Timid faith, when it becomes tested faith, is transformed into triumphant faith.
Genesis(93) (Part of the Origins(91) series)
by Marc Webb(59) on March 27, 2022 (Sunday Morning(292))
Who thinks about the products you buy before purchasing them? Who checks to see if they are tested for safety or how they will work under extreme conditions? As you probably know most everything is tested in some way, shape or form. It might be cars and planes tested for safety. It might be food tested for taste or quality. It might be cell phones tested for durability. I would bet that some of us just buy things and don’t really worry or seek out the results of the testing done to them. There are four reasons why product testing is important. One, testing gives insight into system level functions. This means each part is checked to make sure it will work properly with the whole. The product is only as good as the sum of all parts working together. Two, testing catches product defects early on. Product defects have the potential to cause serious injury, so, in order to protect users, company reputation and integrity, it is important to minimize the risk of defects by thoroughly testing products before they are sold. Third, testing is important for quality assurance. There are certain standards that products need to meet in order to be distributed and applied which ensures they are safe, reliable and of high-quality. Four, testing is important to find out what the product can endure. Stress testing is important in order to figure out how the product will function under extreme temperature, weather, pressure, or other harmful conditions.
This morning we are going to be looking at another kind of testing – the testing of a human being. We can be tested in many ways and by many things. We go through testing or trials because of the choices we make or the sins we commit. We may be put through tests and trials by the world or by Satan. We may also be tested by God. We should not be surprised that God will test his children. He will test us as a means to reveal our obedience. He will test us so we will “fear” or reverence him in order to keep us from sinning. He will test us to humble us, to know what is in our hearts and whether we will keep his commands. He will test us to bring about our good and he will test us to bring glory to himself. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
God’s purpose for testing us is to bring us to spiritual maturity; a spiritual maturity that brings about obedience, trust and total submission to Him. We must have occasional tests or we will never know if we are maturing spiritually or not. Briscoe says, “Faith is matured through the experience of stressful testing in the same way the cardiovascular system is strengthened through exercise and the muscles are developed by lifting weights. (Faith) often demonstrates itself more fully by its responses to the furnace of affliction than the warm shallow waters of ease and prosperity.” It would be good for us to remember that we are never too old to be tested, that God tests the faithful and that being tested by God is a compliment.
This morning in Genesis 22:1-19, we will see Abraham being tested once again. Weirsbe gives us insight into Abraham’s previous testing: He passed the “family test” when God told him to leave his family and step out in faith to go to a new land. He failed the “famine test” going to Egypt doubting God would provide for him. He also failed by not trusting God to protect Sarah and himself from Pharoah. Abraham then passes the “fellowship test” when he gave Lot first choice of the land. He also passed the “fight test” when he defeated the kings and passed the “fortune test” when he said no to Sodom’s wealth. He failed the “fatherhood test” when he went along with Sarah’s plan to have a child by Hagar. And he passed the “farewell test” when it came time to send Ishmael away even though it broke his heart.
Up to this point, Abraham’s faith has been wishy-washy or timid. Today we are going to see that his faith will be rigorously tested in the most extreme conditions. When we come to the end of this story, we will see that his faith has been transformed into a triumphant faith. His life of testing by God has produced a spiritual maturity of obedience and trust in Him. The question we want to ask ourselves as we study this passage this morning is what does it take to transform our faith from timid to triumphant? How does God require us to respond when he tests our faith? We find the answers in the example of Abraham, which brings us to our big idea this morning which is timid faith, when it becomes tested faith, is transformed into triumphant faith. Before we dive into our scripture this morning, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, pour out your Holy Spirit on us. Help us to open our hearts and minds to your Word. Let us glean your truths from our passage and put us in positions this week to share those truths with those who desperately need to hear them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Our first point this morning is TEST and is found in Genesis 22:1-2. This is what God’s Word says, “Sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Our passage begins with “sometime later” and we need to go back to chapter 21 to see what happened before. We see three events happening. One, Isaac is born. Two, Isaac is weaned and there is a great feast. It is at this feast that Ismael was mocking, maybe Isaac. Sarah saw Ishmael as a potential threat to Isaac’s inheritance and she told Abraham to get rid of the Hagar and Ishmael. This greatly distressed Abraham but God told him to do as Sarah had said. Three, we see a treaty being made between Abimelech and Abraham. Abraham now owns a well and settles down in the land of promise. We are told that Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time. As chapter 22 opens, most commentators believe that Isaac is now at least a teenager so it is probably ten to fifteen years later.
