My dear readers,
Abraham – Father of Faith (Genesis 22:1-14)
Abraham was not the first believer in the Bible. There were earlier believers like Enoch, who walked with God and God took him (cf. Gen 5:21-24), and Noah, whom God also describes as one who walked with God. However, in Noah’s case, instead of taking him like He did with Enoch, God called him to build an ark and preach the gospel for 100 years before the global watery destruction of the earth (cf. Gen 6 to 9). But Abraham was given the distinction of being called the father of faith. What was it about Abraham’s faith that God would use him as the example of what true faith ought to be? His faith is the example for any believer to check against. This is what Romans 4:16 says about Abraham and his faith, “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.” [Emphasis added]
We know that without faith it is impossible to please God (cf. Hebrews 11:6). Therefore it is of the utmost importance that every child of God ensures that his life is lived by faith.
I. The Greatest Test (vs. 1-2) – Abraham had already demonstrated genuine faith when he left the Ur of the Chaldees when the Lord called him to leave everything and go to a place that he had never seen which the Lord would show him. Abraham obeyed. He arrived at the Land of Promise (also called Land of Canaan at that time) at the ripe old age of 75 years. He remained in Canaan till he died at age 175 years. All this while he remained where he was, living in tabernacles, as the Lord said he must. The Lord gave him and Sarah his wife a son when Abraham was 100 years old and his wife was 90 years old, way beyond the age of child bearing. The Lord promised him that this son Isaac was the chosen seed who would continue the messianic line. Abraham was elated to have this only begotten son whom he loved more than his own life. But then God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering unto Himself!
Gen 22:1-2 says that “God did tempt Abraham.” This temptation is not to sin. Such a temptation is real. This is the kind of temptation that we read of in James 1 which teaches that all believers ought to count it all joy when they fall into divers temptations. It is for the purpose of strengthening the believer’s faith, which was exactly God’s will for Abraham (cf. James 1:1-2). It is not the sinful type of temptation like Potiphar’s wife’s seductive attempts on young Joseph in Genesis 39. Joseph did well when he fled from her. But for Abraham, the temptation or trial that he faced was not sinful in itself, although the believer can fail God and not trust Him thus resulting in sin. But he ought to respond in faith so that his faith can be strengthened. Human sacrifice is not a sin when it is offered to God and it is commanded by God as is the case here. Human sacrifice is a sin when it is offered to false gods (cf. Deu 12:30-31). The LORD is the one living and true God and therefore it is not a sin. It is true that Isaac was not sacrificed at the end of this trial. But the Lord Jesus Christ was! He was the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world! He was the world’s human sacrifice who died to redeem us from sin as full payment to God whose righteousness demands that all who sin must die. Christ became man’s substitutionary atonement when He offered Himself as our redemptive offering to fulfil God's justice on our behalf. Thank God that He accepted it as sufficient, for God raised Him from the dead on the third day after He died for our justification (cf. Rom 4:23-25).
This test was the greatest test that Abraham had to endure. He was commanded by God to offer Isaac as a burnt offering which means Isaac had to be killed. If Abraham were to kill Isaac, then how would God fulfil His first promise to Abraham that Isaac would continue the messianic line? Is there not a contradiction between the two revelations from God to Abraham? Abraham obeyed God because God said so. His faith in God was strong!
II. The Greatest Obedience (vs. 3-8) – First thing in the morning, he obeyed and went to the land of Moriah. He took with him all that he needed for the burnt offering including two of his young servants to assist them. Of course Isaac accompanied him. Isaac had to be at least a teenager because he helped to carry some of the items for the burnt offering. He must have witnessed before what a burnt offering was like because he asked his father where the lamb for the burnt offering was after recognising that all the items were present for the burnt offering except the lamb.
