The 22nd chapter of Genesis records for us the greatest test that Abraham would face. It is a beautiful picture of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, but the primary lesson from this is that God will test His servants from time to time. A faith that cannot be tested, cannot be trusted. We can learn a number of things from the trial to which Abraham was subjected.
I. Expect Trials From God. v1-2
A. Note the "tests" that Abraham had taken.
1. The family test...when he had to leave his family and step out on faith to go to a new land.
2. The famine test...which Abraham failed because he doubted God and went down into Egypt.
3. The fellowship test...when he gave Lot first choice concerning the pasture land.
4. The fighting test...when he won the victory over the kings of the cities of the plains.
5. The fortune test...when he refused the wealth of the king of Sodom.
6. The fatherhood test...he failed when he agreed to Sarah's plan to have a child with Hagar.
7. The farewell test...when he said good-bye to his son Ishmael.
B. Not every difficult situation in life is a test from God.
1. Sometimes we get ourselves into situations that are tough because we make wrong choices.
2. Often through disobedience we find ourselves in a mess that will test our faith.
3. How we deal with our circumstances is of the utmost importance.
(James 1:12-16) Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.
4. Temptations come from our desires within us and tempt us to do evil.
5. Trials come from God and are used to bring out the best in us.
(James 1:1-6) James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
6. All believers face similar temptations, but not all experience the same kind of trials of faith from God.
II. Focus On Promises, Not Explanations. v3-5
A. Definition of a test of faith.
1. When God asks us to bear what seems unbearable, do what seems unreason able, and expect what seems impossible.
2. Whether it was Joseph in the prison, Moses and Israel at the Red Sea, David in the cave, or Abraham on Mt. Moriah the lesson is the same.
3. We are to live by promises, not explanations.
B. Consider how unreasonable God's request to Abraham was.
1. Isaac was Abraham's only son.
2. The future of the covenant rested in him.
3. He was the miracle child that God gave to Abraham and Sarah in response to their faith.
C. Our first response to trials.
1. Why, Lord? or Why me?
2. God has His purpose for all things that come our way.
3. Sometimes they are to purify our faith, to perfect our character, or even to protect us from sin (example Paul and the thorn in his flesh).
D. Abraham's response was obedience.
1. He knew that God's will never contradicts God's promises.
2. He believed that even if God allowed him to slay his son that God could and would raise him up from the dead.
(Hebrews 11:17-19) By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
3. Abraham told his servants, "I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you." v5
4. Faith does not demand explanations; faith rests on promises.
(Hebrews 11:1) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
a. Abraham believed and obeyed God when he didn't know where. v8
b. When he didn't know when. v9-10
c. When he didn't know how. v11-12
d. When he didn't know why. v17-19
III. Depend upon God's provision. v6-14
A. Two key thoughts in this passage.
1. "...God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering..." v8
2. "Jehovah-jireh...in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen." v14
B. On what could Abraham depend?
1. Not on his feelings! This was his beloved son, his emotions were sending up all sorts of red flags about this.
2. Not on other people! Sarah was back at home, his servants were waiting at the camp, he was facing this trial alone with God and with God alone.
3. But he could depend upon the promise and provision of the Lord!
4. When we are faced with situations that appear to be hopeless, we need to ask ourselves, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?"
C. God did provide the sacrifice that was needed. v13
1. Where? at the place God instructs us to be; we have no right to expect God's provision if we are not in His will.
2. When? just when we have the need; God is never late...He is always on time.
3. How? often in ways that are quite natural.
4. To Whom? to those who trust Him and obey His instructions.
5. Why? for His own glory!
IV. We should look forward to what God has in store for us. v15-24
A. Abraham received a new approval from God. "for now I know thou fearest God"
B. He received back a new son.
1. Isaac was now a living sacrifice.
2. God gave Abraham Isaac and Abraham gave him back to God only to receive him again.
3. We must always be careful that God's gifts do not take the place of the Giver.
C. God gave Abraham new assurances.
1. He had heard these promises before.
2. But, now they took on a whole new meaning for him.
3. Along with these new assurances came a new name for God...Jehovah-jireh, the Lord will see to it.
God set forth a beautiful picture of Christ in this Old Testament account of Abraham's test of faith. We see in Isaac the obedience of Christ to the will of the Father. In Abraham we see the sacrifice of the Father to give His only begotten Son. And prophetically we see the Lamb of God who would take our place that we might have fellowship with God. We must learn how to face the trials of God.