Genesis 22:1-6; 9-18 - Do You Obey in Faith?
Do You Obey in Faith?
Lesson Passages Outline
- Does God Command Us? (Gen. 22:1-2)
- When and How Do We Respond? (Gen. 22:3-6)
- Do We Follow Through? (Gen. 22:9-10)
- Do We Experience God's Affirmation and Insights? (Gen. 22:11-18)
God wants His people to obey Him promptly and thoroughly.
To help you obey God in faith
Working with students is a joyous but sometimes frustrating experience. When assigning a paper I have to specify what I am looking for, because many students like to find and use every loophole. Some students want to receive full credit for half-done work.
They ask such questions as: What size font can we use? Can we expand the margins? Does the length also include the bibliography page? Do we get extra credit for doing it early? How many points are taken off for late work? Do we have to follow the model exactly or can we modify it? They want to obey only some of the instructions.
Likewise, some Christians only want to obey God partially. For example, Hank wants to wait until he feels more spiritual to serve God. This lesson will help him realize obeying God deepens and strengthens faith. The lesson also encourages people like Ellen, who ignores God's will, to obey God. The lesson also challenges people like Lois and Paul, who volunteer but then do not follow through.
In what ways do you sometimes only partially obey God?
Abraham provides an example of fully obeying God. As you study about Abraham's obedience when God told him to sacrifice his son Isaac, focus on ways you can encourage adults to experience the Life Impact of the lesson by obeying God in faith. As you continue your personal Bible study, prayerfully read the Background Passage and respond to the Study Questions as well as to the questions in the margins for the February 10 lesson in Explore the Bible: Adult Learner Guide.
The Bible in Context (Gen. 20:1-23:20)
Following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham settled down in Gerar. When Abraham told the people of Gerar that Sarah was his sister, their king Abimelech brought her into his harem. God warned Abimelech in a dream that his nation faced destruction because he had brought a married woman into his household. Abimelech stated his innocence and God commanded him to return Sarah to Abraham and to have Abraham pray for him (Gen. 20:1-18).
Next, as God had promised, Sarah became pregnant by Abraham and delivered a son at the exact time God had specified. Abraham named his son Isaac and obeyed God by circumcising him on the eighth day after his birth. Sarah insisted Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away. After assurances from God, Abraham reluctantly did so. God cared for Hagar and Ishmael and gave them a future (21:1-21).
Abimelech asked Abraham to enter a covenant with him. When Abraham protested that Abimelech's men had seized a well from him, Abimelech stated he knew nothing of the seizure. As the two men made a covenant, Abraham gave Abimelech sheep and cattle. After the covenant ceremony, Abraham worshiped God (21:22-34).
God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. Immediately Abraham set off to obey God, taking Isaac and two servants to travel to an area of Mount Moriah. When they arrived at the specific place God had selected, Abraham built an altar, arranged the wood, bound Isaac, and placed him on the altar. As Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, God stopped him, stating Abraham had passed the test. God reaffirmed His promises to Abraham, who then returned to Beer-sheba. In Beer-sheba Abraham learned how God had blessed his brother Nahor with children (22:1-24).
Sarah died when she was 127 years old. Abraham asked his Hittite neighbors to allow him to purchase the cave of Machpelah in which to bury his wife. Ephron offered to give the cave and the field around it to Abraham, but he insisted on buying them. Abraham and Ephron agreed on a price and Abraham buried Sarah in the cave (23:1-20).
Does God Command Us? (Gen. 22:1-2)
1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!"
"Here I am," he answered.
2 "Take your son," He said, "your only [son] Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."
Verse 1. After these things refers at least to the events of Genesis 20:1-21:34 and possibly to everything that had happened thus far to Abraham. The birth of Isaac had brought joy to Abraham and Sarah and the initial fulfillment of God's promise of numerous descendants. In making the covenant with Abraham (12:1-2), God had promised to bless the nations through him and give him a place in the land. Abraham could begin to see the fulfillment of God's promises.
