter 21, we read of several things that happened. Number one, Abraham's first son, by the name of Ishmael, departs. Leaves the family. Also in chapter 21, there is an altercation that Abraham has with one of the local leaders that gets resolved. Also in chapter 21, the birth of Abraham's second son, Isaac, takes place. After these things, God tested Abraham.
Now after all of the things that I mentioned happened in chapter 21, Abraham went into a period of rest. I want you to look back, if you don't mind, at chapter 21. Look at verse 32. There's a little description. It says, "Thus, they made a covenant at Beersheba. So Abimelech", that's that local ruler I mentioned, "rose with Phichol, the commander of his army, and they returned to the land of the Philistines. Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree", it's a wispy little evergreen that grows in the area, "in Beersheba, and there called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines many days."
Most scholars believe that the "many days," that is the interval between chapter 21 and 22, was up to a few years. It was a period of rest for Abraham and Sarah and Isaac. Abraham is in Beersheba with his wife. Isaac is born there. It's the most satisfying time for the family. I'm picturing long, leisurely walks. Isaac's name means laughter. I bet they cracked up and laughed, just enjoying this time. The idea that this child could be born to such an old couple so miraculously. It was a time of enjoyment.
Here's the point I want to make. This restful time was a time of preparation for the worst storm Abraham would ever face. And that storm is in chapter 22. There's an old proverb, a Yiddish proverb, in fact, that says, "God sends burdens, but He also sends shoulders to bear those burdens." We all go through hard times. But if you're a believer, when you go through a hard time, God will send with the difficulty the capacity to handle that difficulty. You have the burden but you also have the shoulders to bear them.
Do you ever fear of what God might allow to come into your life? Do you ever wonder if you'd be able to handle some great trial or heartache like this? Don't. Sometimes we read a story like Genesis 22 and we think, well, I could never do what Abraham did. I could never handle that. I could never have this kind of faith to act like he did.
And the truth is, God was preparing Abraham for what he would face. God made sure that Abraham had learned what he needed to know and that his walk, his faith was stable. That the shoulders came along with the burden. So God is preparing you today for what you'll face tomorrow. He's preparing you for the trial, for the hardship, for the heartache, and the blessing that will follow the trial, the hardship, and the heartache. You need to know that Abraham is about to suffer this great trial because of what God tells him to do but afterwards comes a great blessing that follows on the heels of the trial. There's a great reward that is coming after this hardship.
I've always loved the story about the tiny little plant that was small and stunted that grew next to, was planted next to, and thus underneath the shade of a huge oak tree. And that little plant loved the strength and the stability of being so close to this giant oak. But one day, a woodsman came into the forest and started chopping down that huge oak tree, and when the ax hit the wood, the little tiny plant cried out and said, oh no. All my strength and my protection will be gone. Now I will have no shelter. Now the rough winds will blow on me and now the storms will uproot me.
The axeman, hearing the tiny plant cry out, said, oh no. Not so. Now the sun will get on you more than ever before. Now the rains will fall on you more than ever before. And now you won't stay stunted but you will grow more than ever before. Even the blastings of God lead to the blessings of God. And you'll discover that sometimes God subtracts in order that he would multiply.
In Romans chapter eight, Paul the Apostle writes, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Great question to ask yourself. If God's for us, who can be against us? "He who did not spare His own son but delivered him up for us all, how shall He not, with him, also freely give us all things?" So the trial was there but first came the preparation. That's phase one.
Phase two is the test itself. The examination. It says in verse one, "It came to pass after these things that God tested", that's the exam, "tested Abraham. And said to him, 'Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' And he said, 'Take now your son'", here's the test. "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."
You need to be aware of the word "tested" in verse one. It's a Hebrew word, and it means to prove value. To prove quality. To prove the worth of something. I know that the old translations, like the old King James, render it a little bit differently. It says, then God did tempt Abraham. But that's not a great rendering because there's a huge difference between temptation and being tested. In fact, the Bible says, in James 1, "God cannot be tempted nor does God tempt anyone."
So here's the big difference. Satan tempts you, God tests you. Satan tempts you to bring out the worst in you, but God tests you to bring out the very best in you. Now I'll admit, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference, right? You wonder, am I being tempted or am I being tested? A hardship comes. You go, is this from the devil? It sure seems like the devil is attacking me. Maybe. Or maybe God's allowing this to happen, even sending the burden, because He's strategically placing you somewhere. In fact, maybe it's both. Maybe, in this hardship, Satan is tempting you but God is testing you. It could be both.
