2014 Sermon Series
- June 15, 2014
The enduring faith and compelling sacrifice of a father.
In God’s providence, the next chapter of Genesis fits perfectly with a Father’s Day theme. The Lord provides for every need of His people’s hearts when preaching through the whole Word of God.
The American evangelical culture can view God as an activity director on a cruise ship. We expect Him to be blessing us every moment, or He is not doing His job. This passage corrects that understanding. Faith is cultivated through trials.
Divine Testing (verses 1-8)
Life had continued on for Abraham and his family since the last chapter. Abraham had been faithfully persevering and walking with God. In verses 1-2, God spoke to Abraham for the seventh time. Abraham responded, “Here I am.” He was sensitive to hear and ready to do whatever God asked. God presented him with the hardest test he would ever face.
This is the fourth instance of sacrificial surrender to God in Abraham’s life. He gave up his home and kindred (ch. 12), his close relationship with Lot (ch. 13), his own plan for his life (ch. 19), and now he is asked to surrender his only son. God does give us harder tests as we grow in faith, but never above what we are able to bear (1 Cor. 10:13). Whatever He gives us, He knows it’s not too much to inhibit our growth.
God’s command brought four potential dilemmas to Abraham. The first was personal – he was asked to give up his only son. The second was cultural – all Abraham and Sarah’s neighbors knew of God’s promise and had celebrated Isaac’s birth. To kill that promised son would have been a horrific testimony to them. Abraham also faced a familial dilemma, yet we don’t see Sarah standing in the way of his obedience. She had learned to trust her husband’s faith.
The most significant dilemma, though, was spiritual. God seems to be contradicting His own earlier promise! God’s promises always bewilder us here. One author said, “Unbelief stumbles over such problems, while mature faith waits to see how the distant recesses of the wisdom of God, hidden from human wisdom and understanding, will be made known. But the waiting can be excruciating, and many people, rather than bear the pain, simply abandon the faith.” We are reminded that the most extreme trial ever faced, that of Jesus Christ, brought the greatest ultimate salvation.
Because he had been walking with God, nothing in this chapter suggests obedience in this test was a struggle for Abraham. He surely had a moment of emotional struggle, but Abraham immediately moved into action to obey God’s command.
Verse 7 shows that Isaac was struggling more than his father. Because Abraham was walking with the Lord, he was attentive to his child’s spiritual needs. Isaac learned his father’s faith by watching him pass this most difficult of tests.
Though Isaac was curious and fearful, Abraham was confident and trustworthy. He didn’t get caught up in emotion, however natural that would have been. He thought on “whatever is true” (Phil. 4:8). God’s Word settled his heart in this most extreme test; it certainly is sufficient in our trials.
Abraham believed what God had said – that his descendants through Isaac would become a blessing to all people. He fully believed what he told his son – that God would provide a substitute. Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us that he knew God could even raise Isaac from the dead to fulfill His promise. Abraham knew the God he worshipped could never be in conflict with Himself. Abraham was willing to obey, but God didn’t allow him to kill his son.
The testing of Abraham’s faith shows that this was no reckless abandonment nor irrational behavior, nor was it an uncaring, callous procession along the pathway of careless irresponsibility. Abraham’s faith was relentlessly locked into the premise that God was faithful, and that as He had promised to do certain things, anything that would get in the way of his ultimate purpose had to be removed. And in all probability, when these issues were truly faced, only God himself would be able to remove the obstacles. Therefore, he pressed on, not always knowing how or why or where or when, but always Who.
Abraham reminds believers in all generations that faith in a faithful God will stretch them to the limits of their physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of their lives. And that stretching will only serve to expand their capacity to know God, and in that knowing, to discover the vast potential of life lived by faith.
Divine Triumph (verses 9-24)
Just as Abraham raises the knife, God stops him. The angel of the Lord was a familiar voice to Abraham, and he readily responds again, “Here I am.” The Lord’s timing is always perfect, even in the most extreme testing, and His provision is always sufficient. Imagine the relief in Isaac’s soul when he turned his head to see the ram as his replacement.
This story is also a “type” of Christ, an Old Testament picture of the coming Savior. Emphasis is given to Isaac being Abraham’s “only son,” just as Christ is the only and unique Son of God the Father. Jesus came to be our substitute just as the ram was for Isaac.
This was the hardest test Abraham had faced or would face – and he passed it. 2 John 6 says that love is shown through obedience. Abraham’s obedience has passed spiritual blessing through generations all the way down to us.
The end of the chapter might seem anticlimactic. Abraham and Isaac go back down the mountain and rejoin their family. Those who pass spiritual tests have the opportunity to go on and be a spiritual influence right where God has placed them to live. The last few verses show God preparing the way for Isaac to have spiritual progeny.
- Is God leading you through a test? Never doubt that He intends to grow your faith through every trial. Passing spiritual tests depends on how faithful we are to knowing God’s Word. God’s Word settled Abraham’s heart in this most extreme test; it certainly is sufficient in our trials. Are you reading your Bible, meditating, and believing it?
- Perhaps the greatest test for young people today is the impatience to marry. Dads should be aware of the danger and guide their children away from being joined to an unbelieving spouse.
Tools for Further Study
Cross References to Explore:
- Hebrews 11:17-19 – Abraham believed God’s promise.
- Philippians 4:8 – Thinking the truth.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 – God gives us tests in order to grow our faith.
- 2 John 6 – Love is shown by obedience.
A Hymn to Encourage: “I Worship Thee”
I worship thee, sweet Son of God,
And all thy ways adore!
And every day I live, I seem
To love thee more and more.
He always wins who sides with God;
Our Lord shall never fail,
And when we cast our lot with Him,
His holy will prevails.
Ride on, ride on, triumphantly,
Thou glorious Son, ride on!
Thy faithful children bravely take
The road that thou hast gone.
I have no cares, O blessèd Christ!
For all my cares are thine:
I live in triumph, Lord, for Thou
Hast made Thy triumphs mine.