I love the story of Abraham’s great faith in God in the Old Testament. God promised Abraham and Sarah a baby. They waited over 20 years for that child to come. By the time God blessed them with Isaac, Sarah was over 90 years old and Abraham was around 100!
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed,[c] because you have obeyed me.”
I think it is fascinating that God instructed Abraham to sacrifice Isaac years later – to kill him and sacrifice this promised child to God. Abraham obeyed. He didn’t even ask any questions. He just obeyed God, even when God told him to sacrifice the son he loved to Him. For Abraham, this ended up being only a test. God stopped him from killing Isaac. But God wanted to know that Abraham didn’t put anyone or anything above God in his heart. Some scholars speculate that the mountain God led Abraham to was later the site of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
I believe God tests each of us like this. He wants us to know – that we don’t put anything or anyone above Christ in our hearts. God can and does ask us to lay down the things that mean the most to us and the people we love the most. He wants to see that we will obey and trust Him no matter what He asks us to sacrifice. He wants to see that we are willing to give up the things in this world that mean the most to us for His sake. That doesn’t always mean that He will ultimately take the things we love and deeply desire away from us. But He may test us. Obviously God knows what we will do before He tests us. But this testing is necessary to refine and purify our faith.
Even more fascinating to me than the fact that God tested Abraham and asked him to sacrifice his only son with Sarah – is that God actually did this later Himself. He sacrificed His only Son for us. Jesus carried the wooden cross on His back and God provided the sacrifice to take our place. Jesus took on all of our sin upon Himself. I cannot begin to imagine the spiritual agony that must have been for Him. He endured the full wrath of God against sin and sinners – paying our massive debt in full. He gives this gift of being able to be in right relationship to God to us when we trust Him by faith. There is NOTHING we can do to deserve the blood of God’s Son being shed for us and there is NOTHING we can do to make ourselves right with God on our own.
- For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23.
- The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
- For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Jesus gave up His life for us.
We can accept His gift by trusting Him and allowing Him to be our Savior. But then we also choose to live with Him as LORD of our lives. So now, out of gratitude and love for all He has done for me, I become a daily living sacrifice to Him. I lay down everything I have, all that I am, everything I desire, all of myself and I present myself to Him seeking to please Him, to do His will, to obey Him in everything and to bring Him the greatest honor and glory.
His forgiveness and eternal life to me are free. I pay nothing for them. But then, it costs me everything. He exchanged His holiness for my sinfulness. Now I give up my sin and put on His holiness. He took my punishment and death and gave me His eternal Life. He took on my identity as a wretched sinner deserving judgment from God. And He allows me to take on His identity of being completely holy before God. I give up my spiritual poverty and He gives me His spiritual riches – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
Billy Graham turned 95 years old this past Thursday. He has a message he wants to share with America. Greg and I had the privilege of watching the message at our church on Friday night. I always love to hear Billy Graham preach. But this video message also had other people’s stories about how they lived before and how they came to know Christ and how He changed them and gave them hope. One girl was planning to commit suicide as a teenager one Sunday. Her grandmother made her go to church. She finally agreed to go and then planned to kill herself after church. Instead – she met Jesus. What a POWERFUL testimony she has! A young man had been abused as a child and then as a teenager got into drugs, alcohol, sex with many different girls… it all left him empty. He describes how Christ changed his life. It is amazing!
Our God is ABLE to save. He is ABLE to heal. He can give you a brand new heart and a brand new life.
Check out the message! You can watch it online here. The Cross – My Hope America by Billy Graham