Abraham - Friend of God
J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
It is interesting to study Abraham's life of faith, a man tested by God, in Genesis, in the following way:
His Public History, chapters 12 to 14-Faith Travelling and Trusting. His Personal History, chapters 15 to 21-Faith's Training and Tryst. His Prophetic History, chapters 22 to 25-Faith Tested and Triumphant.
There are fourteen chapters in Genesis devoted to his life and each stage ends with a Millenial picture.
Another Approach-After These Things
The Call Given and Accepted-The Venture of Faith-Chapters 14 to 24. The Covenant Made and Confirmed-The Value of Faith-Chapters 15 to 21. The Challenge Met and Rewarded-The Victory of Faith-Chapters 22 to 25.
1. A Man Tested by God, w. 1-2
Life is a succession of tests, for character is only possible through discipline. This is the crowning event in his life. Previous tests were preparatory and secondary. God tested his Obedience, 12. 1-4-leave his native land and kindred. God tested his Motives, 13. 8-he gives up the Vale of Jordan. God tested his Interests, 14-the riches of Sodom. God tested his Faith, 15. 2-4-will he believe God? God tested his Patience, 17. 17-18-will he wait God's time? God tested his Love, 22-does he prefer God to Isaac?
The Challenge of Faith, v. 1.-'God did test Abraham'. Here is divine action and divine intention. God tests to bring out the good; the devil tempts us to bring out the evil, James 1. 12-15. Our spiritual life is refined in and by circumstances. God sits as a refiner and purifier of silver, Mai. 3.3. The test was meant to prove how much Abraham trusted God and believed His promise. Abraham's future was wrapped up in Isaac. Note the time: after 25 years of waiting, and after Isaac had brought much enjoyment and pleasure to his father.
The Command of God, v. 2. In verse 1 Abraham is in communion with God, conversed with God and concentrated on what God would say to him. The command - 'Take now thy son', v. 2. be thou thyself the priest, offer him up. The demand touched a tender spot in Abraham's heart. To part with Isaac thus, must have been a fearful wrench. God wanted the best-He still does: 'My son give me thine heart', Prov. God is still after the good in us; God wanted the dearest possession in his life, Rom. 12. 1. The command was Shattering-whom thou lovest, Luke 14. 26. The command was Severe-offer him there, Heb. 9. 14. The command meant Surrender-carry out the sacrifice himself, Lev. 9. 1-3, Matt. 26. 39. God gives the command and makes the choice of the mountain, Acts 2. 23.
2. A Man True to God, vv. 3-4
Abraham's consecration is seen in the words 'rose up early'. He did not falter, Rom. 12. 1. His obedience was prompt and complete. Rose, saddled, took Isaac. He was not asked to submit passively, but to take part actively in this sacrifice. All was contrary to the law of reason, but clear to faith.
His act was deliberate-he prepared the wood beforehand, Acts 2. 23.
He was determined-young men left behind in case they hindered, v. 5.
He had decided to obey God-an act of faith, Heb. 11. 19.
There was no doubt or delay-no reluctance or hesitation, Psa. 119. 60.
He believed God would look after everything.
The direction and discipline of faith, vv. 3-4-He accepted and obeyed the word of the Lord, Gen. 12. 4; Heb. 11. 8.
He kept the secret to himself, what brave endurance. What God desired was not Isaac's life, but Abraham's loyalty. God tests to purify, to beautify and bring us to maturity.
3. A man travelling for God, w. 5-6
His faith was strong 'Abide ye here'. He was controlled by God; would have preferred to act alone.
His faith was sustained. He was going to worship, not slaughter.
His faith was sure. Isaac would come back with him. He had absolute confidence in God. Three days travelling time, and opportunity to thoroughly enter into what he was doing.
His faith was sublime. In the crisis he took the fire and the wood, unreserved surrender to God. Our devotion is expressed in doing what God tells us to do, loyalty to God in our present circumstances, John 14. 15, 23.
