You can listen to the podcast for this message here. Once again, thanks to Skip Heitzig for the heart of this message.
Last week we began to look at how God tested Abraham’s faith. If you want biblical faith, it must be tested and Abraham’s faith was tested. God told him to sacrifice his one and only son, but Abraham knew that the promises of God hinged on Isaac being alive and that presented a problem for him. Are you willing to give up what is most precious to you for God if He requires it? That’s how you know if your faith is real.
Take a look at the exciting story of Abraham and Isaac in Gen. 22:1-19.
Last week we saw that this was a real test and now look at how Abraham’s faith was triumphant. Check out v. 3. It’s interesting to read what’s not there. Nothing is mentioned about Abraham’s feelings. Feelings have become such a big deal, that they sometimes become the focal point of our lives. We want to feel good – medicines for everything. Elective plastic surgeries are soaring. We feel tired or depressed or sad and we don’t feel like doing anything – so we don’t. Abraham must have been torn up over what God had commanded him to do. Maybe it’s so obvious as to what Abraham must have been feeling, that there was no need to write it. I’m sure Abraham didn’t sleep at all wrestling with what he must do. I’m sure he asked the obvious questions, “Why now, why this, why Isaac?” Abraham rose early and got things ready. He got the donkey ready, got a couple of his young men to help, racked out Isaac and split some wood. After getting everything ready, they journeyed for three days and arrived at the place that God told Abraham to go. It gets really exciting here. Look at v. 5. Did you catch that last phrase? “We will worship and return to you.” How could Abraham make such a statement? At some point during his sleepless nights, Abraham believed, trusted, and reached a decision. When things don’t make sense, you stick to what you know about the character of God. God has never lied and can be completely trusted. Abraham had been walking with God a long time. God has been a friend. God has been a loving and compassionate God. God’s never been irrational or inconsistent. Abraham chooses to trust.
Abraham states, “We’ll be back.” How can he emphatically state that? We’ll let Scripture interpret Scripture. Hebrews 11 is what is known as the Hall of Faith. Heb. 11:17-19 tells us about Abraham. V. 19 tells us that Abraham “considered.” This is a great word. It comes from the word that means calculated, logically and mathematically concluded. It means Abraham figured it out. Abraham, “Considered that God is able.” Able literally means having the power, skill, or means to do something and that’s what Abraham concluded. So Abraham has to be thinking: God promised I would have a son and Isaac is standing right here. My son must live in order for God’s promises to be fulfilled. God’s promises of making a great nation from me, Messiah will come, all the nations will be blessed because of me. God is trustworthy; if Isaac doesn’t live, God is a liar. God’s never lied, but I have a command to sacrifice Isaac so when I do this thing, God must raise him from the dead because of His character, because of the nature of His qualities. God is faithful so somehow Isaac will live.
So now you find yourself in a similar situation, probably not similar but a very difficult and trying situation. You’re wondering is this something God wants me to do? It doesn’t make sense; it is illogical. I don’t know why God would want me to do that. We calculate, we compute; we analyze the situation based on what we know the character of God to be; on the power of God to be, and we come to a conclusion based on what we know about God and that conclusion must be that God will work it out. Abraham did just that and concluded that this situation would work out. The process was not known, but the conclusion was. The procedure was unsure, but the calculation was conclusive – God would work it out.
Look what Abraham’s sacrifice becomes. Abraham says in v. 5, “We will worship.” He became pre-occupied with God. When we’re in the middle of a trial or test, when the temperature of that trial rises, it’s easy to get pre-occupied with the temperature; with the circumstance of the trial. If we can shift away from the circumstances and get pre-occupied with God, we will survive. If we are pre-occupied with the circumstances, we become discourage, depressed, and defeated. We tend to dwell on the circumstances and never even look at the Lord, but we must focus on God. Each of us has an Isaac. At some point God may require a sacrifice. This isn’t a one-time deal. Throughout our lives, God may periodically require sacrifices. I don’t know where or when, but the trial will come. God is asking, “Are you willing? Do I have your heart?” Our society has become incredible sophisticated, but even with all of our technology, manufacturers of fine jewelry still make jewelry the same way they have for centuries. You cannot purify precious metals without fire. When the metal is put in a crucible, it melts. The impurities rise to the top and are skimmed off leaving pure metal. After the purification, the metal remains dull. In order for it to shine, it must be buffed and polished. That process requires grit and friction and it can take a while. Peter sums it up by saying, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:6-7) Throughout the trial God asks, “Will you trust me for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, no matter what might happen?” Or will you quit? Quitting is not faith.
I am not much for poetry, but an anonymous writer penned the following:
When God wants to drill a man
And thrill a man
And skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How he hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses
And with every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about!
Some of you are experiencing the hammering and the pain of testing. God is making you stronger.
Abraham’s faith was tested, his faith was triumphant and his faith was a type. Back in Heb. 11:19 it says Abraham, “received him back as a type.” Type comes from the Greek word parabole. It means parable, figure, comparison. Abraham’s experience was comparable to an event that would change the world. For years, preachers and teachers of God’s Word have compared Abraham’s trial to Jesus at Calvary. Gen. 22:2 says, “Take your son, your only son.” Some of you may be thinking, what about Ishmael? A point of correction from last week’s message. The “lad” mentioned in 21:20 refers to Ishmael not Isaac. Ishmael was the child of the flesh; Isaac was the child of promise. Sarah’s handmaiden Hagar and her son Ishmael were cast out into the wilderness. In essence, Isaac was the only son of Abraham. “Take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah.” Interestingly, this is the first occurrence of the word love in Scripture and it has to do with sacrifice. Love means action. Jesus reminds us in Jo.14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” And I’ll add, even if they don’t make sense. If you love me prove it. Abraham was told to go to the land of Moriah which is what we know as Jerusalem. We know the temple is there and that’s where Israel’s sacrifices were offered. Jerusalem sits atop Mt. Moriah and just outside of the walls of Jerusalem, the peak of the mountain is known as Golgotha, the place of the skull. It was at that place that, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering.” Verse 4 tells us, “On the third day.” Verse 6 tells us that the wood for the burnt offering was laid on Isaac. Remember that Heb. 11:19 said that Isaac was a type – a comparison.
The comparison stops here. Abraham did not sacrifice his only son that he loved at Calvary, but God did. God provided a ram in the thickets for Abraham and that ram was a substitute for Isaac. Remember Paul’s motto that we should adopt for our lives? His goal was to, “Know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Phil 3:10) You cannot experience the power of the resurrection until you endure the fellowship of His sufferings. Abraham endured the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings as he walked the three day’s journey to Moriah. As Abraham raised his hand to slay Isaac in v. 10, heaven must have been watching in amazement and thinking, “Man, look at how much Abraham loves God.” I am certain that as we fast forward to Calvary, heaven said, “Look how much God loves mankind.”
Are you being tested? It’s hard. Will you trust God for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until death do you part? Tests come not because God doesn’t love you, but because He does love you. Tests come so you can grow stronger, so you can flourish, so you can live.