We’ve been looking at The Honor Roll of Faith where Abraham is our subject, and we’re looking at the final episode that Abraham is going to be involved with in his life. Remember, I don’t want you to get the impression that any of these people, who are on The Honor Roll of Faith, are in any way perfect. They are struggling, striving, and sojourners upon this earth. They are Christian pilgrims who desire to become more like Christ as they long for heaven in their heart and to be with Christ.
Remember, it is never the perfection of your life, but the direction of your life. Make it the direction of your life to please God, to love the Lord, to obey His word, and to strive to walk by faith. Ultimately, make Christ dearer than anything else in your heart. When the eye of faith is fixed on the goal, which is Christ, then the faith of that person becomes visible in what they do and how they live their lives. You can see someone who has faith in Christ since it almost drips off them wherever they go or whatever they say.
In the lives of those who are recorded on The Honor Roll of Faith, are examples of what it means to have faith and live by faith. After he has laid out ten chapters of doctrine on what it is to even know Christ, he gives us a little peek into the life of these people. Abel, who lived by faith, was worshipping God in an acceptable manner. Enoch was living by faith by walking with God in a pleasing manner. Noah was obeying God’s word in an unquestionable manner.
We have learned that what makes any person well pleasing to God is faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Thus, Abraham is no different, and his example highlights, in some way, the meaning and essence of faith, which I have already laid out for you. In Abraham’s life, living by faith is obeying God in a patient manner. He is a very patient man, and he believes God completely and totally.
From the Old Testament, all the generations up until Abraham, provoke the Lord and closed their ears to the truth. Yet, this one characteristic that was unique about Abraham is that he listened to God. When God called, he went out obediently and his patient trust was seen in his careful listening and pursuit of God through difficult situations, long periods of time, and with an inward longing in his heart to go home with work to be done before he gets there.
Last time we met together, we looked at a third characteristic of Abraham’s faith that surfaced, which was a patient trust that carefully rested in God’s faithfulness. As I mentioned before, the NIV did the best job in handling this verse in Hebrews 11:11:
And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.
According to the Greek, we get:
By faith Abraham, even though he was past age and Sarah herself was barren, was enabled to become a father because He considered him faithful, who had made the promise.
In the last message, the great distinguishing factor of Biblical faith is that it can distinguish between good and evil, between the eternal and temporal, and to see and choose God’s way. The foundational reason for such discernment is that the tests of faith will develop in us a deep conviction that God may be patiently and safely relied upon with all that we have. God is true, and His word of promise is sure forever.
In this last episode in Abraham’s example of faith, this becomes very clear where his faith is put to the test. We see the essence of Biblical faith coming together in our passage of Scripture. Meaning, the essence of Biblical faith included faith that rested solely upon God’s word. Secondly, a faith that rests entirely on the character of God. Thirdly, a faith that recognizes God’s power to bring to pass everything He has and will promise.
Really, that is what it means when we begin to grow in faith. We grow in deep conviction about who God is, our relationship with God, what God has done, and what God is able to do. Now, we come to this last episode in Abraham’s life, which is significant and recorded in Scripture. We see three things that come to the surface about Abraham’s faith being tested. When our faith is tested, those three things are also evident in our own lives.
First, Biblical faith will be tested always as to its obedience. Hebrews 11:17:
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son.
Brethren, if our father Abraham was tested, be sure that your faith will be tested also. Maybe not to the intensity and extent of Abraham’s faith, but it will be tested. All who come to faith in Jesus Christ, your faith will be tested as to its obedience. In our passage, the very phrase, “he was tested,” implies that God tested him, and it carries the meaning to inflict difficulties upon someone to prove their character and steadfastness of their faith.
In this passage, our greatest need concerning faith is endurance. Even when you don’t feel it, to continue when there are no visible results of anything before your eyes and when difficult times are pressing you. The test of faith is going to come to show you where you stand with God, if your faith is genuine, and if God has given His spirit, which indwells you to persevere until the end. You must know that, so God will give you assurance of your relationship with Him by testing your salvation with these tests of faith.
