I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Faith is Sometimes Difficult
`There is a story of a father and son that is very much like our relationship with our Heavenly Father:
One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters. Jump!" The boy, trusting his father, jumped safely into his daddy's arms.
The Christian faith enables us to face life or meet death, not because we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known by the God who does."
Let's face it. The Christian faith is not always easy. And sometimes faith to do what God asks us to do doesn't always appear to make sense. Such was the case of Abraham, the Father of the Jewish nation and of all who possess faith in the God of the Bible. In Genesis 22 we have the famous story of God's test of this great man's faith by God. The Lord asked him to take his son Isaac and place him on the altar as an offering. . And, though not knowing the outcome, he trusted his God enough to do as the Lord had told him to do.
There are many lessons that we can learn from this true story, recorded in God's Word. The greatest and most obvious of these is the fact that when faith in God doesn't make sense to us, we must trust His heart and His plan, knowing that He has our best interest in mind and will cause things to work together for our good and His glory in the long run.
With this in mind, let us look deeper into this ancient account of the patriarch, Abraham and see God's Word to us through it in the 21st century.
I. The Story of Abraham thus Far
Abraham's story takes up a sizable part of the Genesis narrative. He is first mentioned in 11:26 and his story goes all the way to Genesis 25:8 where it talks about his death. And, besides Moses, Abraham is the most talked-about figure in the New Testament.
When we first meet Abraham, his name is just Abram. God later changes it when He makes a covenant of promise with the patriarch. Abram is 75 years old when he enters the biblical scene. His father, Terah, lived in a very influential yet pagan city by the name of Ur of the Chaldees. But he later moves himself and his family to Haran, where Terah settles down and later dies.
The story of Abram gets really exciting in chapter 12 of Genesis when God meets with him. In the first three verses of the chapter it says this:
“The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’" (Genesis 12:1-3).
Later in the narrative, God changes his name (17:1-5). Abraham’s name change was quite significant. Abram meant “exalted father” or “high father”. Changing a few letters, the new name takes on an entirely new significance. In Hebrew, Abraham sounds like “father of a multitude”.
God also told this man of faith that nations and kings would come from his line (6). And his descendants would be like the stars in the sky and the sands on the seashore in number (22:17).
The only trouble with this is, that Abraham was 75 when God started dealing with him. and Sarah was just 10 years younger and barren. Not only that, but it took 25 more years for God to give to them the fulfillment of His promise of a son. By that time Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90.
They waited so long that the two got impatient and tried to "help God out" by allowing Abraham to go into Sarah's handmade to conceive a child through her (16). The child was named Ismael.
However, that wasn't God's plan. Sarah and Abraham were to have a son together. And God would not let them settle for less. So the old man and the old woman had a son, and they called him Isaac, which means laughter. This probably had a double meaning. Both Abraham and Sarah laughed at the thought that they could yet have a baby. And also, there was the very real fact that this newborn son finally brought some laughter and happiness into a home that was devoid of it because of the seeming curse of Sarah's barrenness. Praise the Lord, the promised son was born!
This leads to the story that we are talking about today. God is now ordering Abraham to kill his son Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice on an altar. Though there is no place in Scripture where we see that Abraham questioned God, there must have been at least an instant where he teared up and wondered what the Lord was up to. His only son through his beloved wife Sarah, his pride and joy was about to be dead, and by the hand of the father who, from a human perspective, gave him life.
II. God's Test of Abraham's Faith (1-3)
Chapter 22 constitutes a test for the patriarch from God to prove that he would obey no matter what was asked. Here is how the chapter begins:
"Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." He said, "Take, now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I tell you." So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and 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." (22:1-3).
Just imagine for a moment that you were Abraham who had been waiting a lifetime for a son that God had promised you, only to have God Himself tell you that you needed to kill him on some altar. What would you do? Abraham immediately got up and did exactly what the Lord was commanding him to do. It just didn't seem to make sense, but Abraham trusted God enough to know that ultimately the Lord was going to make things work out.
We get some insights into Abraham's thought processes in the book of Hebrews. The author of the book said this:
"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son. It was he to whom it was said, "In Isaac, your descendants shall be called." He considered God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type." (Hebrews 11:17-19).
God's test of this man pointed out, what the Lord knew all along, that Abraham's faith would be immediately backed up by action. As A.W. Tozer said so well regarding true faith:
"The Bible recognizes no faith that does not lead to obedience, nor does it recognize any obedience that does not spring from faith. The two are opposite sides of the same coin.
The proof of Tozer's words is seen in the actions of Abraham.