What do you do when you can't tell the difference between a temptation and a test? Simple. You trust in God's sovereignty. Here's an example. Joseph. You know the story of Joseph, right? He was sold by his brothers to the Midianites who brought him down to Egypt. He could've said, this is from the devil. I'm being attacked. Maybe. Or maybe something else. And then after that, he was placed in Potiphar's house as a servant. So now he's an indentured slave. And he could have said, this is from the devil. This is horrible. Maybe. Or hold on, maybe it's something else.
Then it went from bad to worse. He was falsely accused, thrown in prison, and forgotten for a period of years. Now it's easy to say, boy, the devil's always attacking me. Maybe. Or something else or both. In fact, at the end of Joseph's life when his brothers finally approached him, Joseph's words were this. "You meant this for evil but God meant it for good." Both were at work. You meant it to trip me, God meant it to temper me and use me.
So sometimes it could be actually both at work at the same time. That's when you trust in the sovereignty of God. The Romans 8:28 principle, "We know that all things", I'm glad it says all. Not some, not most. "All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose." That's the test. He tested Abraham.
How do you know if your faith is any good? Test it. Put it to the test. Expose it to heat. Expose it to hardship. See, anybody can say, I love God, when times are good. I trust God, when the cupboards are full. But test that love of God. Test that faith in God. And so God will, from time to time, test you, not tempt you, but test you to temper you and to make your faith strong. To prove the quality.
Ann Kiemel writes, "Faith is like jumping out of an airplane at 10,000 feet. If God doesn't catch you, you splatter. But how do you know whether or not he's going to catch you unless you jump?" I love doing weddings. I've done a lot of them. I love watching couples exchange those nervous glances at each other and I love them sharing their vows, but I have become convinced that couples at the altar don't really hear the wedding vows they are saying.
Oh, they say them. They do it all right. But they don't always hear what they say. They say, I'll take you for better or for worse, for rich or for poor, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. But what they're hearing, I believe, are the words "better," "richer," "health." At that moment, they're not really thinking about "worse," "poor," "diseased," but that could come. In fact, it probably will come, and that's when the test of love comes. That's how you know love is real and that's how you know faith is real. It has to be tested.
Well God tested Abraham. Now, in this test, God touches the most sensitive nerve possible in Abraham's life, Isaac, his son. Why? Because all of God's purposes were wrapped up in Isaac. Now we know this is a test. And how do we know it's a test? Really simple. How do we know this is a test? It says so. It says so. Pretty easy for us. We're not in the test, we're just reading it. He tested him. Oh, yeah. We know it's a test. He didn't know it was a test. God didn't come to him and say, this is a test of the emergency broadcast network, this is only a test. He didn't have that advantage. The test just showed up. He went through it.
We know in hindsight that it was a test. Abraham did not. So he hears God give him this command. When he hears this test, it's unimaginable. What God tells him to do is unthinkable. Isaac, his name means laughter. Abraham is not laughing. This is no laughing matter. His heart is shattered. It is grieved by the very thought of this commandment.
And when God tells him this command, when he's going through this test, this poses a dilemma for Abraham. Let me explain. First, do you remember that Abraham had a name before Abraham? It was called Abram. Did you know that Abram means exalted father? Now he had that name when he had this many children. He had no children, yet his name was exalted father. Hard to live with that. What's your name? Exalted father. Where are your kids? I don't have any. But I have one promised but I don't have any.
So his name was exalted father. Then God makes it worse and changes his name to Abraham, which means father of a multitude. His name is father of a multitude. In chapter 22, he has two children. One has departed, that's Ishmael. One is left, and that one left, God says, sacrifice him. Well that's a dilemma. To make matters even more complicated, it was specifically through this child, Isaac, that God promised He would bless all the nations of the world. So the dilemma is heightened. And then also, there's this. Do you remember how old Sarah was when she had that baby, Isaac? 90. That's called a miracle. A 90-year-old woman having a baby? Abraham's 100, she's 90. She gets pregnant. It's a miracle baby.
So Abraham is thinking, well this is a dilemma. Why bother with that miracle if only to kill him now? So it seems like God is unraveling everything he went to great lengths to accomplish. But it's a test. And here's the crux of the test. Here's the issue. Who does Abraham love more? Let me rephrase that, my English teacher wouldn't be happy. Whom does Abraham love more? Does he love God more than his own son whom you love? Take your son whom you love. Do you love me more? Well that's a tough question. It's a tough test. It's been said that we all have an Isaac. We have some thing or some one where our security may lie. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but it could be that God will test you in that very area of your life and you'll be forced or faced with a decision, what will I do with this one that I love?
