Studies in Genesis, Total Surrender, Lesson XLVIII, Genesis 22:1-19
Today we are in one of those notable passages of the Bible for it describes an action of God nowhere else repeated.
It describes the ultimate test God gives to a man of faith, a test in which that man, Abraham fully passes.
A test which will earn him the title Father of Faith, a title far surpassing any title this world can bring.
So we read of this in Genesis 22:1-24, And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. 3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, 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.
9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 11 And 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. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: (God will provide) as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen. 15 And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16 And said, 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. 19 So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.
God does not assign titles lightly for here in this passage we learn of the why Abraham is given the prestigious title of Father of Faith.
For we have read of a requirement of God placed upon Abraham that to all of us, and I believe I can say all of us, would shock and confuse us to a place of unbelief rather than a place of faith.
For God to call upon us to kill our child is to reveal a God who we would think was very much opposed to our Godís loving nature.
This command would certainly seem like an unreasonable and illogical command and therefore Abrahamís response is totally alien to all that we think.
And more astounding is that Abrahamís response is without any at all word of protest.
But the result of that response reveals in Abraham a faith far above any faith I know but is given to us to reveal a faith that our God desires in all His children.
Jesus, the Son of God said to Philip: he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.
We say, Like Father, like Son.
This is the pattern, and this is also to be the pattern of faith for we are to aspire to be like Abraham, our Father of Faith in the matter of our Faith.
For I believe God gave Abraham the ultimate test of faith for He desired to see in Abraham one who obediently surrendered everything to Him.
Faith as a grain of mustard seed pleases God and increasing faith or growing faith, a faith of total surrender pleases God even moreso.
Godís purpose for His children is to bring them all to a point of complete submission to Him and He shows us this by testing Abraham our Father of Faith with a test requiring a faith built upon total surrender to His will.
Our passage begins with a time reference for it says: And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham
We will see in this statement that God had brought Abraham to this place after many years, years in which God had grown him in faith by testing.
So, we are to see total surrender does not happen to babes in Christ, for it is a lifelong process of yielding to God in the fullest.
Now this historic act of faith came to pass after the events of chapters 12 through 21 for this new trial of faith came after the culmination of years of Godís working with Abraham.
We are given to see in his life a process of God taking from him all that he thought important in life.
Abraham left his home country, his fatherís house, his family, he lost the presence of his son Ishmael of the handmaid Hagar, and now he hears the command of God which if obeyed will result in the loss of his son, his only son, the son whom he loved, his son named Isaac.
It may have seemed to Abraham that the final test of faith in his life was the command of God to send away Ishmael, also his only son for 13 years, also the son whom he loved.
God chose Abraham to be our Father of Faith and to bring reality to this, to make this be true, God over the years brought things into his life that chipped away his own plans and efforts while attempting to bring about Godís promises.
And of course, the exile of Ishmael and the coming of Isaac, the son of promise, certainly would lead one to believe that Abraham had reached the starting point of nation building.
For since that time of exile came years of peace and rejoicing as the son who came from God, and named by God, grew to manhood.
We do not know how old Isaac was at this time, but we do know he was old enough to carry the large load of sacrificial wood, and to engage in thoughtful conversation with his father as they climbed the mountain in Moriah.
Most likely he was in his teens.
He is certainly pictured here as a most obedient young man for he could have easily resisted what we would have thought the most outrageous commands of his father.
We in our weak and corrupt culture have absolutely no understanding of such honoring and obedience from a son to a father as we see in this relationship.
But the giving up of Ishmael was not the final testing of Abraham for to become the Father of Faith, the one from whom we are to see Godís acceptable pattern of faith the willingness to give Isaac, Abrahamís most treasured possession, was required by God.
So, the pattern of faith we are taught here is a faith which grows to total surrender to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Now Verse 1 of our passage says that God did tempt Abraham.
We think of the word tempt as a sinful word but in this case a better rendering would be to use the word test.
For we read in Romans 5:8 of this, But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
John 15:13, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man laydown his life for his friends.
It is within us to give our life for a friend, but God gave His life for his enemies.
For in Hebrews 11:17-19 we listen to Abrahamís response to a command of God that all of us would think as outrageous:
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.
In this lesson we find by the obedience of Abraham that if God is going a way which we know not of we must believe that he knows best.
For 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 despite our reason or logic.
It is believing God despite 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.
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.
Give of your best to the Master;