When life seemed to be going well, God tested Abraham. Testing involves putting a person or nation through a difficult time to determine or strengthen the person's or nation's character. God tested Israel through hunger and thirst in the wilderness (Deut. 8:2-3,16), through false prophets (13:3), and through conflict with other nations (Judg. 2:22).
And Today. God tests His people to strengthen their faith and trust, not to cause them to abandon faith in Him. God tested Abraham to determine the level of his commitment. From the outset God planned to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, but Abraham did not know that. God's command constituted a genuine test for Abraham.
Verse 2. Fully aware of the difficulty of the test, God ordered Abraham to do what seemed unthinkable. In the Hebrew text the word for "I pray thee" or "please" follows the command take. Thus as kindly as possible God tested Abraham, telling him to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. People in other nations offered human sacrifices to their gods and those in Israel sometimes did the same (Judg. 11:30-40; 2 Kings 3:27), but God detested human sacrifice (Jer. 32:35; Mic. 6:7). Abraham did not have Moses' law or the prophets' words, but God had revealed He was not like the gods of the nations.
This command to Abraham resembled God's first command to the patriarch (Gen. 12:1). God had begun with the easiest thing for Abraham to leave (his land) and ended with the most difficult (his father's house). God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his son followed the same pattern of increased difficulty with each phrase. God tested Abraham by asking him to take his son, his only son (through whom God had said He would fulfill His promises), and to offer (sacrifice) him.
God instructed Abraham to go to the land of Moriah [muh RIGH uh] for this sacrifice. Solomon later constructed the temple on Mount Moriah (2 Chron. 3:1), leading many Bible students to believe the temple rested where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac. God told Abraham He would show him the exact spot for the sacrifice.
God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. For the burnt offering, the worshiper placed the entire animal, except for the hide, on the altar and burned everything. Since the worshiper kept no part of the sacrifice, the burnt offering represented the most costly gift a person could make.
And Today. As we study God's testing of Abraham, we need to remember that Abraham's test was unique in the Bible. God did not ask other people to sacrifice their children to prove their faith. Instead, God offered His Son as a sacrifice for our sin. While God will not ask us to offer someone as a human sacrifice, God will command us to deny our selfish desires and comforts and sacrifice our time, talents, and financial means to serve Him. We need to be alert to the opportunities He provides for us and be ready to obey.
How has God commanded you during your life to make sacrifices and follow Him?
When and How Do We Respond? (Gen. 22:3-6)
3 So early in the morning Abraham got up, saddled his donkey, and took with him two of his young men and his son Isaac. He split wood for a burnt offering and set out to go to the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we'll come back to you." 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac. In his hand he took the fire and the sacrificial knife, and the two of them walked on together.
Verse 3. Abraham got up early in the morning, just as he had done when he sent Hagar and Ishmael away (Gen. 21:14). Hagar and Ishmael had walked into an unknown future. Abraham prepared to walk to a place known only to God and sacrifice the child of promise. Faced with God's difficult command, Abraham promptly obeyed.
Abraham prepared for the journey by doing everything himself. He saddled his donkey, selected two servants to accompany him and Isaac, and then split the wood for the sacrifice. Some Bible students have pointed out the order of Abraham's preparations seems illogical. Why not cut the wood first, load everything on the donkey, and then gather the servants and Isaac to set out?
Perhaps the order indicates Abraham's mental state as he wrestled with God's command. Perhaps Abraham cut the wood last to keep Isaac from knowing God's command, since the presence of the wood would point to a sacrifice for which there was no animal.
Verse 4. Does the third day indicate three entire days were necessary to complete the journey? Or is it like our phrase "a few days later"? Or did Abraham leave at mid-morning of the first day and arrive early on the third day? This much is certain: In the Bible three days often signifies an important event or time (40:12-19; Ex. 19:11; 1 Cor. 15:4). Abraham's obedience to God's command formed a significant event in Abraham's life and in the history of faith (Heb. 11:17; Jas. 2:21).
