ABRAHAM’S FAITH GIVEN THE ULTIMATE TEST Gen. 22:1-19
1. The Command of God that Abraham Sacrifice Isaac.
a. The command as such, vs. 2
1—It was a command! Obedience was the order of the day; the obedience of faith. The God of glory spoke, Acts 7:2.
2—At the same time it was God Almighty, the sovereign God, with whom nothing is impossible except do evil. Before Him Abraham was to walk with a sincere heart, Gen, 17:1; Exodus 6:2, 3.
b. The difficulty of this command.
1—He was an only son by the free woman, Sarah, Gal. 4:26.
2—He was a son; a natural born son, flesh and blood ties! The Lord says: sacrifice to men this son “whom thou lovest”.
c. The impossibility of this command.
1—He is the son of promise, Gen. 21:12.
2—It would appear entirely contrary to God’s own design of salvation as indicated in God’s former dealing with Abraham up till this point. For “in Isaac shall the Seed be called”, Gen 21:12; Rom. 9:7; Hebrews 11:18.
2. The Faith of Abraham Tried Gen. 22:1-3.
a. Such was the design of God. See Gen. 22:1.
1—He put Abraham’s faith to the test. He “tempted” him, tested him by making the way of obedience exceedingly difficult.
a—The term “tempt” is the translation of the Hebrew verb “nasah,” in the verb form which indicates intensive action: to try, to prove anyone. The K.J.V. translates this verb some twenty (20) times: to prove; some twelve (12) times: to tempt and one (1) time: to try. We find some illustrative instances of to tempt in Ex. 17:2, 7; Num. 14:22; Deut. 6:16; Ps. 78:18, 41, 56. In the N.T. see Matt. 4:7; Luke 10:25; I Cor. 10:9.
b—No doubt the translation to prove is a better one. Why? See Ex. 15:25; 16:4; 20:20; Deut. 8:2, 16; 13:3; 33:8; Judg. 2:22; Ps. 26:2. In the N.T. see II Cor. 8:8, 22. In the latter passage the thought is akin to trial. I Peter 1:7. It means that the approved character, the genuineness of Abraham’s faith must be manifested!
2—This design is ever present and intended in all the trials of God’s children in their afflictions, their difficult way of faith and obedience. See Rom. 5:3-5; Rom. 8:28; Hebrews 12:4-13; James 1:2-4; I Peter 1:6,7; Rev. 6:9-11.
b. Abraham’s faith rises to its perfection and fullness. See James 2:22. His faith is made perfect.
1—Notice the following facts:
a—The three days journey. Time to reflect, to be tempted by Satan to unbelief.
b—The question of Isaac concerning the absence of a sacrificial lamb, Vs. 7.
c—Abraham has all that is necessary for the sacrifice and must deliberately do this.
2—Abraham brings a burnt-offering. There is a difference between a burnt-offering and a peace- and sin-offering.
a—A sin-offering and a trespass offering were compulsory and are propitiatory in nature.
b—A burnt-offering was voluntary and expressed homage, self-dedication and thanksgiving.
c. Hence, Abraham’s faith must be purely an act of obedience, new obedience of one who is justified by faith and who is inwardly renewed by God’s Spirit. It must be a living faith revealing itself in works of thankfulness.
3—Abraham, in his mind, actually sacrifices his son, Isaac. Hebrews 11:19b.
a—Borne out by the account of Moses here in Gen. 22:10-12. This was no mere pretense. The deed was accomplished as far as Abraham was concerned. Abraham did not in his deepest heart or very act “withhold” his only son from God.
b—Abraham did some “accounting”. He reasoned believingly. He placed the horrible reality of a dead son over against the omnipotent God and he came out on the credit side of the ledger. God is able to raise from the dead. Hebrews 11:19. God Almighty had given this son from the dead once. Rom. 4:18-21. He is still Almighty; nothing is impossible with Him. In Isaac the Seed shall be called. The way in Christ is dying to live; he that loseth his life shall find it. John 10:1-19. Isaac will then needs be brought forth from the dead the second time. God shall lose none, but raise them up in the last day!
c—And thus Abraham’s faith was tried—and fully revealed in all its potentiality in this sacrifice, a thank offering! He is tried; his faith is not found wanting. It is a gift of God, this faith. It is perfected! For the idea of perfection see: Luke 13:32; John 17:23; II Cor. 12:9; Heb. 2:10, 5:9, 11:40, 12:23; I John 4:17, 18.
d—It is expressly stated in James 2:22 that Abraham’s faith “wrought with his works and by works was faith made perfect.” Is this teaching of faith and works repugnant to the teaching of Paul in Rom. 4:1-7 where he quotes Gen. 15:5?
3. The Faith of Abraham Proto-Type of the Faith of All Believers.
a. Principally it is a picture of a “friend of God” and a picture of the love of God which He manifested in the sending of His son to die for our sins on the Cross!
1—For the term “friend of God” see Isaiah 41:8; II Chron. 20:7 and James 2:23. Notice its far-reaching implications.
2—The love-life of God, energizing this faith (Gal. 5:6) is clearly and unmistakably set forth in this sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham!
b. And to such an “heir” is the promise. Here we see from “faith unto faith,” (Rom. 1:17) for he, who possesses shall receive more. Hence:
1—God speaks twice to Abraham
a—To stay his hand at the sacrifice Gen 22:10 ff.
b—To swear by Himself to make the promise sure to all the heirs by two immutable things. Gen. 22:15-18; Heb. 6:20. What were these two immutable things?
2—And this promise stands in Christ, in whom all God’s promises are yea and Amen to the Glory of God the Father. II Cor. 1:20. In Isaac shall indeed the Seed be called.
HOPEFUL PERSPECTIVES FOR THE REALIZATION OF THE PROMISE IN ISAAC IS CALLED TO ABRAHAM’S ATTENTION. Gen 22:20-24.
1. Abraham’s Concern is Here Suggested as Presupposed for Isaac’s Future, Vs. 20.
a. For the record of the family tree of Terah read Gen. 11:27-32. Notice that Terah had three sons: Haran, Nahor and Abram. Notice further that Milcah was a daughter of Haran and became the wife of Nahor. The entire clan or family moved from Ur of the Chaldees to Mesopotamia. See Gen. 11:31. Be sure to confer your Bible map. Read also Stephen’s address, Acts 7:2, 3.
b. For a proper evaluation of Abraham’s concern review such passages as Gen. 12;1-3; Gen. 13:14-18; Gen. 15:1-21; Gen. 17:1-7; Gen. 18:9-15; Gen. 21:1-12. All these passages speak of the sundry and diverse promises of God to Abraham!
c. This had all been brought to a focus point in the sacrificing of Isaac Gen. 22:20-24.
2. The Family Tree Here Given.
a. Remember that about 100 years had elapsed since Abraham had been in Haran en route from Ur of the Chaldees to Canaan, the land of Promise. Much had happened.
b. The line in question here is: Nahor (Milcah) Kemuel, Bethuel and then Rebekah—Isaac’s future wife.
3. The Relationship to the “Holy Line.”
a. It is not given here in the Bible to satisfy mere human curiosity concerning Abraham’s relatives, an excerpt from a personal message delivered to one of Abraham’s servants and passed on as general information!
b. It is sacred record of how Rebekah became a mother in Israel and how presently she will come to dwell in Sarah’s tent, where believing mothers are saved in child-bearing, placing their confidence upon the “Seed” to come.