Abraham told his two servants before he and Isaac climbed the mountain that he and Isaac would continue on and worship and would return to them. This was Abraham’s faith. He was certain that after he killed Isaac in the process of offering him as a burnt offering to the LORD as he had been commanded, he and Isaac would return. He could have reasoned that in order for the LORD to keep the first promise that Isaac was the chosen one, the LORD had to raise Isaac from the dead! Till this point in time there was no record of anyone being raised from the dead. There are accounts in both the Old and New Testaments of people being raised from the dead long after Abraham’s time. Therefore it is much easier for us today to believe that God can raise someone from the dead compared with Abraham who did not even possess any written portion of God’s Word. The book of Genesis was written by Moses hundreds of years after Abraham’s death. Abraham only experienced the audible voice of God and possessed the Word of God in his head and heart. But that was enough! Abraham’s faith was so strong that he believed in the resurrection of the dead! Hebrews 11:17-19 “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”
Abraham demonstrated his greatest obedience here when he brought Isaac up to Mount Moriah to offer him as a burnt offering to the Lord as commanded.
III. The Greatest Example (vs. 9-14) – This was not a theoretical exercise but a real practical experience of offering Isaac. There was no doubt in Abraham’s mind that the command to offer Isaac as a burnt offering was from his Lord. When they arrived at the spot where the offering was to be done, Abraham prepared the altar and all the items for offering. Finally he tied up Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood for burning. Abraham lifted up the knife and was about to thrust it into Isaac’s heart to kill him as commanded by the Lord when the Lord stopped him. The Lord commended him for his greatest example of faith here. Genesis 22:11-12 “And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” The phrase “now I know” was said for Abraham’s sake. Abraham needed to have this experiential knowledge that he actually loved the Lord more than his son Isaac.
Do not for a moment think that the Lord was facetious in commanding Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. The Lord would never do that, for that would have been a sick joke at best and at worst a sin. This was for Abraham’s good because Abraham must never turn his love for Isaac into a love for an idol. Loving one’s child is right but when that love results in turning the child into a god or an idol and to be more important than the Lord Jesus Christ, then it is a sin. If Abraham had failed it would have hurt his witness for Christ and his walk with God.
Loving God with all our heart mind soul and strength is the right and best way to love everyone else in life. Then the love for them will be pure and good. When the line is crossed then the love becomes sinful and wrong as we will hurt the ones that we love by making poor decisions that will hurt and ruin them. For example, when parents break the Lord’s Day and do not keep it holy for their children’s sake, they are teaching their children that obeying God‘s Word and God is based upon convenience. When it is not convenient then it is all right to disobey God. Children who grow up in such an environment will never accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Instead they will turn their backs on Christ. Worse still is the fact that the Christ they believe in is of their own making. They never really accepted the Christ of the Bible who demands from all sinners an unconditional surrender of heart and life to Him who died for their whole being and not part of their being. These children will never have such faith because they would rather follow the carnal Christ of their parents’ invention. Like their parents these children are merely professing believers.
Thank God Abraham gave to all believers the greatest example that they ought to follow as he is indeed the father of all the faithful.
Conclusion – Genesis 22 describes the apex of Abraham’s faith. His journey of faith climaxed in this trial when he was asked by God to obey a command that was contrary to what the Lord had promised him regarding Isaac. To obey one command that would lead to disobeying another was Abraham’s greatest test. He submitted to God’s will, making it his greatest obedience. He believed that God would and was able to raise Isaac from the dead even though there was no record of anyone being raised from the dead! This was the strength of his faith! He set the greatest example for all future believers. The Lord commended him by declaring that He knew then that Abraham feared Him and he showed it by not withholding his one and only son from Him. This is the Abraham-Isaac principle that Abraham has set for all believers to follow. Every believer will have to pass this Abraham-Isaac test as he witnesses for Christ during his sojourn on earth. Will we withhold the one we love the most from God by disobeying His Holy Word or will we obey God’s holy Word no matter what it costs? Abraham is the father of all true believers because all have the same faith in Christ. Amen.
Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew, Pastor