top Abraham #5 Saturday, December 16, 2017
ABRAHAM, MAN OF FAITH
By James L. Thornton
This is the fifth section of a study on the life of Abraham. This study is from my book “Good News From Home” in which I detail the life of this great Old Testament Man. I feel that Abraham is one of greatest men who ever lived on this earth. It was Abraham who first conceived the idea of monotheism, the fact of one God who ruled heaven and earth. There will be one more section after this to conclude his life.
1. Testing Of Faith
2. They Both Went Together
3. And Yet The Lad Went On
4. The Father's Heart Was Sorest
5. The Father Shared Golgotha With His Son
6. At The Last Instant, God Intervenes
7. Good News From Home
8. Let Us Learn
9. Life's Hardest Trial, The Death Of Sarah
10. Spending A Few Moments With Abraham In Sarah's Tent
11. First Grave In MachPeLah
1. TESTING OF FAITH: Genesis 22:1-19
The last verse of chapter twenty one Lets us know that several years must have passed between these two chapters. Isaac was now a lad of, perhaps, as much as twenty years old.
Genesis 22:1. And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, behold, here I am. (KJV)
This was another night vision (Genesis 15:1, 17:1) in which God spoke to Abraham.
Even though it had been years since Abraham last talked with God (Genesis 18:33) he recognized His voice, and was quick to respond.
The brief introduction of the conversation expresses the great tension and application of the human mind of those moments in a striking way, and serve at the same time to prepare us for the importance of the conversation.
The ordeal through which Abraham passed at this time was expressly created for him by God. (Elohim)
After all that had preceded it might have been anticipated that not only were the Patriarch’s trials over, but that the need for such discipline in his case no longer existed.
It shows that neither length of years, nor ripeness of grace, neither conscious enjoyment of Divine Favor, nor previous experience of suffering, can exempt from trial, or place one beyond the need of testing.
We learn that temptations come at unexpected times, and in unforeseen ways.
Genesis 22:2. And He (God) said, 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. (KJV)
Abraham was commanded to take the only son of Sarah, the only legitimate offspring he possessed, the only heir of the promise, "whom thou lovest," this was calculated to excite the parental affection of the Patriarch to the highest pitch.
What it must have cost the Patriarch to submit to the Divine Command! With one blow he must slay his boy and his own earnest hopes. The only gleam of hope was in the thought that God, who first gave Isaac, could also restore him from death.
Genesis 22:3a. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, ... (KJV)
Abraham always did this after a Divine communication.
Genesis 22:3b. ..., And saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. (KJV)
Abraham went about making preparations for the journey to the place, and task, to which God had directed him, by gathering wood, and taking a small vessel with fire. All this he placed upon his ass, and chose two young men to go with him to lead and care for the ass.
Isaac joined in the preparations, no doubt with excitement, of accompanying his aged father to the land of Moriah to offer a sacrifice to God. (Elohim)
This verse (v. 3) represents the calm deliberation and unflinching heroism with which Abraham proceeded to execute the Divine command.
Genesis 22:4. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. (KJV)
Sometime during the third day Abraham saw the mountain to which God was directing him. He recognized the mount by Divine revelation.
Tradition says that the mount was the same on which Adam, Able, and Noah had offered sacrifice.
Genesis 22:5a. And Abraham said unto his young men, abide ye here with the ass; ... (KJV)
Abraham charged his young men to wait with the ass, partly because the beast required watching, though chiefly because the contemplated sacrifice was too solemn for any eyes but God’s to witness.
The next statement was one which expressed his all-conquering faith.
Genesis 22:5b. ...; And I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. (KJV)
This was the voice of Abraham’s all-conquering faith. In his mind they were both coming back.
2. THEY BOTH WENT TOGETHER:
Genesis 22:6a. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; ... (KJV)
Eighteen hundred years later the wood was laid upon the shoulder of Abraham’s greater son to carry to the place of sacrifice.
John 19:17. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: (KJV)
Genesis 22:6b. ..; And he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; ... (KJV)
Abraham carried the knife and the small pot of fire, and they started up the mountain.
Genesis 22:6c. ...; And they went both of them together. (KJV)
Silent prayers ascend from the father, and pondering on the son’s part, as they climbed the mountain together, since as yet no declaration had been made of the true purpose of the journey.
A little while later Isaac was the one who broke the silence.