Verse 5. Boy translates a Hebrew word that could refer to a male from infancy (Ex. 2:6) through young adulthood (1 Chron. 12:28). Typically the word referred to a male who lived under the authority and protection of his father, superior, or master. Many Bible students believe Isaac was a teenager since he was able to carry the wood for the sacrifice up a mountain.
Abraham's words to his servants have led to various interpretations. What did Abraham mean by we'll come back to you? Some Bible students suggest Abraham wanted to hide the horror of what he was about to do from his servants and Isaac. Other Bible students believe Abraham's statement indicates he did not actually plan to sacrifice Isaac, but that interpretation does not agree with Abraham's continual obedience throughout the account.
Abraham's words most likely indicate the patriarch's abiding faith in God and the fulfillment of His promise. God had promised to fulfill His promises to Abraham through Isaac (Gen. 21:12) and Abraham believed God would keep His promise even if He had to raise Isaac from the ashes (Heb. 11:17-19).
Verse 6. Abraham placed the wood for the sacrificial fire on Isaac's shoulders. Abraham carried the fire and the sacrificial knife. The word for fire can refer to materials used to start a fire, which would have been safer to carry. The large sacrificial knife was used for killing and also for dismembering a body (Judg. 19:29). As Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, he carried the dangerous items, ensuring Isaac would not injure himself. Abraham wanted to protect Isaac from harm until the last moment and to present him as an unblemished sacrifice.
The use of together to describe how Abraham and Isaac walked up the mountain emphasizes the deep, loving relationship they shared. It also underscores the painful request God had made of Abraham. The father who had waited years for the birth of his precious son then walked with him to sacrifice him. Abraham wasted no time in obeying God. After God had spoken to him, Abraham promptly got up the next morning, made the preparations, and left to obey.
And Today. We may not always be able to leave as quickly as Abraham. We may need to make air travel arrangements, sell a house, secure passports, or simply make arrangements for the children for an afternoon or evening. Yet we are not to delay in obeying God. When God calls, we can be as ready to follow Him as Abraham was.
What sometimes tempts you to delay in obeying God?
Do We Follow Through? (Gen. 22:9-10)
9 When they arrived at the place that God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood. He bound his son Isaac and placed him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
Verse 9. Abraham arrived at the place God had chosen and built an altar. Throughout his journeys with God, Abraham had built altars and worshiped (Gen. 12:7-8; 13:18). When the altar had been completed, Abraham arranged the wood, bound his son Isaac, and placed him on top of the wood on the altar. The Hebrew verb translated bound occurs only here in the Old Testament. Since Isaac was bound rather than sacrificed, Jewish interpreters use a form of this Hebrew verb and refer to the account as "the binding of Isaac." The mention of Abraham placing his son Isaac on the altar again emphasizes the costliness of obeying God's command.
Before Abraham bound his son, Isaac surely had figured out he would be the sacrifice. If Isaac was strong enough to carry a load of wood uphill, he likely was strong enough to resist his father. Isaac did not resist. Even knowing his father planned to sacrifice him, Isaac obeyed his father just as Abraham obeyed God.
Verse 10. Abraham reached out, picked up the knife, and prepared to kill his son. Slaughter served as a typical term for sacrifice (Lev. 1:5,11) and usually referred to cutting the throat of the animal to provide a quick, relatively painless death and allow blood to drain out. Abraham planned to kill his son as mercifully as possible.
And Today. Athletes and coaches always emphasize "follow through" as crucial if a pitcher wants to throw a good pitch, a kicker wants to kick a field goal, or a golfer wants to hit a long, straight drive. If we want to obey God, we also need to follow through.
Beginning to obey and then quitting because we are tired or distracted does not constitute obedience. God expects us to obey fully in order to work with Him in accomplishing His purposes. As we begin to obey God, we may not know where He will lead or everything He will want us to do; but as we listen to Him in prayer and through Bible study and depend on His strength, we too can follow through.
