Elie Wiesel the most famous Holocaust survivor of all time once said this. “After the Holocaust, I did not lose faith in God. I lost faith in mankind!” If the Holocaust was a test, I am sure Wiesel passed it with flying colors. Speaking of tests, Abraham is a man we cannot ignore. Abraham proved that God can trust him. But God is all-knowing. He already knew Abraham will obey. Then why did he test his servant? Was he being a bully or a prankster? Definitely not. God had some lessons in mind that he wanted Abraham to learn. In today’s sermon, I want to share with you four of those lessons.
Read Genesis 22:1-19
1. We owe God Everything
God’s command to sacrifice Abraham’s only son as a burnt offering surely sounds very unfair and brutal to the natural human mind (Genesis 22:1-2). But Abraham obeyed because he knew that he owed Isaac to God and God in his sovereignty had every right to take him back (Genesis 22:3).
Illustration: Pastor Colton Wickramaratne in his biography shares that his wife Susanne’s illness got worse one day and doctors completely gave up on her. After coming home that night he had prayed, “Susanne and I have been together for many years. I release her into your hands, though it’s a very hard thing for me to do, you can take her unto yourself.”
He got up around midnight because he heard God speaking to him.
“Who are you to grant me permission to take your wife? I do not need your permission to take her, I can take you and I can take your youngest granddaughter. Just obey me. Do not try to take my place.” (My Adventure in Faith, pgs. 245,246)
Implications: There are many things in life that we value very much and will not let go of. Money is just one of them. Speaking of money I often hear people refer to tithing as giving God what is rightfully his. It’s like saying only 10% of everything I earn belongs to God and the balance of 90% is all mine. The truth is not just the tithe, but everything I earn and everything I have belongs to God.
2. God shapes his Chosen
The dictionary defines “shaping” as “Setting oneself to perform a particular task.” Abraham was chosen by God to perform the special task of fathering a great nation, through which the Saviour of the world will be born. But first, God had to mold his servant into the right shape. He began by commanding Abraham to leave the country, its people, and the father’s household (Genesis 12:1). Then God put Abraham to a brutal test. Not because he wasn’t sure what Abraham will do. God is omniscient (all-knowing) after all. God tested Abraham because the process will be incomplete unless Abraham takes the test.
Illustration: The first two weeks of the US Navy SEAL training are known as “Hell Week” because of the brutally difficult tests the candidates must complete during that period. Each candidate sleeps at most four hours during the entire time, runs more than 200 miles, and does physical training for more than 20 hours per day. Any Candidate who fails the test is considered disqualified.
Why do SEAL candidates have to endure harsh physical tests such as Hell Week? It’s because SEALs are chosen for the task of fighting the enemy under extremely life-threatening combat situations whether it’s in sea, air, or land. Remove Hell Week from the training program and you will have a half-baked SEAL.
Implications: We feel God is being unfair when we have to face our own “Hell Weeks” of tests. However, we learn from the life of Abraham, that tests are a part of the process which God used to shape us into the man or woman he desires us to be. It reminds me of a poem.
No, that trauma you faced was not easy.You are who You Are for a Reason by Russell Kelfer
And God wept that it hurt you so;
But it was allowed to shape your heart
So that into his likeness you’d grow.
3. We are saved by Faith
In Genesis 12 although Abraham obeyed the call, he was reluctant to go alone. So he took Lot with him. Abraham’s faith was at its grassroots level. However as the journey to Moriah progressed, we see Abraham’s faith also progressed with it. On the third day of the journey, when Abraham looked up and saw his destination in the distance, told his servants to wait, while he and Isaac will worship and come back (Genesis 22:5). Was Abraham lying? He wasn’t. He was rather prophesying because according to Hebrews 11:17-19 “Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead.”
Then while they were still afar Isaac asks where’s the Lamb for the burnt offering? Again Abraham prophecies “the Lord himself will provide it” (Genesis 22:8). God indeed provided a Ram for the sacrifice and the rest is history (Genesis 22:9-14).
Illustration: The thief had nails through both hands so that he could not work; and a nail through each foot, so that he could not run errands for the Lord; he could not lift a hand or a foot toward his salvation, and yet Christ offered him the gift of God, and he took it. Christ threw him a passport and took him into Paradise. (D. L. Moody)
Implications: We can draw so much from these verses, but I want to focus on two things. Faith and salvation. The Bible says God credited Abraham’s faith to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3). Just like Abraham, we are also saved by faith. However, Abraham’s life teaches us that we are not saved overnight but are saved every day. A divine process that will complete only when we die. This is called sanctification in Christian theology.
If salvation is a mountain we climb by faith, while the mountain base marks the beginning of our journey with Christ, the summit marks the end of the journey (death) and entrance to eternal glory (salvation). A quick search on the internet will tell you that a mountaineer climbing amount has to fight his way through many deadly obstacles such as altitude sickness, temperature, weather, falls, avalanches, crevasses, and summit fever.
Like real mountaineers climbing mountains, we will also face many obstacles, trials, and errors while climbing our mountain of salvation. Abraham shows what we must do when faced with obstacles. We must stand on the Word of God and reason by faith (Hebrews 11:9). The act of reasoning nurtured Abraham’s faith and reasoning is one way we also can nurture our faith. Our salvation is completed when faith reaches the fullness of its maturity.
4. God rewards Obedience
In Genesis 22:15-19 the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and renewed the (physical) blessings God promised to Abraham before. Abraham asked God only for a son. But God saw that Abraham was obedient and rewarded him with an entire nation (Genesis 15:2-5).
Illustration: Salvation depends upon Christ’s work for us, while rewards depend upon our works for Christ. (Milburn Cockrell)
Implications: When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior we are adapted to God’s family and God becomes our heavenly father. This brings us to our next observation. From an earthly father’s perspective, a disobedient child is not fit to have his requests granted.
The same is true with our heavenly father. God will bless us when we obey. He will not when we disobey. While John 15:7 affirms this, there are many other scriptures that teach the same principle (1 John 3:21–23, 1 Peter 3:7; 12, James 5:16).
Why does God reward obedience? Because obedience is not fun. Obedience is costly, risky, and inconvenient. It will not be called obedience otherwise. The cost of obedience is so high the reward exceeds the cost.
Which phase of the divine test are you in today? It can be leaving your father’s household, leaving your Sodom and Gomorrah behind, or sacrificing your Isaac. Whichever the phase of the divine test you are in today it’s my sincere hope and prayer that you will make it through the test and prove your faithfulness unto the Lord.
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