We will consider obeying the Lord even when He asks us to sacrifice on His behalf such as our careers, relationship, dreams, or comforts that we had. In Hebrews 12:1, it says:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
We must lay aside both sin and things that are not sinful but hinder us from running the race. Many of the times those things that hinder us from running the race are things that we like and love to do. Sometimes those things that are dear to us, we must lay aside on this side of eternity to serve God and grow in our faith.
To show his obedience, Abraham offers up a sacrifice. In Hebrews 11:17, the language is precise because it uses the same word in two different verb tenses. The first one is the perfect tense where it says, “He offered up Isaac.” Meaning, he intended to take his son, put him on the alter, and sacrifice his son on the alter. In his heart, Abraham decided that this was what God wanted him to do and he was ready to do it.
Then, the Bible uses an imperfect tense in this passage of Scripture and highlights the interruption of Abraham’s action. Again, he uses the word was. In other words, his action had begun, and he intended to carry it out, but it was interrupted. His action to stop the sacrifice of Isaac were not prompted or initiated by Abraham himself. In fact, the ESV translates Hebrews 11:17 as:
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son.
He was in the act of it, and he was going to do that, but he was interrupted by God. This shows a sense of how determined he was in his faith. He was going to do exactly what God said to do. Brethren, what God says to do is very hard. I don’t think our faith will ever be tested like this, and I think it would be helpful to turn to Genesis 22:1-2:
Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
Remember, the burnt offering did not get developed in its system until later. Here, there are four purposes that are developed in Leviticus concerning the burnt offering. First, someone who is going to bring the burnt offering had to approach God as a Holy God, reverently, and show his trust for God. As it says in Leviticus 1:10:
But if his offering is from the flock, of the sheep or of the goats, for a burnt offering, he shall offer it a male without defect.
The worshipper was to bring the offering to the alter, kill the offering, and watch it go up in smoke right before their eyes. The alter would be the place of slaying. The worshipper was convinced that something very significant was going on between himself and the God in whom he worshipped.
A second thing that was included in the purpose of the burnt offering was to be accepted by the Lord. In fact, a serious threat came by prophets for anyone who fringed upon bringing and offering in a proper way. If they did, God would not accept that offering. God told Jerimiah the prophet in Jerimiah 14:12:
“When they fast, I am not going to listen to their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I am not going to accept them. Rather I am going to make an end of them by the sword, famine and pestilence.”
If Abraham did not come before the Lord in the way he did, then he would have brought a curse instead of a blessing, and we would have received the curse instead of the blessing. However, he came approaching God reverently, believing in His word, and wanting to be accepted.
The third reason for the burnt offering was to please the Lord. When you read the Old Testament, you will find that there is something connected to the burnt offering that is not connected to the other sacrifices. When the burnt offering was offered before the Lord by fire, it would be a soothing aroma to God.
As God saw the worshipper approaching and the burnt offering was done properly, then God would be smelling that aroma and be pleased with that person. It was a pleasing thing to God. In fact, the word means to soothe the Lord, not man. In Leviticus, though man was unchanged in His sinfulness, God’s attitude to man was altered thanks to the burnt offering.
A fourth reason for the burnt offering is to make atonement. As we will see in our story, Isaac never became a human sacrifice. That would be left to another day. On this day, God provided a ram, a substitute sacrifice. This is all a picture of that day when our perfect sacrificial lamb became the substitute sacrifice for all who come to faith and obedience, and rest on that sacrifice of Christ to be accepted before a holy and just God.
Concerning Abraham offering up Isaac, the clearest clue to the purpose of the burnt offering is that the burnt offering makes atonement for sin in a more general sense. Meaning, God’s attitude to man is reversed by the burnt offering. Then, the focus of the attention concerning the burnt offering is the animal’s burning carcass and soothing aroma it produced. This sacrifice was designated to appease God’s anger, so that God would look upon sinful people in a kind manner and in a manner that He was ready to receive them.
In the early stages of sacrificial offerings, all these purposes are included and shown in the heart of Abraham. Genesis 22:3-14:
So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” 6Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. 9Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.”
This is where the term Jehovah-Jireh comes from. Meaning, the Lord will see and provide also. In fact, in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, Abraham called the name of the place The Lord has Seen. Today, they might say on the mount that the Lord was Seen. The very act of God was seen that day on the mount in front of Abraham and his son Isaac.
