Posts Tagged 'Abraham'

Panic Podcast: The Story of the Old Testament, Part 1

Good morning, folks!  It’s a glorious Friday here in my neck of the woods, and I hope today proves to be a great day for you.  It’s the end the week, but we’re beginning a brand new Bible study series today, The Story of the Old Testament.   Don’t fret, though, the second study in our series Daniel: Prophet of the End, will be on Monday, so hang tough.

But for now, open your Bibles to the book of beginnings, the Book of Genesis, as we begin this new series.  God bless you all as we study God’s amazing Word, together.

 

The Greatest Stories Ever Told, Part 2

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Our first greatest story was the story of Noah and the Flood. In that story we read about the very first covenant God made with a man:

Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:21-22 | NIV84)

That was the first of many covenants God made with people over the centuries, but the greatest covenant in the Bible is the one He made with a fellow named Abraham:

I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:2-3 | NIV84)

Some ten generations had elapsed between those two covenants and both Noah and Abraham were men of distinction. Noah, of course, because was the only decent man alive on the whole face of the earth at the time, and Abraham remains one of the most important figures, not only in Scripture, but in the overall history of the earth. He was the father of the Israelites through Isaac and the father of the Arabs through Ishmael. He is the ancestor the Messiah and the spiritual father of all believer who share in his faith.

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:11-12 | NIV84)

And God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12, 15, 17, etc.) is far reaching. It promises the preservation of Israel as a nation, the Millennial hope, and even the ordering of world affairs at the end of the age.

Hearing and obeying

The story of Abram, later Abraham, begins at the tail end of Genesis 11 –

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. (Genesis 11:31 | NIV84)

So verse one of chapter 12 was probably the second time God came to Abram to call him to leave his relatives and the pagan culture in which he was living.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1 | NIV84)

The first call came while he was in Ur, this second call while he was in Haran, after the death of his father, Terah. Some people find it amazing that God would actually speak directly to human being, but what’s truly amazing is that this human being not only heard God speaking to him, but did what he was told!

So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. (Genesis 12:4 | NIV84)

Just like that, a 75-year-old senior citizen started life all over again, based on a covenant made up of three essential components. Two of those components sounded pretty good and would have made complete sense to old Abram: (1) Abram’s name would be great. Who wouldn’t want to be considered “great” among all the people of the world? Abram was already wealthy, but if he kept up his end of the covenant, he would become influential for all time; (2) God would make Abram a blessing to others. That’s a good thing too. It must have made Abram feel good to be told that he would a blessing to others! But it’s the first stipulation of the covenant that would have been a little hard for this senior citizen to swallow: (3) God would make Abram into a great nation. From the purely human perspective, that seems ridiculous. Now, it is true that Pierre Trudeau, a former Canadian Prime Minister, fathered a daughter in his early 70’s, but that’s an exception. Or exceptional, if you like. So the fact that God would think that Abram would go along with that part of covenant speaks volumes about how God viewed the man’s character. Abram was by no means perfect, but his heart was right.

Paul viewed justification by faith as the key blessing Israel has given the world. Yet wherever the Jewish people have traveled and lived, they have been a blessing to those around them. Think about this:

