Summary: Faith sees beyond the perplexities and difficulties of the present situation.
THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM
Sometimes in our Christian lives we are challenged to surrender to God that which we hold most dear, that upon which we set our hopes, even that which God has given to us as a gift.
God promised Abraham a son, but the patriarch’s wife Sarah was barren. So Abraham chose to have a son by his wife’s handmaiden, Hagar. However, miraculously, Abraham later had a son by his wife in their old age. Consequently, Abraham sent away the handmaiden and her son Ishmael. Then God stepped in, and called him to sacrifice his wife’s son, Isaac!
What a difficult test for any man to undertake. Yet Abraham had learned to obey God’s voice. His faith saw beyond the perplexities and difficulties of his present situation. It is part of our Christian obedience to recognise that all our relationships belong to God. This was Abraham’s experience. And because he passed this test, and because of God’s much greater sacrifice that underlies the truth of this history, we need never again be vexed with the question of human sacrifice.
God called “Abraham!” And he said to him, “Here I am.”
God said, “Take now your son.”
“Take your only son.”
But surely Abraham has two sons? We must remember that Ishmael had been disinherited, and sent away, and Abraham had no way of knowing if Ishmael was still alive. “Take your only son Isaac” - the son “whom you love.”
Jesus says, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37).
So even in those natural bonds of life, whoever we love, we must love God more! This was the challenge to Abraham as he went to one of the mountains of Moriah, believing that God was telling him to sacrifice the son of God’s promise, upon whom he had set his hopes, and the hopes of mankind. Abraham was obedient. He saddled his donkey, and took two servants and his son towards the place that God had shown him.
We can imagine how heavy his heart was as he chopped some wood for the burnt offering. After three days’ journey he left the young men with the donkey - and made a wonderful proclamation of faith: “The lad and I will go yonder to worship, and we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5). This is an amazing statement, and is perhaps the first indication of Abraham’s understanding of the situation.
We read in the New Testament: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son… concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Hebrews 11:17-19).
We must sympathise with young Isaac as the wood for the burnt offering was placed upon his shoulders. Ironically, his father carried the more dangerous elements necessary for the sacrifice: the knife and the fire.
Isaac began to ask questions.
“My father!” began Isaac.
Abraham echoed his response to God. “Here I am,” but we can hear the following words almost choking him, “my son.”
“Where is the lamb for the burnt offering,” asked the son.
And in another prophetic flash of faith, Abraham replied, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”
We can see how far Abraham was willing to obey God. He built an altar and bound his son and was ready to strike him with the knife when God intervened. Again Abraham heard his name called from heaven, and again he replied, “Here I am.” Then came the words at which Abraham’s heart would have jumped for joy: “Do not lay your hand on the lad.” Do not harm him.
It remains of course, that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” Looking around, Abraham saw a ram caught in a thicket. Here was a sacrifice in place of Isaac. Abraham received Isaac back, as if from the dead. As a result of his obedience, Abraham had the blessing of God renewed in his life. Abraham is the father of the faithful. Isaac grew up and got married, and one of his descendants is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us now look at another drama that stands at midpoint in history between ourselves and Abraham.
A man has wood placed upon His shoulders and He is led out of the city of Jerusalem, away from the Temple Mount which is believed to be the site of Abraham’s offering, to another mountain of Moriah, Calvary Hill.
All that Abraham and Isaac went through is re-enacted here, but without any voice from heaven to prevent it. The offering is now being made not by man, but by God. The Lord Jesus Christ described by John the Baptist as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” was the sacrifice, not only for Isaac, but for all who will believe.