Genesis 22:1 says, “And God did test Abraham.” Some time later, God did test Abraham. He tested Abraham’s sincerity, loyalty, and faith. The offering of Isaac may have occurred at the place where Solomon built the temple (see 2 Chronicles 3:1). Isaac was not a child, but a young man. Abraham laid the wood for burnt offering on Isaac; this was a heavy load.
Abraham’s spiritual experience was marked by four great crises, each of which involved a surrendering of something that was naturally dear to him:
- He surrendered his country and his kindred.
- He surrendered his nephew Lot, who was especially dear to him, and was his heir and a fellow-believer.
- He surrendered his own plans for Ishmael.
- Finally, he surrendered Isaac, his miraculous son.
Abraham wanted a son and heir above anything else. Sarah, his wife, was barren. They had tried everything to have a child, but were unsuccessful. Time ran out. Humanly speaking, there was no hope. Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90. Abraham’s body was dead, and Sarah’s was long past the age of childbearing.
When Abraham began his walk with God, God promised that He would multiply his seed, that they would be as numberless as the stars, and as numerous as the sand on the seashore (see Genesis 15). God also promised to make him fruitful; that kings would come from his seed, and that through his descendants all nations of the earth would be blessed. In Genesis 17, God again promised Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son, that she would be the mother of nations.
Gen. 17:17 – He fell on his face and laughed in disbelief, and said: “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a son at the age of ninety?” Listen now to the cry of a desperate man: “If only Ishmael might be under your blessing.” I can see these things happening. God ignored this request from a distraught man, and said, “Sarah shall bear you a son and you will call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him, and an everlasting covenant with his descendants.”
The heavenly messengers appearing to Abraham in Genesis 18 was a theophany. The Lord reiterated His promise that Sarah would have a son. Sarah, who was in the next tent, heard this and, “laughed within herself.” First, we have Abraham laughing at God’s promise, and now we have Sarah laughing. Abraham was incredulous, but the Lord said, “Is anything too hard for God?” (See Gen. 18:14).
In due course, Isaac was born (see chapter 21). After all that has transpired, can you imagine the special bond between Abraham and Isaac? There must have been joy, rejoicing, and praising God. Confidence in God was at its highest point. Now look at Chapter 22.
Consider the enormity and the immensity of the unusual request made by God. Abraham would be taken by surprise as his world crashed around him. He would be stunned by the impact of this request. God did not say, “Take Isaac and offer him for a burnt offering.” Nor did He say, “Take your son, your ONLY son.” God said, “Take now your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love.” God is literally saying to Abraham: “You must put Isaac to death. You must offer him to Me as a burnt-offering.”
Will he obey unreservedly and unconditionally? Will he surrender to God’s command? Before Abraham could obey God in this unbelievable way, a way contrary to human reason, he must surrender three things:
1. His heart - that is, his INTELLECT: What God had asked him to do did not make sense. Humanly speaking, it was incomprehensible; it defied human logic and understanding. Isaac was the child of promise—he was the miracle child. God’s future plans and purposes were invested in him. All Abraham’s hopes and aspirations were centered in Isaac. Now God says, “Put him to death.” To obey God and worship Him, Abraham must surrender his intellect.
2. His EMOTIONS: He loved Isaac with all his heart…all his hopes and aspirations were centered in him. To obey God, he must love God more than his son, and to demonstrate that love he must surrender to God his strong affection and emotions for Isaac, the son of promise.
3. His WILL: He had a choice either to do his own will, or to do God’s will, to keep what God had given him or to obey God. He elected to do God’s will. Abraham completely abandoned himself to the will of God. This was the supreme and ultimate test for Abraham.
All of this was against reason; yet Abraham was completely captivated, convinced and controlled by God, that he rose immediately in unquestioning and unhesitating obedience to the revealed will of God.
This was a very real experience for Abraham: “Take now thy son.” This was the greatest crisis in his life. He had never been called upon to surrender his intellect, emotion, and will in this way. [Note that it is not enough to surrender the intellect and emotion apart from the will]. To serve God, and worship Him acceptably there must be a total yielding of the whole man. Paul urges us in Romans 6 to “yield ourselves to God.”
Have you ever yielded your intellect, emotions, and will to God in total surrender? Do you have a true heart? Do you have a sincere, pure heart…a surrendered heart? God can do great things with anyone whose heart is surrendered to Him.
Read Genesis 22:3-5. Note three things here:
(1) Abraham did not choose his own service. God revealed it to him, and he responded with unquestioning obedience.
(2) Abraham went to the mountain, the place of God’s appointing, in order to worship Him. He went with one specific objective. He did not go to serve God. “Abide you here, while I and the lad go yonder and worship.”
(3) Abraham went in faith. “Abide you here, while I and the lad go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” He is going to the mountain, the appointed place, to worship God by offering Isaac, but he also does this in full assurance of faith, that God will bring Isaac back to life. What faith! Could we believe like this?
