By Irvin Himmel
“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed by called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Heb. 11:17-19).
There were many times in the life of Abraham when his faith was put to the test. The trial recorded in Genesis 22 is a narrative charged with emotion, sympathy, and triumph.
God addressed Abraham by name. The faithful patriarch responded, “Behold, here I am.” The Lord said, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”
Abraham’s great faith was exemplified in a number of ways in connection with this unusual command.
Abraham “rose up early in the morning” fully determined to obey God’s will. He made no excuses for delaying what he had been told to do. He did not consult Sarah or anyone else. He did not pray to be excused from such a difficult trial. There is no hint that he argued with the Lord about this matter. God had spoken. The affair was settled in the mind of Abraham. There was no time to waste. The first order of business was to do exactly what God commanded.
Abraham saddled an ass, clave the wood for the offering, took two of his young men with him, took Isaac, and set out for the land of Moriah. The journey was long. On the third day he lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. There was much time to reflect on what God had commanded. But Abraham was prepared in heart to fully accept the responsibility for doing whatever God wanted. Many people make only physical preparation for obeying God; they fail to prepare their hearts.
For a long time Abraham had awaited his promised son. The whole future, according to the divine promises, centered in Isaac. No loving father would want to take the life of his own son. The severity of the command did not destroy Abraham’s confidence in Jehovah. When the land of Moriah came into view, he said to the two young men, “Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” He trusted God that in some manner all would turn out well.
The father took the wood for the burning of the offering and laid it upon Isaac, and he took the fire and a knife, and they went both of them together. Suddenly, it occurred to Isaac that they had no lamb. The silence was broken when Isaac said, “My father.” Abraham calmly replied, “Here am 1, my son.” In a puzzled tone Isaac asked, “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” The crushing weight of the circumstances did not take away Abraham’s calmness as he explained, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” Quietly they plodded on to the location chosen of God. In the heart of Abraham, despite his attachment to his son, God was first.
Arriving at the designated spot, Abraham built an altar, laid the wood in order, bound his beloved Isaac, and laid him on the wood on the altar. Courageously, the father of the faithful took the knife and stretched forth his hand to slay his son. There was no thought of stopping short of what God had commanded. In the mind of Abraham the deed was to be performed fully, and he was in the very act of offering Isaac as a sacrifice. Abruptly, the Lord called out of heaven through an angel. Before the knife could be plunged into the body of Isaac, God said, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”
James wrote these words: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (Jas. 2:21-23). Having passed the test, Abraham looked behind him and there was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. He understood that God had provided a substitute for Isaac. He took the ram and offered it for a burnt offering.
Today, God puts our faith to the test in numerous ways. Many men and women do not have the faith to obey the plain commands of the Lord in the Bible. Either they do not trust God or else they are unwilling to put Him first. Some simply ignore everything God says. Let us profit by reflecting on the faith of Abraham. When trials come, let us be firm in our stand for what we know to be the will of God. Great is the reward for faithful service.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 12, p. 366
June 16, 1983