YOUR DEGREE OF SPIRITUAL COMMITMENT WILL DETERMINE YOUR DEGREE OF DIVINE BLESSING – BUT . . .
THE SAME GOD WHO TESTS OUR COMMITMENT, ENABLES OUR OBEDIENCE BY FAITH AND BLESSES US ABUNDANTLY
Growing up in school there was always a big distinction between surprise pop quizzes and the all-important Final Exam. You never knew going into a class whether this was the day for a Pop Quiz. But you always had time for prepare for the Final Exam that would make up such a heavy percent of your overall grade. Here in Abraham’s school of faith, we find the Lord combining the two experiences as He pops a Surprise Final Exam that interrupts the peaceful tranquility of life in Beersheba by the well and the tamarisk tree that we saw in the last chapter.
Growth in faith involves testing. This was true for Abraham and it is true in our spiritual journey. This particular test gets at the heart of the degree of Abraham’s commitment to His God. How committed is he?
David Thompson: 8 Tests so far in the narrative — So far passed 5 tests and failed 3:
1) Family Test – Will you leave your family and go to a new land — passed
2) Famine Test – should he stay in the land and wait on the Lord and trust him or take matters in his own hands — failed
3) Fellowship Test with Lot – do I let Lot have first choice and trust God – passed
4) Fight Test – Lot taken along with possessions; could he trust the Lord to recover Lot – passed
5) Fortune Test – King of Sodom wants to contribute large sums of money to him – or do I trust that God will supply my needs — passed
6) Fatherhood Exam – told he would have a son; would he patiently wait on the Lord to fulfill His Word or take things into his own hands and produce a son from your handmaid Hagar– flunked
7) Fear Exam – went down into Gerar – do I lie about Sarah or say she is my wife and risk perhaps losing her – failed
8) Farewell Test – had to be willing to let Hagar and Ishmael depart and let the Lord take care of them – Passed
— Now we come to the all important Final Exam —
Jesus was always posing similar tests to His disciples. Listen to some of them:
Matt. 10:37-39; 16:24-27; 19:27-30
But not ultimately about us … about the Lord who will Provide
I. (:1-14) COMMITMENT TESTED –
SPIRITUAL TESTING REQUIRES CRISIS OBEDIENCE VIA FAITH IN GOD’S SUPERNATURAL PROVISION
A. (:1-2) Spiritual Testing
1. (:1) Test Introduced
“Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’”
Timeframe – Abraham enjoying relative tranquility; peaceful coexistence with the Philistines; living at Beersheba; enjoying non aggression pact with Abimelech; raising his precious son Isaac; relieved of the pressure from Hagar and Ishmael
You never know what a day will bring; live in the moment
Your past exercise of faith and demonstration of spiritual commitment will not give you a pass when God comes to test you today;
But on the flip side, your past failures will not doom you to failure today
James 1 – give insight into how and why God tests us
Parunak: When God tests or tempts, he has one of two purposes:
1. Exam: to make manifest some quality of the person being tested (which is the case in Gen 22).
2. Exercise: to improve the person being tested
Recalls God calling out Samuel by name — 1 Sam 3:1-10
Remember God is the one who named Abraham = Father of multitude
We must always be listening for God’s call and be available for God
Something dramatic about to take place
2. (:2) Test Instructions
a. Focal Point of the Test = Give up what you cherish the most
“And He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac,’”
Parunak: “Please take” – In general, the word “please” is used by a less powerful person addressing a more powerful one. . . if Isaac is 15 at this point, Abraham is 115 based on 21:5, and he was 75 when leaving Haran, 12:4
With each phrase God drills deeper into the depths of the precious relationship between the father and his only son whom he loves deeply
b. Location of the Test
“and go to the land of Moriah;”
similar to expression in 12:1; God specializes in sending people to different places
50 mile journey – mountainous country around Jerusalem —
Here also Solomon built his temple ( 2 Chronicles 3:1) and Jesus Christ died.
there will be a lot of time to consider turning back or changing your mind;
Would be easy for second thoughts to creep in; to formulate some type of rationalization for an alternative humanistic solution
c. Shocking Substance of the Test = seems out of character with God
“and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
Did I hear you correctly?
Hughes: To an ancient Middle Easterner, “burnt offering” suggested a process: first cutting the offering’s throat, then dismemberment, and then a sacrifice by fire in which the body parts were completely consumed on the altar. . . God was asking him to act against common sense, his natural affections, and his lifelong hope.
• The appropriate response to promises is gratitude, not fleshly effort.
• The appropriate response to commands is obedience, not compromise.
Constable: Every time Abraham made a sacrifice for God the Lord responded by giving Abraham more.
1. Abraham left his homeland; God gave him a new one.
2. Abraham left his extended family; God gave him a much larger family.
3. Abraham offered the best of the land to Lot; God gave him more land.
4. Abraham gave up the King of Sodom’s reward; God gave Abraham more wealth.
5. Abraham gave up Ishmael; God made Ishmael the father of a multitude of Abraham’s posterity.
6. Abraham was willing to give up Isaac; God allowed him to live and through him gave Abraham numerous seed.
In each case God gave Abraham a deeper relationship with Himself as well as more material prosperity.
B. (:3-6) Crisis Obedience
1. (:3) Immediate and Complete Obedience
“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.”
Rose early — No hesitation on his part — 19:27; 21:14
2. (:4-6) Insightful and Compliant Obedience
Insightful on the part of Abraham
Compliant on the part of Isaac
a. (:4) Vision of the Father – Obedience to God
“On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance.”
b. (:5) Instructions from the Father – Confidence in God
“And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you.’”