Genesis 22:7a. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, ... (KJV)
During the progress of the journey, after leaving the young men, solitude inviting him to give expression to thoughts which had been rising in his bosom, but which the presence of companions had constrained him to suppress, Isaac called out to his father.
Genesis 22:7b. .., And said, my father: .. (KJV)
In this we see a term of reverence and endearment that must have cut to the heart of Abraham. As used by Isaac it signified a desire to ask his father a question.
Genesis 22:7c. ..: And he said, here am I, my son. (KJV)
Abraham answered Isaac reassuringly, as though Isaac was groping for him in a dark room. "Here Am I My Son."
Genesis 22:7d. ... And he said, behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? (KJV)
Abraham’s heart must have stood still at that sudden question, the lad’s eyes full upon his face, signs of half-awakened fear in his eyes.
As we read, the heart cries out with pain. So vivid, and heart-breaking, is it all. Although the hearts that suffered have been still for thirty-seven-hundred years.
THINK WHAT IT MEANT TO ISAAC!
Human sacrifice was commonly practiced in those days, and, with that background to his thoughts, his was no idle question shot at random out of simple curiosity.
Life is sweet, and he was young, and still looking out on that wonderful future which hid and held so much that his heart coveted. A little while and he too would set sail, and win the land where dreams come true.
Sudden as an arrow burying itself in his breast, came the cold, awful truth!
3. AND YET THE LAD WENT ON.
There are no hot reproaches, no wild outcry, but in tense and utter silence he climbed on and on.
In that age a father’s right to do as he would with his son was as unquestioned as his right to do what he would with his slave.
4. THE FATHER’S HEART WAS SOREST:
Genesis 22:8a. And Abraham said, my son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: ... (KJV)
In this gentle answer to his son, Abraham’s heroic faith still clings to Divine promises.
Even though Isaac’s heart was trembling, yet, surely, it is to Abraham that one’s heart reaches out to first.
Was ever man so agonized and tortured? Isaac, the light of his whole life, and he must dash it out, and henceforth grope in gross darkness. "Whom Thou Lovest" (Genesis 22:2)
The boy, his boy, who filled his heart with laughter, hope, and happiness. Had not God said that ‘in Isaac’ he would certainly be blessed---this Isaac, now within a few paces of death?
The trial of the true heart is often stretched out to it’s extremity, that the revelation which rewards faithfulness may be the more abundant and wonderful.
It was so long now (45 years) since he had set forth from Haran to inherit the land that God had surely promised to him from time to time.
His whole life had slipped away since then, and even yet he owned no foot of it, not even so much as would allow him to bury his dead. (Genesis 23:4, Acts 7:5)
But still his heart believed on, refused to cease to trust, even when further trust seemed simply foolish.
What a wild tumult of emotions, outraged love, a father’s breaking heart, a faith burdened till it could bear no more, must have been surging and swelling within Abraham’s soul,
Although he murmured not a word, but climbed on steadily.
Genesis 22:8c. ..: So they went both of them together. (KJV)
No wonder that Abraham was called ‘The Father of the Faithful!" No wonder that a faith so remarkable, and an obedience so complete, were ‘counted unto him for righteousness.’
Once on a day the Prince Of All Believers climbed a hill yet more steep, with a cross yet heavier pressing hard upon His heart, into a darkness even more gross and black.
For God had promised Him that He would save the world; and He was going to His death, with not one soul in the world that understood or that believed:
Yet He went on unfalteringly. Where God led him, there He would follow.
John 4:34. Jesus saith unto them, my meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work. (KJV)
Because of that undaunted faith of His, and that perfect obedience, tested to the uttermost, Jesus has destroyed our enemies, and won for us our Salvation.
In all of history, perhaps, no act of any man comes nearer to our own than this uttermost sacrifice of Abraham.
Who gave his very all to God, climbing that hill into utter darkness, with his hope’s all shattered, and God’s promises seemingly broken, and his sore, lacerated, heart pained all but past bearing.
‘SO THEY WENT BOTH OF THEM TOGETHER.’ But the father’s heart was sorest in the common sorrow.
Maybe today it has come your turn to climb the hill of sacrifice, that long hill that strains the heart and tires so cruelly.
Something has happened; and the life that used to be so sunny has of a sudden become gray. No doubt you are trying to meet it bravely enough, perhaps, by simply leaving yourself in God’s hands.