  • There are some 18 million Jews worldwide, or about 0.2% of the world’s population. Yet Jews make up 54% of the world chess champions, 27% of the Nobel physics laureates, and 31% of the medicine laureates.
  • In America, Jews make up a mere 2% of the population, but 21% of the Ivy League student bodies, 26% of the Kennedy Center honorees, 37% of the Academy Award-winning directory, 38% of those on a recent Business Week list of philanthropists, and 51% of the Pulitzer Prize winners for non-fiction.
  • Within Israel itself, Tel Aviv has become one of the world’s foremost entrepreneurial centers – a new Silicon Valley in the Middle East! For example, Intel is the number one employer in Israel, with more than 8,000 employees. The Israelis are responsible for much of the microprocessor innovation over the last two decades.
  • According to David Brooks: Israel has more high-tech start-ups per capita than any nation on earth. It ranks second behind the US in the number of companies listed on the NASDAQ. Little Israel, with 7 million people, attracts as much venture capital as France and Germany combined. During the most recent world-wide economic downturn, Israel thrived by raising some consumption taxes but lowering the rest. Barclay’s stated that: “Israel is the strongest recovery story in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
  • Finally, the nation of Israel is nothing short of astounding in terms of its creativity, scientific genius and technological savvy. For example, between 1980 and 2000, Egyptians registered 77 patents in the US. Saudis registered 171. Israel registered 7,652 patents!! The current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, argues that Israel will become the Hong Kong of the Middle East, with its economic benefits spilling over into the Arab world. There is indeed some evidence that this is already occurring in Jordan and in the West Bank. An astonishing example of this innovation is the Israeli company Netafim, a company that produced the world’s first drip irrigation system, which consists of a series of plastic pipes with small holes that lie on the ground. This system revolutionized the way Israel made its desert bloom so that it became a leading supplier of fruits, vegetables and flowers to the European market. Today, Netafim is the number one provider of drip irrigation to the world and conducts business in 110 countries spanning five continents. This highly efficient system has helped nations produce 50% more crop yield while using 40% less water. Nations such as India, Vietnam and Philippines all benefit from this technology. However, nations such as Iran and its terrorist allies, Hezbollah and Hamas, despise the success and innovation of Israel and seek to destroy it. (http://graceuniversity.edu/iip/2013/06/13-06-01-1/)

Israel, one of the smallest nations on the planet, has made incredible contributions to humanity. Is it because the Jews are smarter than the rest of us? Or is it because of the covenant God made with Abram?

Abram stepped out in faith, but it was an imperfect faith to be sure.

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit a my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” (Genesis 15:1 – 3 | NIV84)

It’s hard to believe the same man said this:

But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share.” (Genesis 14:22 – 24 | NIV84)

Yes, Abram had faith but time was marching on and, at least in private, Abram began to have his doubts. But he did exactly right by confessing them to the Lord. It’s not unusual for God to delay an answer to prayer until a situation appears utterly hopeless; then a solution will have to be of God’s doing and all the glory will be His and His alone.

Confirmation

In chapter 15, Abram addressed the Lord as “Adonai Yahweh,” or “Master Covenant Keeper.” The NIV translates the name as “Sovereign Lord,” and it tells us that even though the man had doubts, he still viewed God as trustworthy and dependable. And yet, Abram’s faith was conditioned by what he saw, or rather, what he didn’t see. He still had no children. Given that, he reasoned that one of his servants would have to do. How often do we limit God by our own reasoning? When we do that, we really short change God because we limit Him, or we put limits on Him. God is so much bigger and so much more powerful than we imagine.

Instead of chastising Abram for what seemed like a lack of faith, the Lord did something astonishing:

Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:4 – 6 | NIV84)

God would do something for Abram that the man could never conceive of: Give him natural descendants as numerous as the stars.

The patriarch trusted that God would keep His word and God considered that an act of righteousness – Abram was righteous because he simply trusted the Lord. This wasn’t the first time Abram exercised extreme faith in God. Here’s what Hebrews says:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like 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. (Hebrews 11:8 – 10 | NIV84)

Abram, who later became Abraham, was a man of simple faith. He may have been had fleeting doubts which led to bad decisions, but his act of trusting the Lord’s word is legendary, and is considered righteousness, and as Paul would later write, an example of what justification of faith is all about (Romans 4 and Galatians 3). Salvation is an act of simple faith, just as Abram’s trusting God to keep His word was.