III. Abraham's Faith Influences His Son's Faith (4-8)
We find in verse 4 that after a 3 day journey, Abraham, his son and the young men that came with them reached a place where Abraham could see the destination of their journey from a distance. It is then that Abraham tells the others with them that he and Isaac would go up by themselves. He told them to stay there with the donkey while he and his beloved son would go up and offer the sacrifice. It is clear that he trusted God for the results since he told them that both he and Isaac would return to them.
The old patriarch took the wood for the sacrifice and placed it upon his son to carry. Obviously, though we aren't sure how old Isaac is at this point, he isn't a young child.. He is rather old enough to be able to carry wood. Many have speculated how old this young man was at the time. His age has been thought to be anywhere from a teenager to being in his mid to late-thirties depending on where in the historical record they place this incident in the life of Abraham.
The point of all of this is that Isaac himself had something to say about being offered as a sacrifice. He probably could have refused and easily gotten away from his much older father if he had wanted to do that. But there is no evidence from Scripture that there was a struggle of any kind on the subject.
Rather this section of the narrative seems to be Abraham preparing his beloved son for what is about to happen.
Isaac, being naturally curious as to what is about to happen, asks his father:
"My father!" And he, (i.e. Abraham), said: "Here I am, my son!" And he said: "Behold, the fire, and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham said: "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."
And so they went forward and walked together to Mount Moriah. Abraham must have filled him in on the rest, though it isn't said here, because Isaac trusted his father and His father's God. Isaac not only went further on the journey, but he later allowed himself to be laid on the altar.
IV. Abraham Attempts to Carry Out God's Will as He Saw It (9-14).
When the two finally arrived, Abraham, with his son's cooperation builds the altar, arranged the wood and bound his son Isaac and laid him on it. The emotions must have been high as he picked up the knife to plunge it into Isaac's body. He wanted to do the Lord's will as he saw it to be. But then he felt his hand being held back supernaturally as the Angel of the Lord, who is most likely the pre-incarnate Christ, called to him from heaven:
"Abraham! Abraham!" And he said: "Here I am." He said: "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." (11-12).
Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked behind him and saw a ram caught in the thicket. He used this in the place of his son whom God had spared. And he called the name of that place: "The Lord Will Provide." (13-14).
But as we see later in Scripture, the ultimate provision was yet to come many centuries later with the sacrifice of God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. However, then, the hand of the men who were to kill God the Father's Son were not stopped. God indeed provided the lamb.
V. God's Commendation and Expansion of His Promise (15-18)
The passage ends by God's commendation of Abraham's faith and the old patriarch's actions to prove his trust in the Lord. This is what the Scripture tells us:
"Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said:'By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed, I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore, and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice." (15-17).
Then Abraham, and presumably his son, returned back to the young men that came with them. They then departed for Beersheba.(18).
It was George Mueller that once said:
"God delights to increase the faith of His children...I say, and say it deliberately--trials, difficulties and sometimes defeat, are the very food of faith...We should take them out of His hands as evidences of His love and care for us in developing more and more that faith which He is seeking to strengthen in us."
Abraham's test proves that we can go through what might be considered one of the hardest trials in the human experience and come out bringing God glory and pleasing Him with our actions.
God will probably not ask any of us to sacrifice our son on an altar. However, He may allow us to go through other things that lead to growth and maturity.
For instance,I have spoken with those who heard the call of God to leave a comfortable well-paying job and a nice home to go to the mission field.
I have known of others who chose not to marry a person, even though they treated them well because that person didn't share their belief in the Lord. In the world's eyes, these things don't make sense. But, my Christian friends were exercising faith that God knows best.
At other times God doesn't seem to make sense because He allows the death of a loved one or the birth of a child with some disability.
And these are just a few examples. People who love the Lord can experience all of the bad things that happen to everyone else in this sin-cursed world. Yet they have the advantage of knowing that God is still in control and that this world isn't all that there is to experience.
So, what do we do when God doesn't seem to make sense in some areas of our life?
We remember that He loves us and that He is in control of the universe. God is not dead, nor doth He sleep, as the song tells us.
I love the song that is sung by Babbie Mason. In it is the answer to how to respond to God in times when your life seems out of control. There are several verses to the song. However, I will just a portion of it and add the chorus. The song tells us:
All things work for our good
Though sometimes we don't see
How they could
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth
Our Father knows what's best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim
And you just don't see Him,
Remember you're never alone
God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His Heart
Trust His Heart
Thank the Lord that one day all of the trials and tests in life will be over and they won't even matter anymore. For we will no longer be living by faith. We will have the full sight that comes from beholding our Savior face to face.
Until then let us exercise the faith that made Abraham obey God fully, though it must have been a struggle to offer his son to God. And may we, like the child in the burning building, leap into the arms of our Father, knowing fully well that He can and will catch us. For nothing is impossible with God.
© 2020 Jeff Shirley