This sermon is based on Genesis 22:1-24. Click here to read the text.
The binding and redemption of Isaac is, for all intents and purposes, the climax of Abraham’s life. He had been walking faithfully with the LORD since he left Ur (Genesis 12:1ff), fueled by the promise of God that he, Abraham a childless shepherd, would be the father of a nation and a blessing to many nations. After many more years of barrenness, Sarah finally bore Abraham a son (Genesis 21:1ff), Isaac. But now the LORD was putting Abraham to the test. The call to follow Him and to worship Him continued in the form of the command to offer Isaac as a burnt offering (v. 2). Abraham responded to the call with faith.
Abraham’s faith was open-ended. The LORD called Abraham to offer Isaac in the land of Moriah, but it would not be until he arrived that Abraham would know specifically which mountain top would be the place of worship. The LORD would show him then. For that matter this whole episode was not something the LORD had specifically told Abraham to expect. So it is in the Christian life at times. God has called us to follow Him, but He has not given us the script of our lives ahead of time. There may be times we feel like saying, “I didn’t bargain for this, God! This wasn’t part of the deal.” Or perhaps we have thought or said, “I will follow God if… or, as long as…” But faith in Christ is more open-ended. We don’t get to negotiate or set the terms. The job description is more or less to follow Christ, even unto death.
Abraham’s faith was an on-deck faith. When a batter is on-deck he is preparing to hit. He has his equipment on, he’s taking practice swings, and he’s focusing on the task at hand. Abraham showed such faith. The call to offer Isaac came to him and early the next morning he rose to prepare for the journey and for the task at hand. Those who are in Christ are called to be similarly prepared for the call of the LORD in our lives. The situations will be different but are we ready to serve Him at a moment’s notice?
Abraham’s faith was a one and only faith. Abraham trusted the LORD and no other. He did not put his faith in himself, nor did he value Isaac, God’s gift to Abraham, above the LORD. Rather, he believed in God, who had proved faithful time and time again. The writer of Hebrews writes, “[Abraham] considered that God was even able to raise [Isaac] from the dead, from which figuratively speaking he did receive him back,” (Hebrews 11:19). Abraham had been given a promise by God that he would be the father of a nation, indeed of many nations, and that Isaac was the son of promise through whom that blessing would go. So, he acted in faith, knowing that “it was for God, and not for Abraham [himself] to reconcile His promise and His command,” (F. F. Bruce). It can be easy to put our faith in ourselves or even in the good things and good people that God gives us, rather than in Jesus. But ours is to be a one and only faith in Christ alone.
Abraham’s faith was an overcoming faith. He did not always exercise such faithfulness in his life. He lied to pharaoh and Abimelech about his and Sarah’s marital status. He sought to fulfill God’s promise of a son with Hagar. But, the LORD gracious grew Abraham in his faith. God refused to leave Abraham as he was. Instead, He transformed him over the course of his life into a man of faith and faithfulness. He made him a man who could overcome fear and doubt by journeying three days, building an altar, and binding his son so as to offer him as a sacrifice, trusting that the LORD would provide and that he and his son would return. He made him a man who would be called a friend of God (James 2:21-23). So too for us. If we are in Christ Jesus then God will not leave us as we were when He first called us to faith. Rather, He will transform us into the likeness of His Son Jesus. It is this overcoming of sin and living to Christ by faith that enables us to say, “Not my will but God’s be done in and through me.” Such faithful living is the evidence that we are His (see Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ, for more on this concept).
Abraham’s faith was an overjoyed faith. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see My day. He saw it and was glad,” (John 8:56). When did Abraham see the day of Christ? Perhaps it was atop the mountain in the land of Moriah, when God provided the ram in the thicket as a substitutionary sacrifice for Isaac. For that ram did point, not only to the Passover lamb of the exodus, but to Christ Jesus and His substitutionary atonement on the cross. Isaac was bound and as good as dead, but he was redeemed and given “new life”. Jesus was literally dead and He rose victorious in order to redeem for Himself many sons and daughters of glory. The new life we now have in Christ is reason to rejoice!
Discuss and Pray – Genesis 22:1-24
- What are some ways the Lord has called you to an open-ended faith?
- How has Christ equipped you to be ready, on-deck, for His calls to serve Him?
- In what ways have you been tempted to trust yourself, others, or even the blessings of God in your life, rather than trusting God Himself? What is the remedy for such temptations?
- What evidences are there in your life that Christ’s grace is empowering you to have an overcoming faith?
- Why are the cross and the empty tomb of Christ reason for you to be overjoyed?