Some Messianic Prophecies, Part 1

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To be a Jew, living under the Law was, to say the least, burdensome. If you somehow managed to keep all the laws, the blessings would be wondrous. But many and varied were the curses that awaited those who broke any parts of the Law. In Deuteronomy 79 and 28, no less than 18 curses are listed. Of significance is this one in the New Testament:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” (Galatians 3:13 TNIV)

Why is this verse so significant? Jesus Christ was “hung on a pole” or a cross, and He became a curse for us and He took upon Himself the curse and therefore the punishment for all our transgressions – for all our sins. He paid our sin debt; He redeemed us – saved us – from the curse of the Law and the wrath of God. Without the work of Christ, you and I would be hopelessly snared in labyrinth of laws no human being could hope to keep; we would be forever subjected to “curse of the law” for our entire lives.

God gave His people the Law, not make life hard for them, but to show them the impossibility of living a righteous life by simply trying to keep a set of rules and regulations. His people needed to acknowledge – to own up to the fact – that their means of salvation must exist outside of themselves. It’s not like God was keeping that means of salvation a secret. The coming of a Messiah had been prophesied for generations upon generations. In fact, a lot of Christians are astounded to find out that the very first prophecy concerning the coming of Christ is found back in the earliest chapters of the very first book of the Old Testament! God had barely finished creating the material universe when He gave the first hint that a Messiah would come.

Let’s take a look at that early Messianic prophecy, and some others. We’ll learn that God had been planning the redemption of mankind for a long, long time.

The Seed of the woman

In the Hebrew Bible, the very first word of the text is bereshit, which is translated, “in the beginning.” That phrase has become the title of the first book of the Hebrew Bible and our Old Testament, “Genesis,” or “origin,” or “source.” We can thank the translators of the Greek Old Testament for shortening the title down from “In the beginning” to “Genesis,” a much cooler title.

Genesis records the beginning or origin of many things, including the universe, our earth, human beings, the first cities and nations, and sin. It also records the very first prophecy.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:15 TNIV)

That’s God talking, and that’s the first prophecy. Let’s check out the context so it makes some sense.

You know the story well; the story of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace. The Devil, embodied as a snake or serpent, slithered into the Garden of Eden, tempted Eve to sin, she did, and in turn she tempted Adam, to sin. He did, and when God found out, here’s how He responded:

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9 TNIV)

In fact, God asked the first human pair a series of four questions in all. When God asks questions, it’s usually not a good sign for the one being asked those questions. These are the questions:

• Where are you? (verse 9)
• Who told you that you were naked? (verse11)
• Have you eaten from the tree? (verse 11)
• What is this you have done? (verse 13)

Of course, as human beings are wont to do, both Adam and Eve blamed others for their sin. She blamed the serpent, Adam blamed Eve but ultimately he blamed God:

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (Genesis 3:12 TNIV)

It doesn’t take a theologian to know that blaming God for anything is a terrible idea. Adam’s words drip with irony. Eve was God’s idea:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18 TNIV)

Adam’s pathetic excuse for his sin shows just how far he had fallen in such a short span of time. Adam saw God’s good and compassionate gift as the source of all his trouble.

In passing judgment, God issued a series of curses that would effect all of creation. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the whole universe was spoiled simply because of Adam and Eve’s sin.

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20, 21 TNIV)

The curses on the snake, the woman, and the man are brief. We are told the briefest details with not a peep from Adam, Eve, or snake. We have no idea what they thought. Oddly enough, the two people and the snake are not depicted so much as individuals involved in a personal crises, but are seen more as representatives. In fact, Adam and Eve’s story is not so much their story but ours – the story of all mankind. These two people are seen as the head of human race and the snake as something else that will dog the steps of every human being down through the time until this first prophecy is fulfilled.

In this prophecy, we read about “the bruised heel” of the coming Messiah. The promised Savior would be, and in fact was, the “Seed of the woman,” but He was also divine – the God-man. This Messiah, this Holy Seed, would bruise the serpent’s head – He would once and for all conquer sin. The serpent, Satan, would bruise the heel of the Savior, on the Cross, where He died, freeing all men from the curse of sin. John Borger:

God has defeated Satan through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s putting it simply, but truthfully. Jesus Christ would be the promised “Seed of the woman.”

