MIM Naples Chapter @YMCA How God Makes Man – Chapter 1 Part IV Peter Hone 7/21/18
Abraham- THINKING IN BIBLE TIME 2nd half
MAKING THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE
Abraham was now well over one hundred years of age. (There are no expiration dates on growing in faith.) He was living in Beersheba, an area at the northern edge of the Negev desert where his herds could roam freely. Again God came and spoke to him. This time His command was truly shocking: “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (Genesis 22:2).
This may not have sounded quite as insane to Abraham as it does to us, because many pagan religions of his time sacrificed children. But it was terrible nevertheless. As God Himself made very clear, He was asking him to sacrifice not just any child but his own son—the one he had waited to hold in his arms for a quarter century. The only one he would ever have with Sarah. The one he loved more than his own life.
Abraham must have thought, God, I don’t understand. I believed You. My wife wept herself to sleep night after night because we couldn’t have children. I carried that ache around for decades. I trusted You for the thing I wanted so much—this son—and by a miracle You gave him to me. Now You are asking me to do what?
The third test God put to Abraham could be expressed this way: Are you willing to give God the one thing you most want to keep?
Whatever else was going through his mind, he obeyed immediately. Without delaying, “early the next morning” Abraham got up, took Isaac and a couple of servants with him, and headed to Moriah (verse 3). Before long, he came to the hill identified by God for the sacrifice. His servants waited at a distance, out of sight of the bizarre scene about to be enacted on the hilltop. He tied up his son Isaac with ropes and put him on a pile of firewood that he had arranged on the large rock that would double as an altar.
Abraham had a knife in his hands. He may have hesitated, but he wasn’t going to disobey. His testing over the years had built his faith muscle until it was like the bicep of a bodybuilder. As Abraham took the knife in his hand, and at the last possible moment, the angel of the Lord cried out to him from heaven: “Abraham! Abraham!” The angel went on, “ ‘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’ ” (verses 11–12).
Again Hebrews summarizes the story for us:
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. (Hebrews 11:17–19)
Abraham got his son back. You see, the test was never that God was going to take away his son. The test was always about whether Abraham was willing to let Him.
One thing we can say for sure. No matter how severely God may test your faith, you will never be tested more than He tested Abraham. But His reasons are the same. The test God put to Abraham is the same one Jesus puts to us: Are you willing to give up the one thing you most want to keep?
For many of us, the one thing we most want to keep is our own lives, especially if we’re comfortable. But the gospel of Jesus calls on us to give up our lives and follow Him with our whole hearts, which is exactly what Abraham did. So where did Abraham get his radical faith? There’s only one way that will ever happen. That kind of absolute loyalty can come only from putting our complete faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Some call this radical, and of course it is, but it’s also the way the Bible describes the normal Christian life. And there is no “second” way. There is only “the” way. We’ll have a lot more to say about this as we go along, but that’s exactly the kind of radical faith in God that Abraham had and that, by following his example, we can have too.
What are you hanging on to that keeps you from fully trusting Christ with the details of your life? Like James at the beginning of the chapter, what is your “Brandy” that you need to give back to God? That is the thing He is asking you to let go of.
GROWING YOUR FAITH MUSCLE
My first calling was as a real estate developer, and I loved it. It made me feel alive. But then the Orlando office market became seriously overbuilt. Vacancies hit an all-time record. A major tenant moved out of one of our office buildings. As hard as we tried, we just could not find a replacement.
One of my investors had too much of his money in that one deal, and he came unglued. He started spreading rumors and threatened a lawsuit. It got to me. At that point I didn’t have much faith in myself and I barely knew God. The situation seemed impossible, humanly speaking. I thought for sure this investor was going to splash my name all over town, my reputation would be ruined, and that would be the end of my real estate career. Before long, I also started to question my faith in God.
Then one day I read,
Have no fear of sudden disaster
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
for the LORD will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being snared.
My chest started to pound. The Lord spoke to my heart, and I believed God in the face of unbelievable circumstances—only a little at first. It was just a baby step, but I took it.
My little bit of faith must have been at least as big as a mustard seed because I found the courage to carry on. Even though the business deal got worse, not better, I was able to resolve my problems with the investor without legal action. And my faith grew.
So the next time you’re in a situation where God asks you to strike out into unknown territory, or He makes you wait far longer than seems normal, or He asks you to give up so much that you wonder if it’s worth the cost, pull an Abraham. Believe God anyway in the face of what seem like impossible circumstances.
That’s one of the main ways He is making you into the man He wants you to be. The more you use your faith muscle, the bigger it will get.
The advantage of walking with God in faith over the years is that you actually come to a place where it is harder to doubt than believe, because you have seen Him act so many times before. That’s what has happened to me over the many years that have passed since that miracle in my early real estate days. That’s what happened to Abraham. And maybe that has already happened to you. If not, God most definitely wants that to be your experience too.
So, what has God called you to do that may look outrageous? You may have no idea what you’re getting into.
The question He is asking you is simple: Will you do it anyway?
For Reflection and Discussion
- What is God calling you to trust Him for that makes you say, “Are You kidding me, God? How could that possibly happen?”
- What was the operative principle in Abraham’s life according to Hebrews 11:8, 11, and 17? How did that principle play out in the three tests we looked at in this chapter?
- Which of Abraham’s three tests—or some other test—are you currently facing? How is God showing you that you can believe Him anyway in the face of what seem like impossible circumstances?
Next Week: Joseph: THE PRINCIPLE OF A GREATER GOOD