Convinced that both he and Isaac would return – required faith in resurrection power of God
Bruce Goettsche: Why didn’t Abraham bring the servants up the mountain with him? I think Abraham told the servants, “stay here while I offer the sacrifice” because he knew the servants would try to stop him. They would have kept him from placing his son on the altar. They would have concluded that he had lost his mind and surely tried to subdue him “for his own good.”
c. (:6) Companionship Between Father and Son
“And Abraham 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.”
Rest of the journey was too steep up the mountain for the donkey to navigate
Picture here is symbolic of Jesus bearing his own cross on his back (John 19:17)
Parunak: Amos 3:3 echoes almost exactly this same phrase, and is the only place in the OT that uses this combination of words other than here and v.7: “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” Amos’ insight focuses our attention on the perfect concord between father and son. Isaac does not yet know the full details of the sacrifice, but he trusts implicitly in his father, who for his part loves his son unfailingly.
C. (:7-14) Faith in God’s Supernatural Provision
1. (:7-8) Anticipation of the Sacrifice
a. (:7) The Elephant in the Room
“And Isaac 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?’”
b. (:8) The Key Lesson
“And Abraham said, ‘God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together.”
2. (:9) Preparation for the Sacrifice
“Then 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.”
Hughes: One thing is very clear: Abraham could not have offered Isaac without Isaac’s consent and cooperation.
3. (:10-13) Execution of the Sacrifice
a. (:10) Purpose of Abraham Transitioning from Willingness to Action
“And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.”
Parunak: In spite of a number of classical paintings on this theme, he does not stretch out his
hand with the knife, but rather to take the knife. It is the act of picking up the knife that shows his
commitment to carry through with the command.
b. (:11-12) Point of the Test: Do You Fear God?
“But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am’ And he 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.’”
Fear the Lord Deut. 10:11-12; God took the willing for the doing
c. (:13) Provision of the Substitute
“Then 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.”
Substitutionary theme; look at all of the gospel implications of this passage
4. (:14) Key Lesson
“And Abraham 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.’”
Deffinbaugh: The principle is not that God will provide at a certain place, but under a certain condition. At the point of faith and obedience, at the point of helplessness and dependence, God will provide.
II. (:15-19) COMMITMENT REWARDED –
PASSING THE TEST BRINGS SPECTACULAR BLESSING
(:15) Test Completed
“Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven,”
A. (:16) Results Commended as the Basis for Blessing
“and said, ‘By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son,’”
Hughes: With this oath Abraham had every possible assurance from God – the initial promise made to him in Ur, the promise made to him when he first visited Canaan, the promise made to him again when Lot took the very best land, the promise that he believed under the stars, the promise confirmed by God’s unilateral covenant when his flaming presence passed through the sacrifice, the promise in the new names (Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac), and the promise in the person of Isaac himself. And now God had sworn an oath by himself that every promise would come to pass! [Heb. 6:13-15]
B. (:17-18a) Blessing Detailed
1. (:17a) Overall Blessing Summarized – Certain and Abundant
“indeed I will greatly bless you,”
Parunak: Abraham’s obedience brings, not the fact of God’s blessing, but the assurance of it in this solemn oath. . . “I will surely bless you”
Deffinbaugh: We must realize that God’s choice of Abraham included not only the end God purposed (blessings) but also the means (faith and obedience).
2. (:17b) Incalculable Number of Posterity
“and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens,
and as the sand which is on the seashore;”
Second Person of Triune God promising to make this happen personally
3. (:17c) Governmental Power of Posterity – in political and governmental sense
“and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies.”
Significance of making Jerusalem the capital of Israel for the location of the U.S. embassy
One day Israel will be the central power in the region
4. (:18a) International Impact of Posterity
“And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,”
You obey the Lord you start impacting people
C. (:18b) Results Commended as the Basis for Blessing
“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.”
As soon as he gets back there he is informed about physical prosperity and blessing that is happening to his relatives; had not seen them for many years;
On the back end, Abraham was glad for this test
(:20-24) FOOTNOTE: OFFSPRING OF ABRAHAM’S BROTHER NAHOR
[Transition from blessing on Abraham’s posterity to obtaining a wife for Isaac]
A. (:20-23) 8 Offspring Through Nahor’s Wife Milcah
1. (:20-22) 8 Children Detailed – the promised blessing is underway
“Now it came about after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, ‘Behold, Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor: Uz his first-born and Buz his brother and Kemuel the father of Aram and Chesed and Hazo and Pildash and Jidlaph and Bethuel.’”
A family that seems to be blessed by God with abundant children;
2. (:23 a) Significance of Rebekah – would become Isaac’s wife
“And Bethuel became the father of Rebekah:”
Parunak: For the promises concerning Abraham’s offspring to be confirmed, we need not only the survival of Isaac, but also a wife. This paragraph lays the foundation for that requirement, tracing the genealogy of Rebekah. Note that she is two generations from Abraham’s generation, unlike Isaac, who is born so late in Abraham’s life that he is only one generation offset.
3. (:23b) 8 Children Summarized
“these eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.”
B. (:24) 4 Offspring Through Nahor’s Concubine Reumah
“And his concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore Tebah and Gaham and Tahash and Maacah.”
If you are not in a significant test right now you can be sure that a test is coming.
Are you prepared? Will you choose to obey by faith despite the difficulty of the test?
Are you anchored in your conviction that in all circumstances, God will provide?
Do you really fear the Lord and choose Him and His ways over anything else that is precious in your life? Let Abraham be our example of obedient faith. Spectacular rewards for passing the Final Exam.