In other words, it was the place where God shows up to provide a substitute atoning sacrifice on the behalf of someone else. In fact, we know that this is Mount Moriah, which is occupied by the Muslim mask, The Dome of the Rock, where it presently sits. Someday, it will be the Lord himself that will sit on the throne there in Jerusalem, and He will be displayed as the Lord of lords and King of kings. Notice in Genesis 22:15-18:
Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18“In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
This is the test of faith, and the test of faith is: will you obey God? In the simple things of life, will you obey God? Living by this kind of faith means giving God our dearest and best and obeying the Lord without questioning, resisting, and resentment. As soon as we question something that is clear in God’s plan, resist what He asks us to do, and develop a resentment in our heart towards what God wants us to do, then we are saying to ourselves that we know better than God.
Faith squeezes out all doubt and all intention of what God means. It relies solely upon the word of God. We are saved by faith alone, through grace alone, and in Christ alone. Therefore, those doctrines, we depend on to know that we have eternal life, that our sins are forgiven, and that we have a place in heaven.
All those things are by faith, and that’s why no one can ever get saved by works. It is by faith that we are saved. It is by faith that we walk each step. It is by faith that we breathe in and out. It is by faith that we know where we are heading. It is by faith that we trust God and all that He says in the word of God. Thus, our faith will be tested as to our obedience.
Secondly, back in Hebrews 11:18, Biblical faith will be tested as to its understanding:
it was he to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.”
If God is going to say to Abraham, “Abraham, go offer your only son on the alter as a burnt offering,” then this is what will come to your mind: did I originally hear and understand God incorrectly or correctly? God seems to contradict Himself. The command ran counter to the highest human affections, and again, to what God asks seems certain to ruin the fulfillment of what God promised.
God promised to Abraham and Sarah a long-awaited son. He was finally born, so his survival was dependent upon the fulfillment of God’s promise. The writer of Hebrews is quoting from Genesis 21:12:
But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named.
If we get the intended meaning of the authors, then we will get the correct understanding of Scripture. Yet, when doubts come in and seemingly contradictions appear before us, we will be able to knock every single one of them down because we go back to the word of God, we see what God has promised, and we stand on the promises of God, which is what faith does.
Living by this kind of faith means accepting what we cannot understand and obeying the Lord without grumbling, whining and complaining. You don’t ever see that in Abraham’s attitude. He patiently relies on the word of God. He entirely rests on the character of God, which is where you see him growing in his faith.
Our obedience and our understanding will be tested. Thirdly, Biblical faith will be tested as to its convictions. Hebrews 11:19:
He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.
How would the tension between God’s demand to offer up Isaac and the promise to make him a great nation be reconciled? It is amazing that Scripture never records the inner-turmoil within Abrahams heart when God asked him to sacrifice his son. Wouldn’t you think that would be an important and helpful highlight?
Instead, Scripture gives the impression that the tension must be resolved by God and by God alone. In other words, Abraham understood, in his conviction, this is God’s problem and God will solve it. This is the same thing when we come to hear the Gospel. We hear the Gospel preached to us, and someone says, “do you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” Then, you come, repent of your sins, and follow Him.
In a very real way, there seems to be a tension or a problem there. Theologically, how can God forgive a sinner and satisfy the justice of God? There is tension there to its simplicity. Yet, salvation is God’s problem. Here, in Scripture, he was so sure that God would perform what He had promised that he, in the perfect tense, attempted to sacrifice Isaac.
In Hebrews 11:9, the Greek word for considered means: the cause of his courage was based on a firm evidence leading to an inward conviction. We need people today of conviction. Conviction is based on the truth of God’s word and the character of God’s word.
Abraham had sufficient courage to offer up Isaac, his only son that was irreplaceable because of his conviction. Abraham’s faith looked past the human impossibility of a thing to the source of the one who promised. In other words, Abraham took his impossible situation and weighed it against a greater impossibility. Would the God, who made the promise, break the promise? At this point, could God renege on His promise?
The key to him becoming a great nation depended on his only son Isaac, so the only conclusion is that faith could rest solely upon God’s word, His character, and His power. In Hebrews 11:19, it says that God can raise people from the dead. It doesn’t say that God is able to raise Isaac from the dead. Meaning, if Isaac died, God was able to raise Isaac from the dead.
