Sermon: Case Studies in Faith: The Depth of Abraham’s Faith (Hebrews 11:17-19)

Case Studies in Faith:

The Depth of Abraham’s Faith

Hebrews 11:17-19 (ESV)

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,  [18] of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”  [19] He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

So far through chapter 11 of Hebrews we’ve witnessed events of one time acts of faith namely, that of Abel.  We’ve witnessed long durations of faith in that of Enoch who walked with God and Noah who built a ship.  We saw the beginning of Abraham’s faith as God called him and gave him the gift of faith.  Now, we’re going to look at the depth of Abraham’s faith.  The phrase, O’ you of little faith doesn’t apply to Abraham here in this text.  Perhaps the phrase O’ you of amazing faith does apply.

Human need that these verses address is our need to exercise faith when the cost is high and our understanding is low.

Truth Taught- We learn obedience by the things which we suffer at the loving and providential hand of God.

Hebrews 5:7-8 (ESV)

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.  [8] Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.

This verse is also true of Abraham.

Genesis 22:1-14 (ESV)

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” [2] He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” [3] So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. [4] On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. [5] Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” [6] And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. [7] And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” [8] Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

[9] When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. [10] Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. [11] But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” [12] He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” [13] And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. [14] So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

In Genesis we are blessed to have the narrative account preserved for us.  In Hebrews we get a more in depth picture as to what was going on in Abraham’s mind during all this.

I want to zero in on verse two of the Genesis account and pick out a couple of things that will help us understand Hebrews.

[2] He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Genesis as well as the rest of Scripture has as its focus the Lord Jesus Christ.  I want to approach this text in the way it must be approached if we’re going to grasp the true intent of God.

First, this is a real historical account.  The “Binding of Isaac” actually happened in time and space.

Second, this real account serves as a parable that points ultimately to God the Father and God the Son at Calvary.

When we ask questions like, “Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son”?  It should immediately cause us to think why would God sacrifice His only Son?  The phrasing points unmistakably to Jesus.  It says that Abraham took his only son Isaac, however, Abraham also had another son, Ishmael.  So, Moses, the writer of Genesis records God’s Words and probably also thought, wait a minute…Abraham had two sons.  I believe Moses knew what was going on as well.  Abraham only had one son of promise, Isaac.

Second, the place where this act of sacrifice was to happen was Mount Moriah, the same mount on which the only Begotten Son of God would be sacrificed.  These two pieces of information are recorded for a specific purpose.  This account in Genesis is intended to rocket us through centuries to the death of Jesus.  It’s vital for our understanding that we see the account from the vantage point of Calvary.

[13] And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. [14] So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

On that same mountain, came provision.  Isaac experienced God’s grace.  Rather than Isaac’s death there was a death of a substitute.  Rather than Isaac’s blood being required, God provided the blood of a sacrificial animal to cover Isaac.

“On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Abraham experienced the blessing of the provision of God.  Why do you think the Mount wasn’t called “On the mount of the Lord it was provided”?  More was coming.  The more came with Christ.

1. The Trial of Faith (Hebrews 11:17)

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,

God is interested in making us more mature.  He is conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ.  While we are on this earth trials come and go.  Some are minor others shake us to the foundation.  Through them all God’s children endure and come out more Christ like and more in love with the Lord.

James 1:2-4 (ESV)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  [3] for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  [4] And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV)

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  [7] so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

When we endure trials, it is our faith that is shaken and strengthened.  It is our faith that is dropped into the refiner’s fire and heated to the point of melting only to come out more purified.  It is our faith that is all but crushed.

How was Abraham’s faith tried and tested by God?

A.  Abraham was Commanded to Give Up Isaac

This father was commanded by God to sacrifice his son.  This act alone was a heart wrenching command by God.  Abraham gathered the wood and the two servants to help.  He immediately put everything in motion to bring this thing to pass.

B.  Abraham was Commanded to Kill Isaac Himself

Abraham was the one who would wield the knife and thrust it into his son.  He’s the one who would do the killing.  This wouldn’t be some accident but a deliberate act by Abraham.  He was stopped by the angel before committing this act of sacrifice.