We are told that God is going to test Abraham. God calls to Abraham and tells him to take his only son, Isaac, whom he loves, and go to the region of Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. The intensity of this story is seen in two ways. One, the narrator uses the word, God “Elohim” instead of the more personal name “the Lord” to show who is speaking to Abraham. This is the narrator’s way of emphasizing that it is the Most High God, Abraham’s God, the one who gives and takes away who was testing him. There is no doubt as to who is asking this of Abraham. Two, in the original language God says, “please, take your son.” We have seen this before and in each instance he is asking the person to do something extraordinary, something that defies rational explanation or understanding. We can know that God is fully aware of the magnitude of this test for Abraham.
A burnt offering was the language of tabernacle sacrifice. It was a sacrifice where the entire animal was burned on the altar. With this type of sacrifice, the offerer is saying they were completely submitting themselves to the Lord. We can only wonder what Abraham must have been feeling. It had taken a hundred years for him to have a son born to him by Sarah. And this son was to be the promised son which would give Abraham descendants like the stars in the sky. This is the son through which his descendants would possess the Promised Land. We don’t know what Abraham thought but we do know what he did next.
Our second point this morning is OBEDIENCE and is found in verses 3-10. This is what God’s word says, “Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.”
The first thing we notice is that “early the next morning,” Abraham got up and prepared to do what God had commanded him. We have seen a couple times as we have studied the life of Abraham that he gets up “early the next morning.” In chapter 19, he gets up “early the next morning” to see if Sodom had been destroyed or not. In chapter 21, he gets up “early the next morning” to send Hagar and Ishmael into to the wilderness. Here Abraham gets up “early the next morning” to set out to sacrifice his son as the Lord commanded. “Early the next morning” means he was resolute, he was decided and his obedience was prompt. His mind was made up that he was going to obey God no matter what. He was going to trust God no matter the outcome.
Next we notice Abraham preparing for the trip. He saddles the donkey, gets the servants and Isaac together and he cuts the wood for the burnt offering. Most commentators feel the order in which he prepared to leave shows a hesitation especially the cutting of the wood for the burnt offering. Normally, if you were traveling to make a sacrifice, you would chop the wood once you got to your destination. You also wouldn’t want to carry all that excessive weight on the journey. But it is also possible that Abraham didn’t want to cut the wood once he got there because any hesitation on that end could cause him to change his mind. I believe everything Abraham did was part of God’s sovereign plan and we will see that later in the story. Next we notice that the journey took three days. Imagine what that must have been like for Abraham. To walk side by side with his only son knowing that when they get to their destination he was going to sacrifice him as a burnt offering. This was God taking Abraham’s timid faith, making it a tested faith, so that it would become a triumphant faith (BIG IDEA).
As they come close to the place God told him to go, Abraham does and says some things that probably seemed strange. He tells his servants to stay with the donkey. He tells them he and Isaac are going to go worship and then “we” will come back to you. He takes the wood that was on the donkey and placed it on Isaac. Again, this begs some questions. Why did he tell the servants to stay back? Why did he say that both of them would return to them after worshipping? Why did he take the wood off the donkey and make Isaac carry it? Maybe he didn’t want to have to worry about the servants trying to stop him from sacrificing Isaac. Maybe he was trying to deceive the servants and Isaac by saying they both would return. Or maybe his faith was so strong that he knew even if he sacrificed Isaac on that mountain God would be able to raise him from the dead and both of them would return to the servants? This is what the writer of Hebrews believed in Hebrews 11:17-19. “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced 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 even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”
We can see Isaac as a type of Christ in this story. Isaac carrying the wood may be seen as the equivalent to Jesus carrying his cross. Or at the very least a picture of Jesus carrying the weight of our sin to the cross. So with the wood being carried by Isaac and Abraham carrying the fire and the knife it says they “went on together.” Again, we can only imagine what is going through Abraham mind as he walks side by side with Isaac. They probably walked in silence most of the way, Abraham thinking about what is to come. Isaac finally asked his father where the lamb was for the burnt offering. Abraham answers his son that God will provide it. And we are again told again they “went on together.” We are reminded with this exchange between “father” and “son” that there is a deep affection and love for each other which makes what Abraham is going to do that much harder. We are also reminded of God, the Father, sending Jesus, his son, to the cross as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
When they reached the place God had told him about Abraham again didn’t hesitate; he built the altar, put the wood on it, bound his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar. He then reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. We can notice that it seems Isaac went onto the altar willingly as the burnt offering. Abraham is over 100 years old and Isaac’s a teenager. We have to believe that at some point Isaac must have realized he was to be the offering and could have ran away or overpowered his father and got away. Commentators mention this as a picture of Isaiah 53:7, 10 that talks about Jesus being like a lamb led to slaughter who did not open his mouth and that the Lord made his life an offering for sin. We notice that Isaac exhibits the same qualities of perfection looked for in sacrificial victims. We see why Isaac was seen as a type of Christ.