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about : His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18 – 21 TNIV)

That’s the Christmas Story – the story we all know. It’s the story of the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew refers to Him as the Messiah, which would have been natural since Matthew wrote His Gospel to show Jesus was the legitimate Messiah – the long awaited Savior.

But Jesus was also the promised Seed of the woman. So what’s very interesting about Matthew’s Gospel is that, contrary to Jewish tradition, he includes four women in his genealogy. That was unheard of in this time. The men were important, not the women. But to Matthew, four women were so important they had to be mentioned by name. Tamar was an adulteress. Ruth wasn’t even a Jew, she was a Moabitess. Rahab was a prostitute. And Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, have been stolen from him by David. The two things that unite these four women are highly questionable sexual activities and childbearing.

But Jesus was the Seed of the woman. By mentioning these four women, Matthew shows us two things: First, God uses all kinds of people, in this case women, even those who are obviously imperfect, in carrying out His plans.  And second, we see the absolute solidarity of Jesus with sinful humanity. Jesus came to sinful man in order to break the hold sin had on their lives and to break down the walls between God and all human beings. But to do those things, Jesus had to be born “the Seed of the woman.”

The blessing of Abraham

Moses, in writing the book of Genesis, covered some 1600 years of human history in the first six chapters. But he took 14 chapters to go through the 175 years of Abraham’s family history. Why? It’s because with Abraham and his descendants, God’s plan of redemption is made known. It all started with one man, continuing through his family and the nation that descended from it. Ultimately, from this one man, from this one family, from this one nation, would come the Messiah, completing the plan of redemption begun back in Genesis 3.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. ” (Genesis 12:1 – 3 TNIV)

If we look at Abraham’s call within the context of the book of Genesis, we see something simply amazing. By placing his call after the scattering of the nations at Babylon in the previous chapter, we realize that Abraham’s call is God’s gift of salvation in the midst of judgment. Furthermore, the account of Abraham’s call and blessing is not unlike an earlier account of a similar gift of salvation in the midst of judgment: the conclusion of the Flood. Abraham, like Noah before him, marks a new beginning – another chance for mankind.

Abraham is one of the most outstanding men of the ancient world. So important is Abraham that he is honored by the three largest world religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Before his name changed to Abraham, he was known as Abram, which means “exalted father.”  The idea of a “new beginning” as God’s plan of blessing mankind is repeated over and over again throughout the story of Abraham and his family. But it’s also mentioned as far back as the days of creation:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. ” (Genesis 1:28 TNIV)

And here:

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1 TNIV)

The great promise given to Abraham and his descendants is just a restatement of God’s original promise back in Genesis 1. In a sense, Abraham is a new Adam, and the seed of Abraham is the “second Adam,” and new mankind. Those who bless Abraham, God will bless. Those who curse Abraham, God will curse. The way of life and blessing, once marked by two trees, is now marked by identification with Abraham and his seed.
But, who is Abraham’s seed, anyway? At the end of Genesis, we are given a clue:

“Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations be his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk. (Genesis 49:8 – 12 TNIV)

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of this prediction from Jacob. This little prophecy in Genesis meant that beyond the tribes of Israel, the people of the world would become obedient to the One who was come to come. He was the final Seed of the woman.

Biblical Faith, Part 5

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In Matthew 17:20, our Lord made a statement that has echoed on and on for two thousand years and, generally speaking, it has been misunderstood for that long.

