In our study of Genesis chapter twenty two, we examine the testing of Abraham's faith and apply it to our lives as Christians.
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, 'Abraham!' 'Here I am,' he replied. Then God said, 'Take your son, your only son, whom you love - Isaac - and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.'
In chapter 21, we saw that God kept His promise and gave Abraham his son. Now, time has passed and Isaac has grown into a young man. God initiates the test by telling Abraham to take his son and offer him as a sacrifice. This brings us to questions about this test. First of all, there are those who say that God does not test His children but they are wrong. They often confuse the concept of testing with tempting. As we see here, God tests faith while temptation is from the devil. So, why would God test the faith of His children? He knows our hearts and so the purpose is not to prove to Him that we have faith. The simple fact of the matter is that Abraham's supreme test of faith was for our benefit so that we might understand the principle of total consecration. Abraham had circumcised Isaac which was an act of setting him apart as a child of God. Now, the question was: Did he really mean that Isaac was set apart for God's use or was it just a religious act? Something that is consecrated is only for God's use and cannot be only part time. So, the ultimate test would be whether Abraham would obey even when he didn't understand or would he try to hold onto what he had already given to God. As Christians when we come to Christ, we are accepting Him as both Savior and Lord. The act of accepting Him as Lord is, in fact, consecrating ourselves to God. Like Abraham, we will go through some tests and some believers will be tested to the point of death (total consecration). The question is still the same: Will we try to hold onto what we have already given God or did we really mean it?
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.
Even though he might not have understood the purpose behind God's instructions, he promptly obeyed. He did not hesitate or come up with religious sounding excuses such as "I'll pray about it" but instead headed for Jerusalem. In Abraham's example, we are reminded that excuses (even religious sounding ones) are, in fact, disobedience.
On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, 'Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.'
Was Abraham being deceptive in what he told his servants? Probably not; this is a demonstration of his faith. He told them that they would both return and yet he was prepared to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. He just believed that God could raise him from the dead and stood on His promises. We see that they arrived after three days on the road and are reminded of Jesus' three days in the tomb. Can you imagine those three days of travel for Abraham? That walk of faith had a purpose that he probably did not even see which was to build us up in our faith. As Christians, we are all on our own journey and, just like Abraham, our journey can build others up in their faith. The story of Abraham's walk is described here but you can share your own through this online ministry.
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, 'Father?' 'Yes, my son?' Abraham replied. 'The fire and the wood are here,' Isaac said, 'but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?'
Isaac carried the wood for the fire just as Jesus carried the cross. Isaac had spent years watching his father make offering to the Lord and so he noticed that this was different. You can almost feel the sorrow as Isaac asked about the lamb. We are reminded that Abraham had no idea how God was going to give him back his son.
Abraham answered, 'God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.' And the two of them went on together.
Abraham's answer demonstrated his great faith but it must have puzzled Isaac. They must have had a wonderful family relationship as Isaac accepted the answer and they traveled on together. This reminds us of the importance of our children seeing our faith in action as they grow to be adults.
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
Here, we see that Isaac must have had a large measure of faith as well. Abraham was an old man while Isaac was a strong young man. Yet, he let his father get him down and tie him up for the sacrifice. This is a picture of the fact that Jesus went willingly to the cross. He could have called down a great army of angels to free Him and yet he did not. This measure of faith and trust in his father did not just happen; it must have been cultivated and nourished over the years. We must remember that a living faith is passed on. If we are not passing it on (telling people about Jesus' work in our lives), we must question whether that faith even exists.
Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, 'Abraham! Abraham!' 'Here I am,' he replied.
Only God's intervention saved the life of Isaac as Abraham was determined to follow God's instructions. The same is true for us in that Jesus was the only possible way that we could be saved from sin and death. There are many today who do not want to boldly stand up and declare that Jesus is the Way and that has led to a larger and larger number of faithless young people. We cannot blame the young people for following the example that they have seen in their lives. If we want to have faithful children such as Isaac, it must be demonstrated in the lives of the adults around them and that begins in the home.
'Do not lay a hand on the boy, ' he said. 'Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.'
Why did God stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac? God knew from the beginning that Isaac was not going to have to die but Abraham did not. This simple test of faith (which God knew that Abraham would pass) was meant to help Abraham to understand more about God. We see, here, that Abraham feared God but it does not mean that he was afraid of being punished. As we saw on his trip to the mountain, he knew that God could and would restore Isaac if it was required. According to Jewish tradition, this is the third level of yirat (fear) and is a profound understanding of the presence and person of God.
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.
At just the right time, God provided a ram to replace Isaac on the sacrificial altar. That brings to mind the question of: Why a ram and not a lamb? A lamb is a baby while a ram is considered an adult and the lamb can only become an adult through the passage of time. This is a reminder of the fact that Jesus would come from the line of Abraham but only at the proper time. He would come as a baby (lamb) but would be sacrificed as an adult (ram).
So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, 'On this mountain of the Lord it will be provided.'
God sent Abraham to Mt. Moriah and Abraham now calls it The Lord Will Provide. So, how do we get to where we are today with the place being called Jerusalem? In Hebrew, Abraham called the place Adonai Yireh (God will provide). Before that, the city was named Salayim (Shelem) which means "perfect" by Shem (Noah's son) after the flood. The two would later be combined to form the name Jerusalem which refers to God's perfect provision. The name also points to the fact that God will provide the perfect city in the last days as we see it descending from heaven in Revelation 21.
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, 'I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.' Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.
An angel declared the renewal of God's covenant with Abraham. The angel told him that God would bless him and we are reminded that blessed simply means "no worries". In effect, God was telling Abraham that his people would not have to worry because He was going to provide the perfect sacrifice (Jesus) at the perfect time.
Some time later Abraham was told, 'Milkah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor:'
Abraham's brother Nahor was still living in Mesopotamia. Abraham received word that his brother had children and this would be important when it came time for his descendants to find wives.
'Uz the firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram), Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel. Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. Milkah bore these eight sons to Abraham's brother Nahor. His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maakah.'
In all, Nahor had twelve sons. This seems to be a pattern in the lives of Abraham's family. Nahor's descendants would be known as the Aramean tribes. As we see it is from these tribes that Rebekah would come.