Do you remember your last test? Was it in school? Some license you wanted and you had to take a test? Training at work? Maybe your last test was from God? On God’s test: How did you do? Maybe you say you haven’t one of those recently- oh yes you have. Our lives are full of tests, not always recognizable. God is continually sending us tests, He does that to provide opportunities for our faith to grow
God’s tests are opportunities for our faith to grow
Our lesson describes Abraham’s faith tests of two of the greatest crisis of his entire life. He must learn lesson of “letting go” to the 2 most important people in his life. In chapt 22 =Isaac, in chapt23=Sarah. We learn from the life of Abraham and his tests, how to please God instead of ourselves, how to be obedient when nothing makes sense, how to be submissive to God’s will not our own, How to trust God’s promises when you can’t see His purposes.
I. Test #1:The Severe Sacrifice: Abraham puts God first in his life Gen:22
Akedah= “The binding”= Jewish name of this event
A. God’s Command Gen 22:1,2
B. Abraham’s Obedience Gen 22:3-10.
C. God’s Approval Gen 22:11-24
II. Test #2: The Sad Farewell: Abraham buries Sarah in Promised Land Gen 23
A. Abraham’s Grief Gen 23:1,2
B. Sarah’s Grave Gen 23:3-20
1. “God tested Abraham” We need to make a clear distinction between our temptations and our testings. Satan and perhaps some people tempt us so that we fail, fall, the evil in us comes out. Remember
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. James 1:13
God tests us for the opposite reason. His tests are designed to mature our faith,grow us.
The testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything James 1:3,4
Testing helps uncover our true motives, clarifies deep loyalties, reveals deceit and encourages true faith.
God knew how Abraham would respond to this test, but Abraham had to know that he did love God even more than his dearest possession. Father of the nation needed to know God must come first. This test touched Abraham’s tenderest, most vulnerable, most precious place. READ Gen 22:1b
2. "Abraham" "Here I am" = Hebrew phrase= hineni only used a few times in Scripture
There is really no equivalent in English.
This term indicates readiness, alertness, attentiveness, receptivity and responsiveness to instructions. Jewish Study Bible
Abraham is ready to listen to God. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if that could be said about us? That we are ready, alert, willing to be responsive to God’s calls on our lives? Even if
3. Command READ Gen 22:2
Abraham is familiar with God’s voice, this is no mistake. Possible that Abraham was accustomed to pagan human sacrifices of the Canaanites around him, may have even witnessed some. No doubt this command pierced the deepest part of his heart. “whom you love” This would not have been much of a test if Abraham had not deeply loved his son, but he did, “only son”= only son of the promise, only son through whom God would make a great nation, only son through whom the world would be blessed. What a dilemma for Abraham: The Promise of God required that Isaac live but the Command of God required that Isaac die. Part of this trial was that God seemed to be contradicting God. Have you ever experienced that? What is going on in your life seems to contradict what you know of God? It’s a hard place to be. Unbelievers, or those weak in their faith stumble over such challenges. As you mature, walk w/God, you may still hit those places where you don’t understand God at all, but after a time, when you look back, you know, you believe God reveals Himself to be good and His purposes are for your good and His glory. Maturing faith waits to see how the wisdom of God will be revealed. The waiting can be painful, may seem very long, many abandon their faith because of God’s testing. Not Abraham. He locked into the truth that God is faithful, God is able to do the impossible, God’s purposes will not be thwarted. This is His faith.
1. What a night he must have had. Soren Kierrekgard commenting on this says he probably got up early because he didn’t sleep at all that night. Haven’t you had nights like that, the night before you took a big exam, or went to court, or did anything really difficult? We know that Abraham regardless of what was going on in his mind and heart, chose to obey immediately READ Gen 22:3,4 Region of Moriah, tradition says it was one of the NE hills of Jerusalem- spot where David would buy the threshing floor from Araunah (uhROOnuh) to build an altar, later Solomon would build the Temple, later the area where Jesus would sacrifice his life. It would take about 3 days to travel the 50 miles from Beersheba to Jerusalem. Physically, emotionally exhausting for Abraham. Finally they reached the place, Abraham leaves the servants behind telling them “we will worship and return to you” . Question is: Is he covering his secret or making a statement of his faith?
