Incredible Faith

Chapter 11:17-19

(The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh in 1978.)

Hebrews 11:17-19 illustrate the greatest example of faith recorded in all of Scripture; Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. In verse 17, the writer says, 'By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son.' You may say, 'Wait a minute. I thought the Bible says that God never tests anybody, or lures people to sin?' That is true, God does not tempt anyone to do evil (James 1:13), but He does refine believers by 'testing' their maturity through obedience. This is the kind of 'testing' that is described here.

The point of verse 17 is that when the pressure was put on Abraham, he responded in faith. He did not start second guessing God, or disagreeing with the chain of events. When he was asked to sacrifice his son, he did so out of obedience that is only produced through true faith.

The writer continues in verse 18; 'it was he to whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called.'' Again, the writer is showing the amazing faith of Abraham. Remember in verses 11 and 12 when the writer illustrated the faith of Abraham and Sarah in the birth of Isaac? The promises of God for Abraham hinge on the fact of Isaac's birth. If Isaac did not live, God's promises would not have occurred (Genesis 21:12). Do you see what God did when He asked Abraham to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice? He turned up the heat on Abraham. He 'tested' his faith, and that testing caused Abraham to mature into an even stronger believer. Abraham believed that God was faithful in His promises, and that He was in complete control.

This is incredible faith! The writer says Abraham offered his 'only begotten son.' Does this mean that Abraham was offering the only son, or child born to him? No. Ishmael was born first, and after Isaac, Abraham will have half a dozen other children. The word 'begotten,' or monoganace, means 'unique.' It is also a term that is interchangeable with the word 'beloved.' Isaac was the only son, of this type, born to Abraham. He was both a unique, and totally loved son of Abraham. The fact that Isaac was unique was due to the fact that the promises of God to Abraham revolve around him.

The same is true for Christ. He is not the only child born to God. According to Galatians, everyone born into the family of God is a son of God. But Christ is the only begotten Son in His uniqueness. No other name under heaven has been given for salvation (Acts 4:12). Again, the point is that Abraham did what God asked him to do, even though it was hard, because he had absolute faith that God would keep His promises. For a detailed account of Abraham's faith in the sacrifice of Isaac, see Genesis 22:1-19

Did that mean that Abraham knew exactly how God would save Isaac from death? No. In fact, according to verse 19, Abraham thought that God was going to allow Isaac to be killed, and then raise him from the dead. The writer says, 'He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.' How could Abraham have known this? There had not been any reference to resurrection thus far in Scripture. The answer is simple: faith! Abraham put two and two together. He knew God would fulfill His promises, and he knew Isaac did not have children at this point. So he thought that God would allow Isaac to be killed, and then raise him from the dead. Is that not amazing? It was 2000 years before Christ was resurrected and Abraham had no doubt that God would resurrect his son Isaac, and fulfill all of the promises that he had made to him.

As one will notice, Isaac is a type of Christ. From his trust and willingness to be sacrificed at the hand of his father, to the carrying of his own cross (the wood for the fire), Isaac was the picture of Christ, who would offer Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for sin. The difference was that God intervened in the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:11-13). When it came time for Christ to die, however, God did not stop the sacrifice of the 'Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29). After God commanded Abraham not to kill Isaac, He provided a ram to Abraham to be used for the sacrifice (Genesis 22: 13-14).

Abraham calls this place 'Jehovah-Jira,' or 'God will provide.' About 2000 years later, in that same area on the hill called Calvary, God provided by giving His Son as our one, final sacrifice for sin.

The question we must ask ourselves is 'Is there anything so important to me in my life that I would not give it to God?' Are we, like Abraham, willing to sacrifice the thing we love most because of our faith and obedience to God? James 2:21,22 illustrates this truth; 'Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected.' You see, when one has faith, he will be able to trust God, and be obedient in anything that God asks of him.

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Indian Hills Community Church

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