A World Conquering Faith (Genesis 22:1-19)
The testing of Abraham is a passage of Scripture that captures our imagination. The narrative is well written and by the time we get to this passage, we are so deeply involved with the characters that our sympathy for Abraham is just bubbling over.
This makes complete sense. It is at the end of Abraham’s life. We are not far from reading about the death of Sarah and the death of Abraham at this point. He has undergone severe trials. He has made severe blunders. And God has been with him through it all. And we are so overwhelmed by the event that takes place here that we miss the glorious promise of victory given to his descendants.
We walk around this world as if we are losing. Fear of the world and what will happen with society seems to beat us down. This test and the promises given after a call for us to trust God’s promise of victory in Christ. Abraham’s trust in the Lord’s promises is exemplary and should be mimicked by us. And the promise of salvation and victory in Christ that we see in this story are ones that we should trust in.
Trust God’s promise of victory in Christ.
Trust God’s Promises (1-10)
The thing that really stands out to us in this text is Abraham’s exemplary faith. If you consider the things that have been going on for him lately, these past years have been quiet and great. The promises are being fulfilled, seemingly one after another. Abraham seems to be doing quite well.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, all of that changed. God thundered out a test that would shake Abraham out of the quiet ease (Genesis 22:1). God commanded Abraham to offer up Isaac as a burnt offering (Genesis 22:2).
What kind of horror was just introduced to Abraham? Isaac is his son. This command would strike any one of us with horror. And this is the son that Abraham and Sarah waited so many years for. Not to mention that Isaac is his heir and the fulfillment of the promises that God had given to him. The one that is supposed to be sacrificed is a big reason why he left Ur behind in Genesis 12.
And why is God asking Abraham to do such a thing?
We don’t know the exact answer. But this is a test at the twilight of Abraham’s life. This is likely the hardest test of Abraham’s life. Testing from the Lord is for our good. It always is. You and I need to understand that because we will likely have to undergo testing of some sort in our lives. It may be to bring us to love and trust the Lord more and the things of this world less. It may simply be to strengthen our faith so that we will be strengthened for other thing in our lives whether that be trials or big things that we will one day do. So, we don’t know the reason, but we do understand that this is to strengthen Abraham’s faith in some way, and much like with Job, prove himself faithful to the Lord.
Abraham did not hesitate (Genesis 22:3). He simply got up the next morning and made all the appropriate preparations and left. He took with him everything he needed to accomplish the sacrifice of his son and went on his way. Three days into this trip he saw the mountain that this was all to take place upon. I can’t imagine what was going through his head. This was his only remaining son. Ishmael was sent on his way as Sarah and the Lord had commanded in Genesis 21. And now he is supposed to sacrifice Isaac on this mountain. But there is no mention of Abraham hesitating anywhere in this passage. He will follow the Lord’s command. Even as Isaac carried the wood that Abraham knew he would be sacrificed upon and Abraham carried the tools for the slaughter of his son, Abraham pressed on (Genesis 22:5-6).
There is a question here that likely struck Abraham right in the heart. “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:8 ESV) But even here Abraham responded with faith. He trusted the Lord. God had promised that it was through Isaac that the promises would be delivered (Genesis 21:12). And Abraham believed that. His answer was vague, so he probably wasn’t sure how to answer the question. But Abraham trusted that God might even fulfill these promises by raising Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). But here is what we know. Abraham trusted that God would do what He said that He would do. Somehow, Isaac would be alive, even if that meant God would raise Isaac from the dead.
And then, Abraham built the alter. He laid the wood down and then bound his son (Genesis 22:9). Isaac was old enough to have carried the wood. This is no toddler being tied to a stack of wood. Isaac was old enough to know what was going on, which is obvious from the text. And this all means that Isaac is old enough to get away from a 100+ year old man who is in the twilight of his life. It seems that Isaac trusted his father and the promise of God as well. Abraham and Isaac were the only ones up there and Abraham could not have just muscled him onto the altar.
Abraham pressed on and continued to follow the Lord’s command. He raise the knife up over his head and was about to kill his son when an angel intervened and commanded Abraham not to do it (Genesis 22:11-12). Abraham would not have to kill his son. If the test was one of faith and trust in the Lord and whether he would follow the Lord’s command no matter what it was, then Abraham had proven that he would do so. Abraham trusted the Lord and followed His command.
Abraham’s faith here is something we are to immolate with our own lives. He trusted the Lord. He trusted that his son was going to live. And without knowing all the answers, he followed the Lord’s command.