Let me tell you a little story about my dating. My wife, Lenya, when we were dating, let me just say that this wonderful, stable woman was dating a very flaky, unstable surfer from Huntington Beach who didn't know what he wanted and was hard to make a commitment past 10 minutes. So I asked her to marry me, and then after we were engaged, I start backpedaling. Thinking, I don't know if I can go through this. That'd be very tough for a young lady to deal with.
And I remember, she was at my house and she was struggling with my wavering personality. And it's as if she laid Isaac on the altar and she said this to me. She said, Skip, I love you so much that if I'm not God's best for you, if I'm not God's highest for you, I won't marry you. I don't want to marry you. I had never heard anything like that before. I guess I expected somebody goes, I love you so much, I can't live without you. No, she said, I love you so much, if I'm not God's highest for you, I won't marry you. It's as if she took the Isaac and laid it on the altar. Jesus said, whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. This was a great, great test.
J.C. Ryle said, "A religion which costs nothing is worth nothing." This was a huge cost for Abraham. So there was preparation and there was a test. An examination. Third phase is submission. Verse three. After God tells him that, it says, "So Abraham rose early in the morning." Notice how nonchalantly the verse begins. "So."
"So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, 'Stay here with the donkey. The lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.' So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, 'My father!' And he said, 'Here I am, my son.' And he said, 'Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?' And Abraham said, 'My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.' So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order, and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son."
Stop. We pause right at the pinnacle of the story, when the knife blade is gleaming in the sun and the faher is ready to plunge the knife into his son's chest. That's the third phase, submission. Abraham's response to God's command in these verses that we just read seems to be prompt, immediate, and without question. You'll notice in what we just read that nothing is said about Abraham's emotional reaction. It just says, so, he did it. And here's why, I believe. You don't need to really say anything about Abraham's emotional reaction. It's unnecessary. He was grieved. Any father would be grieved.
He probably got no sleep at all the night before. He tossed and turned. He was restless. Any parent who's going to have a child go through surgery the next morning gets no sleep. They're worried about what the possible outcome could be. I'm sure his mind was racing the night before, that day, on the walk up, as he bound his son. His mind was racing with thoughts, like, what about all those promises God gave me about this boy? What about that thing about the stars and my descendants will be more in number than the stars of the heaven?
And more than that, what am I going to tell Sarah when I get home? What am I going to tell her about the God we trusted in and the son that is no longer alive? But maybe we're moving too quickly. Go to verse five and notice something. It said, "Abraham said to his young men, stay here with the donkey. The lad and I will go yonder and worship and", what does it say now? We. "We will come back to you." Not we're going up yonder and I'll be back. No, the former governor of California used to say that. I'll be back. Abraham said, we'll be back. We. Plural. That's a statement of faith. We will be back.
Why does he say that? How could he say that? Here's how I figure it. Some time the night before, probably, as he's wrestling with all these thoughts, in his mind, he solved the problem. He wrestled with it in his mind and made a very reasoned calculation based on God.
You see, for God to give this commandment, there's only one of two conclusions that one can draw. Conclusion number one, God is fickle and cannot be trusted. I mean, why would God promise, provide a miracle, have this baby born, make all those promises, and then say, kill him. So either God is fickle and cannot be trusted, but Abraham did not have that experience with God up to this point, or conclusion number two, God is faithful and can be trusted. He's either fickle and can't be trusted or he's faithful and can be trusted. And that's the God Abraham knew God to be, faithful. I can trust him.
In fact, let me read again to you Hebrews 11. Listen carefully. "By faith, Abraham when he was tested offered up Isaac and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, in Isaac, your seed shall be called, concluding", concluding, "that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead." That word concluding, I emphasize it for a reason.
The word concluding is the word "logizomai," or logical thought. It means to compute or to calculate or to reason. Logically think through. So here's Abraham marching Isaac up the hill, binding him up, taking the knife, about ready to plunge it, and he's thinking these thoughts. God promised me that I would have a son. It was impossible. I'm 100, she's 90. But here he is. It actually happened. So God is faithful.
But now that same God is telling me to kill that same son. Either God is fickle or God is faithful. I'm opting for number two. I think God is faithful. Which means, when I plunge a knife into him, it's because God is planning a resurrection. He's going to give another miracle. He's going to raise my son from the dead because that's the son god promised would be the heir.