Life was so happy until this fell suddenly out of the sky; and now everything is so different---life has grown to be a thing to be endured, a burden to be carried with a panting and strained heart.
Yet at least you are not alone. Your Father is beside you; and the FATHER’S HEART IS THE SOREST.
However lonely is the road, you have one sure companion; however personal the sorrow, one other heart is bearing it along with you, for it is his yet more that yours, so you ‘both go together’ up the hill of sorrow---but THE FATHER’S HEART IS SOREST.
"Can I see another’s woe and not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another’s grief and not seek for kind relief?
No, no? Never can it be! Never, never can it be!
Think not thou canst sigh a sigh and thy maker be not nigh!
Think not thou canst weep a tear and thy maker be not near!
O! He gives to us his joy, that our grief it may destroy;
Till our grief is fled and gone, God doth sit by us and moan."
THAT IS THE TEACHING OF THE TESTAMENT.
5. THE FATHER SHARED GOLGOTHA WITH HIS SON
The man of sorrows, one tired and aged before His time by the keenness of His sympathy, by ever entering into other people’s troubles, by giving Himself without limit for their relief, whom the Gospels tell us is God’s very image and His express likeness.
God is not sitting back on a dazzling throne in glory, untouched by the woes and miseries of this uneasy earth.
But God is in the thick darkness at the very heart of the world’s sorrows, bowed by a cross that even He could hardly carry, so grieved, so wounded, so heartbroken. There it is that we see God clearest, there it is that we understand what He is really like.
Darkness wraps the cross, but if one looks intently there emerges from the darkness the dim outline of another crucified sufferer---the Father sharing Golgotha with His Son.
So it was not Christ only who climbed the grim, stony hill of sacrifice, and not Christ only who went down deeper and deeper through the darkness, but ‘they went both of them together,’ the Father and He; and THE FATHER’S HEART WAS SOREST.
Only at such a price, and such a cost, was our Salvation won.
So it was with Abraham, as he and his son climbed the hill together, when hope’s last dogged spark was winking itself out, that daring faith was justified.
TO ABRAHAM HIMSELF, INDEED, IT COULD NOT BE. He must go to his grave a homeless wanderer, must die ‘in faith, not having received the promises,’ still trusting to the very end. But the boy would enter into all that his father’s faith had won for him.
Genesis 22:9a. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, ... (KJV)
Reaching the top of Mount Moriah Abraham built an altar. It is doubtful that Isaac was permitted to help in building the altar.
Genesis 22:9b. .., And laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. (KJV)
After the altar was built Abraham carefully arranged the wood on the top of it. Then the true purpose of the journey came to the full consciousness of Isaac, as his father began to bind him with a cord.
We must remember that Isaac was a full grown lad at this time, and without his consent Abraham could never have succeeded in binding him.
The feelings of the Patriarch throughout this transaction are simply inconceivable.
Genesis 22:10. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. (KJV)
Who even in the last moment offers no resistance, there was no outcry, but behaves like a type of Him who was led as a lamb to the slaughter.
IN PERFECT SINCERITY---"ABRAHAM STRETCHED FORTH HIS HAND TO SLAY HIS SON."
He accounted that, though Isaac should be slain, God was able to raise him up again from the dead. (Hebrews 11:19)
Hence, though prepared to plunge the knife into his son’s breast, and reduce his beloved form to ashes, he "Staggered not at the promise." (Romans 4:20)
6. AT THE LAST INSTANT, GOD INTERVENES!
Genesis 22:11. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, here am I. (KJV)
The God of redemption interposes for the deliverance of both Isaac and Abraham. The repetition of the call denotes urgency, as contrasted with verse one. Bringing Abraham to stop the decent of the knife, instantly.
Genesis 22:12. And He said, 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. (KJV)
The trial is over and Abraham had passed the test.
The sacrifice was now complete as far as Abraham could offer it.
The Commandment had been obeyed, and the obedience was "The good and perfect and acceptable will of God."
Genesis 22:13. 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. (KJV)
God Had Indeed Provided A Sacrifice!
As He would do in the dim future, God provided a substitute for a sacrifice in our stead, His Son. (John 1:29)
Abraham was glad to have his son spared; so would the Father have been, but He gave up His "Only-Begotten, Well-Beloved Son," for us. (Romans 8:32)
Genesis 22:14. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, in the Mount of the Lord it shall be seen. (KJV)
Jehovah-jireh = The Lord Will See? Or Provide?