We don’t always have the answers. We don’t always know how to get things done. But we know the right thing to do.
We must make our decisions based on our trust in the Lord, not on how things look in the moment. We have God’s Word and know what we are supposed to do. And we are to trust the Lord and do what we are commanded.
Here is an example from the Minor family. It’s not sacrificing a child, but it is an example of how these sorts of things can work out in our lives. We had this conviction that we wanted Amanda to be home with the children. It’s not that we were opposed to Amanda working, it’s that, as a band director there were seasons where she was gone a lot. During football season she would be gone to games and not see the family for an entire day. And most days during football season were long, so she wouldn’t see our son much on that day. And we believed that this was detrimental to our family and not how God designed a family to operate. We didn’t know how everything was going to work out, but we knew what needed to be done and worked hard to get to that situation. It cost us about half of our income, but it was the right thing to do.
I’m not attempting to pat myself on the back. I’m attempting to tell you that there are times that we run into situations where the end is not clear, and we have to do what the Lord has commanded. When Abraham raised the knife to slaughter his son, he trusted the Lord. He trusted that he would see Isaac again. He didn’t know how it would all take place, but he did what the Lord commanded.
It should be the same with us.
I don’t know what kind of decision you must make right now. I don’t know the things that are weighing you down in the current moment. And none of us know the difficult decision that will be faced in the days to come. We are to follow the Lord’s commands and trust the Lord.
We live in a different time than Abraham. We don’t receive verbal guidance to every decision. We have something better. We have God’s Word. God’s will for your life is found in His Word and we are to order our lives after what we find therein and trust that the Lord will keep His promises. Sometimes that means going into the unknown or making great sacrifices. But we must have the resolve of Abraham and follow the Lord’s command.
God Keeps His Promises (Genesis 22:11-14)
The angel of the Lord called out to Abraham, “Abraham, Abraham!” and Abraham answered with the same willing compliance that he did at the beginning of this chapter (Genesis 22:1, 11). He was now commanded not to kill the boy (Genesis 22:12).
Abraham had passed the test. He did not withhold even Isaac from the Lord. In his heart, Abraham had surrendered Isaac to the knife because of the Lord’s command. He had proven himself before the Lord. He did offer up his firstborn son as a sacrifice to the Lord. And God gave to him a ram that was caught in a thicket to sacrifice in place of his son, Isaac (Genesis 22:13).
This ram was obviously supernatural. God had commanded for a sacrifice to be made on the mountain and this ram would take the place of Abraham’s son. God had kept his promise to Abraham. Isaac would live.
God promised Isaac and He also promised that all the things promised to Abraham would come through Isaac (Genesis 21:12). Abraham understood this and trusted that Isaac would somehow live through this ordeal (Hebrews 11:17-19).
And God delivered on His promises.
Over and over through the life of Abraham, we have been taught about the faithfulness of God to keep His promises. God delivers promises to us and He keeps those promises. And because God keeps those promises, we can stake our lives on them.
And many of these promises are either pictured in this text or given at the end of it.
God Promises Victory In Christ (Genesis 22:10-12, 15-19)
Let’s move back to the moment Abraham placed his son upon the altar. He raised the knife to slaughter Isaac and was stopped by the Lord.
One day, 2000 years ago God placed His Son upon the cross and rather than stop, He crushed His Son in place of wicked sinners. And the language of Genesis 22:10-12 is found throughout the Scriptures as a picture of what was done for our salvation.
“”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)
God so loved the world that He sacrificed His Son so that all those who believe in Him would have “eternal life”.
“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” (Isaiah 53:10 ESV)
God crushed His Son in place of wicked sinners. God the Son was crushed and “made an offering for guilt”.
And Paul surely had this image in mind when he said,
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32 ESV)
Isaac was spared, Jesus was not. God the Son took on human flesh and dwelt among us. He lived a perfect life and was nailed to the cross and died there as the sacrifice for sin. God crushed Him in our place. And all those who repent and believe, that is, turn from ruling their own life and trust in Christ, are united to Christ. Their sins were paid for on the cross and Jesus’s perfect life is credited to their account. Jesus was not spared, He accomplished salvation for all who would ever believe.
And this leads us to see those things accomplished for us. We see many of them here promised to Abraham.
Because Abraham trusted the Lord and would not even withhold his son from the Lord, God reiterated the promise to Abraham, but expanded upon the promises already given.
