“And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” – Genesis 15:6

 

A faith tested is a faith that can be trusted. An untested faith cannot be trusted. Unless our faith is tested true, we will never be able to truly trust it. Without testing, our faith is tentative. Faith is like a muscle; it grows strong by lifting weights. This truth is put to the test in the life of Abraham, the father of faith.

When the Apostle Paul turns to develop our understanding of saving faith, he uses Abraham as his first example.

Romans 4:1 – “What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?”

Paul begins by saying, “What then shall we say . . .?” Paul has made a preliminary foray in his presentation by stating that a person is not justified by the Law, but by grace through faith in Christ (Romans 3:19-31). Paul’s manner of making his point often utilizes the art of questioning as in 6:1; 7:7; 8:31; 9:14, 30. An apt question can open the door to the ministry of the Spirit in teaching. Here it is as though Paul were saying, “What can the experience and account of Abraham tell us about becoming righteous before God? Paul calls those who may have doubted him thus far to come and reason with him on this matter.

Abraham is used by Paul as a model of saving and sustaining faith in Romans 4. Abraham is seen prominently throughout the Bible. Abraham is named in the Hall of Faith list in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 11:8-12). Abraham by faith gave his all to God and obeyed God’s call on his life:

Genesis 12:1-4 – “Now the Lord had said to Abram: 1 “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”4 So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”

Abraham grew up in the pagan land of Ur of the Chaldeas (Genesis 11:31) and later moved to Haran, places known for pagan idolatry. Notice that when God calls Abram, he does not give him specifics beyond a simple call to leave. Abram from the start would have to trust God and take a risk. God builds faith by including an element of risk in his directions of us. In Hebrews it states:

Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

We do not like those words, “not seen.” We, (as I am sure was likely true of Abram also) like to have our plans laid out before us. We want the entire blueprint of what God intends to do in our lives. “What does my future hold? What happens if I move here? Who will my spouse be? What career will I have?” and on and on. God gives us step one as He leads us by faith; we want step one, two, three, four, five, . . .. We want everything set out neatly before us so we can decide if we want to do it.

There are a number of reasons God does not lay out His entire plan for our lives before us. First, it causes us to depend on and trust in Him every step of the way. Second, if we saw the entire plan we might refuse to go because our faith has not been gradually bolstered and built up alone the journey. Third, if we knew what our future held, we might coast. No, if we are going to follow God in faith, we will need to experience what Abram did, a moment-by-moment trust in the Lord. So, if God calls you to a task, don’t think if you have some uncertainty that this is not God’s will, He will give you enough to take the next step, but you will have to trust Him for the rest. You have to trust God with your future because faith is the “substance of things hoped for.”

Abraham knew no altar-native to God. Abraham had a holy habit of calling on God in prayer and worship. It was a priority for him to do so. He also led his family along the same spiritual path:

Genesis 12:5-8 – “Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land.7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.8 And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.”  (see also Gen. 13:4, 18; 22:9).

It was Abram’s practice that when he went from one place to another, that he would erect an altar and prayerfully worship and seek the Lord. True faith by nature is worshipful. Because of the way God led Abram, it caused him to seek the Lord and led to a healthy spiritual relationship with God. Abram built altars to God because God had altered his life. Abram was altered by God because he knew no altar-native, i.e., alternative to God. God was the Lord of Abram’s life. This is a prime characteristic of a man of faith.

Abraham was not perfect, he was flawed (Genesis 12:10-20; 20; 16:2). Abram resorted to deception and lies on occasion rather than trust in God. And this occurred when he was young in his faith and also when he was more mature in his faith. When tempted to “help God” in fulfilling His plan by resorting to a carnal alternative plan proposed by his wife Sarah, he did not resist it but gave in which led to the creation of perpetual animosity for his offspring. Though life is muddied with our mistakes, a person of faith presses on.

