Two little boys were known troublemakers, stealing everything they could get their hands, even from the church.
One day a priest stopped one of the boys and asked, “Where is God?” The boy shrugged and the priest repeated, “Where is God?” The boy ran out of the cathedral crying to his home where he hid in a closet.
Eventually his brother found him and asked, “What’s wrong?” The crying boy replied, “We’re in trouble now! God is missing and they think we took him.
Let’s turn once again to the 11th chapter of Hebrews where we will see the Biblical definition of faith. Hebrews 11:1-2,6 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.”
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
Two weeks ago we talked about Noah and his faith to build an ark when God told him to, even though he had never seen rain.
Last week we talked about Abram and his faith to leave his home, his relatives, and his country and follow God to an unknown place that was inhabited with strangers. He had faith to live as a sojourner in a foreign land.
He had faith that God would make him into a great nation and make his name great.
Today we are going to see Abraham’s faith through God’s testing.
Abraham’s story is found in Genesis 22:1-14
God Tests Abraham
God tells Abraham to take his only son whom he loves and offer him as a burnt offering on the mountain where God will show him.
There’s a couple things we need to discuss here.
First, this is the first time we see the word love found in the Bible. God is describing the love a father has for his son, an only son. If we look at the Gospel accounts the first time the word love is seen in each of the synoptics is at Jesus’ baptism when God speaks from heaven and says “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Matthew 3:17
These verses help us see the love the Father has for the Son.
Now, if you turn over to John, you will see the first occurrence of the word love is in John 3:16.
We are all familiar with this verse. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
God loves His Son, but He loves the world enough to give Him up so that we can be placed back into fellowship with Him!
The second thing we need to discuss is what Isaac represents to Abraham.
Isaac was the beginning of the future that God has promised Abraham
He was the child of promise.
He was the first star of the sky full of descendants.
He was the first grain of sand on the beach full of descendants.
God had promised to make Abraham the father of a great nation starting with Isaac.
Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham.
The last part of Genesis 21:12 God tells Abraham “through Isaac your descendants shall be named.” Isaac was a special child and now God has instructed Abraham to offer him as a burnt offering?!
God knew how much Abraham loved his son and wanted to make sure that Abraham loved God more than his only son. This test was to ensure Abraham’s priorities were focused on God.
Let’s go back to Hebrews 11:17 “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promise was offering up his only begotten son;”
Abraham Prove his Faith through his Obedience
When God called to Abraham, Abraham’s first response was “Here I am”. Immediately after God gave him his instructions; he got up and did it. Exactly how God asked him to do it. Early in the morning too!
He saddled his donkey.
He gathered two young men with him and Isaac.
He split the wood for the burnt offering.
He arose and went.
My favorite part of this whole story is v.5 “Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”
How can Abraham say this?
He has incredible faith.
His faith was bigger than his understanding.
Let’s turn back to the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 again
In v. 19 the Hebrew author writes “He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.”
Abraham knew God had a plan.
He knew God had made a promise and God always keeps His promises.
He was going to continue on doing what God instructed him.
He extended his hand for the knife and raised his hand in obedience to slay his son…
Obedient Faith lived out not knowing the end of the story, but trusting in what he could not see, knowing that God was bigger than his doubt and fear.
Abraham had Faith that God would Provide
As Abraham and Isaac were walking together towards the place where God directed Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the boy asks a very relevant question. He has the wood bound to him and his dad has the knife and the fire, but one thing is missing. There is no lamb for the sacrifice. He says, dad, where is the lamb?
Abraham responds in this way, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Genesis 22:8
Again, what great faith Abraham modeled in front of his son.
Parents, do we model this faith in front of our children?
God is Yahweh Jireh – the God who provides.
He is always there taking care of His children.
He gives us exactly what we need at the exact moment we need it. He doesn’t need our help. He is all powerful, all knowing and all present!
One other thing we should mention is that Abraham was aware of God working around him.
As he held the knife and was prepared to slay Isaac, he heard the voice of the angel from heaven calling his name, telling him not to harm the boy.
As he looked, he noticed a ram with his horns caught in a thicket. This was God’s provision.
Abraham has passed the test.
He feared God and trusted His promise and lived it out even when things didn’t really make sense.
God is always in control and He is always on time.
There are two closing thoughts I want to discuss before we get the application:
Abraham was willing to follow through with offering his son as a burnt offering just as God instructed him.
The Hebrew author states that Abraham believed that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead.
Isn’t that a foreshadowing of what He would do with Jesus after His death on the cross?
We know that God raised Him from the dead, Abraham didn’t know that, but had faith that God could do the impossible.
The ram that was caught in the thicket served as a substitute for the sacrifice that was required by God. Jesus is our substitute. He was the sacrificial lamb that was slain as a covering for our sin.
Three things we need to remember about God from this section of scripture:
God Wants our Complete Devotion
Sometimes God tests us.
It’s not because He’s mad at us or wants to bring us down. It’s for growth and strengthening.
God told us to have no other gods before Him.
He is the maker of heaven and earth. He is the only one worthy of our worship.
We must make sure that when we are tested we prove our priorities are set on God.
God Wants our Faithful Obedience
The Bible tells us if we love Him we will keep His commandments.
God desires us to obey Him – not so we can earn our salvation. It’s our response to what He has already done on our behalf.
God loves us and wants us to follow Him and point others to Him as well. Our obedience draws others to Him too!
God Wants to Provide for His Children.
God gave the Israelites manna each day they wandered through the wilderness.
He provided a pillar of cloud for them to follow during the day and a pillar of fire for them to follow at night.
He provided babies for several women who were barren. But God works in His own time.
We need to remember that He doesn’t need our help to keep His promises.
Abraham and Sarah tried to do things their own way to help God along. But God always does things in His own way in His own timing. But He blesses His children because He loves them.