A Sad Task and a Dread Service…

Taken from, “A Support for the Sinking Heart in Times of Distress, Or a Sermon Preached in London, to Uphold and allay feare, January 4th.  Which was a day of great trouble and deepe danger in the City.”
Written by, Simeon Ash, 1642.

Excerpts herein edited largely for thought and sense.

 

“In the Mount of the Lord it shall be seen…”
–Genesis 22:14

Abraham's_Sacrifice_of_Isaac_by_Il_Baciccio,_c._1700,_High_Museum_of_Art.
The interpretation of this proverb is to be gathered from its occasion…

God by way of trial did put his servant Abraham upon a sad task, a dread service, commanding him to make a burnt offering of his son, his son Isaac; the son of his age, and the son of God’s promise.

Take now thy son, thy only son Isaac whom thou lovest, and get thee in to the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering. –Genesis 22:2

How heavy this work was likely to be upon Abraham’s heart, I leave it to the judgment of any affectionate father, when he hath seriously perused the law of the Lord concerning burnt offerings. The offering being slain it was to be cut in pieces, the wood being laid upon the Altar fire was to be put under, the parts, the head, the fat were to be laid in order upon the wood, the inward parts and the legs being washed in water, all were to be burnt on the Altar. When the good old man had chewed this bitter pill for the space of three days, towards the end of the third day, he lifting up his eyes saw the place a far off where his dearest, dearest son must be sacrificed.

Being come to his journeys end he builds the Altar, binds his son, lays him thereon. What pathetic conversation passed between the two, the Holy Ghost reveals not. But what it was each affectionate heart will make a conjecture.  When the father (no doubt with a heavy heart) had taken the knife, and lifted up his hand, and was ready to give the deaths blow to his beloved Isaac, now imagine you what were Abraham’s difficulties.

Is it not probable he might have such reasoning’s as these?

If I kill not my son God will be angry because he is disobeyed; If I do, how will the world clamor and censure, being ignorant of my warrant, and therefore apt to judge my act as both impious and unnatural. Now in the Mount is the Lord seen, divine providence sweetly and gloriously appears in two ways.

  1. In that Abraham’s son is spared.
  2. In that a fitting sacrifice is prepared, and both unexpected.  Abraham, Abraham hold thy hand!

How welcome were these words to the heart of Abraham as he was about to let forth the life of his son. The execution is checked. Isaac is not killed. And the gracious intention of his obedience herein is graciously accepted: year and as addition of mercy, he is assured by Christ the messenger of the covenant, that God has accounted him as one who truly fears his name.  Now I know thou fearest me.

This unexpected providence might work in the good man’s heart, willing it to tender to the Lord an offering in way of thankfulness, that his Majesty might have some homage in the same place wherein had shewed so much favour. And though speedy provision of that kind was as far from Abraham’s thoughts as, the preservation of his son, yet when he lifted up his eyes and looked,

“behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by the horns; And Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering instead of his son, and Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah Jireh. In the Mount of the Lord it shall be seen.”

In the Mount, in the midst of distress, it has been the manner of the Almighty to mercifully manifest himself for the comfort of his servants.

There are two promises that I shall speak to in regards to this point, purposely pitched upon because of this day’s perplexity. These two precious promises are sufficient, being both pregnant and pertinent, speaking both fully and punctually to the point in hand.

The first is in Psalms 72:12, where the sweet dispensations of Christ’s regal authority being typically foretold by King Solomon’s government, we have recorded: “He shall deliver the needy when he cries, and the poor also and him that has no helper.”  You would do well to mark the fitness and fullness of this promise.

1.   This promise points to when Christ finds his people in themselves poor and needy, destitute of abilities to shelter themselves from wrong and violence.

2.   This promise is in regards to when Christ’s people find themselves not only with weak earthly help, or few helpers, or no helpers at all.

3.   When in this distress, when God’s people cry out in an undone condition, though sometimes not until then, will God deliver.

The other promise is registered in Deut. 32:36.  “For the LORD will vindicate His people, And will have compassion on His servants, When He sees that their strength is gone, And there is none remaining, bond or free.”

The language is large, and has much in it, because the proof in it is apparent to every eye. For this is the experience of the godly, both of single persons and for companies or groups of people.

Upon such occasions the attributes of the Lord break forth in glory, for his wisdom is most manifested when it works beyond means, above means, that human reason cannot find out divine foot-steps.

His power triumphs when all opposition shrinks before his wondrous workings. The same might be showed concerning his other excellencies. The event of God’s dealings with Daniel, and the three young governors in the times of their distress and troubles and make manifest that this was Gods intent in those providences. For mark how Nebuchadnezzar and King Darius did trumpet forth the praises of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel, when, they were eye witness of those two glorious deliverances which were effectuated and completed by God’s own sovereign omnipotence.

But both of these instances it is evident, that the Lord has appeared in the Mount for his own sake, to get himself a name in the world. It should be noted that God does this work in and for his people in four different manners.

  1. Sometimes he will let himself be manifested to his servants so that they might be encouraged as to the truth and to the strength of his own grace in them.
  2. Sometimes God will work to manifest the feebleness of some grace in their hearts for their humbling.
  3. Sometimes God may set the graces of his Spirit to exercise his servants, both for their increase and for the enfeebling of some contrary lusts.
  4. Sometimes God will extend their deliverance so that it might be sweeter to their spirits, and so that consequentially their joys might more directly run to holy thankfulness.

Whatsoever promise is registered in the book of God, either in the Old or New Testament, be assured that it is this Jehovah who will set all of his attributes to work for the full and seasonable accomplishment thereof, unto his own people by special covenant. Therefore, having found the evidence of your propriety in the Gospel promises through Jesus Christ, build your comforts from this foundation.  For it is in the darkest and most doleful times that Jehovah, who is all-governing, independent, immutable and faithful, will be seen in the Mount for his servant’s deliverance.