4. A man trusting in God, vv. 7-9
Co-operation and calmness, 'both of them together', 2 Cor. 5. 19. The silence is broken by the concern of Isaac, 'Where is the lamb'. Confidence in Isaac: Abraham could not find courage in his heart to disclose the secret, but felt God would give Isaac courage to accept His will.
Abraham trusted God for peace of mind on the way.
Abraham trusted God for protection as he travelled.
Abraham trusted God for provision of a lamb.
Abraham trusted God for power to raise his son, Heb. 11. 19.
He knew the sympathy of God on the way, Rom. 8. 28.
He achieved strength from God in the crisis.
His faith is calm and God will provide, Gen. 3. 21; John 1. 29.
His faith is content to go on trusting: went together.
His faith is committed to surrender: bound Isaac.
The path to God is never the same as the path of God. We understand God, not his path. God understands all-so trust.
Isaac's Submission He submitted to be burdened, v. 6. It was the cross of sacrifice, the symbol of death. What a picture of the only begotten Son of God, taking the burden of our sin, in obedience to a loving Father, Rom. 8. 32; Isa. 53. 6-10.
He was Bound He himself was to be the burnt offering. Love and devotion were cords that bound the Son of God to the altar of Calvary, Psa. 40. 8; John 10. 17.
The Fire The holy testing character of God, Isa. 33. 11; Heb. 12. 29.
The Knife The Justice of God, 'Awake, 0 sword', Zech. 13. 7. Who can tell the anguish of heart of God when he gave His Son to the death of the cross. God spared Abraham's son, but not His own, Rom. 8. 32; Heb. 9. 14.
The Altar It was prepared by the father. In eternity God in his own heart and mind prepared the altar for Christ. He was the Lamb foreordained before the foundation of the world, 1 Pet. 1. 20. The cords that bound Isaac to the altar are typical of the nails which bound Christ to the cross. Not the nails, but love bound the Saviour. It was the love of the Father to the Son, the love of the Son to the Father, and the love of both to man, sacrificial love to save.
5. A man taught of God w. 10-12
Complete consecration, v. 10. Abraham would do anything for God. Like Job, he trusted God in this crisis, Job 13, 15, 16. He learnt the reality of God's presence, v. 11a. He learnt to be sensitive to God's voice, 'Here am I'. He learnt the urgency of divine intervention, v. 12a. He learnt the sweetness of divine commendation, v. 12b. He gave a demonstration of his faith in God, James 2.21. His works were the evidence of the existence of the faith by which he was justified.
He was a worshipper of the true God and a believer in God. He learnt how rich is the divine provision, v. 13.
6. A man triumphant for God, vv. 13-14
The alluring sight. Lifted eyes, behold a ram, v. 13, possibly the ram was there all the time but Abraham had not noticed it. We need to turn and look. Like Moses, Exod. 3. 3; Mary, John 20. 14; John, Rev. 1. 12.
The appropriate sacrifice. He took the ram and offered it.
It was available, caught-Christ was caught up in the great redemptive purpose of God, Luke 12. 50.
It was appropriated, he took the ram, caught by its horns. The Lord was bound to the cross by the strength of His love.
It was acceptable, burnt offering in the stead of his son.
The Lord was offered in our stead, i.e. instead of us. We are brought into union with God by identification with the One who died in our stead.
3. The assured satisfaction, v. 14. Jehovah-jireh-Jehovah will see or provide. Calvary is the place of divine provision, John 1. 29; Rom. 8. 3; Isa. 53. 4. As God provided the ram for sacrifice in Isaac's place: so He provided the Lamb for the world, John 1. 29. rv 'He shall be seen', or 'The Lord will see to it'. A testimony to the reality of God's presence and provision. The place became sanctified to Abraham and a very holy and blessed memory, Psa. 65. 4. In the Mount where Satan aspired to be, Isa. 14. 13, Christ is seen as Saviour, Mediator, Intercessor and Priest, 'Look, ye saints, the sight is
Abraham triumphed over the fear of Death, Heb. 11. 17-19.
