Our special thanks to our guest speaker, Rev. Alfonso Tyler, for presenting today’s message.
This message deals with faith–more specifically, the testing of your faith. All of us have been through times when we are tested by God according to our faith. Many of us have something in our life that is near and dear to us or is important to us, and it may stand between whether or not can use us or be of complete service to Him. Sometimes, God has to bring one to a place where one would choose to release what is near and dear in order to be able to serve Him completely. This applies to Abraham, where God tested his faith, as we read in he learned that very same thing, as we will read in Genesis 22:1-18.
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he answered. “Take your son,” He said, “your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” So early in the morning Abraham got up, saddled his donkey, and took with him two of his young men and his son Isaac. He split wood for a burnt offering and set out to go to the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac. In his hand he took the fire and the sacrificial knife, and the two of them walked on together. Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.” And he replied, “Here I am, my son.” Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Then the two of them walked on together. When they arrived at the place that God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood. He bound his son Isaac and placed him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” He replied, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from Me.” Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, so today it is said: “It will be provided on the Lord’s mountain.” Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the gates of their enemies. And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed My command.”
Note that verse 1 refers to things that occurred in Abraham’s life prior to this point where God had to continue to work with Abraham (at that time, he was named Abram) through the many significant changes in his life. In previous chapters, Abraham was told to leave his home land (Genesis 12:4) and, eventually, his family (Genesis 13:11) and that he would have a family (his son Isaac), even after he and Sarai would be very advanced of age (Genesis 17:3-9, 15-19; 18:10). Also note that God had changed Abraham’s name (from Abram), whose name, according to studies on the subject, reflected how God, who had blessed Abraham, who remained faithful and obedient to Him. His reassurance and promise that Abraham would be the father of many nations was reflected in his name change as an act of “breathing life” into him (Genesis 17:5-6). The same principle occurred with Sarai’s name change to Sarah, who, even at age 99, would have a son (Genesis 17:15-16). God had blessed both of them and gave them two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, who would both be the fathers of many nations. God had declared, however, that Abraham’s offspring would be through Isaac; as a result, Abraham was obedient to God when the time came to cast Ishmael out of the family, even though this was very difficult for him to do (Genesis 21:11-14). All of this was part of God’s preparation for Abraham to his ultimate test with Isaac and the sacrifice in Genesis 22.
God wants all believers, such as Abraham was, to be FAT–faithful, available, and teachable.
God dealt with Abraham over time to teach him that he was to trust God in all circumstances, even in those areas where the situation or circumstances seem impossible. There are some of us who are being told to do something by God, yet we will not do it because we may lack in faith over what God is asking. God will challenge us to stretch our faith and look beyond what may seem to be impossible. Abraham was at the point where he was responsive to God and was willing to allow God to provide whatever that was needed. This is the ultimate test of our faith and trust in Him.
When God speaks to you, He does so through His Word. All that He requires of you is your obedience to His command, and to trust that He will provide for you, and that provision will be a blessing. It starts with your act of faith.
Note that in verse 5, Abraham asked the young men traveling with them to wait where they were while he and Isaac went ahead to worship God. It is safe to assume that the young men accompanying Abraham would not have allowed Abraham to raise the knife against his son, Isaac. Abraham went ahead to be compliant to God’s will, not having all of the information as to what would happen. Not knowing what will happen in the future is the essence of having faith and trusting in Him. At that time, however, it was God’s will that Isaac was to be offered as a sacrifice on the altar. Abraham, nonetheless, remained faithful.
While James writes about a living faith that man sees (James 2:14-26), faith is demonstrated by what God sees. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; he who had received the promises was offering up his unique son, about whom it had been said, in Isaac your seed will be called. He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, from which he also got him back as an illustration” (Hebrews 11:17-19). What Abraham did was special in that his faith was so profound, he believed that, even if Isaac was the sacrifice, he believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead.
In verses 6 and 7, Isaac remained obedient to his father throughout the process of preparing for the sacrifice, and Abraham noted that God would provide himself a sacrifice (Genesis 22:8). Please note the similarity in that Jesus Christ, in the same way, was obedient to His Father in carrying His cross and giving His life as a sacrifice.
Notice that God did not stop Abraham from laying a hand on his son until the last instant (Genesis 22:12-13). Note that God did not want Isaac’s life, but He did want Abraham’s heart. God wants your heart. He wants you to completely surrender to Him.
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). God wants more than just your heart, but He wants you to be transformed to serve Him according to His will. God speaks to us through His Word, and we speak to Him through prayer. Don’t make it only a one-sided conversation. Seek what He is saying to you through His Word. When you totally surrender to Him, you will discover your gifts and talents in service for Him.