TEXT: Gen 22:1-24; 23:1-20
Tests and trials are instruments God uses to determine the strength and genuineness of our faith. It has always been a medium of evaluation to prove the authenticity of our claims on God. Spiritual tests have severally been used to determine the transparency, truthfulness, faithfulness and commitment of God’s people to do His will. The Lord has, on purpose used tests to demand an unusual sacrifice from Abraham (Gen 22:1); lead Israel in a difficult way through the wilderness to the promised Land (Deu 8:2); determine Solomon’s heart disposition in his personal request or choice (1 Kings 3:5); purpose a hard task in order to test faith of His disciples (Jhn 6:5,6); permit His disciples to go through persecution and suffering when in the pathway of duty (Acts 16:23); allow diverse temptations and trials (James 1:2,3); and prove the condition of the heart of His people (Exo 20:20). Here, God tried Abraham, not to lead him to sin, but to discover the quality, strength and genuineness of his faith and love for Him. God gives man the freedom of choice and action to reject or accept God’s request. Man is solely responsible for all his action whether they are good or evil. The word of God says, “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; I call heaven and eartb to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deut 30:15,19).
1. COMMAND TO OFFER ISAAC AND ABRAHAM OBEDIENCE
Gen 22:1-10; 18:19; Deu 8:1-3,16; Isa 48:18; Heb 11:17-19
In spite of the testimony of God concerning Abraham previously (Gen 18:18,19). He still commanded him to offer as a sacrifice, the dearest possession he had – his only son. No reason was given and no alternative was demanded, yet God’s promise to Abraham was that in Isaac shall his seed be called. God was to prove what was in Abraham’s heart through this test. Recall that Abraham had, in his previous dealings with God, been consistent in obedience. In his first encounter with the Lord when he was asked to move out from his kinsmen into an unknown land, he obeyed without hesitation (Gen 12:1). Then there was strife between his herdsmen and Lot’s and he chose the humble path and allowed Lot to make the first choice. The Lord seemed to have been training him in the path of obedience. This time, it was a higher test that demanded higher commitment and yieldedness, especially considering his challenge of delay in child-bearing. But again, he acquitted himself in an unquestioning obedience to God’s express command.
We have a lot to learn from our father in the faith. God allows us to face difficulties and challenges sometimes to confirm our love for Him and lift us up to greatness. Abraham journeyed for three days to the land of Moriah, the place God had chosen for the sacrifice. He had all the time to think over his action but he did not allow human reasoning or the opinion of others to prevent him from obeying God. The reality of losing his only son if he obeyed God or annulment of the covenant, He made with him loomed large on him, yet he walked by faith and overcame all the suggestions to disobey God. He did not allow the emotional attachment to Isaac or the consideration of Sarah to deter him. Such uncompromising and resolute stance on matters of obedience to God is exemplary. Abiding faith weathers every storm and in the end, enjoys the sweet savour of victory in battles of life. We must strictly watch out against those who persuade us to take easy but ungodly ways to solve our problems or to success in life. Sometimes, God’s way may be the hard way, but it will always end in blessings. On getting to the place of sacrifice which the Lord had showed Abraham, Isaac posed a daunting question to his father: “…he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Gen 22:7). Abraham’s response provides a window into the state of his mind and the level of his faith. He said, “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering…”. This is to say,
i. He was unfazed at the prospect of losing his beloved son. He knew God who gave had the right to take or bring back life again (Heb 11:19).
ii. He believed in the sovereignty and integrity of the almighty God, that He would not make an unreasonable demand.
iii. He had faith that his sacrifice would turn out to be a blessing.
iv. He was goaded on by a feeling of assurance that there might be a last – minute miracle of divine of provision for the sacrifice.
v. As a prophet, he foresaw that both of them would return to his servants even though he did not know how this would happen. He had told them: “…Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you” (Gen 22:5).
vi. His action speaks volumes about his readiness to lose the child in order to gain the Lord’s favour.
vii. He had reached a point of no-going-back in his walk with God.