Abraham triumphed over the fear of Want, v. 14; Isa. 50. 7.
Abraham triumphed over the fear of Defeat, Rom. 4. 20-21.
Abraham triumphed over the fear of Loneliness, vv. 5. 15.
7. His testimony from God, vv. 15-18
Here is the cheer and compensation of faith, v. 15, 'angel called'.
The pledge of blessing, v. 16. 'By myself have I sworn', Isa. 45. 23.
The secret of blessing, 'Thou hast not withheld thy son', Heb. 6. 13.
The range of blessing, 'Fourfold', as in Gen. 12. 1-3.
Personal blessing, (I will bless thee').
Domestic blessing, 'Multiply they seed'.
National blessing, 'Thy seed'.
Universal blessing, 'All nations blessed', Isa. 41. 5.
Personal-Fulfilled in his justification, John 8. 56. In his relationship. Devotion to God always brings blessing.
Multiply-Partial fulfilment in the increase of Israelites finally in the multitude of the redeemed, Exod. 1. 7; Rev. 7. 9.
Victory-In the gate of thine enemies. A new promise will finally be true when the enemies of the Lord are put under His feet, Psa. 110. 1; 1 Cor. 15. 25.
8. The tranquility of Abraham, v. 19a. His return
Abraham had proved that God was true and, having both accepted and fulfilled God's will, he was filled with joy and peace. Taking God at His word was the foundation of his peace, restfulness, strength and joy.
Would he return to tell Sarah of the wonderful provision of God on the mount, and the wonderful peace on the journey there? God provided His own sacrifice, v. 8. and the mount received a new name Jehovah-jireh-the Lord will see to it. Abraham lived in close fellowship with God, his faith grew strong, his love grew deep. His hope grew high. It is still true for every saint dedicated to God on his 'Moriah'. His rest, v. 19, at Beersheba meaning 'the well of the oath'. He had a source of living water. After Moriah, John 3. 14, 'the living water', John 4. 14, 7. 38. We dwell where the Holy Spirit dwells, abiding in Christ, John 15. 4, and are taught like Abraham, John 6. 45. Blessed by God, 1 Cor. 6. 19; Rom 8. 4.
9. The tidings for Abraham, w. 20-24
He was told the good news of the line of promise, v. 20; then of Rebekah who became Isaac's bride, ch. 24. His obedience to God took its supreme climb, proving his supreme love, and entered on its supreme reward. The heavenly Isaac knew from eternity He would make the supreme sacrifice on Calvary, Phil. 2. 5.
No angel intervened, and He has the supreme honour of being higher than the highest, Eph. 1. 21-22; Phil. 2. 9-11.
F-Faced with a severe test from God, vv. 1-2.
A- Acquiesed with the demands of God, vv. 3-4.
I -Implicit obedience to the call of God, w. 5-6
T-Trusted in the provision and power of God, Heb. 11. 17-19.H-Honoured by the blessing of God, vv. 15-18.
11. Ten pictures of Calvary
The indication of Calvary-take thy son, v. 2; Rom. 8, 3,
The preparation of Calvary-offer him there, v. 2b.
The transaction of Calvary-burnt offering, v. 2e; Hph. 5. 2.
The revelation of Calvary-place afar off, v. 4; 1 Pet. 1. 18-19.
The isolation of Calvary-Father and son only, v. 5; Rom. 8. 32.
The affliction of Calvary-fire, knife, v. 6; Isa. 53. 6.
The provision of Calvary-Himself a lamb, v. 8; John 1. 29.
The consecration of Calvary-laid, bound, John 19. 17; Mark 15. 1.
The substitution of Calvary-ram offered, Gal. 2. 20.
The vindication of Calvary-blessings, multiply, vv. 16-17; Isa. 52.