When some of the New Testament writers wanted an example of faith from the Old Testament, who did they look to?
There are many people listed in Heb 11 – many people who have trusted God
But the standout is Abraham
In Heb 11 most get a brief mention. Abraham gets vv.8-12, 17-19
3 incidents noted
- Abraham left his homeland to go he knew not where.
- Abraham and Sarah had a child when they were 100 and 99 respectively. It was by faith. They trusted God.
- Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice
I want to look at that incident. It is a remarkable story.
READ Gen 22:1-19
v.1 – God tested Abraham.
Not because He wanted him to fail but because He wanted him to succeed.
c.f. 1 Peter 1:6-7 – trials prove our faith to be genuine and result in praise and glory to Jesus
God is not being nasty. God is on our side. He was on Abraham’s side.
v.2 – command to sacrifice his son.
Extraordinary! Would a good God really do this? God is utterly opposed to child sacrifice.
God knew Abraham would not be asked to sacrifice Isaac but Abraham didn’t know. As far as he was concerned, he really was being asked to sacrifice his son.
Note the emphasis on how valuable Isaac was to Abraham – your son – your only son – whom you love.
This was the son Abraham had waited many, many years for.
And God had promised Abraham many descendants through this son. How could that happen if he was now to kill him?
v.3 – Abraham’s immediate response. Early the next morning…
How could that be? Asked to sacrifice his son and doesn’t delay. Obedience.
Took 2 servants. Cut the wood, set off.
v.4 – travelled for 3 days = plenty of time to chicken out. But he didn’t.
Saw the place that God had determined in the distance. Now getting very real.
v.5 – asked the servants to wait. Said that “I and the boy will go over there. We will worship, then we will come back to you.”
Surprising! Why say “we will come back” when he knew that only, he would come back?
Just to conceal from the servants his real purpose. He could hardly tell them that he was going to sacrifice Isaac!
Or, did Abraham somehow know that they would both return?
Heb 11:17-19 – 17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead – Abraham didn’t know that he wouldn’t have to kill Isaac. As far as he knew he really had to sacrifice him.
But he had sufficient faith to believe that God could give Isaac back.
Note also, Hebrews says that Abraham did sacrifice Isaac – not just that he was willing to or came close to. He did. Abraham had really given up his son.
v.6 – Isaac carried the wood for the fire not knowing that he was to be the sacrifice.
v.7 – Isaac figures that something is wrong. They have fire and wood but no animal for the sacrifice. So he asks.
v.8 – would that have been a tough moment for Abraham? He was keeping something from his son.
Or, did he really believe that God would provide a lamb?
Which? Did he believe a lamb would be sacrificed instead or that Isaac would be but would be resurrected?
What would have been going on in his mind? How strong was his faith?
v.9 – Abraham bound Isaac and placed him on top.
How? Abraham is an old man. Isaac is at least old enough to walk this 3-day journey and to carry the wood. He may even have been a young man – maybe even 30’ish.
Abraham could not have over-powered him. Does this suggest that Isaac went along with it? What must it have been like for him?
- He also had faith. Incredible. Willing to be slaughtered and burned!
- Or, he was super-obedient to his father. Or super-aware of his father’s walk with God. Enough to willingly be bound!
v.10 – the crucial moment. The knife is in his hand – maybe raised over Isaac. Was he hesitating just a little hoping this would be the moment God would intervene? Or was he pressing ahead with what he had to do?
v.11 – the angel calls. Abraham responds: Here I am.
v.12 – Do not do anything to Isaac. “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Wouldn’t God have known that already?
Testing Ab. God wants to see Abraham actually go to the brink of doing it.
It is the action that convinces God.
c.f. we might say, “I would be willing to give away a lot of my possessions if God asked me to.” = theory.
When people say that, God never seems to ask! It is always theory. How many people actually have?
“Now I know”
c.f. the James passage
Lesson for us about faith?
Faith without works is dead.
Faith is only real faith when we actually act on it.
It is one thing to say we believe something or to say that we would act in a certain way. The test comes when God asks us to do it. That is where Abraham shines and why he is held up as a model of faith.
witness to a stranger
pray for healing with a friend
become a missionary
turn the other cheek
when someone asks for your coat give your shirt as well
v.13 – ram
v.14 – named the place “The Lord will provide”
to this day, it is said “On the mountain of the Lord, it will be provided.”
v.15-18 – another result of this event/this faith
you will be blessed
your descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the shore.
your descendants will take possession of the cities of your enemies
through your offspring all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
God is hugely impressed with this obedience. This is a major event and a major example of faith.
What does it mean for us to be people of faith?
But there is more to this story.
“On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” Which mountain? What will be provided?
Is this just a general statement that God provides or is it pointing to something in particular?
There is a strange emphasis on the place Abraham is to sacrifice Isaac.
It is a very particular place.
He had to travel 3 days to it.
v.2 – Go to the region of Moriah
v.2 – “sacrifice him… on the mountain I will show you.”
v.3 – the place God had told him about
v.4 – he saw the place in the distance
v.9 – when they reached the place God had told him about
God had a very specific place in mind.
2 Chron 3:1 – Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.
I cannot prove this but I suspect God led Abraham to a specific place where, centuries later, the temple would be built. I suspect that Isaac was sacrificed on the very spot, in the region of Moriah, where Jesus was crucified.
Clearly it was somewhere near where the temple would be built.
The actual site of Araunah’ threshing floor is, apparently, where the Dome of the Rock is now built. But close to there there is a peak called Golgotha. Moriah is a ridge system where the highest peak is outside the city and where the hill shaped like a skull – almost certainly Golgotha, the place of the skull.
Why do I believe that?
It just seems like the sort of detail that God would organise.
It would make huge sense of Abraham’s prophecy that on the mountain of the Lord it would be provided.
God would provide the sacrificial lamb for the sins of the world.
There are all sorts of other parallels between this story and the story of the cross:
- A father sacrifices his only son
- Isaac was effectively dead for three days
- Isaac had to carry the wood on which he would be sacrificed just as Jesus had to carry his own cross.
- Jesus is the lamb who was provided by God for the sacrifice, taking our pace just as the ram took Isaac’s place.
- the son appears to have willingly died
- the prophecy about all nations being blessed through Abraham’s descendant refers to Jesus, who was a descendant of Abraham.
- Just as Abraham would have numerous offspring, multitudes would become children of God as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice.
Abraham’s faith is amazing and we should pause long enough to really learn from that.
But how amazing is God that He organised all this minute detail that foreshadows the story of Calvary, 2000 years before Jesus. 2000 years before Christ, the story of the crucifixion was acted out in remarkable detail on the exact sport.
The Old Testament is about Jesus!
c.f. Jesus on the road to Emmaus
Jesus is coded into the OT all over the place.
How do we respond to
- a God who has a detailed plan that spans centuries
- to the knowledge that the Bible is so amazingly accurate
- the God who has provided a sacrifice in our place
- the Son who was willing to die for us?