Introduction: This week we see the Lord bring Abraham face-to-face with his life-long problem of mistrusting God’s care and provision. Notwithstanding all his blessings of wealth, security and reputation as the ‘father of those who believe,’ there are still weeds of unbelief and mistrust which must be removed from Abraham’s life, and there are still ways in which his faith needs to be strengthened. For such purposes God sends the ultimate trial of Gen. 22 into Abraham’s life: the sacrifice of Isaac.
Monday: read Genesis 22:1-2 and Romans 5:1-4. We can appreciate why God ‘tests’ Abraham in Gen. 22:1 when we remember all Abraham’s sinful habits. Abraham had doubted God’s directions for his life when he delayed coming into the Promised Land and stayed with his father in Haran (Acts 7:4 & Gen. 11:31); he wandered away from God when he detoured to Egypt (Gen. 12:10) and when he conceived Ishmael with Hagar (Gen. 16); he even repeatedly lied about his wife (Gen. 20:13) and tolerated hostility against the Promised Son Isaac (Gen. 21:11). For all these reasons, God sent the trial of losing Isaac deep into the heart of Abraham. For God knew that only through such a trial and suffering would the perseverance, character and hope which Abraham needed be finally secured in his life. As Romans 5:4 says: ‘suffering, perseverance, character and then hope.’ There is no avoiding this ‘pattern of growth’ through fruitful sufferings.
Meditate and Pray: – We must learn that God’s tests at the end of life can be just as hard as at the beginning of our lives of faith. By faith in Gen. 22 Abraham had to “go to a place which God would show him” (Gen.22:2), just as he had been told to go “to a place which God would show him” in Gen.12:1. Ask God to help you submit to trials not only in idealistic youth but also in the weakness of old age.
Tuesday: read Genesis 22:1-8 and Job 13:15. Thank God that, despite all his past failures, Abraham was learning in preparation for the ultimate trial of sacrificing his son. He had separated the child of promise from the woman of bondage in Gen. 21:14! But now in Genesis 22, all prior tests and trials are seen as mere preparatory steps for the ultimate demand to slay his one and only son. How could God demand such a thing from Abraham? Because God has the right to take everything away from us except Himself. He cannot abandon those whom He loves – but he can strip us of all else until we must say with Job: “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” (Job 13:15). This is what God demands from Abraham: the stripping away of everything in his life except direct dependence on God Himself.
Meditate and Pray: How do we keep our sanity through the ordeals of life, such as losing a child or being tested to the point of death like Abraham? There is only one way for Abraham and for us to keep our sanity through such an ordeal. Even in the face of the death of his only son, Abraham expresses hope that, somehow, “The Lord will provide” (Gen.22:7-8). Thank God for the power of the faith which He has placed in us: strong in its insistence that, ‘Though troubles assail us and dangers affright, though friends should all fail us and foes all unite, yet one thing secures us, whatever betide, the promise assures us, “The Lord will provide.” (Hymn # 95 Trinity Hymnal)
Wednesday: read Genesis 22:1-8, Hebrews 11:1-6 and Ephesians 2:8-9. Abraham knew that all God’s covenant promises were bound up with this child of promise, Isaac. How then did he cope with God’s command which in one stroke would mean the death not just of Isaac but also of all the promises tied up with the boy’s life? Abraham reasoned by faith that God would remain true to his promises even if that meant bringing the boy back from the dead! How amazing that the faith which God gives can hold onto unseen realities such as resurrection of the dead! Such an amazing grip on the supernatural power of God helps us to appreciate that faith does not flow from human potential or effort. It is the supernatural gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the gift of faith which He has given you. Faith alone is the instrument by which we receive God’s saving power in our lives. Faith alone is the empty hand which God will fill with His blessings. Ask God to refine and preserve that faith in your life, for without it, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Thursday: read Genesis 22:1-8 and Hebrews 11:17-19. Abraham reasoned by faith that God would remain true to his covenant promises in Isaac – even if it meant bringing the boy back from the dead! This is what Hebrews 11:17-19 emphatically declares. But here is the interesting thing – Abraham had no direct promise about God’s power to resurrect Isaac from the dead. How could he reason that far in giving up his son? Well, there is more than a hint of victory over death in Gen. 3:15’s promise that the Devil would be crushed by the Seed of the woman. Adam also called his wife ‘Eve’ which means ‘Mother of life.’ Even more, had not Abraham seen God bring life out of the dead womb of Sarah when Isaac was born well past her child-bearing years? Somehow, Abraham was convinced that the power of God extended even to raising the dead. It was God’s ability and power to do whatever needed to be done which persuaded Abraham. He found peace because he did not limit what God could do. He rested on the conviction that the power of God could extend itself to things past his understanding and comprehension. This was the life and soul of the faith of Abraham – his belief that the power of God could overcome all obstacles – even death – in order to secure His truth and promises.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the reminder that your faith is created to live on impossibilities. Can bitter sinners dead in their trespasses live a new life of forgiveness and joy? Yes! If that is so, and God can raise us to newness of life when spiritually dead, it is nothing for him to give physical life even to Isaac slain on the altar. Hallelujah!
Friday: read Genesis 22:9-14 and Romans 8:32. We have not appreciated the full benefit of the tests which God sends into our lives until we see that they reveal God’s heart to us. For example, notice how God describes Abraham’s offering up of Isaac: “You have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Gen. 22:12) Such language displays God’s heart desire to spare Abraham’s only son. Abraham was given a ram in Isaac’s place (Gen. 22:13) – but when God used the exact same language of His own “only Son whom He loved” (Matthew 3:17), we discover that there will be no ram to take God’s Son’s place. God does not spare ‘His only Son’ and endures all the fatherly pain which Abraham is spared.
Meditate and Pray: Jesus Christ is our Isaac. In Him, all the promises of God are bound up. If Jesus had died alone, we would have been left with shattered dreams and broken hearts. But Jesus did not die a lonely, tragic death as merely an innocent victim. His Father laid Him on the altar, and also brought Him back from death, raised from the dead. Abraham’s hunch proved right: God could raise the dead off of the altar on the mountain: but it wasn’t Isaac – but Jesus, who was raised in our place. Let us thank God for the hope in our lives from such a sacrifice: ‘He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?’ (Romans 8:32)