We’ve looked into the lives of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar and seen many things. We’ve seen obedience, mistakes, jealousy, rage, faith, and doubts. We’ve seen real genuine emotions in these people and caught a glimpse of ourselves as well. The ways we interact with people and ways we often may not “measure up.” Despite the truth of the bad, we’ve also discussed how the story continues. How people can triumph even after a failure. And today, we’re finally going to see the pinnacle of Abraham’s faith. His greatest spiritual triumph. Let’s pick up where we left off.
At the age of 86, Abram’s first child is born. Ishmael, the son of Abram’s second wife, the Egyptian slave, Hagar. Thirteen years later we get to see God speak to him again. He says, “I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect.”
Now, Abram has been on this journey with God for more than 20 years. God has taken care of him and blessed him through it all; whether Abram was obedient and faithful or impatient and doubtful. What’s happened so far is not enough for Abram to finish his journey properly. There’s still more work to be done.
It is time for change, for something new. This is a special moment in Abram’s life. These moments come in our lives, too. Times where we have to step up to be what God wants us to be and to do what He wants us to do. This does not mean that anything Abram has done means any less; nor does it mean anything we have done previously no longer matters. It’s simply a time when what is coming next requires more than what we have been able to give before.
I know I’ve shared a lot about our flaws and mistakes and reassured you that they aren’t the end of us, and I will continue to do so. Reminding ourselves of these things is important, it’s good for us. However, we always have to remember that we can’t just get comfortable with where we are. We can’t just declare that this is enough. And we can’t use the flaws of the great men and women of the Bible to justify the wrong things we do. Just because Abram misleads people doesn’t mean we freely get to or that other things we do are acceptable because we didn’t kill someone like Moses did. That’s not what these moments were recorded for. They are here to show us God’s faithfulness and that He can indeed work with anyone who is willing to trust and obey Him.
God has been working on Abram the whole time. He’s not about to stop either, but He’s ready to take him to another level. To symbolize this to Abram and the world he gets a name change, his wife too. They shall now be known as Abraham and Sarah. Every male in Abraham’s house that “belongs” to him must go through a physical change as well, circumcision. When Christ makes an impact on us today and changes our lives it should be evident to those around us; and often spreads to those we come in contact with.
With everything going on in this moment, how important it obviously must be for everyone in his house to follow what God told him, you would think much of Abraham’s spiritual growth has taken place before this. Maybe it has, but he still has much to learn. You see, during the conversation he has with God, before sharing these things with his house, God tells him something in particular. He tells Abraham that he will indeed have a son through his wife Sarah, the one he brought with him as his wife out of the land his father lived in; the one he had when God first spoke to him of the promise. Abraham laughs, so hard he falls on his face! And later, when Sarah hears there is but a single year between her and a child in her arms, she laughs too!
Clearly their trust in God is not fully matured yet. In fact, these two are going to repeat a previous mistake along the way. They mislead yet another king with the half-truth that Sarah is Abraham’s sister. You see, Abraham is again afraid of being killed for the sake of his wife, who by the way is 90 years old at this point and past child-bearing. Sure enough the king takes her to marry just as Pharaoh had previously.
Let me just say something here. I get that if you’re dead you can’t exactly have a child. But do you realize also that if your wife is taken from you, into another man’s house, never to see you again, you CANNOT have a child? Abraham dude, don’t you trust God? You’ve got one year before you get that baby boy you’ve been looking for!
You see, God is fully capable of protecting the two of them no matter the circumstance. Abraham could have chosen to trust God to keep him alive and their marriage intact. Instead he chose to save his life his own way and just let God clean up the mess.
God is faithful and no one in the kingdom lays an inappropriate hand on Sarah and she is returned to her husband quickly. God still took care of them through a situation they’d already gone through once. There’s still learning to be done at this point.
Things seem to really start to change once that baby comes exactly when God said he would. On their own they never would have even had a chance for Isaac to be born. They would have missed the greatest gift of all. Even after having been on this journey for so long and after having acted obediently on more than one occasion.
Some years later Isaac has grown some and Ishmael has been sent away (Gen 21:8-21). God has promised to bless both boys, in part because of Abraham’s request (Gen 17:18), and Isaac is considered to be Abraham’s only son. Now God will give Abraham what I believe to be the ultimate test of faith.
“Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning…”
The main thing Abraham has been good at in the past we see displayed well again here, he gets up and goes to do what God asks him without delay. And God didn’t hold back the hard part either, Abraham knows exactly what God is asking of him on that mountain. But, in the book of Hebrews, chapter 11 we are told that Abraham believed that God was able to raise his son from the dead. He believed in the promises God had given and he knew that Isaac was the fulfillment of those promises. He trusted that God would do what He had previously said, no matter what happened on that mountain.
The trial didn’t end there either. He did more than get the kid up the mountain. He responded to his son’s questions, namely where the sacrifice was, with wisdom, truth, and faith. Knowing that in some way God would provide he tied the boy up. He lays him on the altar, likely in the midst of the cries and begging and confusion of his son. He lifts up the knife, ready to do what God had asked; believing that it would turn out exactly as it should. And the angel spoke.
“Lay not thine hand upon the lad; neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.” Gen 22:12-13
Abraham’s faith, in likely the toughest moment of his life, did not falter. Even though he had failed before, God proved Himself faithful to Abraham over and over. In every failure God made a way out. The clear evidence of God’s hand over these past few decades taught Abraham that He would always come through. When Abraham’s faith was matured and able to withstand this trial is when it came, not a moment sooner.
God does not ask us all to be Abraham thankfully. He does not take us through the exact same trials and lessons. He does, however, expect us to grow, to learn, to change, and to trust Him. And it’s hard, Abraham sure took some time to get ready. But he did it. And you can too.
If you look back on your life searching for where God was, it won’t always be where you expect it but often He is there. In the moments that could have been worse, the moments you found a special friend, or got a special message, and even in the consequences that taught you. God is faithful. When He calls you to new things, embrace his plan, let Him teach you. Be willing to obey and to trust. Maybe one day someone will look back on the things you’ve experienced and find strength and encouragement knowing that what God did for you, He can do for them too and that the faith you were able to display, they can reach as well.