Ye of Little Faith

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. (Hebrews 11:17-19)

The African impala can jump to a height of over ten feet and cover a distance of more than thirty feet (in the jump).  Yet these magnificent creatures can be securely contained in zoos with no more than a three-foot wall.  You see the animals will not jump unless they can see where their feet will fall.  Far too often, we are rendered useless to God because we are unwilling to trust Him with what is unknown (to us).  When He calls on us to take a leap of faith, we are unwilling to obey because we cannot see where our feet will fall.  In his many years of walking with God, Abraham had come to a place in his life where he could absolutely trust God no matter what God might ask of him — including sacrificing his only son.

Genesis 22 opens with the phrase “Now it came about after these things,” (v. 1).  After what things?  Beginning in Chapter 12 of Genesis, the story of Abraham unfolds.  At the age of 75, after being well established in the city of Ur, God told Abraham (Abram at that time) to pack up his belongings, leave his home and family and go to some undisclosed land with the promise that God would make of him a great nation.  So Abram trusted and obeyed God even though he had no idea where his feet would fall.  For ten more years Abram wandered the deserts of Canaan without ever finding a place that he could call his own, but he believed God would keep His word.  Then at the age of 85, God once again paid Abram a visit to reconfirm His promise to make of him a great nation.  This time, Abram just had to ask, “O Lord GOD, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (Genesis 15:2).  Again, God assured him that he would indeed procreate and be the father of many nations. Then, in order to help God out with His plan a bit (and how many of us have ever been guilty of that?), Sarai (Sarah) considering the fact that she was no spring chicken and had been barren all these many years, proposed a solution.[1]  She offered her handmaid to Abram so that he might sire a child through her.  That makes sense, humanly speaking. We might have suggested the same thing today along with fertility drugs or in vitro fertilization.  We might even justify it by saying that we are putting “feet to our prayers.”  At any rate, it was a feeble attempt to help God out with His plan, but a surrogate mother was not what God had in mind.  So Abram waited another fourteen years and again God paid him a personal visit to reconfirm His promise.  By now, Abram is 99 years old and Sarai is 89.  God had promised, and Abram had waited.  He still had no homeland that he could call his own, no child “of promise” that would engender a nation, and he was getting really old!  Yet Abram believed God, and at the ripe old age of 100, God granted the old couple a son, Isaac – “laughter”!

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham …” (Genesis 22:1).  Now, before we accuse God of child abuse or bloodthirstiness, please notice that this was a “test.”  It was only a test, but Abraham did not know that.  “A and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.”  (Don’t you just love it when you call your son or your daughter by name and they answer immediately, “Yes, Dad!” or “Yes, Mom!”  Of course, just the opposite is true when you call them and there is a deliberate silence.)  “Here I am.”  Whatever God wanted, Abraham was ready.

Then God said, 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” (Genesis 22:2). Wow!  Can you imagine!  By now Isaac was between 16 and 22 years old, and Abraham was between 116 and 122, and Sarah between 106 and 112.  And God had not missed the fact that Isaac was Abraham’s “only son” – the son whom he loved.  Oh, the pain that must have pierced the heart of Abraham!  In the movie, The Bible (1966), Abraham is portrayed as rebellious at first.  “No!  No!” he growls at God as he beats his fists into a desert rock, but ultimately he complies.  That is not how the Bible portrays Abraham.  Yes, his heart must have ached, but look at how he responds.  “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” (Genesis 22:3).  Abraham did not hesitate.  He did not question.  He just obeyed.  Again, at least for the second time in his life, Abraham was going to some undisclosed location – in the “land of Moriah … on one of the mountains of which I will tell you” – not knowing where his feet would fall – just because God told him to do it.

