During our small group study Wednesday night (we're studying R.C. Sproul's video series based on his book Knowing Scripture), our conversation turned to faith, especially the incredible faith Abraham showed when he was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22). Our discussion carried over to the next day with a few e-mail exchanges. My good friend Timm shared: ...
This morning as I was running, I kept thinking about our discussion last night on understanding the Bible. In particular I thought about our struggle understanding how God could ask Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, and how Abraham was willing to obey God. I can not imagine being asked to make that sacrifice with my children or any other person for that matter. However, it made me realize what an ultimate sacrifice it was for God to send His son as a sacrifice for us. Just as He provided a lamb for Abraham to sacrifice in place of Isaac, He also provided Christ as a sacrifice to cover all our sins. This, like many parts of the Bible, is way beyond my comprehension. However, one passage that helps me with difficult areas is Proverbs 3:5-6. It says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." I hope that we can all grow together in our understanding of Scripture, but more importantly I hope that we can grow in our faith and trust in Christ. Thank you all for your friendship, open conversation and causing me to examine my faith.
Followed by this message from my wife, Tammie:
Thank you for sharing this, Timm. It's a real blessing to read what you're saying and realize that's exactly what the video referred to last night from the Scripture, that whole business of meditating on God's word no matter what we're doing [Deuteronomy 6:4-9].
I pray that I will not spoil the effect of what you have said by adding a couple of things. First, I have a bad habit of alluding to Scripture and getting a few words right but not remembering where the verses are found so anyone can go back and have their own look at them. So I went back to Genesis after reading your e-mail and found that the verses I was trying to quote are actually in Hebrews: "By faith Abraham ... 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. ..." (Chapter 11:17-19).
What I like about this is that it appears that God wasn't just expecting Abraham to obey Him, in that famous parenting logic, "because I said so," even though He is the Sovereign God and it is perfectly reasonable for Him to do that. But Abraham was ready to obey Him because He had promised Abraham that Isaac would live to have offspring (in Genesis 17:19b God says, "I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him").
So Abraham obeyed God because he fully believed that Isaac would somehow survive according to God's plan. In fact, he says to the servants who accompany him and Isaac to the mountain for the sacrifice, "Stay here . . . while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you." He's not lying to them; he trusts that God will make a way to bring Isaac back alive. And when Isaac, who looks around and discovers there is no "lamb for the offering" (22:7), asks his dad what's going on, Abraham answers, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." Again, Abraham isn't just saying something that sounds good, but he's saying what he truly believes.
That makes such an impression on me. Even when I try to obey God, I think of how many times I do it kicking and screaming and crying as if I don't really trust that He knows what He's doing.
The funny thing is, Abraham wasn't always such a trusting child of God. When God told him in Genesis 17 that Sarah would have a son, "Abraham fell facedown; he laughed. ..." It would be a great study to look at how Abraham went from thinking God was off His rocker to being able to put his son in God's hands, knowing God would honor His promises and spare Isaac's life no matter how unlikely that seemed in the circumstances.
Thanks for letting me preach a little sermon! I love our small group and feel God is at work in us.
And thank you Timm and Tammie for letting me share your insight on the faith of Abraham with my blog readers. I am blessed to be in a small group made up of people who sincerely want to love each other and build each other up in His Word. And if you are not currently in a small group at your church, I strongly encourage you to join one. It can be an incredible blessing for you and your spiritual growth.
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