Friday, January 2, 2015

Faith: Trials and Victories ~ Abraham

There are many definitions of faith: assurance, belief, trust, conviction; synonymous with the word faith, not necessarily its meaning. Faith, when we first acquire it, is na├»ve, innocent, “blind”, but as we experience challenged faith, we discover the authentic substance of it, and of ourselves. As we are brought through life's relentless trials, the more our faith increases, the stronger we become.

Scripture provides a beautiful meaning of faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen...By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible." 

Commentary by Matthew Henry:

"Here is the trial of Abraham’s faith, whether it continued so strong, so vigorous, so victorious, after a long settlement in communion with God, as it was at first, when by it he left his country: then it was made to appear that he loved God better than his father; now that he loved him better than his son. Observe here. The time when Abraham was thus tried. After these things, after all the other exercises he had had, all the hardships and difficulties he had gone through. Now, perhaps, he was beginning to think the storms had all blown over; but, after all, this encounter comes, which is sharper than any yet. Note, Many former trials will not supersede nor secure us from further trials; we have not yet put off the harness. The author of the trial: God tempted him, not to draw him to sin, so Satan tempts (if Abraham had sacrificed Isaac, he would not have sinned, his orders would have justified him, and borne him out), but to discover his graces, how strong they were, that they might be found to praise, and honour, and glory. God did tempt Abraham; he did lift up Abraham, so some read it; as a scholar that improves well is lifted up, when he is put into a higher form. Note, Strong faith is often exercised with strong trials and put upon hard services. The trial itself. God appeared to him as he had formerly done, called him by name, Abraham, that name which had been given him in ratification of the promise. Abraham, like a good servant, readily answered, "Here am I; what says my Lord unto his servant?’’ Probably he expected some renewed promise. But, to his great amazement, that which God has to say to him is, in short, Abraham, Go kill thy son; and this command is given him in such aggravating language as makes the temptation abundantly more grievous. When God speaks, Abraham, no doubt, takes notice of every word, and listens attentively to it; and every word here is a sword in his bones: the trial is steeled with trying phrases. Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that he should afflict? No, it is not; yet, when Abraham’s faith is to be tried, God seems to take pleasure in the aggravation of the trial. Observe. The person to be offered. (1.) "Take thy son, not thy bullocks and thy lambs;’’ how willingly would Abraham have parted with them by thousands to redeem Isaac! I must have thy son: not thy servant, no, not the steward of thy house, that shall not serve the turn; I must have thy son.’’ but Abraham must offer his son, in whom the family was to be built up. "Lord, let it be an adopted son;’’ "No, (2.) Thy only son; thy only son by Sarah.’’ Ishmael was lately cast out, to the grief of Abraham; and now Isaac only was left, and must he go too? Yes, (3.) "Take Isaac, him, by name, thy laughter, that son indeed,’’ Not "Send for Ishmael back, and offer him;’’ no, it must be Isaac. "But, Lord, I love Isaac, he is to me as my own soul. Ishmael is not, and wilt thou take Isaac also? All this is against me:’’ Yea, (4.) That son whom thou lovest. It was a trial of Abraham’s love to God, and therefore it must be in a beloved son, and that string must be touched most upon: in the Hebrew it is expressed more emphatically, and, I think, might very well be read thus: Take now that son of thine, that only one of thine, whom thou lovest, that Isaac. God’s command must overrule all these considerations.2. The place: In the land of Moriah, three days’ journey off; so that he might have time to consider it, and, if he did it, must do it deliberately, that it might be a service the more reasonable and the more honourable.3. The manner: Offer him for a burnt-offering. He must not only kill his son, but kill him as a sacrifice, kill him devoutly, kill him by rule..."
 
Abraham faced a trial that challenged more than his obedience. Abraham trusted the LORD implicitly, to the very second. It is one of the most chilling accounts in the Old Testament.

Abraham and Isaac ~ Rembrandt,1634

"Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” 

6 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 the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”

   

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