Amidst such a conflict of interpretations absolute certainty is perhaps unattainable.
The sense of the proverb will probably be expressed by understanding it to mean that on the Mount of Abraham’s sacrifice Jehovah would afterwards reveal Himself for the Salvation of His People, as He then interposed for the help of Abraham.
Genesis 22:15. And the Angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of Heaven the second time,
16. 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:
17. 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;
18. And in thy seed shall all the Nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice. (KJV)
Once Again Jehovah Renews His Covenant With Abraham, And A Solemn Oath Is A Guarantee Of Their Fulfillment.
Hebrews 6:13. For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself,
14. Saying, surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
15. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. (KJV)
Genesis 22:19. So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba. (KJV)
"Together" in the beginning of the journey, "Together" in the end, in trial and in blessing.
7. Good News From Home: Genesis 22:20-23
It is this scripture which prompted me to write this book, "Good News From Home." Someone from Abraham's home country brought him news from his family back in Mesopotamia. Children had been born to his brother's family and Abraham was especially intrested in the daughters, as he wanted to find a wife for Isaac from among the.
You will not that not many times are the girls mentioned who are born into the families in the Old Testament, only in the case where they are to play a significant role in the Bible story. In this case he was intrested in Rebekah who would have been approximly Isaac age.
Genesis 22:20. And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, behold, Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor;
21. Huz his firstborn, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram,
22. And Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel.
23. And Bethuel begat Rebekah: these eight Milcah did bear to Nahor, Abraham's brother. (KJV)
It is always good to hear from home, especially if we have been gone for awhile.
Abraham had been gone from his home in Haran for more than fifty years. One half a century.
He had been a wanderer in Palestine, even making a sojourn down into Egypt, and back.
So it must have been with great emotion that Abraham listened to the news concerning his brother, Nahor, who had stayed behind when Abraham left Haran.
One is curious to know who it was that brought tidings from the old home in Mesopotamia. His name is unknown.
Was he a chance traveler? A messenger from Nahor, who by now was a wealthy emir, or chieftain, sent to inquire about his long lost brother? His arrival was timely.
Whoever he was his arrival at this particular time was recognized by Abraham as an agent from God, or one acting on behalf of God to bring good news.
It Was A Message About Milcah.
When Abraham and his brother had parted, more than half a century before, neither of their wives had begun to have a family.
Now information comes that Nahor and Milcah have been blessed with offsprings. In fact eight, especially the second generation, born into Nahor’s house, came as welcome news to Abraham.
The queenly grace of Milcah being reproduced in her granddaughter Rebekah.
"Rebekah," "captivating, ensnaring"...(furst); "A rope with a noose, one who ensnares men by her beauty." (Gesenius)
Rebekah was the child of Isaac’s cousin, Bethuel, and being the daughter of Nahors' youngest son, was near the same age as her future husband.
It was a timely arrival for this unknown messenger, whoever he was his appearance at this particular time was exceedingly opportune.
When, the great trial of Abraham’s faith (Ch. 22:1-19) having passed, Isaac’s marriage must have loomed in the prospect as a near possibility.
To Abraham the news must have seemed, not a fortuitous occurrence, but a God sent Messenger.
8. Let Us Learn
1. That no passage of scripture can be said to be entirely useless.
2. That joy and sorrow mostly lie in close kinship in human life.
3. That it becomes good men and women to be interested in each other’s life.
4. That in God’s Government of the world there are no such things as accidents.
5. That it becomes good men to keep an outlook upon the leading of Divine purpose.
All of these thing we will consider in great detail when we come to chapter twenty four, when Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac.
9. Life's Hardest Trial, The Death Of Sarah (Genesis 23:1-20)
Genesis 23:1. And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah.
2. And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her. (KJV)
What a bitter day it is when a man buries his wife, or a wife buries her husband.
It is perhaps the lowest point ever reached by the human spirit. It is the sunset for them of all of earth’s hope and expectations.
In Genesis chapter twenty three We stand beside Abraham as he weeps at the grave of Sarah, his life-long companion, probably over a century.
Death has cast its shadow over him.
But in reading this chapter we see a light which always shines through the darkness in the life of a man.
There is an old Hymn which says,
"There is a light in the valley of death, now for me, since Jesus came into my heart."
