Abraham (Part 4)

Abraham
(Part 4)

James T. Naismith

Dr. James T. Naismith of Scarborough, Ontario: a physician and Bible teacher, continues his series on Genesis. Copyright by Everyday Publications Inc.; used by permission.

The Climax of Abraham’s Life (Gen. 22)

Genesis 22 is one of Scripture’s rarest gems, of magnificent beauty and priceless worth. It is rich in typical significance, as it points forward to the Lamb of God, who was offered for us on Mount Calvary —to which Father and Son went both of them together. It is also full of practical, spiritual lessons, lessons of value to us in our day.

A. Temptation - Testing, v. 1

In Scripture the word “temptation” is used in two senses:

1. Enticement by Satan to bring out evil;

2. Testing by God to bring out good.

The word “tempt” (v. 1, KJV) would be better translated “test.” In this incident towards the end of Abraham’s life, God was testing him to prove his faith and faithfulness. We can learn the following lessons:

1. God’s Tests are necessary. Just as school examinations are necessary to prove the ability and knowledge of the student, so in the College of Christ, the School of the Spirit, the Faculty of Faith, those who are going to be Graduates for Glory have frequent tests of faith, 1 Pet. 1:7, faithfulness and love. In this case, Abraham’s faith was tested and he believed God in spite of what it cost; his faithfulness was tested and he obeyed God’s Word although he couldn’t understand it; his love was tested and he proved that he loved God even more than “thine only son Isaac whom thou lovest,” v. 2.

God’s Tests are purposeful, v. 12 — “Now I know.” God’s tests are to prove, with a view to approving, as here; or improving, as in the case of the children of Israel in the wilderness (see Deut. 8:2, 3, 16 — “to do thee good at thy latter end”); or reproving, as in the case of Jonah (see Ps. 119:67).

God’s Tests are sometimes difficult. Few tests are more difficult than Abraham’s was, but then the best scholars have the hardest tests. Sometimes God may take a loved one from us, in order to prove our dependence on Him. Some of the most severe tests follow times of great blessing, as in the case of Abraham.

God’s Tests may be modified, v. 12. Sometimes God tests our willingness to obey Him — as Abraham, but may cancel the test when we have shown our devotion. A missionary’s return from the mission field after a short term of service may belong to this category. In Abraham’s time, the offering of the firstborn was a common practice. To God this was abhorrent, but would Abraham do for Him what others did for idols?

God’s Tests are beneficial, vv. 14-18. Through this test Abraham learned that God was “Jehovah-jireh” — the Lord who sees and provides. He also received a renewal of God’s covenant, His promises of blessing for Abraham and his seed (cf. Heb. 12:11).

B. Faith

Both James and the writer to the Hebrews use this incident as a demonstration of the faith of Abraham — Jas. 2:21, 22; Heb. 11:17-19. Here was the climax and culmination of his life of faith. Note:

1. Faith believes God’s Word, even when humanly incredible, as it must have seemed to Abraham —to offer a human sacrifice, his only son, in whom all God’s promises were centred.

2. Faith obeys God’s command, even when humanly impossible. Note Abraham’s unhesitating and complete obedience (v. 3 —”early”)

3. Faith trusts God’s promises and power, even when humanly inconceivable. There had been no previous example of resurrection, but Abraham believed that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead if need be, Heb. 11:19. His faith was not in Isaac, but in the God of Isaac; not in a stream, but in the source; not in human means, but in divine power; not in circumstances, but in the Lord of all circumstances.

C. Worship, V. 5

The word “worship” here is its first occurence in the KJV — but the same Hebrew word occurs in 18:2 and 19:1, translated “bowed himself.” Abraham was not evading the truth when he addressed his servants in this way. What he was about to do was an act of real worship. Worship is giving to God in acknowledgment of who He is and what He has done (see Ps. 96:7-9). Here we learn that worship is giving

1. an offering acceptable to God; here, a burnt offering — all for God.

2. what God has first given us, as Isaac; all that we have is His. Supremely, when we offer to God Him of whom Isaac was a type — the Lord Jesus — we give to God what He has first given to us.

3. an offering very precious to us — as Isaac was to Abraham; and the more precious, the more sincere will be the worship.

4. an offering in accordance with God’s instruction — I will tell thee, v. 2.

5. our bodies in consecration. Note that Abraham included Isaac in the act of worship— I and the lad, v. 5. Isaac was a young man at this stage, perfectly able to refuse to give his body. In presenting our bodies a living sacrifice to God, we are doing our reasonable service, Rom. 12:1, or spiritual worship (RSV).

D. Consecration

Abraham’s devotion to the will of God, and Isaac’s obedient submission to his father in doing the same will are outstanding examples of consecration — in the case of Abraham, being willing to give the very dearest and best to God; and of Isaac, being willing to give one’s own life and body. Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord? (1 Chron. 29:5).

Conclusion

Note that the last word in this great story is Jehovah-jireh — In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen, v. 14. The memory perpetuated from Mount Moriah is not so much Abraham’s faith, or Isaac’s submission, but God’s provision; not what Abraham did for God, but what God did for Abraham. As we look back on the scene, in the light of Calvary, we cannot forget that, while God spared Isaac, He spared not His own Son.