Accompanying Bob Deffinbaugh sermon: Final Exams
Accompanying Ray Pritchard sermon: The Ultimate Test
Accompanying Ray Stedman sermon: Life's Hardest Trial
I must admit that I've always struggled somewhat with this passage, because the action God asks Abraham to take seems to go against God's moral character. I'm not the only one with this reaction, Deffinbaugh sums it up well....
The greatest difficulty I find in this chapter is not the conduct of Abraham but the command of God. How can a God of wisdom, mercy, justice, and love command Abraham to offer up his only son as a sacrifice? Infant sacrifice was practiced by the Canaanites, but it was condemned by God (cf. Leviticus 18:21; Deuteronomy 12:31). Furthermore, such a sacrifice would have had no real value....To point out that God stopped Abraham short of carrying out the command does not solve the problem. How could God have given the order in the first place if it were immoral? To hold that God could ever command His children to do wrong, even as a test, is to open the door to all kinds of difficulties.
Several factors must be considered to understand this test in a proper light. First of all, we must admit a strong bias in the matter. We who are parents are repulsed by the thought of sacrificing our children upon an altar. We thus project our abhorrence upon God and suppose that He could never consider such a thing either. Secondly, we view this command from the vantage point of the culture of the day, which did practice child sacrifice. If the pagans did it and God condemned their practice, it must be wrong in any context.
We are forced to the conclusion that the sacrifice of Isaac could not have been wrong, whether only attempted or accomplished, because God is incapable of evil (James 1:13ff; I John 1:5). Much more than this, it could not be wrong to sacrifice an only son because God actually did sacrifice His only begotten Son....
In this sense, God did not require Abraham to do anything that He Himself would not do. Indeed, the command to Abraham was intended to foreshadow what He would do centuries later on the cross of Calvary.
Only by understanding the typological significance of the “sacrifice of Isaac” can we grasp the fact that God’s command was holy and just and pure. Abraham’s willingness to give up his only son humanly illustrated the love of God for man, which caused Him to give His only begotten Son. The agony of heart experienced by Abraham reflected the heart of the Father at the suffering of His Son. The obedience of Isaac typified the submission of the Son to the will of the Father.
And if those reasons still do not make sense to our finite minds, the only conclusion we can come to is this. God is good. God is good. I am neither good nor God. What I think is irrelevant. What He thinks/says/does is perfect, righteous, and holy. If God and I have differing opinions on what is right and wrong, guess which one of us is wrong. Yup, me, every time.
One point Deffinbaugh made, which I hadn't thought of before, was the reason why this was such a perfect test for Abraham.
Abraham has always had a hard time putting God before his family. God commanded Abraham to leave his family. But he did not leave his father, until he was forced to through his father's death. He did not leave Lot until he was forced to due to conflict between their two families. He did not leave Ishmael until forced to by Sarah, after God confirmed that it was right to do so.
I think we can all identify with this. I would say that the easiest thing to become an idol in our lives is our family. And family was Abraham's idol, therefore family was Abraham's test.
And here, finally, Abraham chooses God.
And here, finally, we see Abraham's faith with incredible clarity.
The passage doesn't tell us if Abraham questioned God or desperately interceded on Isaac's behalf like he had done for Sodom. It doesn't really matter. What mattered was his choice to be obedient.
Abraham knew God had promised that Isaac would father nations.
Abraham knew God has asked him to sacrifice Isaac.
Abraham combined those two, and on faith, believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead in order to fulfill His promise. (as confirmed by Hebrews 11:17-19)
It's even confirmed in our passage: I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.
Some other translations are even more clear....
I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.(NASB)
We will worship there, and then we will come right back. (NLT)
the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you. (NKJV)
Stedman adds: Abraham had never had, as we have today, the experience or the record of anyone having risen from the dead. He knew nothing of Easter, nor of Lazarus, nor the miracles in the Gospel accounts. Yet so firm is his faith in the character of God that he comes to a realization of the resurrection.
God halted the sacrifice because it would serve no purpose (Isaac wasn't perfect, only Jesus was) and because Abraham's intention to carry out the will of God was clear. Abraham, though he had failed so many other times in his life, passed this test.
It's interesting what God puts in scripture and what He leaves out.
Deffinbaugh: Except for the words of Peter I would never have considered Lot to be a righteous man (II Peter 2:7-8). In Hebrews 11 and Romans 4 Abraham is portrayed as a man without failure or fault, yet the book of Genesis clearly reports these weaknesses. The reason, I believe, is that the New Testament writers are viewing these saints as God does. Because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross of Calvary, the sins of the saints are not only forgiven but also forgotten. The wood, hay, and stubble of sin is consumed, leaving only the gold, silver, and precious stones (I Corinthians 3:10-15). The sins of the saints are not glossed over; they are covered by the blood of Christ. When these sins are recorded, it is only for our admonition and instruction (I Corinthians 10:1ff, especially verse 11).
Abraham's obedience here justified his profession of faith. As James says, faith without works is dead. We are not saved by our works. But genuine faith results in works.
Deffinbaugh: While Abraham was justified before God by believing the promise of God (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3), he was justified before men by his obedience (Genesis 22, James 2). God could look on Abraham’s heart and know that his faith was genuine; we must look at his obedience to see that his profession was genuine.
Can others see that our profession is genuine through our obedience?
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Genesis 23