Bible Commentary

Mountain God 4: Faith & Obedience (Genesis 22)

abrahamI’m reposting this series from 2009 when I was a youth pastor leading a trip to Colorado. Enjoy! -JB

After all this, God tested Abraham. God said, “Abraham!” “Yes?” answered Abraham. “I’m listening.” 2 He said, “Take your dear son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I’ll point out to you.” Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants and his son Isaac. He had split wood for the burnt offering. He set out for the place God had directed him… The angel of God spoke from Heaven a second time to Abraham: “I swear—God’s sure word!—because you have gone through with this, and have not refused to give me your son, your dear, dear son, I’ll bless you—oh, how I’ll bless you! And I’ll make sure that your children flourish—like stars in the sky! like sand on the beaches! And your descendants will defeat their enemies. All nations on Earth will find themselves blessed through your descendants because you obeyed” (Gen 22:1-5, 15-18). 

 As you read this post we are most likely resting against a hard rock, or cooling off in s nearby stream, perhaps telling stories around a campfire.  As I momentarily slip away from the group to gather some wood for the fire I’m reminded of our ancient father Abraham who obediently woke up early that fateful morning to chop wood and head off to his own mountain of testing to build a most unthinkable fire — a sacrificial fire for his precious son Isaac.

Why did Abraham go through with it?  The story is eerily serene and without quarrel and questioning.  Abraham must have had a deep, abiding trust and appropriate fear of God to so clearly obey such instructions.  Abraham had learned to hear the voice of God and obey his commands by now. God had proven trustworthy in the past and so Abraham trusted Him for the future as well.  God had brought them to the land of Canaan, miraculously opened his wife’s womb to bear the son of promise in her old age and many other great feats.  Abraham had learned faith by stepping out and taking a risk for God.  How many people would pack up their entire life and head off into the desert after hearing the voice of some a God different from the gods of their ancestors?  Abraham had great faith. Period.

God tested the extent of Abraham’s faith on Mount Moriah that day.  “Would you give anything to follow me?”  “Would you withhold anything that might prevent complete and utter dependance on me?”  “Is there anything you love and cherish above me?”  As the story goes, Abraham is willing to sacrifice even his own son out of obedience to the Lord.  Yet, God is not the kind of God who demands child sacrifice; He  actually abhors this practice common among other tribal religions of Abraham’s day.  Yet, the story illustrates a faith unmatched by any in the Bible — save Christ Himself who was willing to go like a lamb to slaughter and give his own life up as a sacrifice for us all, knowing God had the power to raise him up again.

As we climb the mountain together today, I wonder what each of us values more than God?  I wonder what my own personal “Isaac” would be?  Do I trust God completely or only to a certain point?  Where do I draw the line in my faith?  Would I unquestioningly “get up early in the morning”, “saddle my donkey” and “set out to the place that God” directed me?

God will not ask me to sacrifice another human’s life in obedience to Him.  Rather, he only asks me to offer one life up to him — my own.  May we all follow the example of our faithful father Abraham and the following exhortation of the Apostle Paul:

“And 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” (Romans 12:1).

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