[Read Genesis 22:1-14]
Abraham, Man of Faith
“Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” FAITH ACTS ACCORDING TO IT’S BELIEF – its belief that GOD FULFILLS HIS PROMISES. In Genesis 22:1-14, Abraham’s action comes from his belief that God will fulfill His promise concerning Isaac. Abraham was a man of faith.
In Genesis 22, God speaks to Abraham: “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering.” ‘Offer your only son’ – Abraham’s only-begotten through his proper bride, the once-barren Sarah – ‘offer the son you love as a sacrifice, a burnt offering.’
Abraham takes his son, Isaac, to the land of Moriah, to the mountain God commanded. He brings wood, a knife, and fire. Isaac – who is old enough to know what’s going on – asks, “I see wood and fire, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham responds, “God will provide for Himself the lamb.”
They go together. Isaac is bound. Abraham raises the knife. Is it obedience? What is this event about? It is not about a cold, harsh obedience to a demanding high-God. That interpretation, that idea of obedience, only tends toward coldness toward those we should love warmly – a legalistic obedience which is not the true obedience to God.
What is it, then? Abraham is the man of faith. Abraham raises the knife, not because he is willing to kill, but because he knows by faith that Isaac will live. Isaac will live even if he dies because God had promised Abraham offspring through Isaac – offspring not yet begotten. Isaac will live.
Abraham’s action – his obedience – is the outgrowth of his faith that God will fulfill His promise concerning Isaac. God had promised that, through barren-Sarah, a son of promise would be born, and that through that son, Isaac, many offspring would be born – as many as the stars of heaven. Even is Isaac dies, God will raise him from the dead because God will provide those offspring through Isaac. Abraham believes that promise of God. Abraham acts in faith. And Abraham is not disappointed.
In fact, I’m sure Abraham was pleasantly relieved at the words of the angel: “Abraham, Abraham! Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him.” Isaac will live. In mercy, Abraham need not even slay him to see him raised. God gives him back straight from their wooden altar.
All of this – about Abraham acting in faith that Isaac would live even if he dies – is taught directly in Scripture. First, there’s a clue in today’s reading. In verse four, before heading up the mountain, Abraham says to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” I and the boy will go over there and will come again to you. Abraham believed he was coming back with Isaac. Isaac will live even if Isaac dies.
And Abraham’s faith in this matter is taught more directly in Hebrews chapter eleven.
Here’s what Hebrews 11:17-19 says about Abraham’s faith: By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
Isaac was laid on the wood, as good as dead. The knife was raised. And Isaac was received back, spared. Just as Abraham had said to his boy, Isaac, “God will provide for Himself the lamb”, God provided in place of Isaac a ram. A ram caught by it’s horn in the thorny branches of a thicket. Offered in place of Abraham’s only-begotten son of promise. Isaac lives because the ram dies in his place.
When Abraham first believed God’s promises to him, even before Isaac was ever born, it says this: “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness” [Genesis 15:6]. Abraham was justified – counted righteous by God – by faith.
That verse is quoted twice in the New Testament [Romans 4:3-5; Galatians 3:5-7] to teach you that you are justified – counted righteous to God – not by your works or merit, but by faith. Faith in God’s promise about what Jesus has done for you. “To the one who does not work – does not rely on his works or merit – but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” [Rom. 4:5].
Yet, there is another place in the New Testament [James 2:14-26] that refers to Abraham’s action of faith which we read about today. Here it says that Abraham was, in a particular sense of the word, justified by this work that comes from his faith. It means this: That Abraham’s action demonstrates, shows him to be a man justified by faith. Abraham’s faith finds its life in his deeds. God sees this and says, “now I know that you fear God.”
God fulfilled His promise to Abraham by giving a ram in place of Isaac. God has provided His Lamb in place of you. The promise made in the land of Moriah that night was finally-and-fully fulfilled in the very same place many years later. Moriah is the land where Jerusalem and the Temple were later built. And Abraham had named that place, “the Lord will provide.”
Centuries later, on that same soil, outside the walls of Jerusalem, God provided His Lamb, His only-begotten and beloved Son, Jesus, to die – to offer Himself up as a sacrifice – in the place of every one of you. God gave His Son as the sacrifice. Jesus died and rose so that even if you die, you will live. Thanks be to God.
Jesus died death in the place of every man’s death – He died for the sin of all of us, for the sin that called for our death – Jesus died His death for your sin so that you are forgiven. He is the Lamb God provided in your place – “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” [John 1:29].
Jesus said of Himself, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” And Jesus asked, “Do you believe this?” [John 11:25-26]. Let’s live in a way showing we believe this – that though we die, yet shall we live.
I mean this: Let’s not be dominated by fear of death or by fear of disease. Let’s have the courage that comes from faith showing we believe that though we die, yet will we live.
Let’s not cling to the good things of this life or to the successes of this life in such away that would suggest we find our hope in this life alone. Let’s walk in such away that it is demonstrated to God and to man that we are looking for our fulfillment, our contentment, in the life of the world to come – in God’s promises which we believe.
Let’s not grieve as others do, who have no hope [1 Thessalonians 4:13]. Let’s grieve in faith that finds joy, believing that those who die in the Lord shall yet live.
And let’s not be afraid to admit and confess our sins, our faults, our short-comings, as others might be. We believe that the Savior has forgiven sin. Let’s admit to God and to one another our short-comings, because we have faith that sin really is forgiven.
Let’s not be afraid to seek to keep God’s commands. Often the fear of imperfection freezes a man from even trying. We believe imperfection is forgiven, which frees us to seek to keep God’s commands, imperfect though we are.
You are justified – made right with God – by faith alone in what Jesus has done for you. We merit nothing good. Our own good works are but filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6]. Jesus has fulfilled all of God’s promises of salvation on the cross, once and for all [Hebrews 9:12]. Let’s walk in a way that demonstrates we are a people justified by faith in a Savior who has given Himself for the world – because He has given Himself for others besides us who need to see it in us. Amen.