Introduction: This week we see the Lord rewarding Abraham for his actions of faith leading up to the binding of Isaac, his only son, on the altar. As God says in Gen. 22:16: ‘Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.’ While this week’s studies will make clear that such rewards are all of grace, let us nonetheless ask the Lord to stir us up to good works in imitation of Abraham and his works of faith.
Monday: read Genesis 22:15-18. In Gen. 22:16-18, God speaks in a way that sounds like He is rewarding Abraham for His obedience – rewarding him by making him nothing less than the source of blessing for the whole world (Gen. 22:18)! Is Abraham indeed blessed and even saved in return for his good works? Well, recall that all the blessings bestowed in Gen. 22:16-18 had already been given before – all the way back in Genesis 12:2-3. There God promised that in Abraham all the nations of the earth would be blessed – even before Abraham had believed, obeyed or done anything! Thus long before Abraham’s great work of sacrificing his son in Gen 22, and before any works had been accomplished by Abraham at all: God’s promises were freely and graciously bestowed.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the unconditional nature of His grace which saves us from sin. Even the faith which we exercise and by which we receive the gift of salvation is of God’s free grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). For Abraham and for us, justifying grace saves us without our works, as Romans 4:5 says: ‘To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.’
Tuesday: read Genesis 22:15-18 and Genesis 15:1-6. God graciously lays a foundation for Abraham’s faith in His promises of blessing in Gen. 12:2-3 before Abraham had taken one step towards the Promised Land. But that’s not all. Throughout his life God repeatedly pointed Abraham to His promises – especially when Abraham was weak and unsure. Just as the ‘stars’ offer Abraham comforting proof of how numerous his offspring would be in Gen. 22:17, so the weakness of Abraham’s faith in Gen. 15:2-3 is greatly helped by the vision of the stars which God gives in Gen. 15:5. Only after God’s repeated assurances does ‘Abraham believe’ and find God’s justifying righteousness to be his in Gen. 15:6.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His power to strengthen our faith by His unconditional promises of gracious blessing. All the way through Genesis God nurtured Abraham’s weak faith on such promises until it was able to withstand the great trial of giving up his own son. Thank Him for His patient work in your life to make your faith one day strong enough to ‘climb the mountain’ of the greatest trials of life.
Wednesday: read Genesis 22:15-18 and Psalm 1:1-3. God nourished Abraham’s faith through all the ups and downs of Gen. 12-17 until that faith came to fruitful maturity in Genesis 22, strengthened then to withstand the trial of offering up his only son. This is what God’s Word promises the godly man or woman, that he will be like ‘a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.’ (Psalm 1:3)
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His faithful, progressive work of producing spiritual fruit in our lives. Though it is a quiet, gradual work, accompanied with many failures and setbacks, we nevertheless with Abraham will see in the end that the Holy Spirit has indeed sanctified us. How could the Holy Spirit of God fail to do in our lives what Jesus asked Him to do when he prayed for us in John 17:17? ‘Sanctify them by the truth; your Word is truth.’
Thursday: read Genesis 22:1, 12 and Galatians 5:19-25. Are you confident that God’s quiet work of making you a fruitful Christian is taking place? Such fruit is the goal of the trials which God sends into our lives. By them God wants to demonstrate to the world the fruits of faith which He has secretly worked within us. The time came for all the world to see the strength of Abraham’s faith in the trial of sacrificing Isaac. John Calvin puts it this way in his Institutes of the Christian Religion (III:VIII:4).
“God is pleased thus to attest and display striking proofs of the graces which he has conferred upon his saints, lest they should remain… unseen and unemployed. Accordingly, by bringing forward openly the strength and constancy of endurance which he has provided his servants, he is said to try their patience. Hence God ‘tempted’ Abraham in Genesis 22:1 and 12 in order to make sure and manifest the gifts which Abraham had received. God Himself, in order to prevent the virtues which he has conferred upon believers from lurking in obscurity and lying useless and perishing, does aright in supplying opportunities for calling them forth.”
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His determination to display His fruit in our lives through the trials He sends. Be assured that God’s purpose is to gain glory for Himself through all the disappointments and even fearful trials through which He sends us. Rejoice in that glorious fruit gained through trials – even as Romans 5:3-5 instruct us to do.
Friday: read Hebrews 11:17-19. We look today at a famous verse (Hebrews 11:19) which explains how Abraham’s mind of faith worked when called to offer up Isaac in Genesis 22: ‘He reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.’ Faith is logical, not mystical or blind. It says: ‘Abraham reasoned’ that God would raise Isaac from the dead.
What then does this ‘reasoning by faith’ mean? The word can be defined as ‘to count up or weigh the reasons for something,’ or, (applied to God), ‘to deliberately decide to count on God, because you have judged that He will reliably do what is needed,’ in Abraham’s case, raising Isaac from the dead.
We may well be dumbfounded by such a far-reaching faith in the Resurrection on Abraham’s part, and find ourselves saying: ‘How could Abraham really count on God’s resurrection power when Jesus had not yet been born – let alone triumphed over death in the Resurrection?’ Facing death, our faith in God’s power to give us life can struggle – how much more Abraham’s faith in the dark before the dawn of Easter! How could he grasp the empty tomb when so little of it had been revealed in Bible history?
Well, clearly Abraham believed in God’s promises to establish His covenant as ‘an everlasting covenant’ with Isaac (Genesis 17:19) and to make Isaac the source of blessing for ‘all peoples on earth,’ (Genesis 12:3) – and he knew that Isaac must live if such promises were to come true! He therefore believed God would raise Isaac from the dead in order to keep His Word. He rested in the promises of God. The promised Eternal life would come through Isaac, so Isaac had to triumph over death!
Meditate and Pray: How we should rest contentedly in this world of doubt and uncertainty, knowing that God has bound Himself on the altar of His own Word. He must be true to the promises He has made. He has promised us eternal life – and so He must provide the sacrifice to take our place that we might live! He has done so in Jesus. Because Jesus died for us on the cross and rose again ‘for our justification,’ (Romans 4:25), all God’s promises – including to raise us from the dead and give us with Isaac eternal life – are now ‘Yes and Amen’ in Jesus!