Growth Through Testing: Genesis 22:1-19

Growth Through Testing: Genesis 22:1-19
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday May 28, 20

Notes/Not a Transcript

Psalm 139:2–4 (ESV)
2  You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3  You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4  Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

Isaiah 40:13–14 (ESV)
13  Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,
or what man shows him his counsel?
14  Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?

Psalm 33:13–15 (ESV)
13  The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
14  from where he sits enthroned, he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15  he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.

With this perspective on God, why does He test us?

In Abraham, there is a two-fold reason. One is unique to Abraham and God’s purposes in him (we’ll expose that today); another is common to testing God’s children. We’ll talk about that before we move into the text because it’s the helpful background for the Christian life and is still relevant to Abraham.

Abraham’s testing exposes a greater narrative about God’s son, who’ll be sacrificed as an offering for sin. Abraham’s story captures an attention-demanding demonstration of God’s deep sacrifice for us, the elect of God. The knife of sacrifice passes from Abraham to a future to God; as we think forward to Christ’s crucifixion.

That is unique to Abraham, but of the shared nature of his testing, we look forward to the book of James:

James 1:3–4 (ESV)
3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Note what James says testing does. He said that testing of your faith produces (ESV) steadfastness (NASB), endurance, and (NIV/NRSV/LSB) perseverance. Why? Because you learn that you have incredible newfound self-discipline. No, because you experience walking through this life with God, taking Him at His word, and trusting Him.

That is what Abraham learned about God, and today’s story is what Abraham did with that perfected faith.

To see Abraham’s perfection in the scripture, let’s glance back over Genesis:

God commanded him to leave his homeland and travel to a new land, Genesis 12:1.
God appeared to him when he entered Canaan’s land, Genesis 12:7.
God afflicted Pharaoh and his house with plagues because of Abram’s wife, and the ruler recognized Abraham as unique to God, Genesis 12:10-20.
God visits Abraham and promises him land and offspring, Genesis 13:14-18.
God visits Abraham, makes a covenant with him, and changes his name, Genesis 15.
God affirms that the promised seed directly comes through Sarah and Isaac in Genesis 17.
God visits Abraham in the Oaks of Mamre.
God plagues Abimelech and enables Abraham to be a Prophet and pray for their plague to be relieved, Genesis 20:1-7.
After years of waiting, God blesses Abraham and Sarah with their son together, Isaac, Genesis 21:1-8.

Let’s look at today’s passage with that picture of Abraham’s experience through testing with God.

Genesis 22:1–19 (ESV)
1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

Abraham, who has been visited by God on several occasions, and whose faith has been tested and consistent with James, is growing in the steadfastness of his faith. A man who was fearful of Pharaoh, who spoke back to God in Genesis 19 asking if God would destroy the righteous of Sodom, learned to hear from God, to trust His intentions, and to follow in faith. Abraham now answers, here I am.

2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

As we demonstrated in the nine interactions and occasions to see the mighty God who causes His will to pass, Abraham knows who God is.

He is the God just in judging Sodom.
He is the God powerful over rulers.
He is the God who delivers on Promises.

And so, as the future text of Hebrews notes, Abraham knew God would fulfill His promises to make a nation through Sarah, through Himself Abraham, and of Isaac. How do I know that we’ll?

I’m glad you asked:

Hebrews 11:17–19 (ESV)
17 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,
18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”
19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

Abraham answers with “Here I am” and is commanded by God to “take your only son Isaac.” Question Bible student, how many sons does Abraham have? He has two, but let’s look more closely. Again, Hebrews helps:

Hebrews 11:17–19 (ESV)
17 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,
18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”
19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

Isaac was the only begotten son. An only begotten or unique/special son. He was unique and special. God promised him to Abraham and Sarah through direct revelation in their intense old age, he delivered, and now Isaac is here. Similarly, Christ is described as the only begotten son in John 3:16, though there are many sons of God through adoption. Hold that thought. I will argue that this is designed to pull our minds forward to the great sacrifice of God’s acceptance for sin’s once final payment on Christ.

3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

Church. This is shocking. This is one of those passages we are to appreciate the hard edges. Abraham is unique. He is the father of faith, and this isn’t normative. He is a patriarch, in fact, the FIRST patriarch. We made 9 points of testing that built his trust in hearing from God, seeing God deliver, and knowing God’s goodness and power. He knows through experience the truth of

Numbers 23:19 (ESV)
19  God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

4 On the third day, Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.
5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

So they went to where God called him, a 3-day journey, because Abraham believed God, as an earned testing trial, his faith was enabled to persevere. They’re in what we’d call the Old City Jerusalem today, as we’ll see in a bit.