“It was because you haven’t enough faith,” answered Jesus. “I assure you that if you have faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this hill, ‘Go from here to there!’ and it will go. You could do anything!” (GNB)

Really? I’d wager you’ve had the exact opposite experience at least once in your life. Jesus wasn’t lying or exaggerating when He spoke those words. We simply don’t understand them. More often than not, we think with our hearts and not with our reasoning minds, so that we believe – we honestly believe – we can treat faith like a sort of magic charm, hauling it out when we get into trouble. But that’s not what faith is at all. Nor is faith a reward from God for our having faith. Some Christians actually believe this. Maybe you do; maybe you believe God rewards us when we exercise our faith. Granted, there is a germ of truth in this. In the initial stages of our walk of faith, God teaches us many things about our new Christian life, including how faith works. But as we get on in our Christian lives, we should quickly learn the inescapable fact that we do not earn anything through faith. Indeed, the real power of faith is that it brings us into a right relationship with God and it gives Him the opportunity to work in our lives as He sees fit.

Your experience, Matthew 17:20 notwithstanding, is probably the same as mine: God has to let you get to the very precipice of despair or hopelessness so that you will finally come into direct contact with Himself. God does this so that we will learn how to live a life of faith rather than an up-and-down emotional life based solely on the enjoyment of His blessings. Oswald Chambers said this:

The beginning of your life of faith was very narrow and intense, centered around a small amount of experience that had as much emotion as faith in it, and it was full of light and sweetness. Then God withdrew His conscious blessings to teach you to “walk by faith.”

Perhaps Chambers had in mind the words of the apostle Paul –

For we live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV)

“God withdrew His conscious blessings.” A test of your faith. Faith by its very nature is so easily taken for granted, or taken advantage of, it must be tested. But really the testing of our faith is much more than that. We are a very self-centered people. We think everything is about us. But as far as the testing of our faith goes, it has more to do with God’s character being proven to be completely trustworthy under any and all circumstances, than whether or not our faith passes muster. We must know – we must be convinced in our own minds – that God means what He says He means and that He will do what He promises He will do.

Abraham had his faith tested like none other.

While God was testing him, Abraham still trusted in God and his promises, and so he offered up his son Isaac and was ready to slay him on the altar of sacrifice; yes, to slay even Isaac, through whom God had promised to give Abraham a whole nation of descendants! He believed that if Isaac died God would bring him back to life again; and that is just about what happened, for as far as Abraham was concerned, Isaac was doomed to death, but he came back again alive! (Hebrews 11:17 – 19 TLB)

The greatest trial of all

Taylor’s paraphrase bings out an interesting fact. Abraham’s whole life was essentially a test. Every movement Abraham took from the moment he left Ur was a test. Part of that test was the greatest trial any man could ever endure: God demanded that Abraham sacrifice his son, Isaac.

Can you imagine the stress this caused in the patriarch’s mind? Here’s what he had been told by God –

Isaac is the son through whom my promise will be fulfilled. (Genesis 21:12 TLB)

All of the promises God made to Abraham were 100% dependent upon Isaac. He would grow into maturity and pass them on to his children. If Isaac were to die, God’s promises would simply evaporate; they would be meaningless. Can you see the conflict that surely must have been waged in the man’s conscience; the conflict between love for his son and his duty to God? Not only that, God had promised him an uncountable posterity through Isaac. So why would God now call on him to offer the boy as a sacrifice?

The simplicity of faith

Abraham didn’t have all the answers. He didn’t have any answers! Nor did he understand. All Abraham knew for sure was that he had to obey God in this. He’d already gone through something like this before, remember?

God had told Abram, “Leave your own country behind you, and your own people, and go to the land I will guide you to.” (Genesis 12:1 TLB)

Abraham was issued an impossible command, but he obeyed. And here, years later, God gave him another impossible command. Abraham knew what he had to do. He had to obey. But Abraham knew something else. After all the years of wandering, he knew God. He didn’t know how, but by now he had enough faith to know that God would work things out regardless of what happened to Isaac.

