God Pleasing Faith, Faithís Ultimate Test, Lesson 13, Hebrews 11:17-19
Hebrews 11:17-19, By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
The wonderful title, Father of Faith, given to Abraham did not come to him lightly for God chose to test Abraham with the ultimate test, that of giving up in sacrifice, his only begotten son
The use of the words only begotten refers to Isaac as a unique son not an only son for Abraham prior to Isaacís birth had fathered Ishmael through Saraís handmaid, Hagar and then other sons, after Saraís death came later through Keturah.
But Isaac, in being referred to as the only begotten son, means he was only begotten to be the vessel by whom God would fulfill his promise.
Now Abraham was told to take his son to the land of Moriah and there offer him on an altar, whereby his body would be burned as a burnt offering.
Of course for every burnt offering a death is required so Abraham in obedience to Godís word saddled his animals and took Isaac his son along with the necessary firewood for the burning and a knife for the slaying and went to the place commanded by God.
Upon arriving at the mountain of Moriah the wood was placed upon Isaacís back to carry to the altar, while the fire was brought there by one hand of Abraham with a knife carried in the other.
Isaac, Abrahamís son of promise, examined the situation and found there to be something lacking and said to his father Abraham:
My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
Isaac proceeded obediently to the site where the altar would be built but saw no lamb and soon he found himself upon the altar, hands and feet bound with his fatherís hand lifted up above him clutching his knife ready to plunge it into his heart.
There is nothing given in scripture to indicate rebellion by Isaac nor reluctance by Abraham to disobey this command of God and no doubt it would have been carried out but for the intervention of God as described in Genesis 22.
For at the last moment the: angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
God knew that Abraham would, by faith completely obey God.
So Abraham had passed the ultimate test of faith and Isaac also for from this, God could say in Genesis 22:
By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
No other man has earned the title of Father of Faith and from this we can infer that Abraham was put through the most rigorous testing that man can endure.
And we also learn that God is in the business of faith testing.
The very idea of continued living in this sinful world after salvation reveals that God intends for your faith to be tried.
For as Peter wrote in his first epistle:
I Peter 1:6,7, Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
Oh how the world loves gold for gold is a valuable commodity and the world announces it will bring a feeling of comfort and security.
However for those of faith there is something much more precious than gold that perishes and that, believe it or not, is the trial of your faith, even that which is tried by fire.
This is to be the heart of the believer, not security in gold that perishes but security knowing that God is a rewarder of your faith and desires to give great reward to great faith.
Now God is not vindictive when he allows trials to come into our lives for his purposes in testing his children is not to bring us failure but as in any testing it is to show the quality of our faith which should then encourage us to grow in that faith.
God will grow us as we pass each test of faith for each trial will show the strength of our faith, strong if it brings us to submit to Godís will or weak if it brings rebellion against Godís will.
Look at our Father of Faith in his journey of faith.
We see and rejoice in his mountain top experience with regard to the sacrifice of Isaac but what took place before this event in Abrahamís life?
Did Abraham display mature faith when he left his country to go to the Promised Land?
Remember he only partially obeyed for he diverted to Haran for a time and then brought Lot into the new land of faith.
Where was his faith when God tried him with a famine in the land and rather than trusting God to supply his needs he took his family to Egypt where trouble followed him?
And then again Abraham obeying impatient Sara who could not imagine God growing a son in her womb, said take Hagar and she will fulfill Godís promise.
Abraham, where was your faith then?
But God put him through testing that his faith would grow to a point whereby he was willing to thrust his knife into Isaacís heart knowing that God would raise him up again.
So God knows in his school of faith there must be trials and testing so that one may pass from grade to grade.
And that passing of the testing will bring a smile to Godís face for without faith it is impossible to please Him.
The faith life is a life of testing and we can expect steps forward and steps backward.
I like the way the Apostle Peter addressed this for Peter is a prime example of faith growing in a man who walked with Christ on a daily basis and yet time and time again failed.
But he kept at it and came to a place where he rejoiced in his trials and could say in:
I Peter 4:12,13, Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
Peter is saying to us, Cmon brother, cmon sister, what do you expect to happen to you in a world that desires the opposite for you from what God is doing in your life?
Satan the arch enemy of Christ has so arranged the world system to promote the opposite of everything God has degreed.
Donít think it strange but think that if the fiery trials do not happen to you something is indeed wrong with your relationship with Christ.
You are to count it a privilege to partake in Christís sufferings knowing that when his glory shall be revealed you will also be a partaker in that and be so very glad.
Abrahamís fiery trial found him with his son lying still upon the altar wood which was to burn up Isaac after he was sacrificed in obedience to Godís command.
