Has God ever put your faith to the test by asking you to give something up? Something so precious or so important to you that you don’t know how you would go on living without it?
Sometimes God takes such things away from us – but I’m not talking about that. Have you ever given anything up voluntarily, of your own choice, because God has commanded you to do so. If so you will know a little of how Abraham felt that day when he climbed up Mount Moriah with his only son Isaac.
GOD WAS TESTING ABRAHAM’S FAITH
Verses 1-2 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’
‘Here I am,’ he replied.
2 Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region ofMoriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will show you.’
God sometimes calls us to give up the things we hold most dearly to show that we love and obey and trust Him.
A test of love –
v 2 – your son, your beloved, only son – v2
This was a test of loyalty, a test of priorities, to love God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind.
25 Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Here is an agonising choice. Of course, Jesus is not actually calling his disciples to hate their families. This is hyperbole, a kind of language common in Hebrew and Aramaic which speaks in extremes to make a point. But the point is clear. If it is a choice between love for family and love for God, God must take the priority. If our families try to stop us from following Jesus, Jesus comes first. Jesus is most important.
A test of obedience
9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’
‘Here I am,’ he replied.
It is unlikely to be anything as dramatic as the test Abraham faced. But there are times when we are called to obey God when we don’t understand what is going on. To obey God even when what he asks of us seems impossible, incredible, unacceptable.
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?. 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
Our faith must show itself in obedient actions. It isn’t enough to believe the Bible – we have to obey the Bible.
This was a test of Abraham’s faith
Genesis 17:19-21 tells us that Isaac was the child of blessing, the heir of the promises God had made in his covenant with Abraham. Even though Abraham and his wife Sarah were far too old to have children, God promised that they would have a son together and God’s blessing would come through Isaac their miracle baby.
19 Then God said, ‘Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.’
And Abraham believed God. Note the certainty of Abraham’s faith in chapter 22 verse 5 –
5 He said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.’
“WE WILL come back.”
The catalogue of the great Old Testament heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11 celebrates Abraham’s faith. It makes clear to us that the whole experience was a test of Abraham’s faith. God never actually intended Abraham to kill his son. God was just wanting to find out how much Abraham trusted him or whether there were limits to his obedience.
Hebrews 11:17-19 17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
God will sometimes test OUR love, OUR obedience, OUR faith. God will sometimes demand sacrifices from us too! Are there limits to our obedience or our faith? Are there things in our lives which come between us and God?
When we do come to times of testing we should remember
GOD WILL PROVIDE
Verses 7-8, 13-14
, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’
‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied.
‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’
8 Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together.
God will provide! Although he could not have known what God had planned in this test of faith, Abraham still trusted in God. And God did provide.
12 ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.’
God is Jehovah Jireh, God the Provider.
God provided for Abraham v 13
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.
God provided a substitute, the ram in place of Isaac. Sometimes God DOES take away things we try so hard to cling on to – remember the story of Job. At other times God will let us keep such things so that we can use them for his glory. But God will always provide.
God provided for Abraham and God has provided for the world.
God himself will provide the Lamb John 1:29, 1 Peter 1:18-20
John 1 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
1 Peter 1 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
God was only demanding from Abraham the same sacrifice He himself would give for the salvation of the world. Abraham was challenged to give up His only son Isaac. God the Father DID give up His only Son Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. Jesus was the substitute. Jesus died not only in the place of Barabbas but in the place of every sinner who truly repents and believes the gospel.
There is so much symbolism here. Abraham representing the Father willing to sacrifice up his only Son. Isaac representing Jesus the obedient son, the one would die as the perfect offering for sin. God has provided such a wonderful Saviour!
And God will continue to provide – even for us.
14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.’
Look at the history of the church. Look at the history of world mission, and the history of revivals, and the lives of the great missionaries and saints of God who put their trust in God for their food and shelter and their very lives. Each proved in their own experience, GOD WILL PROVIDE
Romans 8:31-32. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided – Great is thy Faithfulness Lord unto me! WE can all rely on the God who provides – whatever challenges lie ahead, whatever sacrifices God may call us to make, we can say “GOD WILL PROVIDE”.
And the consequences of Abraham’s obedience and faith?
BECAUSE YOU HAVE DONE THIS
Verses 15-18 15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’
Abraham’s love and obedience and faith released great blessings not only for him and his family but for the whole world. We can’t tell at the time the full significance of our service for God but I believe that often it has a much greater importance than we can imagine. Sometimes even OUR simple acts of sacrifice can have a COSMIC significance in God’s masterplan of redemption.
The blessings for Abraham were obvious. This experience built his character and deepened his relationship with God. It also brought Abraham blessings in the life to come. And any sacrifices WE might make in this life will bring blessings into eternity.
Matthew 19:27-28 28 Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
There were also Blessings for Isaac.
This was Isaac’s first encounter with Almighty God. Isaac learned his faith and obedience from Abraham. When we make sacrifices for God, there will be other people whose lives will be influenced by YOUR faith. Your obedience is a blessing to THEM. From the days before I was a minister I think of my vicar friend Dave who I met in our first days at university. I am humbled by the fact that he has said mant times that it was my witness which brought him to faith in Christ. I think of young people who I taught in school or in Crusaders who have gone on to serve the Lord. I rejoice over a number of people who have gone from churches I have served into full time Christian service as ministers or missionaries. Callum, Derrick, Andy, Steve, David, Laura, Lyn, James and Andrea. And I praise God for many more people whose lives have been moved in so many other ways too.
Who are the people who have been touched by YOUR faith and witness and example?
But then there would be blessings for the whole world
16 … ‘I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’
All nations of the world will be blessed! We cannot know what the effects and results of our service for God in these days might have in years to come. When our love and faith and obedience tested, we can expect blessings to follow if we simply trust and obey – whatever the sacrifice God commands of us. We can be completely confident that in our situation too, God will provide because this story gives us a wonderful picture of the sacrifice God was prepared to make for us and for our salvation. God called Abraham to be prepared to sacrifice his one and only son, Isaac, the heir to God’s promise. What has God called you to give up for him? How much has it cost you to follow Christ? The words we sometimes sing in a hymn are true.
“But we never can prove The delights of His love Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favour He shows, And the joy He bestows, Are for those who will trust and obey.”
Are there limits to our faith and our obedience? Because God asks from us nothing less than total surrender. Are we prepared to trust and obey? I heard that it was the great theologian Martina Navratilova who once said that the difference between involvement and commitment is the difference between eggs and bacon. In eggs and bacon the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. Are we involved with God or committed to God? As Billy Graham said, “Salvation is free, but discipleship costs everything we have.”
We can trust that God will use our faith and obedience, not just to bless us but to bring blessings to other people as well. We just need to trust and obey.