STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”
Looking over the list in Hebrews 11 of Christians who lived by faith, Abraham stands out from the rest. More verses are devoted to him than to the others, and he displayed exemplary faith in many respects. This “father of all believers” placed implicit trust in God’s wonderful promises (see Genesis12:1-3,7; 17:7; 22:17,18), most of which he never saw fulfilled.
Abraham not only put a confident trust in God’s keeping of all the promises He had made to him, but also displayed a preferential love for God above anything—or anyone—else (see Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew10:37). This comes into view in the Bible history account where the Lord tests Abraham by instructing him to offer up his dearly beloved son, Isaac—his and Sarah’s only son (Genesis 22:1-19).
There is no indication of Abraham questioning God or showing any hesitancy in obeying Him in this heartrending matter. Right up to the moment he raised his knife to strike Isaac dead on the altar of God, Abraham displayed a ready resolve to follow through in this act of devotion and obedient love. Holy Scripture reveals that Abraham was so committed to the Lord in this that even though God stopped him short of slaying his son, in Abraham’s mind it was as if he had completed the sacrificial act to the point of death.
Were Abraham to have slain Isaac, what would have become of those divine promises tied to Isaac? How could Abraham have had countless descendants who were to be a great and chosen people of God, and take possession of Canaan? Most important of all, how could the promised Savior of the world proceed from Abraham’s descendants?
Abraham believed that if God commanded him to take the life of Isaac, God would raise Isaac from the dead and keep His many promises. Abraham alluded to this belief when he said to his servants beforehand, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” (Genesis 22:5) Even as Abraham had taken the life of Isaac in his mind, in a figurative way the Lord raised him back to life.
When meditating on this great faith and love of Abraham, we cannot help but think of the tremendous sacrifice God the Father made when He offered up His only begotten Son on the altar of the cross for our eternal redemption. What truly amazing grace God showed to the whole world of sinners like you and me! What love He showed in sacrificing the life of His only begotten, dearly beloved Son for us!
As mothers and fathers read this Bible account of Abraham, many are no doubt amazed, and wonder where Abraham found the will and strength to do this. We need look no further than the heart of God. Knowing God’s great redeeming love for him, Abraham’s heart was filled with an overwhelming spirit of love that moved him to carry out this extraordinary act of devotion.
To God alone be all the glory for the faith and love displayed here by Abraham!
Mark Gullerud is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Bowdle, South Dakota, and Zion Lutheran Church in Ipswich, South Dakota.