Friday, December 31, 2021

Abraham's Great Test of Faith: The Story of Abraham and Isaac

Abraham's Great Test of Faith
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As I mentioned in a previous post, Abraham is one of my favorite people from Biblical history.  He wasn't perfect as we have already established, but he was faithful.  He was faithful and obedient whenever God told him to do something.  In the book of Genesis, between the story of the birth of Isaac, Hagar's and Ishmael's banishment, and Abraham's great test of faith, there is a small passage about a covenant between Abraham and Abimelek.  Let me briefly cover that and then we'll move forward to Abraham's great test of faith.

Abimelek and Phicol (Abimelek's army commander), speak to Abraham.  They tell Abraham that the know God is with him in all that he does.  Abimelek wants Abraham to promise that he will not deal falsely with him or his children.  Abimelek tells Abraham that he has been kind to him so in return he wants Abraham to show him the land where Abraham lives.  Abraham says he will promise that but then he brings up a matter to Abimelek concerning a water well.  Abimelek's servants had seized a water well that belonged to Abraham.  Abimelek tells Abraham that he didn't know this had happened.  The two men settle up in a covenant of friendship.

So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two of them made a covenant. But Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves. Then Abimelech said to Abraham, “What do these seven ewe lambs mean, which you have set by themselves?”  He said, “You shall take these seven ewe lambs from my hand so that it may be a witness for me, that I dug this well.” Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because there the two of them took an oath.  So they made a covenant at Beersheba; and Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, got up and returned to the land of the Philistines.  Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.  And Abraham resided in the land of the Philistines for many days. - Genesis 21:27-34

One thing we can learn from the scripture passage about the covenant between Abraham and Abimelek is that Abraham was not only faithful and obedient to God, but he was also a man that dealt fairly with others.  Look at the highlighted verse above.  Abraham "called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God."  Calling on the name of the Lord was something Abraham did often. 

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Abraham's Great Test of Faith

If you grew up in church, the next passage of the Bible will be familiar to you.  In Genesis 22, God asks Abraham to do something that reaches far beyond my ability to even begin to imagine.

Abraham's Great Test of Faith
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Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He 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." - Genesis 22:1-2

Can you imagine?  Abraham waited so long for God to give him a son.  He was 100 years old when Isaac was born.  Now that God has given him a son, He is asking him to offer his beloved son up as a sacrifice?  What?

But the story goes on . . .

Abraham's Great Test of Faith
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True to Abraham's nature, he wasted to time.  As was his custom, Abraham obeyed.  He gets up early the next morning, saddles his donkey, takes two of his men and Isaac, splits the wood, and sets out for the place where God told him to go.

After three days of travel, Abraham can see the land of Moriah in the distance.

On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the boy will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” - Genesis 22:4-5

There is a word in this verse that I had not thought about until it was recently brought to my attention.  The word "we."  Abraham told his men that "WE," meaning he and Isaac, would return to them.  Some scholars say (and I believe is true considering what we know about Abraham's faith) that Abraham believed that God would provide a different sacrifice.  After all, God had promised Abraham the blessing of descendants too numerous to count.  How could God follow through with this promise to Abraham if he slayed Isaac who had not yet married and had not yet fathered any children?  Abraham had to have believed that God would either provide a different sacrifice or He would raise Isaac from the dead.  

I love the following explanation from the Believer's Bible Commentary.

Perhaps no scene in the Bible except Calvary itself is more poignant than this one, and none gives a clearer foreshadowing of the death of God’s only, well-beloved Son on the cross. The supreme test of Abraham’s faith came when God ordered him to offer up Isaac as a burnt offering in the land of Moriah. Actually God had no intention of allowing Abraham to go through with it; He has always been opposed to human sacrifice. Moriah is the mountain range where Jerusalem is situated (2 Chron. 3:1) and also where Calvary stood. God’s words, “your only son Isaac, whom you love,”must have pierced Abraham’s heart like ever-deepening wounds. Isaac was Abraham’s only son in the sense that he was the only son of promise—the unique son, the son of miraculous birth.

The first occurrence of a word in the Bible often sets the pattern for its usage throughout Scripture. “Love” (v. 2) and “worship” (v. 5) are first found here. Abraham’s love for his son is a faint picture of God’s love for the Lord Jesus. The sacrifice of Isaac was a picture of the greatest act of worship—the Savior’s self-sacrifice to accomplish the will of God.

While Abraham and Issac walk together, Isaac asks a question.

Abraham's Great Test of Faith
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And Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

Look at the highlighted verse above.  Abraham told Isaac that God would provide for Himself the lamb.  Abraham believed in God's faithfulness to him.  He knew God would somehow keep His promise to him that through Isaac, Abraham's promised descendants would be born.  Even still, Abraham was prepared to follow through with God's order.  Just as he is about to end Isaac's life, the angel of the Lord calls out.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am."  He said, “Do not reach out your hand against the boy, and do not do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by its horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in the place of his son. And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” - Genesis 22:12-14

Abraham's Great Test of Faith
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God is faithful!  He was faithful to Abraham.  Abraham remained faithful and obedient to God.  God spared Isaac's life and provided a ram for the burnt offering.  God had more to say to Abraham.

Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven,  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, indeed 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. And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they got up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived in Beersheba. - Genesis 22:15-19

Something else to consider here is Isaac's age.  I had always pictured Isaac as a young boy, perhaps between the ages of 10 and 12, but someone recently brought to my attention that Isaac was much older.  He could have been as old as his late 20s.  Considering that Abraham was already 100 years old when Isaac was born, Isaac would have been much stronger than Abraham.  Isaac must have been a willing sacrifice just as Jesus was a willing sacrifice.  Also notice that it was Isaac who carried the wood just as Jesus carried his cross. 

God is faithful!

God provides!

Teach the Children

Check out the following suggestions for teaching this story to your children.

Abraham and Isaac by Trueway Kids

Abraham Was Tested by Sunday school Zone

*** Parallels of Abraham and Isaac with Christ from Purpose Driven Motherhood  (Pay close attention to this one.  The story of Abraham's test of faith is more than a popular Bible story.  It's a historical event that beautifully foreshadows the sacrifice of Jesus in the New Testament.)

This post is part of my Coloring Through Genesis Series featuring the Beautiful Word Coloring Bible.  I love it.  You can get yours here.
Abraham's Great Test of Faith
The Beautiful Word Coloring Bible


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