By faith Abraham when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son even though God had said to him “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking he did receive Isaac back from the dead. Hebrews 11:17-19
We will return= Abraham believed in the Resurrection. Is there anything too hard for God, He expected God to do a miraculous thing.
2. That kind of faith is infectious, extremely inspiring, causes us to wonder if Isaac caught this spirit of total trust. Isaac is a na’ar= young man perhaps a teenager which makes his question even more poignant READ Gen 22:7 (where is the lamb)Imagine how that question pierced Abraham’s heart. Spoke with confidence Gen 22:8 God will provide.
3. Gen 22:9 Abraham prepared the altar. At some point Isaac had to be told. Picture the scene, after the altar was built, wood arranged, Abraham turned to Isaac with tears running down his face, heartbroken, explained to Isaac God’s command. Isaac, old enough to carry wood, also old enough to run away, but there is no hint of resistance, he becomes a willing participant in his sacrifice. Glimpse of Isaac’s faith: 1. Faith in the love of his father Abraham. 2. Faith in the Covenant- how many times has he heard he was the heir of the promises, of a great nation, too numerous to count, thru his descendants all nations would be blessed, he would inherit the land. Believing somehow this still was all true, Isaac put himself on the altar was bound, blade of the knife was lifted to cut his throat…when God called READ Gen 22:11-12
1. Abraham you’ve passed the test. STOP. I never wanted Isaac’s life, I wanted your total devotion, now I know that you fear God. Because Abraham’s life was characterized by listening to God, he heard God at the most critical time. hineni =Here am I ready to listen, ready to obey. God provides another –a ram caught by its horns in the bushes- was sacrificed instead of Isaac and once again God re-iterates His Covenant with Abraham “I swear”….Gen 22:15-18. So many lessons for us
The first commandment is that we are to have no other gods before Him. God is first, #1. Everything and everyone else is second. We must hold loosely to things that are temporal, but also to people. Chuck Swindoll says “the greater the possessiveness the greater the pain of turning loose, letting go” Letting go of unrealized dreams, letting go of grown children, letting go past relationships, letting go of trinkets and treasures, holding loosely to everyone and everything except God.
I was truly convicted weren’t you to fill in the chart ranking the hardest and easiest things to give God:
Family members, children, old pictures, home, car, job/career, financial security, food, friends, my Bible, my understanding of God’s will, health, church, possessions, TV education
Application: can you do that? Hold loosely to those things to be sure that if God calls you can trust Him and surrender all? Are there any of God’s gifts you love more than God? If they were taken away, would you be mad at God? Is God testing you in any of these areas right now? How are you doing with the test? What are you learning about God?
The substitution of a male sheep for the first born son foreshadows the Passover in Exodus when substitutionary blood of the lamb was put on the doorposts so that the death angel would Passover that house. Passover lamb foreshadowed the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ- the Lamb that was slain for our sins (I Peter 1:19) “precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished, spotless, the blood of Christ:
Picture of Calvary:
1. Place = Gen 22:3 Moriah Luke 23:33 “the place”
2. Wood= Gen 22:6 Issac carried his own wood John 19:17 “carrying his own cross”
The image of Isaac’s carrying the wood on which he is to be burned adds enormous power to the story. A midrash relates this to a Roman (not Jewish) method of execution that was sometimes used on Jewish martyrs “It’s like a person who carries his cross on his own shoulders” Jewish Study Bible
3. Submission= Gen 22:9 John 10:18 “I lay it down on my own initiative” John 18:11 “ The cup which the Father has given me, shall I not drink it?”
