It’s such a crazy story. Abraham was 100 when he had Isaac. God had given him a promise many years prior to Isaac being born that he would be the father of many nations and have descendants as numerous as the stars. After waiting for years, he finally has a son at 100, his wife was 90. This was his only son, the only way that this promise was going to be fulfilled.
“Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded 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.”Gen 22:2-3
And he just got up and obeyed. Early the next morning, Abraham got up and obeyed. He took his only son out to a mountain, made his son carry the wood for the burnt offering while he himself carried the knife that he was going to use to kill his own son and the fire that he would use to burn his son as a sacrifice to God Almighty.
That’s insane! Can you even comprehend the absurdity of his obedience in that situation? I can’t, for the life of me, imagine being willing to sacrifice my son like that. But Abraham did. So much so, that he arranged the wood on the altar, tied up his son on top of the wood. Then, he takes out the knife to slay his son.
What?! Are you serious?! He was going to go through with it?! How in the world could a father be willing to kill his son, especially when that son was the only son you had through whom the promise to be as numerous as the stars could be fulfilled? It doesn’t make sense.
That’s the point. Faith doesn’t always make sense. Even though our faith is built on the evidences of what God has already done, there is no guarantee that what God is going to ask of us next will fit within the safety of our preconceived notions for how God operates.
As the author or Hebrews postulates, “Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” He received Isaac back from the dead even though he hadn’t physically died.
Abraham’s actions, unreasonable as they seem, were perfectly rational when you understand this:
“Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky 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
Abraham believed the Lord. I don’t know why or how. But, long before he had a son, even while he was already old, he believed God. When you believe God, you do what He says. For years I have associated that statement that Paul quotes Romans 4:3 with Abraham’s offering of his son as a sacrifice. But that’s not where that verse comes in Abraham’s story. It comes years earlier.
Abraham and Sarah would take matters into their own hands to fulfill God’s promise, which didn’t turn out well. But then, they have a son and it looks like God is going to keep his promise. That is until God asks Abraham to murder his son. Why in the world would God do that?
Philip Yancey says: “Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” That’s exactly what Abraham did. He, before having a son, believed in advance that God would keep his promise to make his descendants as numerous as the stars. And his belief was enough, as far as God was concerned, to credit him with righteousness. Belief.
But then God tested that belief. Because “A faith that has not been tested cannot be trusted.” (Adrian Rogers.) Everything in Abraham’s life was leading up to that moment of testing. This was his big test he had to pass. Just like Jesus had to pass his test in the Garden, Abraham had to pass the test on the mountain.
Faith doesn’t just think that God is going to keep his promises. Faith believes God will keep his promises. And when you believe in something, you reorder your entire life around it.
Our faith will be tested. I believe God will test the faith of every believer to see if we will obey him even when from our perspective it doesn’t make any sense. He wants us to believe in Him even when our circumstances contradict our beliefs. He wants our faith to be in Him and His promises, not our personal strength and ability.
Abraham didn’t know that his actions on that mountain would foreshadow a future moment when God himself would provide the lamb. He knew Isaac’s birth was miraculous, but didn’t know that would foreshadow the miraculous birth of the lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. He didn’t know that in the very same hills of Moriah, the Son of God would carry the wood he would be sacrificed on. He didn’t know any of this. He simply obeyed because he believed God.
Of course there is one difference. With Abraham’s son, God provided a ram that was stuck in the thorns to replace Isaac as the sacrifice. But His own son worn a crown of thorns and was THE sacrifice for all mankind.
Do we have that kind of faith? Is our belief in God so foundational to our lives that we get up the next morning and do what God has said to do even when the stakes are so high? I pray that it is. I pray that my faith is. I pray that yours is as well.
Are we the kind of people who believe God not matter what?