Years later on that same mountain bound by sinful men another “only Son” would be escorted up the hill.  This time though there would be no angel to save this Son.  The Father knew that there would only be one way to save sinners.  He and His Son went up the mountain and there the greatest act of love was accomplished.  Jesus went willingly to fulfill His mission.

[14] So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

John 3:16-18 (ESV)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  [18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Abraham’s heart rending decision to part with his son is an fitting parable of God’s great love for a lost world.  Who required the death of Jesus the Son?  It wasn’t the Romans or the Jews.  It was God the Father.  The death of Jesus was a decreed death.  It was a divine plan.  It was God’s justice that required that sin be paid for.  The payment was not made to Satan.  It was God’s justice that required the payment be made for sin.

2 Cor. 5:21 (ESV)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Isaiah 53:6 (ESV)

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned every one to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:10 (ESV)

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;

he has put him to grief;

when his soul makes an offering for sin,

he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;

the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

The amazing love of the Father and of the Son has been shown to sinners.  No where in the world is there a rival to this great act of love.

Romans 5:8 (ESV)

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

2. The Death of the Covenant (Hebrews 11:18)

[18] of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

As we think through this command of God, namely to sacrifice Isaac, we come up against a major problem.  If Isaac dies God’s Word cannot be trusted.  If Abraham kills Isaac then the covenant dies along with him.

It was through this son, the son of promise, that God said “I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand along the sea.”  How can this be?  How could God say that to Abraham and then a few years later command Abraham to kill the same son?  There is a dilemma.

Abraham is called to obey even when it doesn’t all add up.

Human need that these verses address is our need to exercise faith when the cost is high and our understanding is low.

Here’s what was going on in Abraham’s mind…

God promised that offspring will come through this child.  He said through this child all the nations of the world would receive a blessing.  Now He said to kill this child before he has any children of his own to bring the previous promises to come to pass. Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.

When God commands something, always remember that even if it doesn’t make sense, He has something in mind that we often don’t understand.  Obey what you know to be true.  Obey what’s found in Scripture always even if it doesn’t all make sense.  God’s blessing is often the supernatural variable in the equation that makes it work in the end.

3. The Trial’s Solution (Hebrews 11:19)

[19] He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

The supernatural variable in the equation was a resurrection.

Here was Abraham’s thought process.

God made me all these promises which are true and will come to pass.  All these promises center on Isaac.  God has just commanded me to sacrifice Isaac which is just as authoritative.  After Isaac is dead, God must be going to raise him up from the dead in order to accomplish all His promises through him.

At the point of Abraham carrying out God’s command the angel shouts from heaven and stops Abraham.  Abraham looks over in the thicket and sees a substitute.  It possibly was this instance that Jesus said that Abraham saw His day and rejoiced (John 8).

2 Cor. 5:21 (ESV)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Abraham looked death in the eye and his belief in God remained.  Either God would stop the knife from killing Isaac or God would raise Isaac from the dead.  These were the only two possible answers.  God prevented Abraham from killing his only son, Isaac.  When it came to God’s only Son Jesus Christ there was no cry from the angel to stop the event.

To pay for the sins of His people Jesus went to the cross.  He suffered, bled, and died so the penalty for sin would be paid.  God’s justice was satisfied when Christ died.  The solution to this dilemma much like the dilemma concerning Abraham and Isaac was a resurrection.

Isaac was symbolically resurrected.

[19] He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

Christ was physically resurrected.

This pointed to the true physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1 Cor. 15:20-22 (ESV)

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  [21] For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  [22] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Christ’s resurrection insures our resurrection.

1 Peter 1:3 (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

God the Father and God the Son agreed that the Son’s death was required to completely release God’s children from the bondage of sin.  When that death occurred payment was made.

Jesus rose from the death.  Through this we know that in the same way that Christ was raised, so too, we as God’s people, will rise.

Abraham’s deeply rooted faith provided for us a picture of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Form Abraham we learn…

Human need that these verses address is our need to exercise faith when the cost is high and our understanding is low.

Truth Taught- We learn obedience by the things which we suffer at the loving and providential hand of God.

 

 

 

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