By Pastor Teresa Tay
God tested Abraham
Genesis 22:1-2 | – 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, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.’
An Act of Absolute Obedience
v 3 | – Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled 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.
I can imagine how agonizing this must be for Abraham. He and Sarah had waited 25 years for the promised son Isaac. God had promised Abraham that he would make him a great nation through Isaac. So what about the promise? Has God changed His mind? Yet, we are told in the bible, Abraham got up early the next morning. This means Abraham did not seem to have any hesitation or procrastination to obey God’s command. God has spoken and he decided he would obey.
Declarations of Ultimate Faith and Trust
v 4 – 5 | – 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.’
v 7 – 8 | – Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering my son.’
These are astounding declarations of trust and faith in God. In spite of the difficult task ahead of Him, Abraham stood firm in his faith. He believed that he would return with Isaac to the waiting servants and somehow God will provide a solution.
From the two statements of Abraham we can see he has an unshakable faith. I believe his strong faith is based on two things:
A) God’s Promise
God has promised Abraham that his offspring will be like the dusts of the earth through Isaac. Though God’s command was difficult to understand, Abraham wholeheartedly believed that God has not changed his mind, his promise still stand. He must have reasoned that God could raise him up (as stated in Heb 11). Thus as he approached Moriah, he was counting on the faithfulness of God to deliver what He has promised.
B) God’s Provision
Abraham told Isaac ‘God will Provide’. Abraham’s obedience was grounded in the belief that God is able and He will provide and that things would turn out for good in the end.
Hudson Taylor used to say ‘God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supply.’
I believe this is Abraham’s faith. He heard the call of the Lord, He followed God’s order and he knew God would not let him down.
I believe obedience to God helps us to learn and grow in God more than any other way. Each time we obey, we are experience the deeper things of God, we will see more and more God’s power working in our lives and we see God’s sovereignty being manifested in our lives.
Obedience Releases The Power of God
v 9 – 12 | – 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. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his on. But an angel of the lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘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.’ And God provided a ram as a burnt offering instead.
v 15 | – 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.’
Though Abraham had seen and experienced God in marvelous ways before, but this day he had a new encounter with God. He saw how solid God’s love is and so how reliable He is to keep His promise. His yielded life to God released the power of God upon him and the generations to come. What an honor that God would swear by His own name declaring His blessings on Abraham.
I believe Abraham has such strong faith in God because he fully understood the nature and character of God. He learned that not only is God an all-powerful God, but He is also a God that is all loving. I believe Abraham has such a knowledge of the immensity of God’s love that he believed God would never want to cause him harm but would always have his best interests at heart.
God has blessed Abraham tremendously.
But Abraham outstanding display of obedience shows that he’s not the man who loves God because he is blessed. He shows his love for God even in his hardest moment.
If we only love and worship God because of what he can give to us, then our relationship with Him can be viewed as nothing more than an investment proposition. We cannot really call that love. The real test of our love for Him is that, will we still be faithful when there’s no blessing, when there is pain and difficulty? This was the test for Abraham. Genesis 22 tells us Abraham passed the test. He loved and obeyed God not just when there was blessing, but even when there was pain and difficulty.
This is His first commandment to us. The problem is that sometimes we seem to love the gifts more than the giver of the gifts or we seem to love the work of the Lord more than the Lord of the work.
Sometime ago I was away for 3 weeks, ministering in different places. In those 3 weeks, I averaged about 2-3 hours of sleep each night. Every day we had a very heavy program. Though the schedule was intense, I loved every minute of it. We saw God working miracles and people set free from depression and bondages. Due to the busy schedule, I didn’t have much time to pray as I normally would.
Zeal alone is not enough
One night I was lying in bed thinking of the wonderful day we have had and I said: Lord there is so much work that needs to be done, so many souls to be saved. Use me Lord to bring salvation. The Holy Spirit said to me: Always remember this, my first and foremost call for my people is not to save souls. That really shocked me. So I said, ‘Lord, isn’t this what you came to do, to die for all man?’ The Holy Spirit continued to say, ‘My first and foremost call to my people is to live a life that gives me pleasure, to worship me, to pray and seek my face. Out of that all these things will be added.’
I am ever more convinced that zeal alone is not enough to do the work of the Lord. Zeal, unaccompanied by God’s presence in our lives will only lead us to disappointments and frustrations. Zeal alone can become such a driving force in our lives that it can drive us to achieve goals and successes that may not be of God. We can be so consumed with the task that we may fail to see the progressive deterioration of our soul. Moses recognized the need to have God’s presence with Him when He was asked to deliver Israel from Egypt. He knew without God he would not succeed.
Prayer brings on the Presence of God
If the enemy can take us from our time of prayer with God, he will succeed in blocking the power of God from accompanying our work. We need God’s presence with us to give us the strength to fight the battle of the flesh, it gives us the ability to carry out His plans and purposes. The presence of the Lord empowers us, it makes us unshakable, unmovable. When we have such a strong foundation in Him, we will truly see and experience the greatness of God in all we do.
Without God Men Labour in Vain
In Genesis 11, we read the story of the Tower of Babel, where the people decided to build a tower with the aim to create a great name for themselves.
Gen 11: 4 | – Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’
But the end of that story is chaos, confusion and the people were scattered.
Interestingly, in the next chapter, God said to Abraham, ‘I will make your name great.’ (Gen 12:2). Abraham’s name by itself means nothing. But Abraham’s name attached to God’s Name made his name great. He became known as Abraham the friend of God; Abraham the father of faith, Abraham the patriarch and father of nations. God was the one that made Him great because Abraham has yielded himself totally to God, he was found a trustworthy servant.
God the Builder and Architect
Hebrews 11: 9 | – By faith Abraham made his home in the promised land lie a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Jesus, The Sacrificial Lamb of God
After Abraham and his son had sacrificed the lamb that God provided:
Gen 22: 14 – so Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide.’
He did not build a memoriam to remember what God has done by calling it “God provided”.
No, he called it, “God WILL provide”.
In doing so, Abraham was prophesying about God’s Only Son, Jesus, to come and offer Himself as a living sacrifice for all man. In sending His only Son to die on Calvary’s cross, God gave us the finest picture of His love for mankind.
May we give Jesus what is due to Him by yielding to Him as an act of thanksgiving, act of worship and sacrifice unto Him. Let us choose to walk in humility, have faith and obey Him no matter what. We will have the God encounter moments was we walk in submission to Him.
Great shall be our reward.