“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.” (Genesis 22:17-19 ESV)
Earlier the promise was that Abraham’s offspring would be as numerous as the stars of heaven (Genesis 15:5). Now God promised that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. That is a lot of people. And we know that, by faith, Christians are a lot of those offspring (Galatians 3:15-29). “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:29 ESV)
Not only will God’s people inherit the land, but they will “possess the gate of his enemies” (Genesis 22:17). I have repeatedly discussed the expansion of the land promise in the New Covenant. We see this in both the Old and New Testament. We see it very plainly from Paul when he states that Abraham and his offspring were promised to be “heir of the world” and not the land (Romans 4:13). But it is also evident in the way Jesus quotes Psalm 37:9 and uses the word “earth” instead of “land” in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:5). It is also found in other passages of Scripture (Isaiah 65:17-25, Isaiah 66:22, Micah 4:1-5, Hebrews 11:10).
And possessing the “gate of his enemies” is most certainly speaking about the coming wars that will be fought in the Book of Joshua. Bu this is also, and more ultimately, looking far beyond that time.
The most quoted chapter of the Bible is Psalm 110 and it’s not even close. This psalm about Jesus describes both His Priesthood and His Lordship over all things. It also describes His people on the march with Him as He “shatters kings on the day of His wrath” (Psalm 110:5 ESV). Isaiah describes the glorious time when the nations come to the Lord.
“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.” (Isaiah 2:2-5 ESV)
And then there is Jesus’s words in Matthew 16:18. We get so caught up fighting over what the meaning of Jesus’s words to Peter mean that we lose sight of what He said here about the Church.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18 ESV)
Jesus will build His Church. And where is the Church? At the gates of Hell. And what is the Church going to do? They are going to possess the gate of their enemy.
And all the nations of the Earth will be blessed through the seed of Abraham, which Paul explains to us is Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). Through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Christ and the deliver of the good news to the nations in the power of the Holy Spirit all the Earth will be blessed. That is a very victorious message and outlook.
The name of our church is Victory Baptist Church. It is a fitting name because God has made promises of our victory over the world. We have the victory over sin and death through the finished work of Christ that is pictured in the sacrifice of Isaac. Sin and death no longer reign over God’s people because God the Father crushed the son in our place.
We have the victory over the world. The message of God’s grace and mercy will advance across the globe. The descendants of Abraham, Galatians 3:16 tells us that this is ultimately the Church, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). And we will be victorious. We will be on the march, on the move. And we will advance so that the gates of Hell will not overcome us.
We have been on the move for thousands of years. What began with Abraham became a country. That country was devastated by unbelief, though some believed. The gospel was preached at Pentecost and thousands believed. We were still a persecuted minority, but the Church continued to advance through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church advanced until we became an accepted and powerful religion in the Roman Empire. At the collapse of Rome all was thought to be lost, but the gospel continued to advance. There were hardships and distortions, but the gospel advanced. And the gospel will continue to advance. God will keep His promises and there will be people from every tribe, nation, and tongue at the Wedding Feast of Christ whose number will be equal to or greater than the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.
We are to believe God’s promise of salvation and entrust ourselves to Him. Believe God’s promises, believe in the everlasting life that He has accomplished through the finished work of His Son.
And we are to believe that we are the victorious ones in this life. When we go out these doors, we are not a suffering minority of people in this place. We are the people of God. The gates of Hell will not prevail against us. We are on the move and on the march delivering the message of God’s grace and mercy to a lost and dying world. We will possess the gates of our enemies through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, the declaration of His message, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
God help us to believe the promises that You have given to us.
Some of you have trusted in Christ, but struggle to believe that He could forgive you for some of the things that you have done. God the Father crushed the Son in your place. God did not spare even His own Son for the salvation of sinners, do you not think that He can forgive you. God the Son died in your place, and you do not believe that your sins can be forgiven. Do you think for a moment that your sins are more heinous than Christ is valuable? Do you think that God the Father did not plan for your miserable and wretched sins when He crushed His Son for your sin. Believe the promise of God!
Many of us watch the news and then fall into a despair concerning the state of things in our society today. I understand that. God has told us in His Word that we will be victorious over all the world. The Gates of Hell will not prevail against us, we will be victorious and people from every tribe, nation, and tongue numbering as much as the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky will be redeemed. And you are afraid to share the gospel with your next door neighbor, or your friends and family. And you are afraid of what is happening in the world today as if it is all just a lost and irredeemable mess. Believe the promise of God!
It didn’t look like Isaac would make it off that stack of wood alive. But Abraham trusted the Lord and obeyed His command. He believed the promise of God.
Things look bad in your life and out in the world today. Believe the promise of God. Trust God’s promise of victory in Christ.
R. Dwain Minor