Faith is Tested
When we meet Abraham in Genesis, he is called Abram. He is living in Mesopotamia with his father’s family. God spoke to Abram while he was living in Mesopotamia and told him to get up, leave his home and father’s family and travel to a land that God would show him.
Abram moved from what is now Iraq to an area that is Syria in the present day. It was there, in a city called Haran that God appeared to Abram a second time and said:
Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you. Genesis 12:1-3[i]
Abram moved away from Haran, leaving all behind except his nephew Lot. Lot apparently was Abram’s heir. Abram held on to this family connection until Lot and Abram’s combined possessions became too great for the land to support.
Abram and Lot parted ways, and then God appeared to Abram again.
14After Lot had gone, the LORD said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west. 15I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants as a permanent possession. 16And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted! 17Go and walk through the land in every direction, for I am giving it to you.” Genesis 13:14-17
We do not know what Abram looked like. We do not know how tall he was, or any of his physical characteristics. Like Jesus, he had no form or beauty that we should be drawn to him. The thing that sets Abram apart is the call of God on his life. There are two unique characteristics to this call that we can observe in what we have just covered.
First, there is a promise of blessing. God called Abram for the purpose of blessing him.
Second, in order to receive the blessing Abram had to let go of everything he might have been relying on. First, it was his homeland. A few generations of Abram’s family lived in Mesopotamia. Next, it was his family. He left his brothers and relatives. Finally, he left his only living male heir, Lot.
All this leaving makes me think of Romans 12:1 where it says, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” ESV
Genesis 22:1 & 2 say:
1Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.
“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”
2“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
Of all the things God has asked Abram, now Abraham, to give up, this is the hardest. “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much . . .”
The call of God is first a call for the purpose of blessing.
If God was willing to give up His One and Only Son to save us, can we imagine anything He would be unwilling to give for our sake? Romans 8:32 says, “Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?”
The call of God is also a call to leave all else and follow Him. God calls on each of us to let go of everything we might be relying on. This is consistent with the first commandment. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
37“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. Mathew 10:37-39
Abraham has become our example because he was willing to rely completely on God. Is there anything that we have or hold besides God that we will not lose anyway? All our possessions will grow old and spoil. All our family will eventually pass on. Everything we have is temporary at best. Is there anything we have that we did not receive from God?
In his willingness to rely on God alone, Abraham experienced the provision of God. As he lifted the knife to kill his son, God stopped him. God provided a Ram as a substitute for Isaac. Hebrews 11 says this about this incident:
17It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” 19Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.
Genesis 22:1 starts out, “Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith.” The testing of faith is hard to understand. We cannot know what God knows or see what God sees. Because of this James 1 gives good advice when it says:
2Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
If Abraham had held on instead of relying on God, he would never have known God’s provision. His faith would not have grown. His experience of God would have remained shallow at best. He would not have become what James calls “perfect and complete.”
Is there something you are holding on to? Is there something that God is asking you to let go?
Abraham experienced God’s call and then because of faith he experienced God’s provision, and finally he experienced the fullness of God’s blessing.
Genesis 22:15-18 says:
15Then the angel of the LORD called again to Abraham from heaven. 16“This is what the LORD says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. 18And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”
Look at this again, “I swear by my own name that I will certainly bless you.”
God is certainly a help in time of trouble. He is Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide. In addition, He is so much more.
He wants to bless us. He longs to bless us.
Lamenting over Jerusalem, Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” (Luke 13:34)
God shows He wants to bless us when He says, “For it was I, the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.” (Psalm 81:10)
Think of the position that God has given us because of Jesus Christ. He provided a substitute to die in our place and pay the price for our sins. 1 John 3:2 tells us:
Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.
We see in Genesis 22:1-18 how Abraham experienced God’s call, provision and blessing. In closing, I would like to reconsider Romans 12. However, this time I would like to read all of verses 1 and 2.
1And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Do we want to know how good and pleasing and perfect God’s will is? It starts with letting our bodies be a living and holy sacrifice.
If you are like me, we need to spend less time telling God what we think needs to happen and more time praying for His will to be done.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.