By Faith, Abraham...part 2
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. Hebrews 11:17-19
Open up your Bible and read 1 Peter 1:6-7. This reminder and explanation of testing comes on the heels of Peter’s overflowing joy recounting the promise of salvation and the imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance awaiting believers. Their rejoicing in the past and future of their faith may be marked by present grief. According to Peter, trials test the genuineness of your faith, refining it so that is found and not lost.
The joy Peter displays is the same that James reminds us of when he writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:2-4)
The idea of “perfect and complete” does not mean never sinning or falling short, but this language carries with it the idea of enduring until the end, where we will experience the redemption of our bodies and eternal glory in God’s presence. Testing clarifies and deepens our faith. It also has the tendency to expose where the desires of our hearts truly lie. In testing can we consider what it is we have aimed to live upon rather than his Word, laying aside the weight and sin clinging so closely to us in repentance. Then may we endure to the end.
The Bible is full of men and women who were tested and found genuine. Abraham—God changed his name—seems to be the example we consider most often when we think of faith being tested.
Open your Bible and read Genesis 22. Abraham couldn’t have known that his act of obedience would shape the minds of generations to come. He couldn’t have known his faithfulness would create a pattern, forming an image and idea that would be seared into the hearts of God’s people, cultivating an expectation for the Lamb of God to be bound to wood and delivered from death. He surely had little idea as to how much he’d become like the God he lived for, not withholding his only son. Abraham’s faith foreshadowed what God would do, what only God could do, when Christ was finally provided on that hallowed mount, slain as an offering for the sin of his people.
Abraham believed God to be worthy of worship. His convictions compelled his obedience to a costly command. Most of us shudder at the idea of being asked something similar by the God we worship, knowing we’d never be able to do what Abraham did. Yet let’s not forsake the idea of seeing the glimpse of God that Abraham saw, awakening the desire to know God like he did. Abraham’s obedience was compelled by his intimate knowledge of God, shaped by his homesick longing for rest with God, and empowered by his belief in what God was able to do.
Though he didn’t know it, Abraham’s obedience not to withhold his only son would impact thousands of generations. What have you tried to withhold from the Lord? How might your obedience or lack thereof affect more than just yourself?