Remaining Faithful in Times of Trial

Introduction

The hardest thing about holy living is the temptation to not live holy. Everyone has a weakness. How we stand up under trials tells us how we truly live out our faith. For some, the temptation may be to eat too much chocolate. For others, it may be watching violent movies.

God wants our soul to live with Him. The goal of every Christian is to one day stand within the presence of God and behold His beautiful face. The Bible tells us the story of Job, a man who lost everything except his wife to Satan’s manipulations yet kept his faith in God.

Another man in Scripture had a trial where God instructed him to give up his only son. Not just give him up, but to sacrifice him. Abraham faced this test.

Scripture Introduction

As you turn to Genesis 22, think about a trial that you’ve undergone recently or one that was especially hard. We’ve all been tested, and we know that God helps us in our times of testing. We also know that testing comes only as strongly as God allows. He promised that He will not allow any temptation to attack us that we cannot stand up under (1 Cor 10:13).

Genesis 22:1-18 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.” 15 Then 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 thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

Abraham’s Faith

Abraham had waited 25 years for Isaac to be born, waited from the time of the promise until his birth. Abraham had longed for a son all his life. Finally, Isaac was born to Sarah. They had the Ishmael and Hagar incident in the middle. Enough years have passed from the birth of Isaac to put him in his teen years.

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.

Abraham had heard the voice of God several times before this. He recognized the voice of his Lord. Abraham even heard some of the same words, “which I will tell you.” Abraham had lived in a faithful relationship with God for decades at this point. He recognized God’s voice even in commanded to do things that he thought unlikely.

We talked last week about him traveling 1,300 miles at God’s command. He left the city to be living near and traveled to the hinter land, the frontier of society.

He waited 25 years for Isaac to be born. 25 years. He’s raised Isaac to his teen years, and now is supposed to sacrifice him?

Abraham knew what child sacrifice was like. The demons that call themselves the pagan gods have always hated humanity, and they believe the best way to show God He is wrong about us is to convince us to kill our children. Child sacrifice was known throughout the ancient near east. Look up the pagan gods like Molech and Lilith.

When it comes to what the pagan gods tempted people with, this one has always floored me. I understand the appeal of sacrifice a sheep during a drought to bring the rain. It’s wrong on several levels, but I get the appeal. Sacrifice for the war god to have victory in battle. Same. But sacrifice your first child? I can’t even grasp the appeal on an intellectual level. I can grasp it only if I think like a demon who wants to draw mankind away from God.

The firstborn child was the closest to the family and the one who belonged supremely to the god the household worshiped. If the couple sacrifices their child to the god and then leaves off worshiping that God for another, it means they were in the wrong to sacrifice the child. How many people are willing to admit that level of wrongness? If someone can convince you to sacrifice your child, they own you. You will never want to admit that was wrong.

Everyone on the trip knew what it meant.

We are told in Hebrews that Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead so that the nation could be born.

Isaac’s Faith

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.

Instead of imaging Abraham in the situation here, imagine Isaac. We speak a great deal about our faith and “the assurance of our faith.” But the biggest test of faith comes not in times of assurance but in times of doubt. Assurance means it requires very little faith to believe in it. If I doubt the outcome but trust God anyway, that is true faith.

Isaac was old enough to know what was going on. He saw the wood and fire but no lamb. He knew, deep in his heart, that he was the lamb. But his father, whom he loved and trusted, said that God would provide a lamb. Isaac had to make a choice right then and other times in the account.

Isaac had to be doubting what was happening. He had to be hoping that his father knew what he was talking about. Would there be a lamb at the top of the mountain? He hoped so!

In spite of this, Isaac walked on in obedience. He could have run away. Old Abraham would not have been able to catch young Isaac. But Isaac walked on, trusting and obeying.

Then Old Abraham does something that again shows Isaac’s trust in his father. Isaac lets himself be tied up! Abraham could not have stopped him from running away.

Isaac gave himself willingly to his father. Abraham willingly gave his son to his God.

The Outcome

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.” 15 Then 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 thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

Both of them knew what was to happen. Abraham knew he was to sacrifice Isaac. He also knew that God had promised to raise up descendants through Isaac. How can he do one and believe the other? It seems like Abraham has to make a choice.

Faith demanded that Abraham trust God. Reality insisted that if Abraham trusted God, he would have no heir. Isaac knew that if he continued to trust Abraham, he would have no life. Something in the story just didn’t make sense.

That’s where faith comes in. We know the outcome of the story, but they did not. What do you do when it appears that what is happening is contradictory to what God has promised? Abraham and Isaac simply had to hang in there and wait to see how God would reconcile the story.

We have to do the same when times seem rough, for there is no other way than to trust and obey.

In their case, God provided a ram for the sacrifice. Once it was shown that Abraham would not withhold his beloved son from God, then God repeated the promise of multiplied seed and a blessing to all nations. The promises came true because Abraham obeyed in times of trial. When he didn’t know the outcome, he still trusted God.

We can have faith like that because we serve the same God as Abraham did.

Conclusion

Trials come and go. Trials make you stronger in the long run, but, at the time, trials seem like the end of the world. Faith takes you through trials. Abraham trusted that the same God who promised Isaac would be the forefather of a nation would return Isaac to him. Isaac trusted that the father who loved him would do right.

Like Abraham, we have a God who has promised to be with us through the trials. Like Isaac, we have a father who cares for us and will do right.

What trials are you facing right now? How do those trials align with what you have been promised from God? You know that God has promised to be with you.

Maybe you have just faced a trial and done badly. God is still there and willing to forgive and strengthen.

Take time to pray right now either for strength in a coming trial or forgiveness in a trial you just faced.

About frankluke

Professionally: pastor, programmer, writer. Personally: husband, father.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Old Testament, sermon and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Remaining Faithful in Times of Trial

  1. Pingback: Remaining Faithful in Times of Trial – Postcards from the Age of Reason

  2. Pingback: God’s Purpose for Our Past – Postcards from the Age of Reason

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