ABRAHAM’S OBEDIENCE (3-10)
Next we see Abraham’s Obedience. God comes to him and tells him what he must do, and Abraham obeys. Read verses 3-10.
I want to see 4 things.
First see he obeys right away. “Early the next morning” verse 3 says. Abraham obeyed right away. What a contrast to Lot who dragged his feet when he was supposed to leave Sodom. The “readiness” of Abraham we just saw is seen in his immediate obedience.
APPLICATION: Obey right away. Do not put off obedience. Faith is obedient and immediately obedient.
Second, see how Abraham saw his offering as worship. In verse 5 Abraham tells the servants to stay back while he and Isaac go further alone. “We will worship” he says. Obedience is worship. The worship team is not a couple of people with instruments. The worship team is all those who obey the voice of the LORD. Turn to 1 Samuel 15:20-23 with me.
APPLICATION: Prove your worship through your obedience. “Your statutes are my delight, they are my counselors” Psalm 119 says.
I’ll add here too that the only way Abraham could have sacrificed the one he loved the most to God is if he loved God more than the thing he loved most. There was nothing Abraham loved more than Isaac. Except God. When it comes down to it faith, yes is why Abraham went through with it. But love for God was essential, “Faith expressing itself through love” Galatians 5 says.
And here you know love was not led by feelings. There was no “feeling” in this act. There was no joy in it. Loving God is not the feeling you get when you’re all caught up in a worship song. Love is not really even seen when something goes your way and you say “Hey thanks God!” Love is seen when there is an action that would show you love God but you have nothing inside of you that feels like it, and everything inside of you is resisting it, but you know in your heart and your head that it is right, and that God is worth it, and therefore you do it. Love is not led by feelings, feelings are led by love.
This may be hard to imagine, but how did the test enlarge Abraham’s love for God? There was a lot to process on that 3 day journey back home, but I’m going to ask Abraham when I meet him how it expanded his love for God. Maybe part of the test was God showing Abraham the full extent of Abraham’s love for God, that Abraham didn’t even really realize or think about. Now Abraham knows there is nothing he wouldn’t do for God.
Third, see the faith of Abraham in his obedience. Not just the act of obedience, but the perspective. “WE will worship” verse 5 says, “and then WE will come back to you.” Abraham was confident both he and Isaac would return. He was sure of it even though he wasn’t sure how.
You see his certainty again in verse 8. Isaac asks him where the sacrificial animal is. Can you imagine Abraham’s heart in that moment? His son’s question was itself a knife in his own heart. But look at his response: “God himself will provide the lamb, my son.” That is faith! Not a hint of doubt of God. Not one ounce of doubt of God’s justice or goodness. Not one doubt that God was going to be faithful. Just total confidence, total faith, total obedience.
APPLICATION: Don’t let your confusion in your situation become doubt. Do not let your trust in God depend on your ability to understand the situation like God. Do not let your faith that God will come through depend on you seeing HOW he will come through.
Fourth, Abraham’s obedience was complete. Read verse 9 and 10
Abraham didn’t stop before the finish line. He got to the destination, he prepared everything for the burnt offering, then with tears in his eyes and his own heart gutted from his chest, he bound his son. He then reached for the knife and raised it for the climactic moment. Abraham was truly about to go through with the act.
ABRAHAM INTERRUPTED (11-14)
Abraham’s hand is raised with the knife, and he is at the moment where the willingness is there and all that is left is for his muscles to contract in bringing down the knife. And it is at this moment – the moment of no return, the moment where the brain was about to tell the arm muscles to thrust – it is this moment that God intercedes. He interrupts Abraham. And Isaac is spared (and Abraham along with him). And a substitute is provided.
Abraham! Abraham! God is satisfied. Abraham has sufficiently proven his willingness to go through with it.
Notice 3 things here:
FIRST: the fear of God. “Now I know that you fear God….” Fearing God is obedience to God. Obedience to the furthest extreme. Obedience when there is NO rational way to explain to yourself WHY you should obey. You go on pure trust in God. In this instance Abraham proved that Isaac was not an idol. God was satisfied that Abraham had proved his willingness to go through with it.
In a sense, God had never intended for Isaac to die. He wanted Abraham to prove his willingness. And that proof was not met in a verbal commitment by Abraham: “Abraham, I’m not saying I would do this, but if I asked you to sacrifice Isaac would you do it?” A verbal was not enough. Neither was getting up and making the journey to the destination. Neither was tying Isaac on top of the wood and dousing him with gasoline. And neither was picking up the knife. He had to have all this AND the willingness to go through with it in his heart. And that is something only God knew in that moment. Only God could see the inner will of Abraham in that moment. Therefore God could be satisfied in that moment that Isaac was as good as sacrificed if indeed he ultimately did not end up that way. The point is this: It was never the death of Isaac that God wanted. It was the trust and the obedience of Abraham. And that is what God got.
SECOND: being known by God. The angel of the Lord says “Now I know…” God knows Abraham. He could explain who Abraham was to the angels around Him in heaven. “I can tell you everything about Abraham, go ahead and ask me anything you like.” But God was putting Abraham on display. Like we talked about last week with tests: they bring out the true quality of something. God knows Abraham will offer Isaac if commanded, and he was going to show the bona fides of Abraham’s faith and obedienceKnow means to understand something by experience with it. It is the knowledge gained from witnessing something in action, or interacting with someone or something. It is experiential knowledge.