So here's my application to us. What do you do when life seems so illogical? Well, when life seems so illogical, get theological. Start reasoning based upon God's character. Let your calculation, your logical thought, be upon who you know God to be.
There was a man who owned a store. A grocery store. It was an old-fashioned grocery store where you had the store on level one but there was a cellar underneath, a basement, where all the backstop was. So there was an open trap door from level one down the ladder to level two. One day, the dad is down in the cellar getting stock for the store. His son is up in the store. The trap door is open to the cellar, a ladder goes down, but from up on top where all the light is, it looks pitch black down. Well the dad's down there getting some stuff. He looks up and sees his son's face, who's kind of over the hole like this, looking down into the dark. The dad sees the son and says, son, jump. I'll catch you.
The boy goes, I can't jump. I can't see. The father says, but I can see you just fine, and you know me and you know that I love you. So jump. And the boy did. You know why? Because he calculated based upon what he knew his father to be like, not based upon the fact that it's dark. He never would have jumped. He made his logical calculation based on a promise of a man he knew to be faithful. And so he jumped.
There's another key I don't want you to miss in verse five. "Abraham said to his young men, stay here with the donkey. The lad and I will go yonder and worship." Don't leave out that word. We're going to go yonder and we're going to worship. To Abraham, this sacrifice became an act of worship. Let me encourage you to turn your worst times into your worship times. It's dark, it's bad, it's horrible. Pause. Look up, knowing God to be faithful and just and righteous and fully in love with you, and worship Him from that place of pain. Turn your worst times into your worship times.
Become preoccupied with God. Learn to gaze at God and only glance at your trial. Because if you reverse that, if you gaze at your trial and only glance at your God, you're going to sink. That was Peter's problem, right? He started getting out of the boat and started walking on the water because Jesus said he could do it, so he starts walking on the water till he starts gazing at the water, realizing, uh, this is impossible. Dudes don't walk on water. And he started sinking. Blub blub blub blub blub. If he would have only gazed at Jesus and glanced at the problem, he would have made it. Learn that. An act of worship.
So preparation, examination, submission, and the fourth phase is anticipation. This is where it becomes clear. Look at verse 11. Knife is in mid-air, ready to go down, "But", phew, thank you for that word. "But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' And He said, 'Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear'", reverence, honor, respect. That's what the word means. "'That you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.' Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide."
Hey, I'm going to rename this place. What are you going to call it? In Hebrew, The Lord will provide. But notice this. "As it is said to this day, 'In the mountain of the Lord, it shall be'", that's future tense. That's pointing ahead. That's an anticipation. That's an expectation of something else. "In the Mount of the Lord, it shall be provided." In other words, this past event of Abraham and Isaac became a future anticipation and expectation. A preview of something else. A preview of coming attractions. "In the Mount of the Lord, it shall be seen."
Have you ever been to an optometrist office when they put that big machine on you to get your vision? And they test you and they go, OK, so is this clearer, click, or is this clearer, click. And you tell them. And they go, OK, now is this clearer or, click, is this clearer? I don't know, I can't tell the difference. Go back. OK, is this clearer or is this, OK, that's clearer. Good.
Now when they're done with that, then they put all of those optics together, they snap it into place, and wow, that's perfect. That's what this set of verses does. It's like now the whole sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham becomes crystal clear. It means something else. It points to the future direction. If we just consider this to be a trial of Abraham, we're missing the larger point. It's more than a painful experience. Chapter 22 is a prophetic experience. It is a picture, a preview, of something else.
In just reading the story, we can't help but notice the striking similarity between Isaac and Jesus. Let me throw out a few. Isaac was a miracle baby. God provided a miracle to let a 90-year-old womb give birth to that boy. So was Jesus. He was born of a virgin. Miracle birth. Isaac was promised long before he was born. Years before he was born. Jesus was promised years before he was born. Isaac was named before he was born. Jesus was named. You will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
Notice something else in the text. Verse two, "Take now your son, your only son." Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. This isn't his only son. He has two sons. His first son is Ishmael. God says, take your only son. Hebrews calls him your only begotten son. You see, this was the only son of promise, not the son of the flesh, so God only recognizes Isaac as the only son.
Notice something else. Take now your son, your only son, whom you love. Now all Bible scholars will tell Bible students, whenever a word first appears in scripture, it's noteworthy. It's significant. It sort of sets the tone for future interpretations. The very first occurrence of the word "love" in all of scripture appears in that verse. What's interesting is to note what kind of love it is. It's the love of a father for his son who is about to give his son as a sacrificial offering.