4. Provision= Gen 22:8,13 John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son…”
5. Sacrifice accepted= Gen 22:12 Mt 28:6 The Empty Tomb, The Resurrection
Now Abraham truly understands the meaning of his words to Isaac Gen 22:8. He gives this place the name Gen 22:14. Later generations would use this as a proverb “On the mountain of the Lord it shall be provided”.
This story of the sacrifice of Isaac helped Israel as a nation in later difficult times to understand and have confidence in God when he seemed to be contradicting His own words and works. It can help us today too to face the sacrifices God calls us to make, remembering when God allows us to be tested, it’s not for His benefit, but ours. Abraham learned he loved God more than anything or anyone and we really won’t learn that unless we’re ready to completely surrender our all. Only after you and I have climbed the mountain of sacrifice, only when we’re willing to give up the “Isaac” in our lives, do we find the provision God has for us. I pray God will give us all the grace and the willingness to be obedient to his testings. Look at the text, seems out of place, next
2. Genealogy Gen 22:20-24
Wonder why is it tacked on to the end of this story? There is a purpose. God is telling us He has spared Isaac’s life for a reason, He has a plan. 100’s of miles away, he is preparing Rebekah, getting her ready to share Isaac’s life, getting her ready to be one of the mothers through whom the covenant will be passed. Foreshadowing of Gen 24.
ears pass between Gen 22 and 23 and Abraham has another test ….
Test: How would a man of faith cope with one of the greatest challenges of life- death of a deeply loved and cherished spouse? Some of you have faced that test, I have not.. yet, but I’ve watched my dad the last 3 years since my mother died…and I know that going on living without her has been his hardest test.
Sarah was 127, meant Abraham is 137, married over 100yrs. She was younger than him, so perhaps a surprise she died first. He grieved, he wept over her. This was his life partner, only link with the home of his childhood, she understood when he talked about his dad, she knew his brothers, shared his call to leave and go not knowing where they would live, she bore the hardships, joys, she sacrificed and supported him- as he knelt before her those memories surely flooded his heart, she had been a good and faithful wife and mother. His grief was real, bitter, painful, bible tells us he wept. Deep grief demands tears, his tears were the empty feeling he had from the loss of her presence, not longer would they walk together, no longer would he hear her voice instructing the servants, no longer would he see her kiss their son. We know by his actions Abraham was a man of faith believed in the promises of God and in the resurrection of the dead (Heb 11:13-16 LB) Abraham believed she had gone to that better country. He grieved but he grieved with HOPE (I Thes 4:13) Hope is what comforts. Death is not enemy 4 be
Death is not extinguishing the light, it is only putting out the lamp because the Dawn has come. Tagore
Sarah had been born in pagan Ur but she left there, God of Abraham had become her God, she had faith in the Covenant, died, believing in the land of the Promise. Abraham desired to bury Sarah in this land as a testimony of God’s love and His faithfulness beyond death. “To your descendants I will give this land” 12:7. That surely motivated him to purchase a burial place for Sarah. It would be a pledge, earnest down payment of his inheritance.
Example of Oriental Bargaining. Since he was “an alien, stranger” v4 he probably needed the approval of the people in the area to actually purchase any land. He asks to buy land and the men reply sure, none of us will refuse you, you’re a mighty warrior. So Abraham says he wants the Cave of Machpelah, pay full price. The owner says “oh no, I’ll give you the cave and the field” Gen 23:10,11. Don’t be confused his offer to “give” was just the middle eastern way of bargaining, he had no intentions of giving anything away and Abraham knew it insists on paying full price, most likely overpaid and then buried Sarah there. Only real estate in the Promised Land he ever legally owned. I wonder if at the end of his life he looked back and asked “is this all” Probably not because thru the tests of his life he came to know the priorities of his life, true meaning of life is not acquiring possessions/people but the maturation of the soul. He spent his life getting to know God
Being devoted to Him, obedient, trusting God to develop his faith,
Is that what the tests of your life are doing for you?