6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together.
7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

The tension in this story is almost unbearable and difficult to read. It is designed to be appalling and face us to look because it is our own personal and great sin that required this sacrifice of the perfect lamb of God, Christ, God’s only begotten one, to suffer sacrifice at the very hand of God. This story is designed to shock us and push our minds forward to Christ, who God is bringing through this patriarchal line in Abraham through Isaac.

9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.
11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

Abraham, a man of faith, answers, Here I am.

I want to pause here.

I said earlier that Abraham is a patriarch, in the cloud of witnesses to encourage our faith, Hebrews 12:1-2 and he hears from God directly.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

You don’t.

We have the whole council of The Word. God is not coming to us, giving fresh revelation. He has reached men directly and recorded that in His word. Now temptation that grows perseverance is trial centered around the Word. Will we believe God’s word, and as we see it show strong and God’s will working out in our lives, we’re encouraged towards perseverance. Abraham’s situation is unique.

12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.
14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Abraham’s faith knew that God would provide here. He didn’t know the details, but in the 9 encouragers we mapped out above, he knew God is faithful to His promises, and Isaac was one of those promises. This scene is played out for Abraham and Isaac and us to have that cloud of witness and have our faith bolstered as we look on to the sacrifice of God in Christ, His only son.

The Lord will provide. Mount Moriah a hotly contested spot, home to David’s threshing floor and altar (2 Samuel 24:18-21. The first and second temple(s), now where the “wailing wall” is left and where Daniel 9 demonstrates the 3rd temple, will be rebuilt.

15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven
16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,
17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,
18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.

As per the pattern with Abraham, he is tested by God and assured of the promises, often with increasing clarity. Abraham’s dependents will be as the stars of heaven and sand on the seashore, possessing the gate of your enemies and being blessed because of Abraham’s obedience.

Church, how was Abraham’s faith so great? It was grown by God over time. The opportunity to doubt God’s word, then seeing it come to pass and God’s character validated through scaling degrees, perfected Abraham’s faith. We can experience that too! As you engage with the Word, you’ll have the opportunity to Grow in Grace.

We are in some strange days, and the world around you will press in and try to reshape scripture. They’ll tell you how you should understand it.

1 Timothy 4:1–5 (ESV)
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times, some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,
2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,
3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,
5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

2 Peter 2:1–3 (ESV)
1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.
2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.
3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Why do I bring these out? Church, I want you to know the significant burden Pastor John Nicholas and I have for everyone. We are extolled in Acts 20:28, 1 Timothy 4:16, and many places to care for you, individually and deeply.

We’re called to guard the flock; there are people who’ll say things to you without any caution or regard. Perhaps those things will be loosely found in scripture; however, they may lay them out flatly; ignoring dimensions and context can damage you, making you wonder if you’re even a believer; please, know they may have no genuine concern or burden for your eternal well-being.

They may want to look smart or cool.

I have the weight of

James 3:1–2 (ESV)
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.

Why do I say all this? Because Abraham’s faith grew because of obedience to God and His word, not through obedience to fast-mouthed babblers challenging his faith who have zero care for him. In the beginning, we said there were two reasons for Abraham’s testing. One is unique to Abraham and God’s purposes in him; another is common to testing God’s children. We’re tested to trust the word and grow our faith. We can expect that it’s for our perseverance and growth.

The book of Job records Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, his friends giving seeming good advice that was unaware of the things of God. Today, People suckle on hours and hours of Biblical teaching from people they don’t know in contexts they’re not a part of and parrot that off as if they’d studied it for themselves, often missing context and nuance, so church be a Berean and stay in the word. I watched something on Twitter where a writer said that if a sermon is not expository, it is not an actual sermon. I agree. People thought they got him with arguments like, what about Jesus’ sermons or the sermons in Acts? These aren’t well-thought arguments; unless you’re the messiah God-man or an apostle, these won’t apply. But this is the very incautious armchair theologians damaging the cause of Christ without their half-baked eisegetical spit-up.

I beg you, church, be careful who you soak up. Read Matthew 11:28-30 or Jesus’ scathing rebuke in Matthew 23 of those tying up heavy burden’s hard to bear.

Remember, God, tests our faith, not our discipline. When a legalist gives you a legal test of your faith and dead plans that on you, consider whether a) they know what they’re talking about or are you taking on scriptural spit-up from a full-bellied baby and b) if they have any particular care for you. The answer may be no. If you’re concerned, please talk to a Pastor or Deacon here, and we’ll help sort that out. We may plug you into trusted discipleship, give you something to consider, and pray WITH you, but we’ll walk it out together.

Why? Because scripture encourages our caution:

Acts 20:30–31 (ESV)
30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years, I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.

And if you’re that one speaking twisted things to the flock of this church, you should a) expect to hear from me and b) know that I’m the least of your worries (but no slight worry):

Matthew 18:6 (ESV)
6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and drowned in the depth of the sea.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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