Summary: Abraham faced, and passed, probably the greatest test of faith given to a man (except for Jesus). Today we'll focus on Genesis 22 where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. We'll see that It takes faith to put God first.
IT TAKES FAITH (part seven)
Today we'll be looking at probably the greatest test of faith given to a man followed by the greatest display of trust and obedience (next to Jesus', of course). In this story we have God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. But this is the son of promise; this is the covenantal son; the son they had been hoping for all these years and now Abraham was told he must end his life. In this amazing story we'll see that it takes faith to put God first.
1) The ultimate test.
Gen. 22:1-2, "Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am", he replied. Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."
"Some time later". Scholars differ on the actual span of time but many believe it's 20-25 years after the birth of Isaac. The significance of this will come into play later. But if this timeline is true then you have a situation where life is good; moving along just fine for Abraham. After 20-plus years he may have thought the trials and testing had come to a close. Then, out of nowhere, God drops a bombshell on him.
One thing this shows is that Abraham knew the voice of God. Because if ever there was something that I would doubt came from God this would be it. "Let's see...take my son and sacrifice him; okay. Satan would definitely say this-but God-I'm not seeing it."
And notice that God doesn't explain his reasoning to Abraham. Just like when God told him to go without telling him where, God tells him to make the most extreme sacrifice but is mute when it comes to any justification for making such a harsh command.
This tells me that God does what he wants and owes no one an explanation. He didn't give Job a reason for what he allowed him to go through. There are times where he hasn't given me one.
And we don't have Abraham asking for one, either. Such was his faith and trust. He believed that God was holy and just and though it made absolutely no sense and seemed to go against everything that God had been doing up to this point-he was going to follow through and obey the confusing command.
Do we think that way when it comes to doing what we know God is telling us to do when it doesn't make sense or he doesn't provide an explanation? “Faith does not demand explanations; faith rests on promises”. The word of God and our history with God needs to be enough when God doesn't provide answers or explanations.
"God tested him". Some translations read God tempted Abraham. But it's not to be seen as being tempted to sin. James says that God cannot tempt anyone to sin. There's a difference between testing and tempting. God tests; Satan tempts. That's why I like the clarifying word tested. But they can be closely related because it's almost a guarantee that when God provides a test Satan will be right there with a temptation to try to get you to fail the test.
God put Abraham's faith to the test by telling him to sacrifice Isaac. We can guarantee that our faith will be put to the test too. To show the strength of something it needs to be tested. Prov. 17:3, "The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart." God will test our sincerity, devotion, love and faith.
There's a valid and necessary purpose behind silver and gold being put through the hot furnace. These remove impurities and putting things like steel in the crucible strengthens the material. Likewise, having our faith put to the test serves a necessary purpose for the same reasons-purifying and strengthening. The testing of our faith is also for the purpose of determining how genuine it is.
1st Pet. 1:6-9, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
James 1 says that the testing of our faith develops perseverance. And that perseverance's work results in maturity and completeness. These are the benefits of having our faith tested. It's not pleasant but it is necessary.
"Your only son". Not firstborn, but only. Yes, Abraham had Ishmael but he was no longer in the picture. He had been sent away with his mother (Gen. 21:8-20). So, Isaac was in essence the only legitimate son; he was the son born to the wife and not the servant. He was the son of promise; he was the covenantal son. Not that God didn't take care of Ishmael; he promised him that he too would be the father of numerous descendants.