What helps you follow through in obeying God?
Do We Experience God's Affirmation and Insights? (Gen. 22:11-18)
11 But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!"
He replied, "Here I am."
12 Then He said, "Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from Me." 13 Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, so today it is said: "It will be provided on the Lord's mountain."
15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, "By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the gates of their enemies. 18 And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed My command."
Verse 11. As Abraham prepared to bring down the knife and carry out the sacrifice, the Angel of the Lord called out to stop him. The test began with God speaking to Abraham. God ended the test and reaffirmed His promises to Abraham through the angel. The repetition of Abraham's name indicated the urgent need to get Abraham's attention so he would not follow through with the sacrifice. Abraham was committed to obeying God. God was determined to stop him.
Verse 12. God commanded Abraham not to harm Isaac or do anything to him. Abraham needed to do nothing more to demonstrate his obedience. He had passed the test with flying colors. Over the three-day period he had shown the depth of his commitment and the completeness of his obedience to God. Abraham thus clearly demonstrated he feared God. [See Exploration: "Fear God," p. 124.] Abraham's actions demonstrated to God and to the faithful through the ages that he obeyed not just in theory but also in practice.
Verse 13. Filled with joy, Abraham looked and saw a ram with its horns entangled in a thicket. Earlier Isaac had asked his father where the lamb was for the sacrifice (22:7). Abraham had told him God would provide (22:8) and God did just that. Abraham, who had intended to obey God by sacrificing his son, then sacrificed a ram instead.
Verse 14. As a result of God's provision, Abraham named the place The Lord Will Provide. The name plays off the double meaning of the Hebrew verb for "see" or "provide." God saw Abraham's faith and provided another sacrifice. Then Abraham saw a ram... in the thicket. God had provided the ram as a result of Abraham's faith and obedience. As Abraham had demonstrated his obedience, God demonstrated His faithfulness.
Verse 15. God's sparing of Isaac and His positive evaluation of Abraham's faith was not the conclusion. Instead, God spoke again through His angel. In His grace, God continued to reveal His love.
Verse 16. God reaffirmed His promises to Abraham for a final time. For the only time in the accounts of the patriarchs, God guaranteed His promises with an oath. Since nothing exists greater than God by which He could swear, God swore by Himself. He vowed to keep His promises to Abraham and his descendants, and in so doing God also declared His love and faithfulness.
God swore His oath to Abraham because of Abraham's obedience. When tested by God, Abraham had responded by doing exactly what God commanded. His obedience is an example to believers today and led God to confirm His promises in the strongest possible language.
Verse 17. God reaffirmed His promise of numerous descendants to Abraham. Through Isaac, God's promise would come true. God then expanded His promise. Abraham's descendants would not only be numerous, they also would be victorious over their enemies.
Verse 18. Abraham's descendants through the years would bless every nation of the world. Through their faithfulness and obedience to God in sharing God's love, they would be a shining beacon directing others to Him. God extended this blessing and opportunity to Abraham's descendants because of His servant's obedience and His love.
The Israelites did not always obey God like their ancestor Abraham, but God remained faithful to His promises and continually invited them to work with Him in spreading His message to all nations.
And Today. We also do not always do what we should—obey God. When we do, however, we experience the joy of serving Him. From that obedience we often receive fresh insights into His love and grace. Obedience to God enables us to bless others as God continues to bless us.
How have you experienced joy through obedience to God?
Biblical Truths for Spiritual Transformation
- We need to be alert to hear God's command to us.
- We need to promptly obey God's commands by faith, trusting in His power even when His purposes may not be clear to us.
- We need to follow through in obeying the Lord's commands completely.
- We can experience the joy and insights that the Lord gives us as we obey Him in faith.
In what new way will you plan to obey God in faith?
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Copyright 2007, LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, Tennessee 37234