In our last feature lesson, we read the account in Genesis 22 of Abraham being commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. We observed these truths regarding Abraham's mighty faith:
Let us now continue to analyze the great faith of this patriarch.
5. THE OFFERING OF ISAAC SHOWED A FAITH THAT OBEYED IN SPITE OF EMOTIONS.
Genesis 22:2 reads - "Then God said, 'Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." Friends, put yourself in Abraham's position: would you have been able to obey this command? Even Abraham's emotions, as strong as they must have been, didn't keep him from obedience. Surely, it would have been the most difficult thing for Abraham to do. He loved his son greatly. Nevertheless, he was willing to sacrifice him--simply because God commanded it.
We must not allow emotions to hinder us today in our obedience to our Maker. Our emotions should not hinder us from obeying the gospel and becoming a Christian. Our emotions should not hinder us from severing sinful relationships or from purging illicit behavior from our lives. Our emotions should not hinder us from realizing that there are many "good moral people" who will be lost because they are not in Christ, and, once we realize this fact, we must strive to reach them with the gospel before it's too late!
Often the greatest difficulty regarding emotions is one's own family. To come to the truth about relatives who are living unfaithfully to Christ and in need of discipline by the church is not easy. Even more challenging is to acknowledge that a family member is lost who is now deceased and was never "in Christ" where salvation is (II Tim. 2:10; Gal. 3:27). Emotional connections to family often make it difficult to obey God when there is a conflict between the Scriptures and what our families believe and practice. Don't hold to a false position simply because you love family. Yes, your acceptance of the truth implies their error, but who are you going to please--God or your family? Abraham's love for his family was like hate in comparison to his love for God. He would literally kill his son for the Lord. This is essentially what God demands today (cf. Matt. 10:37; Luke 12:53)! We must kill our emotional hindrances to our families and realize that we've been crucified with Christ. We are to live for Him and no one else, not even ourselves (Gal. 2:20)! No, I'm not saying that we shouldn't love our families. We should do everything possible to bring the pure gospel to them and help save their souls. My point is that we cannot compromise the truth even if our emotional links to our families are strong. Don't let your emotions hinder your faithful obedience to God and His truth. Abraham did not do this and neither should you!
6. THE OFFERING OF ISAAC SHOWED A FAITH THAT OBEYED IN SPITE OF INCONVENIENCE.
Have you ever pondered all the inconveniences that Abraham went through to fulfill this command? Now I understand that most people will put up with almost any inconvenience if it enables them to do something they really enjoy. Consider theme parks like Six Flags for example. People will drive hundreds of miles, spend lots of money, and stand in line most of the day, and they do it to make their kids happy. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. But, would anyone in their right mind put up with numerous inconveniences in order to do something they hate? Absolutely not, unless there was an all-important reason that took priority over the inconveniences. For Abraham, this was the case. He certainly didn't look forward to saddling the donkeys, selecting young men for the journey, gathering wood, packing supplies for camping several nights, and then traveling three full days, all in order to sacrifice his son!
Why did he do it? Because of his immense faith! He would obey God in spite of the inconveniences associated with such. Do we? Are we like the eunuch of Acts 8, who would travel hundreds of miles, if necessary, to worship God? Soul-winning, attending faithfully, praying, and personal Bible study are not always convenient, but are we willing to obey? It is my hope that a poem I read this week does not describe you: No dashing rain can make us stay, when we have tickets for a play; But if a drop the walk besmirch, it is too wet to go to church!
Take the time and energy to obey even when it's not convenient. It will strengthen your faith and please God.
7. THE OFFERING OF ISAAC SHOWED A FAITH THAT OBEYED REGARDLESS OF COST.
Oh the price that Abraham had to pay! Obedience was going to cost him a lot--namely, the life of his son he loved dearly. Obeying God can be costly today too. Did you know that there is a cost involved in being a disciple of Christ?
Reflect upon the words of Christ in Luke 14:26-33:
"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it--lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple."
A faith that costs nothing is worth nothing! Obeying Christ may cost you your job, your career, your fortune, your friends (II Tim. 4:10), your family (Luke 12:49ff), the severing of a sinful relationship (Matt. 19:9), the giving up of some personal joy, habit, or sinful practice. It may even cost giving up your life. We are to be faithful to death (Rev. 2:10). Like Job, we need to increase our faith and be able to say - "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15). Remember that there are things much worse than physically dying. Losing your soul is one of them! Whatever the cost, it pays to serve the Lord--one hundred fold on Earth and life eternal in heaven (Matt. 19:29).
8. THE OFFERING OF ISAAC SHOWED A FAITH THAT OBEYED WITHOUT HUMAN PRAISE AND APPLAUSE.
Did you notice that the two young men were left behind when Abraham and Isaac went on top of the mountain (cf. Gen. 22:5)? We, like Abraham, must avoid doing our works just to be seen of men (cf. Matt. 6). True character is what we say and do when no one is around to see or know. In Christian life, much of what we do will never be seen by others, but God knows and sees and He will correspondingly reward or punish (cf. Eccl. 12:13,14).
It is also quite possible that Abraham left the young men behind in order to prevent them from trying to stop him from offering Isaac. If this is the case, then Abraham shows great wisdom in planning ahead to remove potential interference in his obedience to God's will.
9. THE OFFERING OF ISAAC SHOWED A FAITH THAT OBEYED QUICKLY.
Abraham's faith is shown clearly by his promptness. He did not delay in his obedience. How do we know this? He rose up "early in the morning" (Gen. 22:3). Early! Can you imagine it? He got up early to make preparations to slaughter his son! Most people would stay in bed as long as possible and put it off--but not Abraham!
In the Bible, the words "now" and "today" are of special importance. "Behold, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation" (II Cor. 6:2). "But exhort one another daily while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin...Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion" (Heb. 3:13,15).
Procrastination often leads to forgetfulness and ultimately to complete neglect or disobedience. It's been said before, and it is true: delayed obedience is the brother of disobedience! Let us strive to be like the psalmist when he said - "I made haste, and did not delay to keep Your commandments" (Psa. 119:60).
10. THE OFFERING OF ISAAC SHOWED A FAITH THAT OBEYED, AND IT RESULTED IN BLESSINGS!
God was very pleased with Abraham's faith which was demonstrated through his obedience.
Consider Genesis 22:14-19 on this point:
"And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, 'In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.' Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said, 'By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son--blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.' So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba."
Obeying God will always result in blessings ultimately. Some of the blessings promised to us because of obedience include: a right to the tree of life (Rev. 22:14), friendship with Christ (John 15:14), purification of the soul (I Pet. 1:22,23), freedom from sin (Rom. 6:16-18), kinship with Christ (Matt. 12:46-50), and eternal salvation (Heb. 5:8,9)--just to name a few.
It is clearly evident that Abraham's faith was put to the test in Genesis 22. It was a supreme test and Abraham did not fail. He proved his faith through his exact obedience that did not question God in spite of the unreasonableness, the inconvenience, the cost, and his emotions. He obeyed quickly and did not desire praise, and his actions resulted in blessings. He gave himself over to God's will in every way. Do you? Do you have the characteristics of Abraham's faith? How does your faith measure up?
It is vitally important for Christians to realize that we are not our own, but that we've been bought at a price (I Cor. 6:19,20). We will be tested by God. Is your faith weak or strong? Will you prove your faith through an exact obedience that does not question when the divine command is unreasonable, inconvenient, or costly? Are you willing to give up anything for the truth, the church, and the Christ? He gave His life for you. He showed His love through His actions. We must show our love for Him in the same way - "If you love me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). What kind of faith do you have, friends?
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.