Abraham’s courageous trust in Genesis 22 overshadows his recent bouts of unfaithfulness and leaves the reader rejoicing in the victory of faith. While the episode here is remarkable on the familial level—any worthy father breaks out in a cold sweat when placing himself in Abraham’s place—this text has further implications, unique to the flow of Genesis. Abraham’s faithfulness is remarkable in that he not only willingly followed God’s plan to sacrifice his son, but in this the patriarch was offering up the child of promise! Thus the sacrifice of Isaac is profound not only because of what Abraham was called to do, but because the birth—and life—of this child had been the focus of Abraham’s life for more than three decades. God’s initial promises to Abraham hinge on the life of Isaac (Gen 12.1-3; 15:1-6); in short, Abraham was called to sacrifice the very promises of God. The story of the sacrifice of Isaac urges the faithful to trust God to supply the means for the work He’s given us to do.
Several ideas stand out from the drama of Genesis 22; all of these should be considered as noble pursuits for those who wish to live by faith:
- Abraham did not delay in obeying even this paramount test of faith; rather, “early in the morning Abraham got up, saddled his donkey, and took with him two of his young men and his son Isaac” (v. 3). The patriarch’s forthrightness is challenging—how do we respond when recognizing a need to obey the word of God in a particular situation? We should be mindful that the longer we delay, the more likely it will be that we disobey
- To Abraham this was an act of worship: fearing God and obeying His word took precedence over any other commitment—even to his family (vv. 5, 12). The events of Genesis 22 are a contrast with a previous scene when Abraham esteemed Sarah more than God—with the result that she was forced to endure bitterness of soul (cf. Gen 16.4-6). Here though, Abraham feared God—and the boy walked away unscathed. Abraham’s actions provided Isaac with a living illustration of what it meant to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and he will guide you on the right paths” (Prov 3.5-6). What godly son wouldn’t wish for this kind of a gutsy father who wasn’t afraid to take God at His word?
- Abraham trusted in God’s ability to provide. In Gen 22.8 Abraham spoke to his son’s searching heart and said, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” If a father—indeed anyone—is going to victoriously walk by faith they will have to trust the providence of God to supply the means for accomplishing His ends. Herein is the very foundation of the faith-walk: eyes fixed upon God’s ability and willingness to provide. The author to the Hebrews commented that Abraham, “considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, from which he also got him back as an illustration” (Heb 11.19).
On two occasions the apostle Paul employed the life of Abraham to illustrate principles of Christian faith (cf. Romans 4; Galatians 3-4), but he was not alone. If we follow the events of Genesis 22 down the storyline of Scripture we discover that James also saw in Abraham the kind of behavior he desired for his readers. James urged his audience toward Christian maturity; faith that works itself out in love, especially provision for believers in need. James questioned: “If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself” (Jas 2.15-17). James continued his line of questioning by calling attention to Abraham’s work of faith in Genesis 22: “Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?” (v. 21). James understood that Abraham’s faith was worked out in his obedience with Isaac; his works showed the reality of his faith, ‘perfecting’ it. James’ exhortation—based in part on Abraham’s obedient faith—is a challenge to all who claim justification by faith in Christ, and yet lack fervent love for others:
“You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected. So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone…For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (Jas 2.21-24, 26).
*For a complete list of references, please see scripturestoryline.com