About seventeen years have passed between chapter twenty two, and chapter twenty three.
These accounts of Abraham’s trials follow consecutively in the sacred record, but they are separated by many years of blessings, and tranquility, and peace.
Sarah was one hundred-twenty seven years old when she died, and Isaac, her son, is now thirty seven.
Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose age is mentioned.
She is also the first member of the family of the Patriarchs to die and be buried in the Promise Land.
By this time the little family of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac had moved back from Beersheba to Hebron.
They were living under the oak of Mamre where he first lived when they came into Canaan.
Who of us would not like to return to the old home place where there are so many memories.
As was customary in those days, the body of Sarah was placed in a tent all by itself and into that tent goes Abraham alone, to weep, and to mourn.
It Is The Only Time We Are Told That Abraham Wept.
This mourning is not just a ritual. There were no hired mourners.
It was genuine sorrow, Abraham weeping in the presence of the body of Sarah.
This old man had gone through many, many bitter disappointments and times of heartache.
Abraham was disappointed when Lot left him to go down into Sodom.
He was heartbroken when Ishmael was sent out.
His heart was torn with anguish when he went to offer Isaac upon the mountain.
But the only time the Bible records that he wept was when Sarah died.
This reveals to us the depth of his grief and love for Sarah
Alone in this tent he sobbed out his sorrow, "Mourned For Her."
10. A Few Moments With Abraham As He Wept In Sarah’s Tent:
Let Us Spend A Few Moments With Abraham As He Bows Over The Body Of Sarah.
During the days he spent in her tent, before her body, he thought about many things.
Some of you have already stood, or knelt, where he was on that sad day.
You have felt the same way he felt.
You have thought the same thoughts he thought that day.
Memories, how they flood into your mind.
The well of grief is fed by the springs of memory.
He saw, in his minds eye, that beautiful girl who captured his heart long, long ago, back in Ur.
The dark shinning hair, the radiance in her face on her Wedding Day. He remembered the softness of her touch.
And when that supreme, compelling, call from God came, Sarah also answered, and willingly, they went out as a couple, together, into an unknown land.
Sharing hardships, accepting the unsettled life without a murmur, or complaint.
Abraham thought about their long, weary, years without a child, and how they wept together about it.
He remembered how in her desperation to give him a son, she offered her handmaid and Ishmael was born.
He remembered, too, how at long last, joy shone in her face when her own son, Isaac, lay in her arms.
That, without a doubt, was the happiest day of their lives.
His memory ran back through the years and retraced the love that drew them together, through the good times, and through the bad times, till they were one in body, mind, and heart.
A distinguished Princes, an eminent saint, now death had taken her from his side, but never from his heart.
It Is His Hour Of Darkness.
Sarah was one of those "All" Who "Died In Faith," looking for a better country, even a heavenly. (Hebrews 11:13)
Hence, the last enemy, we cannot doubt, was encountered with quite fortitude and cheerful resignation.
But what we have read is not the whole story.
Let Us Read On.
12. First Grave In Mach-Pelah:
Genesis 23:3. And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,
4. I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. (KJV)
But Abraham was not asking for a free burial plot.
The next several verses give great detail on his purchase of a field in which there was a cave, in Mach-pe-lah, which was in Mamre.
Abraham’s first and only possession in Canaan, a sepulcher.
Abraham wanted to make Sarah’s burying place his own possession.
This is the first mention of a grave in scriptures.
There Abraham and Sarah lie buried together, along with Isaac and Rebekah
There Jacob and Leah lie together, Rachel alone of this great family being absent.
Rachel is buried just outside of Bethlehem.
There has been a great Mosque erected above the site. This one of the authentic sites in Palestine today.
I’m sure time passed slowly for Abraham after he left the cave at Machpelah that day.
Abraham lived thirty eight years after Sarah died and fathered six more sons.
Abraham never forgot that Isaac was the Son of Promise and the Divinely chosen Heir.
I hope you enjoyed reading this Study #5 of the life of Abraham. We will continue this in Study #6, #7, until Abraham himself is laid along side Sarah in Machpelah.
In the next Study #6, Abraham sends his most trusted servant to find a wife for Isaac. This is a story like unto the Church, The Bride of Christ.
We hope you will also read the other studies on this web site.
Write to us Godsgrazingfield@att.net
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By, James L. Thornton