After a three-day’s journey, they arrived at the general vicinity of the sacrifice.  Abraham instructed his two servants to remain with the donkey and says, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you” (Genesis 22:5, emphasis mine).  What could Abraham have been thinking?  “We will come again to you?”  Was he forgetting something here?  Did God not tell him to offer Isaac up as a burnt offering?  Some have suggested that Abraham said this in order to conceal what he was about to do from his servants.  That makes sense.  Isaac, being the only son of Abraham, was probably the darling of the whole household.  Surely if Abraham had divulged his plans to his servants, he would have met with opposition.  But I think there is more to it than that.  The writer of the book of Hebrews says that Abraham “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” (Hebrews 11:19).  “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). He could not see where his feet would fall, but he knew God was well in control.

As they traveled up the mountain, Isaac asked the obvious question, “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? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together” (Genesis 22:7-8). Can you picture the scene?  There, Abraham leads the way with calm assurance and determination on his face, fully trusting his heavenly Father.  There, Isaac follows not knowing what lies ahead, but he too trusts his earthly father.  What a pair those two must have made!  “God will provide for Himself the lamb!”

Finally, they came to the place that God had designated, Mount Moriah.  The Bible tells us that this very place was the site upon which the Temple would be built.[2]  Oblivious to God’s plan and going only on what God had instructed him to do, Abraham built the altar, prepared the wood, bound his son, his only son, Isaac, and placed him on the altar.  Imagine this! Here was a strong young man who by now knew exactly what was about to happen, and yet he complied with his father’s will. Isaac could have very easily overpowered the 116-plus-year old Abraham and said, “No, sir!  I will not be roasted!”  This was a test of Abraham’s faith, but Isaac’s faith should not be discounted.  He willingly complied with his father’s wishes.  There he lay, on the stack of wood that he had carried up the mountain on his back, looking full into his father’s face as Abraham, knife in hand, raises his hand to strike the lethal blow.  Abraham, his eyes raised toward heaven, unable to look into his beloved son’s eyes, not knowing where his feet would fall, was fully committed to God and to His will.  In Abraham’s mind, the sacrifice was completed.  Isaac was God’s!

Two thousand years later on the same hill, another Father and another Son would replay the same scene, but this time, God intervened.  “And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I” (Genesis 22:11).  Once again, Abraham was ready to obey his Lord’s command.  And Jesus 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” (Genesis 22:12).

Why do I say that this was Jesus speaking to Abraham?  For one thing, Abraham had received his orders directly from God, and no subordinate angel could have made him deviate from what God had told him to do directly; only God Himself could have changed Abraham’s orders.  Secondly, how could an ordinary angel say, “You have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me?”  Abraham was not offering Isaac up to an angel but to God.  And finally, Jesus would later remind the Jews, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).

So Jesus prevents Abraham from completing the physical act of sacrifice. Isaac was now fully offered both by his father and by himself.  The father yielded up his son, the son gave up his life; from both parties, as far as will and purpose could go, the sacrifice was complete.  There was no need for Abraham to endure the torture of running the knife through his son.  In his mind and in his heart, he had made the sacrifice.  And God said, “for now I know that thou fearest God” (Genesis 22:12).  Is it possible that God did not know that prior to the test?  Could the omniscient, the all-knowing, God, the God that searches the hearts and minds of men, have been ignorant of Abraham’s faith and devotion to Him?  Impossible!  God knew exactly what Abraham would do.  He knew that Abraham would do just as He commanded even to the point of giving up his only son.  God did not need any proof for Himself.  The test was for Abraham.  Abraham is the one that needed to know just how far he was willing to go for God.  Abraham was the one that needed to know that he could implicitly trust God to provide all of his needs “according to his riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19).  And Isaac, the heir to God’s promises needed to know that too, because neither Abraham nor Isaac would ever see the day when Abraham would become a great nation.  Neither one of them would ever see the fruit of the “seed” in which “all the nations of the earth” would be blessed (Genesis 22:18).  Neither one of them would ever see where their feet would fall, but they needed to know that God would keep His promises and that He would always provide.