Abraham’s Altar – [Read Genesis 22:6-9]. “They came to the place of which God had told him, and Abraham built an altar.” He built that altar with trembling hands. No doubt tears streamed down his cheeks. His heart was overwhelmed, and his spirit crushed. Despite the mind shattering circumstances, he built the altar.
Beloved, before we can worship God acceptably, we must build an altar with our own hands. We will not be asked to lay Isaac upon it, we will be asked by God to lay ourselves upon it. We will be asked to give ourselves as a burnt offering to be wholly consumed for the glory of God. [Note the difference between the sin offering and the burnt offering]
Abraham built an altar to worship God, and when he had completed it, he laid the one whom he loved with all his heart on it. The fact that it was his ONLY son gives the scene great intensity (he was not one out of twelve, comparing Isaac to Joseph for instance). [Describe the conversation between the father and son]
The Crisis: The Moment of Truth
Genesis 22:10 says, “And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.” The crucial and climatic moment had come. Abraham had built the altar—he had bound the sacrifice—now he raised the knife. God tested Abraham to the limit. What happens next? [Describe the trauma]
[Read Gen. 22:11-18] In Genesis 22:11, we have the first message: “Abraham, Abraham.” The repetition of the name denotes urgency. “Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do anything to him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou has not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me.” Abraham had passed the test - the most severe test of his life.
Abraham cut the cords that bound Isaac to the altar with the knife that would have killed him. I’m sure he embraced Isaac. Then he lifted up his tear-filled eyes, filled with tears of joy, and saw a ram caught by its horns in the bushes. He slew it, and offered it up to God for a burnt offering. God got the burnt offering of Gen. 22:2. Abraham called the name of the place Jehovah Jireh (“The Lord will provide”). On this occasion, God provided a substitute for Isaac.
The second message of the Angel of the Lord was also very important (see Gen. 22:15). “By myself I have sworn,” saith the Lord, “for because thou hast done ‘this thing’” (see Gen. 22:11). What did Abraham do? (1) He offered/gave up his son Isaac to God. (2) Abraham surrendered his heart (i.e. his life), and (3) He surrendered himself without reserve to God.
Abraham had done many things at God’s request. He had left his home in Ur of the Chaldeans, leaving behind his friends and family. He had become a wanderer on the face of the earth and a tent dweller. He had sacrificed many things. These past surrenders, however, were leading to “this thing” - to this supreme and unequalled surrender of giving Isaac as a burnt offering to God.
The Result of Abraham’s Surrender
See Gen. 22:16-18,
“And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”
If we relate these promises to the Jews alone, the present day results fall far short of these predictions. The Jews number 2% of the American population, and only one third of one percent of the world’s population. If you relate these prophecies to Abraham’s spiritual seed then you come much closer to the actual figure.
In Revelation 5, the number ten thousand times ten thousands = 100 million. Then there are thousands multiplied by thousands, which project us into infinity. These in heaven would equate with the stars of heaven. Those on earth during the millennium and in the eternal state would represent the sand of the seashore.
Here is the story of one man with a true, pure, surrendered, and obedient heart, who, by his action brought, is bringing and will bring, unprecedented blessing upon the nations of the world. What would happen today if there were men and women who would surrender themselves unreservedly to God? John Wesley said, “Give me twenty Spirit-filled men and I will turn the nation around.” [Describe how he did it] Henry Varley, the noted English preacher, said to Moody, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man who is wholly given up to His will.”
After listening to this touching story, each one of us has been challenged to some degree. Some of us may be on the “horns of a dilemma,” others may be in the “valley of decision.” What will I do? Your dilemma is intensified as we hear God say to us, “Take now that dearest idol, which you love, and tear it from my throne.” “The dearest idol I have known” (see Romans 12:1). Then present or yield your life to me as a burnt offering.
Mary’s perfume was completely used up when she opened the jar and poured it on the Savior. If she had kept it in the beautiful alabaster box, the world would have been the poorer. She opened the box and poured the perfume out on the Lord. She lost the precious, costly perfume; she gave it all to the Lord without reservation. Never was He more honored, and the aroma of the perfume fills the world.
Brothers and sisters, we may keep our life for our own selfish interest. We may carefully preserve our body from undue effort. We can fly in the face of God’s prediction that “whosoever would save his life shall lose it.” That is, those who would save their lives for themselves will never experience God’s best blessings in this life. They also will lose out at the Judgment Seat. On the other hand, the Lord says, those who would die to self and give their life to the Lord as a burnt offering will be filled with unspeakable joy in this life and receive an abundant reward in eternity.
Are there any in the audience willing to break open the alabaster box of their life and pour out the priceless perfume of worship, service, and devotion? Are there any who are willing to die to self for Jesus Christ? Real life comes through dying.
(A Christ-centered life, a spiritual life, an abundant life) John 12:24 says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” The principle speaks of the hopelessness of living a selfish, egotistical life. Broken clouds produce rain, broken soil produces crops, broken seed yields grain, broken grain produces bread, and broken bread produces strength. The Lord is saying to each of us, “Son, daughter, give me your heart. Give me your life.” May our response be, “You shall have my life, my heart, my all.”