Our third point this morning is DIVINE PROVISION and is found in verses 11-14. This is what God’s word says, “But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
Abraham is fully submitted to God’s will and is about to plunge the knife into his son. At the last possible moment the Angel the Lord calls Abraham’s name to stay the execution. God’s timing is never early and never late; it is always perfect. We notice that the name “Lord” is now used. The same Lord, who is our savior, father and friend is “the Most High God” holy, sovereign, and creator God. The God who tested Abraham once again shows himself to be the gracious Lord who keeps his promises. The angel calls his name twice because he urgently needed to get Abraham’s attention. Abraham was to not lay a hand on the boy nor do anything to him. The angel’s “now I know” is an admission that the ordeal was a test and a confirmation of Abraham’s depth of loyalty to God. Then the Angel tells us what triumphant faith is. Triumphant faith is a faith that “fears God” and is willing to give up everything (even an only son) in submissive obedience to the Lord. (BIG IDEA) Ross says, “The fear of the Lord is drawing near to the Lord in love, adoration and reverence but never forgets that the Lord is the most High God and shrinks in fear at such an awesome deity.”
Next, we see the truth of Abraham’s words, “God will provide.” He looks up and sees a ram caught in the thicket. Abraham was surprised and recognized this was a miracle from the Lord; one second there was no ram and the next second there it was. God had truly provided the sacrifice for the burnt offering and Abraham sacrifices the ram as a substitute for his son. Then Abraham does something we have seen him do before. He commemorates the place and calls it, Jehovah-Jireh. Jehovah-Jireh has a dual meaning, which are literally, “The Lord Sees” and “The Lord Will Provide.” He is celebrating that God not only saw him but provided for him. I found something interesting which I only would have found by studying God’s Word in context and verse-by-verse. At the end of chapter 21, when Abraham made the treaty with Abimelech, Abraham planted a tamarisk tree to commemorate that place and he calls the Lord, “El Olam” or “the Eternal God.” Abraham was praising the God of the long-term and of the future. In this chapter when Abraham names this place “Jehovah-Jireh” he is celebrating the God of the short-term; the God of the details of our lives. God will “see” to it that even the littlest details of our lives are cared for. We can trust God for the future but we can also trust him for the here and now.
Our last point this morning is DIVINE BLESSING and is found in verses 15-19. This is what God’s word says, “The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.
The Angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time. This tells us that something important is about to be said. God emphatically reiterates the promises he has already made to Abraham. We can notice some interesting things. One, God swears by himself. This is first and only time in Genesis that God does this. There is no one higher to swear by and it affirmed the promises on the integrity of God’s own name and reputation. Abraham could depend on God to keep his promises; he could take these promises to the bank. Two, the reason for the blessings is because he did not withhold his only son from the Lord. He was willing to give up the promised descendants and the Promised Land that they would inherit. He was willing to give up all worldly things including his son for the Lord.
Abraham’s relationship with God was the most important thing to Him and God would “surely” or “really” bless him. These promises were going to be better than all the others. We see in the earlier promises that Abraham’s descendants were compared to “the stars in the sky” but now they are compared to the “sand on the seashore.” His descendants were now promised to “possess the gates of their enemies” meaning they will conquer their enemies’ cities not merely inherit the land. It is promised that through his descendants “all nations on earth will be blessed.” This implies that the world had already been blessed through Abraham but more blessing is to come through his descendants all because of Abraham’s obedience. Imagine how we could bless the people and the world around us today if we would just be obedient.
Finally, as we come to the end of the passage it says that Abraham returned to his servants and they set off together for Beer-sheba where Abraham stayed. Isaac is not mentioned as returning with them but we can surmise that he did. We have seen this before in Genesis as the most important character is mentioned and the secondary ones are not even though we know they are involved. What the narrator wants us to remember here is that Abraham is the central figure. It was Abraham’s faith that was tested and was found triumphant (BIG IDEA). But we should come away from this story more impressed with God’s faithfulness than with Abraham’s compliance.