Abraham was a pilgrim who lived in a tent, not a king who lived in a castle of carnality. Abraham had his priorities right. His eyes were fixed on the heavenly promise, not the pride of earth (Genesis 12:8; 13:3,12,18; 18:1,2,6,9,10; 24:67; Hebrews 11:13; 13:14; 1 Peter 2:11-12). He had an ongoing relationship with God that produced growth in his faith (Genesis 17:3; 18). Abraham was changed by God as seen in Gods’ changing his name from Abram to Abraham (Genesis 17:4-5). Abraham was made fruitful by God (Genesis 17:6). He was marked by God so that he was distinct, from the world, holy (Genesis 17:10-11). Abraham was open to God’s will, even when it contradicted his desires (Genesis 17:18-19). Abraham left God’s mark on others (Genesis 17:27). Abraham was a servant of God (Genesis 18:1-8). He accepted that God could do the impossible (Genesis 18:9-15). He was strengthened in faith by his knowledge of God (Genesis 18:16-22). Abraham was concerned about justice and the salvation of others (Genesis 18:23). Abraham reverently sought to know more about God by asking questions of God, his faith was dynamic, not static, it was growing not slowing (Genesis 24-33). Abraham truly is the father of our faith.

The greatest demonstration of Abraham’s faith was his willingness to offer his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. The historical life context was that Abraham and his wife Sarah, well advanced in age and beyond the time that you would normally expect a couple to have a child, bore a son. Miraculously God, true to His word, blessed them with a son of promise who they named “Isaac,” or laughter. So incredible and awesome was this blessing that all they could do was laugh, and so they named their son of promise accordingly. God is always faithful to fulfill His promises. Strong faith stays the course and discovers the faithfulness of God.

To build faith and reveal His truth, there are always Genesis 22 experiences. God leads us in a way of less dependence on ourselves and others, and more dependence on Him. Therefore, God’s ways are not our ways. God’s ways are often beyond us. As we trust Him in uncertain times our faith is strengthened (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33-36).

In Genesis 22 God tells Abraham to bring Isaac, his long-awaited son of promise, through whom he and the entire world would be blessed, God tells Abraham to go and offer Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah (22:1-2). (Notice God refers to Isaac as Abraham’s “only son.” This is because God does not recognize things done in our flesh, He only accepts that which is produced through faith in Him – 1 Corinthians 3:15; Galatians 4:22-29.) God was testing Abraham’s faith. God was teaching Abraham obedience, sacrifice, love. Abraham simply obeyed. I imagine Abraham certainly couldn’t have expected let alone fully understood what God was intending to accomplish in this directive. He like wondered why God would ask him to do such a thing. Abraham may have thought, “Father, this is my son, my ‘only’ son, the child of Your promise through whom Your covenant blessings are to be fulfilled. You want me to offer him as a sacrifice? You want me to kill, no murder him? Father, I don’t understand.” God builds faith by bringing us to a point where we must trust Him even though we do not understand what He is doing in our life situation.

Such uncertainty and extraordinary callings are not an excuse for us to live irrationally or to follow every whim that might cross our mind or enter our heart. Practically, it would be a good idea when we find ourselves in such situations, to seek confirmation in God’s word and godly counsel. We should test all things and hold fast to what is good (1 Thess. 5:21). God’s testing is to crucify our flesh, not inflate it bigger. But for Abraham, there was no godly counsel available, and this was God’s word! It was just Him and God. What would this man of faith do?

Abraham obeyed God, took Isaac and a couple of servants, and went on his way to Moriah (22:3). In “three” days Abraham came to his destination. What torment and heartfelt prayerful cries this man of God must have made on the way to Moriah! But Abraham did not express his feelings in a way that would tip off his son to God’s plans. All we know is that by the time Abraham had reached Moriah, his faith in God had been encouraged enough so that he confidently told the servants to wait at the foot of the mount while he and Isaac went up and that “we will come back to you” (22:4-5). In Hebrews it states that Abraham’s faith in God was such that he trusted God was able to resurrect Isaac from the dead if need be (Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham believed God could do the impossible in the process of Isaac’s birth. Now God was taking him to a higher level in that he would have to trust God to raise him from the dead.