Its like trying to learn how to cast a fly rod. I remember watching YT videos on how to cast a fly rod. They had demonstrations and step by step instructions. And after watching them I could turn to Annie and explain to her in detail how to cast a fly rod. “And that is how its done, honey.” And she would say “Okay, big shot now go out in the yard and show me.” And I would proceed to tangle myself up so bad that rather than looking like I cast the rod I looked like I rolled down a hill with it. I could explain how to do something but when it came to actually doing it clearly I didn’t know how to do it. See the difference? I can explain faith: the greek word, the number of times its used in the Bible, the contexts where the word is used, the people who had great faith and how they acted in faith, and how other people should live by faith. And I sure sounded like I knew what I was talking about. But if when it comes to real life and living by faith I instead look like I rolled down a hill with my “word study” on faith then it doesn’t matter how much i think I know about faith because don’t know about faith.
The point is this: knowing is the knowing by experience. Knowing is not the “yeah I can just regurgitate something I heard one time.” Knowing is knowing by putting into action, showing the ability, proving I know something by demonstrating it in real life. Being known by God and knowing God means there is an active relationship between you and Him. He sees His commands carried out in your life and you see Him acting in your life. God knows you as one of His.
Think about this with OT Israel. When rebuking them how often does God point back to all the ways He has been faithful to them? All the time He is reminding them “I am the God of your forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I rescued you from Egypt by my mighty hand. I carried you in the wilderness. I brought you into the promised land. I established you.” All of these things are HIS experiences with them just as much as their experiences with them. His “knowledge” of them was their history together. God knows He is faithful, that He is stronger than their enemies and can deliver them and give them victory; He knows that He can provide water for them in the desert and on and on. But what He is, is seen in what He does.
THIRD, a substitute from God. God stops Abraham and supplies a substitute. Read verses 13-14… Try and imagine the relief Abraham felt when he laid eyes on that ram. Try to imagine the relief Isaac felt! (Maybe someday we can explore Isaac’s experience in all this.)
We need to take a moment and point out how Christological this whole passage is. In other words, there is the clear portrayal of Christ all over this moment:
- A son sacrificed by a father
- 3 days
- An expected resurrection
- Obedience unto death
- The sacrificial son carries the wood he would die on
- Servants kept back, the father and son all alone
- A substitute provided. The location of this whole scene is Moriah. Second Chronicles 3:1 says this is the location of the future Jewish Temple where all the substitutionary animal sacrifices were made. But it may be pressed further and it may very well be that this is the location of the LORD Jesus Christ’s own death sacrifice. If already this passages is 9 months pregnant with all kinds of allusions to Jesus Christ how fitting and how divine that it happens at the very location that 2,000 years later the sacrifice of all sacrifices, the substitute of all substitutes, would Himself die?
Speaking of Jesus, we see him in the next verses too. Lets move to our final heading….
ABRAHAM CONFIRMED (15-19)
Abraham is confirmed.
God already promised these things to Abraham: innumerable descendents, land, and so on. God even already put them all into a covenant with Abraham.
So why restate these promises to bless Abraham here? Was God hesitating and thinking of reneging on his covenant? No, of course not.
- One way to see it is that God was even “more sure and more eager” to bless Abraham.
- Another way to see it is that God was displaying what He already knew: that the man he chose to bless was fully worthy of all the blessings (18:19; 26:3-5).
- Yet another way of seeing God’s declaration here is that repeating something is one way in the Bible we see God communicates the certainty of that something. For instance, in 41:32 it says “The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.” See – the repetition of something emphasizes the certainty of that something. In that verse a famine. In our sermon text this morning I would suggest the certainty of God’s blessing Abraham was being emphasized by the fact that God was yet again declaring His promise to bless Abraham.
I do want to draw out several final thoughts here though.
One thought is the poetic symmetry of what’s happening. God gave Isaac to Abraham, and Abraham gave Isaac back to God. That’s the usual thought. But think about it: Abraham was willing to become childless in this test. So God, as a result of his obedience, will bless Abraham with so many children and descendents he won’t be able to count them.
But then notice verse 18 the particular “offspring” God promises. This very verse is the one Paul quotes in Galatians. Turn to Galatians 3:16 with me and follow along….God told Abraham that through his seed all nations would be blessed. That seed is singular, referring to one person – one particular descendent of Abraham in the future. Paul is explaining that that one person is Jesus, a Jew, a descendent of Abraham. And the promises God gave to Abraham are for all those who have faith like Abraham. In the rest of the chapter Paul is explaining that to believe in Jesus Christ is to have faith like Abraham, to be a child of Abraham. To believe in Jesus means you are now “in” and now one of the recipients of the blessings that have been promised to Abraham because you are now united to Jesus, who is the seed of Abraham. Jesus is the seed of Abraham that all nations will be blessed through. The Gospel of Jesus is to be preached to all nations, “Go therefore and make disciples of ALL NATIONS.” “Go into ALL THE WORLD and preach the Gospel” (Mk 16).
Jesus is called the one and only, the monogenes, the unique son of God. God calls Isaac, Abraham’s “one and only, unique, monogenes” son.
CONCLUSION: (Silent Reflection)