So God provided a substitute. “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. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen” (Genesis 22:13-14).

Abraham learned that in all things God will provide.  Even when things are unclear, God will provide.  Even when the outcome is unsure, God will provide.  Even when we cannot understand, God will provide.  Even when we cannot see where our feet will fall, God will provide.

Then Jesus came to him again to reconfirm the promise. “And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 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: 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; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:15-18).

“By Myself I have sworn, saith the LORD” (v. 16) because the writer of Hebrews tells us, “he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself” (Hebrews 6:13).  God’s promises are true.  God is faithful and He will do what He says.  Did Abraham ever see God’s promise fulfilled in his lifetime? Only in his dreams! Did God keep His promise to Abraham?  Absolutely! Why? “Because thou hast obeyed my voice” (v. 18).  Abraham did not know where his feet would fall, but he obeyed God anyway. “So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba” (Genesis 22:19).

Two thousand years later, the drama was replayed.  Only this time, the Son, the only Son, the beloved Son, and His Father were the players.  Once again, the Father and the Son walked up together to the summit of Mount Moriah, and there the Father offered up His Son.  The Son, knowing full well what was about to transpire, willingly carried on his back the wood upon which He would be offered.  Together, He and the Father walked up the lonely hill, both determined that this offering would take place.  This time, there was no “Angel of the Lord” to stay the hand of the Father because it was the “Angel of the Lord” that laid upon the wood.  And the Father strikes and the nails were driven into the hands and feet of the Son, and the spear pierced His side.  The Son dies, and the Father weeps.  This time there is no substitute.  This is the way it had to be.  The only Son of God the Father was offered up for your sins and mine.  Why?  So that you and I might have eternal life by taking a leap of faith and trusting in the sacrifice made on our behalf.  The Bible says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, emphasis mine).

God gave His one and only Son for you and for me. He has the absolute right to expect your obedience by trusting in the sacrifice of His Son. Are you unsure because you cannot see where your feet will fall? You may hesitate because you do not know how your friends or your spouse or your family will react if you give your life to Christ.  You may hesitate because you fear that you will have to give up a lifestyle of sin with which you have grown comfortable.  You may feel that you are doing alright on your own, and that you have no need for God in your life because you have everything under your control.  Besides all of that, you don’t know if your decision to trust Christ will ever pay off.  You cannot see where your feet will fall, so you would rather remain confined in a world that you can see rather than to obey God and trust Him with what you cannot see.  Let me assure you, you are not as safe and secure as you think you are.  Why not take that leap in faith by trusting Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord.  He alone holds the future and in Him you can find true security.

Perhaps you already know the Savior. You possess the assurance of an eternal future with Him in heaven, but you haven’t learned to trust Him with your present life.  Perhaps you are not serving Him as you should because you have too many other things that occupy your time.  Maybe you are not the witness for Him at school, at work, or at home that you ought to be because you worry that you might offend someone, or you may lose your job or your credibility or your relationships.  Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).  Perhaps you haven’t trusted God with the giving of your tithe because you worry that you won’t have enough month left over at the end of your paycheck. Remember the words of Jesus: “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matthew 6:25).  He went on to say, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31-33).

God knows all of your needs, and He will meet them.  He doesn’t need your help to take care of you.  He can do just fine without you, if you will only trust Him to care for you as He promised.  Do not stay trapped by what you cannot see; “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Abraham could not see where his feet would fall, but he trusted God, and he obeyed.  “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3).  Do not allow the cares of this world hold you captive like a three-foot wall keeps the African impala imprisoned. “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”[3]

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 16

[2]   2 Samuel 24:10-25; 2 Chronicles 3:1)

[3]  From the hymn, “Trust And Obey,”

1 Comment

Filed under Bible, Christianity, Evangelism, Religion, Salvation, Theology

One response to “Ye of Little Faith

  1. Great and needed post for all of us today. Thanks Ernie!

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