He believed that if Isaac died God would bring him back to life again

At the time of the patriarchs, this kind of miracle had never happened. Where did Abraham get this idea? Such was his faith. He reasoned with his mind – not with his heart – that God wouldn’t have him do anything that would jeopardize the promise. If Isaac died, then God would just bring him back to life. That’s the simplicity of faith in action. Abraham simply knew God would never do anything against His character. There was another man who had such faith: Job. In faith, he could write these words after he had lost everyone he loved –

“I came naked from my mother’s womb,” he said, “and I shall have nothing when I die. The Lord gave me everything I had, and they were his to take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21 TLB)

Of course, in Job’s case, the death of his family was “accidental.” But here, Abraham was being asked to take the life of his son. He was obedient. He fully complied with God’s command. In fact, had not God intervened at the last second, Isaac would have been killed.

It’s a powerful lesson to be learned – a lesson not only dealing with faith, but another mystery: love. Abraham’s faith was surely tested. To his great credit, Abraham demonstrated that in spite of his shortcomings, he had unwavering faith in his God. But he also demonstrated something else every modern Christian needs to understand: he loved God above anything else in life, even his son Isaac. Abraham’s faith was vindicated because his special son hadn’t become an idol to him.

A reasoning faith

But Abraham’s faith wasn’t a blind faith. Nor was it a slavish, robotic devotion. Abraham knew precisely what God’s Word to him involved: The promise would come to fulfillment through Isaac, and his descendants. His faith was based on that word. It wasn’t based on emotions or feelings; it was based solely on what God had told him. How different we are from Abraham! Our faith more often than not is motivated by things as flimsy as how we may feel at any given moment. We “feel” therefore we pray and have faith. If we don’t “feel,” then we don’t have faith. Abraham had the same feelings and emotions we all have, but his faith wasn’t based on the love he had for his son or how he felt at the moment. It was based on the Word God had given him. That’s all Abraham needed. His faith was objective, and that object was the God. That’s why we read this:

Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. (Hebrews 11:19 NIV)

“Abraham reasoned that God…” Abraham knew God. He knew the power God had – power to even raise the dead! When faced with his test of faith, Abraham “reasoned.” He recalled everything he knew about God. He didn’t just blindly rush headlong in obedience. He thought, then he obeyed. He was convinced in own mind as to the character of God. And based on what he knew about God, he knew he had to obey. He knew he couldn’t lose. This is some powerful faith Abraham had. Remember, he didn’t have a New Testament to read. Jesus hadn’t been raised from the dead yet. This patriarch simply knew God so well, that as far as he was concerned, God not only could raise the dead, but that He would raise the dead.

Abraham’s faith vindicated

As is His custom it seems, at the last second God intervened and provided a ram for the sacrifice. He instructed Abraham to offer that ram instead of his son, Isaac. The young man was spared, snatched from the jaws of death by an act of God. And Abraham’s faith was vindicated. So was God’s character, by the way. That’s not an unimportant thing. When a believer obeys in faith, God’s character will always be proven.

We sing a lot of hymns about faith. There are many Gospel songs and even secular songs that speak of faith. There have been many movies made about faith. Even a movie about potatoes and faith! But if this story proves anything, it’s that there is a strong connection between faith and obedience. Or, put another way, they are two sides of the same coin. One can’t exist without the other. Abraham learned that lesson thousands of years ago, yet it so often goes unnoticed today so that many Christians haven’t made that vital connection.

Simon Kistemaker shows us the sequence of events in Abraham’s life that allowed him to have the kind of faith we all desire:

Abraham believed and loved God, who promised him a son. After many years of waiting, Abraham received this promised son and loved him. Then God called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. If Abraham sacrificed Isaac, he would keep God but lose his son. If he disobeyed God, Abraham would keep his son but lose God.

Indeed.  The problem so many Christians have is that they would rather have the blessings given them by God than God Himself. Faith, true Biblical faith, is faith in God exercised against everything that contradicts Him. True and lasting faith is faith that trusts and obeys God “no matter what.” Maybe the greatest expression of true faith in the Bible is this one:

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him… (Job 13:15 AV)


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