Abraham’s test of obedience provides some further lessons for believers.
a. God wanted to know if he valued the gift more than the Giver. Isaac was the most precious gift Abraham had having waited for his birth for more than twenty years and with Ishmael already sent away with his mother.
b. It was a test of his consecration and readiness to surrender all no matter how precious for the sake of heaven.
c. As his only son, Abraham’s sacrifice prefigured our heavenly Father’s gift of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be the Lamb, the Sacrifice whose blood atoned for the sins of mankind. Abraham’s obedience and sacrifice paid eternal benefits as God commended him.
2. COMMENDATION OF ABRAHAM’S OBEDIENCE AND COMMITMENT
Gen 22:11-19; Gal 3:9-19; Ps 31:23; 1 Cor 4:2; Rev 2:10
The Lord’s response, as soon as it was established that Abraham remained true to his commitment showed that the Lord only wanted to test his faith. And, having passed the divine test, He said, “…now I know that thou fearest God, seeing that thou withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gen 22:12). God said, “now I know”, not because He did not know, but He meant that Abraham had now shown substantial evidence. His action of faith and total surrender earned God’s commendation and blessings. The faithfulness of Abraham and his trust in God was rewarded first by the provision of a ram as an alternative for the sacrifice. The lamb symbolizes Christ as the substitute for all men. He died in our place so that we may be free from eternal death and hell if we accept Him as our Saviour (Isaiah 53:4-12; Matt 20:20; John 6:51; Rom 4:25). Christ’s death was our discharge from damnation. As a result of Abraham obedience, God said:
a. In blessing, he would bless Abraham. Obedience to God attracts divine blessings.
b. Abraham’s descendants would be as the stars of heaven and stand by the seashore of multitude.
c. Israel would overcome their enemies by possessing their gates. It is on record that many nations have attempted to wipe out Israel but have always failed.
d. Through Abraham, humanity shall be blessed. The Messiah who would be our Saviour of the world shall come through his loins (Gal 3:16). After this divine encounter, good news of the blessing of Abraham’s younger brother, Nahor, reached him as though he (Nahor) had also some delay in having children. In all, it was cheerful news for Abraham’s son, Isaac would later marry Rebekah, Nabor’s grand- daughter.
3. DEATH OF SARAH AND ABRAHAM COMPORTMENT
Gen 23:1-20; Rom 6:23; Ps 90:12; Eccl 3:1,2; 8:8; Num 23:10; Rev 14:13; Heb 9:27
Physical death, the temporal end of all humans, eventually came to Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Obviously, she had finished her course on earth as she passed away at a very advanced age of one hundred and twenty- seven years. Abraham and his wife served the Lord together when they left Ur of the Chaldees in obedience to God’s call. Abraham could not have succeeded and be called the father of the faithful without his wife’s support. Mother Sarah was homely, hospitable and a help meet for Abraham (Gen 2:18). She was an example of godliness to all women of faith and example of scriptural submission in the home. “Even as sara obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with many amazement” (1 Pet 3:6). With her husband, they entertained angels unawares. Sarah’s death was a test for Abraham but he handled the situation maturely. The affection he had for her could be seen in the way he mourned her passage. But he overcame the grief and gave his wife a befitting burial. The habitants of Hebron agreed to him a burial place because of the great respect they had for him and his behaviour among them (Gen 23:5,6). A believer conduct among unbelievers must be one without reproach (Matt 5:16). Burial time should be a period of sober reflection on the brevity of life and the eternal destiny that it ushers in. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement” (Heb 9:27). The righteous have a glorious end while the unrighteous shall suffer throughout eternity (Matt 25:46). Everyone should prepare for this inevitable end by turning away from their sins and believing in Jesus Christ as their Lord and personal Saviour. Afterwards we should live holy lives every day in preparation to meet the Lord.