However, in our text, it is not only saying to raise Isaac if he was killed, but He was able to raise any dead. God’s power to raise the dead upheld Abraham’s faith. Though, Abraham never saw this power, but he believed the unseen. Remember, when Jesus says to his disciples in Mark 10:25:
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Then, the disciples said in Mark 10:26:
They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?”
Jesus said in Mark 10:27:
Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
That is the sense here. Again, in Hebrews 11:19, the word type is the term parable, which is something that is place on the side of another or it’s a comparison made of one thing to another. In other words, Isaac is a type of Christ here. What was nearly done in the case of Isaac was done by God when He offered up His only son. Then, took Him back in raising Him from the dead. Paul told the romans in Romans 8:31-32:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
Again, Jesus said to Martha in John 11:23-25:
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.
Only faith can believe that, but not faith that jumps out into the dark. It’s faith that has tons of evidence underneath it. Our resurrection is dependent on Christ’s resurrection. We will never rise, but he rose. If he rose, we will rise. If we die, we will live. John 11:26:
and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
There is always a tension that our obedience is going to be tested by God, our understanding of what He already said is going to be tested by God, and our conviction is going to be tested. Are we going to live based on the convictions of our heart, God’s truth, God’s character, and God’s power? Are we going to trust God that way?
Thus, Isaac becomes the picture of what’s going to be. In a very real sense, Isaac could not have died that day. God leaves that story for some other place because Christ is going to be the only human sacrifice that would die in the place of sinners.
Christ being perfect, so all those who come to Him, by faith, may be saved, forgiven, and made right with God. Then, when the spirit of God indwells us, we are radically changed. Our desires and affections are changed and bent towards God’s desires and will.
Living by this kind of faith means trusting God, who does the impossible. He makes a roadway in the wilderness and a river in the dessert. God will make a way where there seems to be no way. In fact, that is the only way we can get saved. If it wasn’t for that, we would never be able to be saved. Yes, He is the God who raises the dead.
In other words, the promise is still intact. The promises to Abraham that He would make him a great nation is still intact. In fact, we benefit from what God did with Abraham. We are part of that fulfillment in the sense that all the nations of the world would be blessed. The word of God would go to the gentiles, and they would be included in the promise of God too. 2 Corinthians 1:9-10:
indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us
We trust in the God, who cannot change or alter His promise no matter what. It was John Pipet who said:
In the moments of questioning, the sustaining strength of our faith will come reasonable from a history of finding God real and His word trustworthy in our lives. We will see Christ shines through His word with such compelling authenticity that I have healed myself to Him. No other way of seeing the world answers as many questions as the Christian way. There is a spiritual life God has given me so that I love Him, Trust Him, and I hope to be with Him more than anything else. In this way, we give expression to the reality of 1 John 5:11, and the testimony is this: God has given us eternal life and this life is in His son.
From this text of Scripture, be sure that your obedience will be tested, your understanding will be tested, and your conviction will be tested. As Abraham, let’s be found faithful. Let’s pray:
Lord, I Thank You for the word of God. Truly, Lord, this is a word that comes not from the hands of human beings. We know the very source of the word of God is God Himself. We praise You for that, Lord, and we Thank You, Lord. When You did write Scripture, You moved upon holy men as if blowing wind into mass ship along, and You move them to write Your word. They put it into print for us, so it can teach us, edify us, build our faith, and make us strong in Christ Jesus. I pray and Thank You, Lord for the example of the faith of Abraham. I pray that we would be found as faithful as he in all that You ask us to do. Help us to trust You, Lord, even when it doesn’t seem possible. Help us to trust You, Lord, when we must give up the dearest things to our heart. Help us to trust You, Lord, when the trials of life squeeze us in and we lose the sense of your presence. Help us to trust You and go back to Your word until Your word clears up any doubts or misunderstanding. Until Your word, Lord, establishes us in our obedience. Until Your word, Lord, helps us to know that we serve a God who does the impossible, and accomplishes all He has promised in its totality. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for all that You have and will do in our life. In Christ’s name, I pray this. Amen.