Posts Tagged 'Isaac'

Panic Podcast: Faith and Doubt, Part 12

Are God and Satan locked in a titanic, eternal battle in the cosmos?  When bad things happen to us, is Satan at work?  Or is God responsible for the trying times we face?  That’s what we’ll be talking about on today’s podcast.


Biblical Faith, Part 5


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)


The Futurists

Very little is said in the Bible about the faith of the Patriarchs, but what is said is significant: each had a faith that looked beyond death. The thing that distinguishes the faith of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph is their unshakable conviction that nothing, not even death, could frustrate the plans of God. Their faith in the future was so strong that they spoke with confidence of what would happen after they died. Without exception, their faith was stronger than death and their prophetic words were fulfilled. In a sense, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses’ parents were the original futurists! Verse 13 is the verse that best describes these people:

They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.

The Greek verb behind “did not receive” means none of the patriarchs or Moses’ parents were in possession of the promises. But because they had faith, they could “see” the promise at a distance; they knew it was coming closer but that they also knew they wouldn’t live long enough to see come to fruition. Each of these “futurists” looked to the future through eyes of faith. But they never denied the reality the present.

1. The faith of Isaac, Hebrews 11:20

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

The one who has faith possesses  both the eyes of the prophet and a quiet confidence in the future of God’s people. Isaac’s example of faith demonstrates this. His faith in blessing Jacob and Esau when he spoke of their future is such a classic picture of Biblical faith and its willingness to trust in God’s Word. This willingness is understandable, given his past. Isaac was probably in his early 30’s when his father Abraham was prepared to offer him on the altar. Isaac’s willingness to trust was demonstrated even back then by allowing his father to bind him upon an altar. The story of Isaac’s blessing is found in Genesis 27:27—29 and 39—40. The author of this letter glosses over the details of how each son was blessed; he’s not interested in details, he’s interested only in showing Isaac’s willingness to demonstrate his faith in the future. With each blessing, Isaac spoke out of a firm confidence that God’s promises could not possibly faith. The blessings themselves are quite different, but the important thing is to notice Isaac’s faith and the fact that the patriarch’s faith spoke of marvelous blessings that would not be fulfilled until the far, far future. Isaac had an unwavering trust in God and God’s plan for his sons and he was not afraid to voice to his faith.

Isaac was an unremarkable person for most of his life. He was a man who dug wells everywhere he went. That was his claim to fame: digging wells all over the Middle East. The only thing that really distinguishes this otherwise milquetoast man is the truly remarkable demonstration of faith at the very end of his life.

2. The faith of Jacob, Hebrews 11:21

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Josephs sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

The story of Jacob’s faith in blessing the sons of Joseph is seen in Genesis 48, and like Isaac, the blessing went against the natural order of birth. Sometimes faith insists that you do something like that. Remember, God’s ways are not always our ways. Sometimes faith opposes the human way of doing things. Both Isaac and Jacob showed genuine faith in recognizing that it was God’s will to give the greater blessing to the younger son, and the fathers both accepted God’s sovereign plan and went with it; they did not resist it.

Jacob’s life is perhaps one that exemplifies human nature in all its dubious glory. Had it not been for the grace of God, Jacob would have most certainly been a lost soul. He was a thoroughly disreputable character.

So Jacob is not only the picture of Biblical faith, but also of the dreadful human condition. From his birth, Jacob was one who was always struggling, always trying to “get ahead” by hook or by crook. Jacob was a deceiver; he was a con man who who was always working some angle to get something, even it was wrestling with God!

Jacob’s life proves the old proverb: the sins of the father are visited upon the children. Or as we might say, “what goes around comes around.” As Jacob was a smooth operator, so his sons deceived him and broke his heart.

But near the end of his life, he finally demonstrated obedience and faith. He blessed Joseph’s sons as a sign that he was looking ahead to the future fulfillment of God’s promises. Even though famine had forced Jacob and his family to emigrate to Egypt, his ties to the Promised Land remained and his confidence in the Word of God remained.

But what about the fact that Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons while leaning on a staff? Why does the Bible go out of its way to mention that? Jacob was handicapped; for years after he wrestled with God he needed a staff so he could walk. Even with his death just around the corner, old Jacob would not rest and face it lying down! The fact is, Jacob never stopped struggling. His life was a life of sin and deception, chicanery and craftiness. His life blessed no one. But his death did.

The profound lesson from Jacob’s faith is that it’s never too late; God can take any life and straighten it out. Somewhere in the dark crevasses of his heart, Jacob had a measure of faith that, perhaps, lay dormant for most of his life. But when it counted, the faith rose to the occasion and old Jacob was able to lay hold of God and God’s promises.

4. The faith of Joseph, Hebrews 11:22

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.

Technically Joseph is not considered to be a patriarch, but had it not been for Joseph, it’s hard to imagine there ever being a nation called Israel.

This man’s faith, like that of Isaac and Jacob, looked far beyond his death. The reference is Genesis 50:24, 25—

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”

At the time of his death, there was no indication that the Hebrew people would be leaving Egypt any time soon, but in faith Joseph knew there would come a day when they would leave and he did not want any of his mortal remains left in Egypt. At the time Joseph uttered his prophetic words, the Israelites were contentedly settled in Goshen, decades before the terrible time of oppression. But Joseph was a futurist. He knew he would not leave Egypt alive, but he also knew God would eventually lead His people back to the Land of Promise.

5. The faith Moses’ parents, Hebrews 11:23

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

The king’s edict was that every male infant should be cast in the Nile River, effectively drowning them (Exodus 1:22). But Moses’ parents defied that terrible edict, not because they loved their son more than other parents loved their sons, but because they “saw he was no ordinary child.” Now, every parent thinks their baby is the most exceptional baby ever born and that their infant is smarter, further advanced, and more genetically perfect than any other infant, but the Greek word asteios, usually translated “beautiful,” is perhaps better rendered “princely.” But what exactly does that mean? These parents, futurists, somehow had prophetic insight that this child, this strangely beautiful child, had a special destiny to fulfill and that he must, against all odds, survive. It was the purpose of the king to weaken the Israelites by causing the death of their baby boys, but this one—this princely baby—had to live, and it was up to his parents to make that happen.

His parents kept their baby at home for as long as they could, then one fateful day they placed him in an ark of bulrushes on the Nile, instead of in the Nile. In faith, they let their precious baby boy go, in hopes that he might live. As painful as that must have been, these parents trusted the future to God, whose love they trusted at least as much as their own for their son. They knew that God had a plan for him and that somehow God would preserve his life. And God did just that, in a way no Hollywood screenwriter could have conceived!

Moses’ parents refused to be bullied by the threat of Pharaoh. They stood against the law of the land and they set a pattern for the people of God forever.

People who possess real Biblical faith are futurists in the truest sense. They live in the present, but their hope is in the future. But they know the future isn’t set by other people or by the state, but by God and His unshakable promises. They are the optimists in the pew. They are the cheerful individuals who, no matter what’s going around them, are convinced that God is control and they always live above the circumstances, not under them.

(c)  2012 WitzEnd

Bookmark and Share

Another great day!

Blog Stats

  • 358,550 hits

Never miss a new post again.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 286 other subscribers
Follow revdocporter on Twitter

Who’d have guessed?

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at