God gives us this account for our learning and by faith He expects us to obey his commands as Abraham obeyed even though his commands were in direct conflict with Godís promises.
I remember Lord Tennysonís Charge of the Light Brigade where he spoke of the absolute of military obedience:
Theirs not to make reply,
The six hundred only had to do or die and as people of faith who believe and obey God those two actions are our actions also!
We will never know what went through Abrahamís mind as he wended his three day journey to the land of Moriah.
But we have some evidence that he went in faith believing that God would make everything right, for Paul in Hebrews 11:19 said regarding the death of Isaac:
Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
And then upon Isaacís question as to where the lamb was for the sacrifice, again Abraham in faith said:
My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
To read of this great act of faith in Genesis 22 where after hearing from God to take thy son, thine only son Isaac, and offer him for a burnt offering, to read of Abrahamís response in rising up early the very next morning, with no doubt expressed is given to us by God as a great encouragement as we too live lives of faith.
God had never before or since the time of Abraham given such a command.
Yes God spoke to Abraham in an audible voice that he knew came from above for Abraham had no written word of God.
We today have the full record and complete revelation of Godís word to guide us and to command us.
We think Abrahamís faith was so extraordinary but with all we have should not we also have great faith?
We have the witness of the patriarchs, the prophets, the psalmists, the Apostles and the witness of Godís only begotten son who was indeed fully sacrificed on the altar, that we may have life.
We are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, a cloud without match in Abrahamís time that there is no excuse for not believing God and by believing living a life of faith.
We learn from our Father of Faith that we will most likely be faced with commands of God to do things against our will, things difficult and perhaps even offensive but as Abraham obeyed God we too, in living by faith also are to obey.
It may be a command to love those who are unlovely, it may be a command to go to places uncomfortable or unsuitable or uncivilized.
It may be a call to just stay and endure what is thought by the world as a poor choice in reaching success.
It may be a call to live a suffering life that others may see the grace of God in you.
Paul wrote the Philippians of this in:
Philippians 1:29, For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
This lesson we find in Abraham tells us that God is going a way which we know not of and to go with God we must believe that he knows best even if the direction he tells us to go seems so far out of line from his promises that it is easy to think him wrong.
But faith is believing God in spite of our reason or logic.
It is believing God in spite of the reasoning or logic of scientists or philosophers or mighty men, or rich men who deny God, accepting only what they can see, touch, taste, smell or hear.
It is the firm conviction that they, without faith are blind to the things of God and cannot know what you, by faith are given to know.
There can be no dialog between those who see and those who do not and wish not to see.
Just think of the contradictions that Abraham faced when he was told to take Isaac to the mountain and offer him up to God.
Abraham was in the Promised Land after hearing the promise of God over and over that of him and his line he would make a great nation.
They had been in the land for 25 years and finally God had blessed them with Isaac, the son of promise.
Sara and Abraham had tried to fulfill Godís promise through their own means but God had rejected Ishmael the product of their scheme.
God promises and it is for us to get out of the way for it is God who brings it to pass, needing absolutely no help from us.
But now with Isaac born to Sara, the barren wife, the wife who had laughed to scorn Godís announcement that she would bear this son, it seemed so clear that the promise fulfillment had begun.
But lo and behold God commands that Isaac be burned up on the altar of sacrifice.
Fathers, mothers, can you imagine being called upon to do such an outrageous thing?
But in our imagining do imagine this, for Abraham was indeed called and by faith he complied with Godís command and by this compliance, God received glory and honor and praise.
Abraham, the Father of Faith had it in his heart, moved by faith, moved by believing in an all-powerful, all knowing, Creator God yielded to God that which was most cherished and closest to his heart.
And not only that, Abraham was promised by God that this son, this son of promise, this very Isaac would be the one in whom Abrahamís descendants would be called.
And now this conundrum enters his life for God commands this man of faith who had left all heíd known in Ur of the Chaldees, in obedience to God, to take up his knife and use it to kill and burn upon the altar that which he had so grown to love.
God is telling us here the same thing that Jesus Christ, Godís only begotten son told us in:
Luke 14:26, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
God in his command to sacrifice Isaac, and Jesus in his command to his disciples is teaching dependency for God expects men and women of faith to let go of their dependency upon those and things of this earth to a total dependency upon God and his son Jesus Christ.
This is to be the heart of the man of faith.
Independence of God is at the core of sin, but dependence on Him is at the core of faith and discipleship.
You cannot be a man or woman of faith in God and a disciple of Christ without depending upon Him over all other dependencies.
Abraham, our Father of Faith was willing to give up his son Isaac and in this act of giving up he shows us that we are to give God the absolute first place in our heart even if it means giving up the greatest things that we so love and cherish.
The gift of old age is to lose all our dependencies and only have God only to rely on!