There are many things we can take away from this passage. What truths does this passage have for our lives today? What next steps can we take? First, I think each of us should evaluate our faith. Is our faith timid? Has our faith been tested? And has our faith been found triumphant or something less? After evaluation if you determine that you have a timid faith it would be important to ask God to move you toward a triumphant faith. But, know that if you ask for a triumphant faith, then your faith will be tested. That is the process we all must go through to mature spiritually and to take our faith from timid to triumphant. So maybe this next step is for you. My next step is to ask God to move me toward a triumphant faith knowing that my faith will be tested by him.
Next, maybe after evaluating your faith, you can say that you’re faith has been tested and found triumphant. Great!!! But we know from Abraham’s life that we are never too old for testing as God wants to continue to mature us spiritually. As long as we live on this earth there is possibility of testing. God wants our faith to keep on growing and that requires testing. There are also times that our faith may waver as hard testing comes and we may fall back into a timid faith. We must be ready and on guard for all the tests and trials that come our way. We must be resolute and decided (just like Abraham was) in how we are going to react to them when they come. Our reaction must be obedience and a complete trust in the Lord. So maybe this next step may be for you. My next step is to be obedient to and completely trusting in the Lord when testing comes so my faith will continue to be triumphant.
Second, I feel this passage is asking us to dwell on a major question this morning. That question is what is your motivation for being a Christ-follower? Why do you love God? Why do you take up your cross daily and follow him? We are promised so much as we follow Christ. Is it because of the promises that God has given you that you follow and serve Him? I would say that this is a wrong motivation for being a Christ-follower. Look again at Abraham. He had been promised many great things for being in obedience to God. And in the end Abraham was totally ready to give up all those promises. Abraham “feared God” and was totally committed to and submitted to God. God was number one in Abraham’s life; not the promises that he was given and not even the child of promise that was given to him in his old age. In the end, the only motivation that Abraham had for following God was to “get God.” To know God more. To surrender to God more. To fall deeper in love with God more.
Andre Crouch wrote a song called, “If Heaven Was Never Promised To Me.” In it he asks “Is it just for heaven’s gain?” “But if heaven never were promised to me; neither God’s promise to live eternally; it’s been worth just having the Lord in my life – living in a world of darkness he came and brought me the light.” The question is would we be willing to give up eternity in Heaven for God? Would we be willing to follow God if there were nothing in it for us? Would we willing to follow God only for the benefit of living a life loving God with all our heart, minds and souls and loving others? This is what Paul is saying in Philippians 3:7-8. I am reading from the Living Bible translation: “But all these things that I once thought very worthwhile—now I’ve thrown them all away so that I can put my trust and hope in Christ alone. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have put aside all else, counting it worth less than nothing, in order that I can have Christ. This is the place that we need to be as followers of Christ. Every single day of our lives should be in the pursuit of getting more of Christ. That brings us to the last next step, which is to Spend the rest of my life in the pursuit of knowing Christ better every day.
Now lastly, I don’t want to forget another important part of the passage seen in the title I chose for this sermon, Jehovah-Jireh, “The Lord Will Provide.” First, we all have stories of times and ways that God has provided for us all through our lives. The question is: What do we do when God provides for us? Do we even see or acknowledge it? Do we rejoice and praise him for it? Two, we all may have things coming up in your lives that we need God’s provision to get through it? Maybe you need God to provide physical, spiritual or emotional healing for you or a loved one. Maybe it’s your circumstances. Maybe you need God to provide financially for you and your family? You’re struggling to make ends meet and without God’s provision you don’t know what you will do. Maybe you are dealing with fear and/or anxiety and you need God to provide peace and his presence to quiet those fears and anxieties in your heart. We need to go to God in prayer for his provision for whatever struggles we are going through today.
As the praise team comes forward to lead us in a final song I invite and encourage you to come to the altar this morning. Come rejoicing and praising God for his provision in your life or come praying for the provision you need this morning. Coming to the altar is not a silver bullet. You most definitely can do the same where you are sitting. But what coming to the altar does is allows us to rejoice with you and praise God with you for his provision in your life. It also allows us to pray with and for you for the provision you need from God today. Our final song is called “You Always Provide.” As you sing or listen think about the words. Some of it says, “God, you see us every moment” “You always provide every season of our lives” “You always provide every moment every time.” Powerful words that I hope you will take with you this morning and share with those you come in contact with this week.