Let's go on. And it says, "Go to the land of Moriah." What is Moriah? While second chronicles tells us that Mount Moriah was the place that a man named Ornan had a threshing floor on. David bought it. Solomon built a temple on it. The temple was built on Mount Moriah. Mount Moriah is a ridge of mountains in Jerusalem.
If you go north of the temple area, to the north where the Mount Moriah goes to the peak, the very pinnacle, that pinnacle is called Golgotha. Calvary. The place where Jesus later would be crucified. That was the peak of Mount Moriah. Something else you have to look at in verse four. It says, "Then on the third day, Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off." In other words, it was a three day journey to get there. Third day, he sees it.
So what does that mean? God gives him a command, kill your son. Three days later, he goes to the place, almost kills his son, the angel stops him, and it's like, phew, a moment of relief. Here's the point. Isaac, in Abraham's mind, was dead for three days. It was the third day that, as Hebrews said, he saw, like a resurrection. He came back to life. I don't have to go through with it. On the third day.
Then, in verse six, Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac. And he carried it up to the place of sacrifice. So, like Isaac, Jesus faced a sacrificial death at the hand of his own father. Like Isaac, Jesus too carried the wood on which he would give his life. Like Isaac, Jesus also carried it up to Mount Moriah. But that's where the similarity ends.
For Jesus, there was no ram caught in a thicket. For Jesus, there was no substitute so that he himself could live. The Father went through, the Father in Heaven, God the Father went through with what only Abraham contemplated. Almost went through. God actually sacrificed his son. So when Abraham lifted that knife, all of Heaven must have marveled at how a man could love God so. But when Jesus died on Mount Moriah on that cross, all of Heaven was stunned at how God could love mankind so.
I'm going to close with this story I found in Decision Magazine, written by Janice Zeiler. She writes, "I remember when I was five or six years old, having a big writing tablet on which I could do block printing. I took a sheet of tablet paper, folded it in half, and I wrote 'I love you' on the inside. I put my dad's name on the outside, covered it with hearts, and set it on his dresser. I made a Valentine for him and it wasn't even Valentine's Day. Eagerly, I anticipated what I thought would be an enthusiastic response. It never came. The next afternoon, I discovered the Valentine in the waste basket. This has to be a mistake, I thought. He must not have seen it. I lifted the Valentine from the trash and carefully stood it up in the center of his dresser. My heart was pounding the next day when I checked the wastebasket. It was there again, only this time it was crumpled with some other papers. He must not have liked it, I thought, or maybe he didn't see it. So I smoothed out the creases as best I could, placed the Valentine on his dresser once more, and I made sure that it was very conspicuous so that this time he would see it. The next day, dad called me to him and he said, will you quit putting that note on my dresser? I already know that you love me."
How disappointing. What an epic fail for a father responding to the love of a daughter. Here's a Valentine. Crumple. God has given us His Valentine. Not written in pencil, written in blood. And you can crumple it up and say, yeah, I know that. I know God loves me. I've heard that all before. I've heard this cross thing. Crumple crumple toss. Discard. Or it can touch you at the core and realize, this is how much God loves me? And you could respond by reciprocating that love. You don't have to. You could toss it out. Many people live their whole lives tossing out the Valentine. Or you could change that. Let's pray together.
Father, when we consider the truth of this story, which shows us visually what John 3:16 puts verbally, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life." We think what a great Valentine this is. I pray, Father, that we who are weary because of sin, we who are just sort of beat up by life, would come to a place where we surrender our life for the one who gave his for us.
Maybe you're with us today and you've never turned your life over to Christ, though you come to church from time to time and you would consider yourself a religious person. A devout person. Yet it's not personal to you. He's not personal to you. You don't really walk with Him and consider Him and surrender to Him on a daily basis.
You could change that. You could decide to cooperate with the Valentine that he has written in his son Jesus. And instead of crumpling it up today, you could surrender your life to Him. Here's how. Right where you're seated, right now, talk to Him. Say this to Him. Say it from your heart. Say it out loud if you'd like. Say:
Lord, I give you my life. I surrender. I believe that Jesus died for me on a cross and was raised from the dead. I believe he died in my place. That he took my sin. And today, I stop. I repent. I change my mind. I'm turning from my past and my sin and I'm turning to Jesus as my Savior. I want to follow him as my Lord and master. It's in his name I pray. Amen.