Last week we took a look at the life of Abraham from the book of Genesis. We saw how God gave a promise to Abraham and it wasn’t until 25 years later that Abraham witnessed the fulfillment of the promise through the birth of his son, Isaac. During these 25 years, Abraham doubted time and time again even though God kept reminding him of His promises. At one point, Abraham even tried to fulfill the promise in his own time, using his own means.
This week we will be looking at another event in the life of Abraham from Genesis 22. A number of years have passed since Isaac’s birth. We do not know how old Isaac was at this point, but we do know that he was old enough to have a conversation with his father and was able to carry a heavy burden up a mountain ( 22:6-7).
Abraham, now over 100 years old, was reminded every day of the faithfulness of God, every time that he saw his son. There was no reason to doubt God anymore or to try and take things into his own hands now because the fulfillment of God’s promise was living and breathing before his very eyes. But I can’t help but wonder if maybe Isaac’s parents were very protective of him. I wonder if they had a long list of rules and safeguards for him to protect him from any kind of danger. Yes, the promise had been fulfilled, but what if something happened to him? What if he got attacked by a wild animal and never lived to marry and continue on the family line? That’s what I would be thinking! But the text doesn’t tell us what Abraham was thinking.
Here, in chapter 22, things take a turn for the worst. After waiting for 25 years, Abraham had finally received a son. And now, after a number of years watching his son grow, learn and play, Abraham receives this command from God, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mariah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I tell you.” Just in case you missed that, He said BURNT OFFERING! That means that Isaac would die! Isaac, the child that Abraham had waited 25 years for, the only child that God promised to bless, the child through whom the promises were to be fulfilled. Abraham was over 100 years old now and there was no way that Sarah was going to have another child. If Isaac died then the promises of God would be buried in the grave with him, along with Abraham’s faith. Yet God commands him to do it. Why would God do such a thing? Is God not fair, would He promise something and then take it away? Could anyone trust God if He did such a thing?
Knowing Abraham’s track record, we fully expect him to question God’s request and maybe even fall on his face laughing. But here is the crazy part, he doesn’t. Instead, “Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.” Wow. No shouts of frustration, no questioning of God’s command, no laughs of disbelief, no doubt…nothing but plain and simple obedience. I can honestly say that my response would probably not be so calm.
So this begs the question, “what changed in Abraham”? The man of a weak and inconsistent faith was now an unshakeable rock amidst one of the greatest trials found in the Bible. Did Abraham simply determine to have a greater faith? Did he just pull up his bootstraps and tried harder to trust God? I don’t think so. The kind of transformation that Abraham went through was not possible through mere human will. This was a work of God. And just in case you aren’t convinced that Abraham’s faith was a work of God, let’s take a closer look at it.
The first display of Abraham’s rock solid faith is found in verse 3 when Abraham obeyed God and set out on the journey without a single if, and , or but! The second display is found in verse 5 when Abraham says, “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” The third is found in verses 7 and 8. Isaac asks his father where the lamb for the burnt offering was and Abraham replied, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” Abraham believed that God would provide a lamb for the sacrifice and that he and Isaac would both return from this. And in Hebrews 11:19 God’s Word tells us that Abraham even believed that God would raise Isaac back from the dead! And Abraham kept trusting God up to the point where he was holding the knife over his son, ready to sacrifice him to God, when “the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’…’Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
How did this happen? How did Abraham’s faith become so strong? And can we have this kind of faith in our lives? I believe that Abraham’s faith grew so strong because he had seen God fulfill his promises firsthand. Even though it took 25 years, Abraham witnessed God’s faithfulness. He knew that God was a covenant keeping God. He knew that God could be trusted. And that’s how we can have the kind of faith that Abraham had. We need to stop trusting in ourselves and our circumstances. We need to stop trusting in our strengths and abilities. And we need to stop trusting in our will. And most of all, we need to start putting all of our trust in God, who is faithful!
But maybe you haven’t witnessed such an incredible display of God’s faithfulness in your life. Maybe you are still where Abraham was before God gave him Isaac,trapped in a cycle of hearing God’s promises, doubting God and trying to fulfill His promises yourself. So how are you supposed to grow in faith? Do you have to wait for God to give you a miraculous display of His faithfulness? No. One of the core beliefs of Christianity is that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. We believe that the Bible is absolute truth. And guess what? The Bible contains 66 books that all attest to the faithfulness of God. God has always been faithful to His covenant people and He has never failed to fulfill His promises. So pick up your Bible and read the accounts of God’s faithfulness. Read about King David, or Samson, or Ruth. These accounts of God’s faithfulness are more than enough the strengthen your faith in Him.
By the way, you may not realize this, but if you are a Christian, you have certainly witnessed a miraculous demonstration of God’s faithfulness. Back in the book of Genesis, Satan tempted man to sin and man listened to Satan, bringing God’s curse upon the whole world. Because of this we have all sinned and are worthy of God’s punishment. But in Genesis God promised that one day He would send One who would crush the head of the serpent. And God fulfilled this promise in the person of Jesus Christ. The fact that you are a Christian is a result of God being faithful to fulfill a promise that He made to the very first human beings. You have been forgiven from your sins, adopted into the family of God, and promised eternal life because God sent Jesus into this world to die on a cross and destroy the works of the devil, that ancient serpent! You already trust God with your eternity. You have witnessed His faithfulness, you know that He can be trusted to fulfill His promises. Will He not also be faithful to fulfill His other promises to you? Let the testimony of scripture bear witness to the fact that God will be completely faithful to fulfill all of His promises. And by learning of His faithfulness, may your faith be strengthened as Abraham’s was, and may you be able to trust God in all areas of your life, even those of great difficulties.