Abraham put the wood for the sacrifice on the shoulders of Isaac and the two began their ascent up the mount. Now in all this Isaac followed his father in trusting silence. He only asked his father once where the sacrificial animal was. Abraham’s answer was “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” (22:6-8). Keep in mind, Isaac was no young child. In fact, he was quite possibly in his late teens or early twenties. Isaac would have easily been able to overpower his elderly father. But he did not. Isaac’s faith was being built here too. He went along with his father who he knew to be a man of faith.

It is always easier to follow someone you know is a person of faith. But certainly Isaac’s faith must have been more fully placed in God. His father was old. Maybe Isaac thought, “Has my father gone off the deep end?” What and why was he doing what he was doing? What must have Isaac thought when his father told him to get up on the altar, when his father the man of faith tied him down to the altar and then raised his knife high in the air? What must Isaac have thought? (22:9-10). He was literally brought to the end of himself, to the extreme end of himself in this curious situation. And that is the way God builds faith. Man’s extremities are God’s opportunities.

God builds faith by bringing us to the end of ourselves. He brings us to the end of our reason, the end of our strength, the end of our wits at times. He brings us to the place where all there is, is Him. He brings us to the place where all we can do is trust in Him. And when our faith is stretched to the point of breaking, He says, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”  (22:9-12) This is how God builds faith. And because of Abraham’s faith, and Isaac’s faith, God was able to do something even more incredible.

Faith and love go hand in hand. The greatest expression of faith, the greatest evidence of a mature faith, is love. This love is generated by the Holy Spirit in us (cf. Romans 5:5; Gal. 5:22-24). And so it should not surprise us that the word “love” is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 22:2. It is fitting that the first mention of love is used regarding a father’s love for his son. There is a great truth foreshadowed here and a great love foretold. It is interesting that when Abraham says, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (22:6-8), that those words can also be translated, “God will provide Himself, an offering.” And it is true, God in Christ, gave Himself to save us from our sins (Romans 3:26; 2 Corinthians 5:19).

Through this event God gives a picture of His loving sacrifice of His Son Jesus (22:2, 8; John 3:16). Mount Moriah would eventually go by another name, the name Golgotha. Mount Moriah is the eventual location of Golgotha where God the Father would send His one and only Son Jesus to give His life a ransom for many (Genesis 22:2; John 3:16). 2 Chronicles 3:1 tells us Solomon’s temple was built on Mount Moriah and the highest point of this mount was later named Golgotha by Romans who used the highest point of the area to display those who were executed. On Moriah God proved Abraham’s faith (22:12). But centuries later on Moriah God painted the more profound picture of the one in Whom we should put our faith to be saved, Jesus our Savior.

What do we learn from this? One thing we learn is that faith is built by testing. No test, no testimony. We learn that God, in His Son Jesus Christ, does not limit the extent to which He will go to show us His love or deal with our sin. God really did go through with the sacrifice of His one and only Son, His precious Son Jesus. And that is why this portion of scripture is also the place where “worship” is first mentioned (22:5). On Moriah, on Golgotha, God showed us His love and gave us His gospel of grace and for that we should always be worshipping Him. Amen!

Abraham was accounted as righteous by God based on his faith and trust in God – Genesis 15:6.

Genesis 15:6 – “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”

Abraham, as you can see, was a man of faith. God used the life of Abraham to show humanity the faith He desires to work in and through them. Abraham was not perfect, and our ultimate example in all things is the Lord Jesus Christ, but Abraham gives us a picture of the living faith that God wants for each of those who He calls His own. But more importantly, in Abraham we see the picture of the gospel of God. Because of Abraham’s faith in God, God could use Him to paint a beautiful picture of His grace, love and of His redemptive gospel in Christ. When we put our faith in God, He is able to use us in incredibly awesome ways. Glory to God Most High!

 

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