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I. The circumstances of Abraham when this trial came. His hope was set on Isaac as the medium through which God's promise could be fulfilled, and he had been encouraged by observing him rising year after year to the age and stature of manhood.
II. God's connection with the trial. He subjected Abraham to a testing trial in order to prove his faith. (1) There was no attempt in the action of God, bearing upon Abraham, in the least to diminish the patriarch's affection for his son. (2) In the command binding Abraham to offer up his son there was an assertion of Jehovah's right to be regarded as the supreme object of His creatures' love.
III. Abraham under and after the trial. (1) His fear of God was tested by this trial; (2) his faith in God was tested by the trial. But the result was blessed to him in these four ways: ( a ) He obtained an attestation from heaven of his fear and of his faith; ( b ) he obtained a new revelation of Messiah as the atoning Surety; ( c ) he brought back with him alive his only son, whom he loved; ( d ) he held "Jehovah Jireh" in the grasp of his faith, and had Him pledged to care for him always.
Application. (1) Learn from this text that true faith is sure to be tested faith. (2) The text teaches us that all love must be subordinated to love for God. (3) Learn from this passage that the only way to be truly strong is to have faith in God. (4) Learn from this text that God will never fail under the leanings of faith. (5) Learn from this text that no one need expect an attestation of his fear and faith except when these are revived and exercised.
J. Kennedy, Sermons, No. 40.
References: Genesis 22:1 . Sermons for Boys and Girls (1880), p. 48; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 261.Genesis 22:1 , Genesis 22:2 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 134.
It is by trial that the character of a Christian is formed. Each part of his character, like every part of his armour, is put to the proof; and it is the proof that tests, after all, the strength both of resistance and defence and attack.
I. The voice of God to Abraham was not heard in audible words; it was a voice in the soul constantly directing him to duty and self-sacrifice. The voice told him, as he thought, I do not for a moment say as God meant, that his duty was to sacrifice his son. The memories of olden days may have clung and hovered about him. He remembered the human sacrifices he had seen in his childhood; the notion of making the gods merciful by some action of man may still have lingered in his bosom. We have here the first instance of that false and perverse interpretation which made the letter instead of the spirit to rule the human heart.
II. As Abraham increases in faith he grows in knowledge, until at last more and more he can hear "Lay not thy hand upon thy son." "God will provide Himself a sacrifice" bursts from his lips before the full light bursts upon his soul. In this conflict Abraham's will was to do all that God revealed for him to do. In every age and in every station faith is expressed in simple dutifulness, and this faith of Abraham is, indeed, of the mind of Christ. We may be perplexed, but we need not be in despair. When we arrive on Mount Moriah, then the meaning of the duty God requires of us will be made clear. And as we approach the unseen, and our souls are more schooled and disciplined to God, we shall find that to offer ourselves and lose ourselves is to find ourselves in God more perfect.
T. J. Rowsell, Family Churchman, March 16th, 1887.
Genesis 22:1-19 .
Abraham is the first, if not the greatest, of the heroes of the Hebrew people. A man dazed by life's illusions, a dreamer of strange dreams and a seer of impossible visions, he has yet a firm hold of solid fact, and is ready, in the spirit of the Pilgrim Fathers, to cross the Euphrates and travel to Damascus, that he may separate himself from idolatry. From his many days of trial, take those in which he needs the strength of God the most, and see whether he has it, what he does with it, and what comes of his use of it.
I. Could any day have exceeded in misery the time when Abraham first felt he must offer his son, or be guilty of disobedience to God? It was a day of fearful temptation; but Abraham made it unspeakably worse by misreading God's message and mistaking the significance of the strong impulse that disturbed and tempted him. God said to him, "Offer thy son," not "Slay thy son," but simply surrender him as an offering into God's hands. Abraham fell into the sin of the heathen world around by reading God's command as a commission to murder his own child. It was a grievous fault, and grievously did Abraham answer it.
II. Abraham was not left in this day of trial and mistake to himself. God met him in his difficulty and aided him in his dilemma. Abraham's mistake was on the surface of his life, and not at its heart; in the form of his offering, and not its spirit. God reckoned his calmly persisting faith, his actual and suffering obedience, as righteousness. He followed it with a fuller statement of the Abrahamic gospel, and exalted Abraham to the fatherhood of the faithful all the world over.
J. Clifford, Daily Strength for Daily Living, p. 19. (See also Appendix, p. 425.)
The birth of Isaac brought Abraham nearer to God; though he had believed in Him so long, it was as if he now believed in Him for the first time so much is he carried out of himself, such a vision has he of One who orders ages past and to come, and yet is interested for the feeblest of those whom He has made. Out of such feelings comes the craving for the power to make some sacrifice, to find a sacrifice which shall not be nominal but real.
I. The Book of Genesis says, "God did tempt Abraham." The seed did not drop by accident into the patriarch's mind; it was not self-sown; it was not put into him by the suggestion of some of his fellows. It was his Divine Teacher who led him on to the terrible conclusion, "The sacrifice that I must offer is that very gift that has caused me all my joy."
II. Abraham must know what God's meaning is; he is certain that in some way it will be proved that He has not designed His creature to do a wicked and monstrous thing, and yet that there is a purpose in the revelation that has been made to him; that a submission and sacrifice, such as he has never made yet, are called for now. He takes his son; he goes three days' journey to Mount Moriah; he prepares the altar and the wood and the knife; his son is with him, but he has already offered up himself. And now he is taught that this is the offering that God was seeking for; that when the real victim has been slain, the ram caught in the thicket is all that is needed for the symbolical expression of that inward oblation.
III. When this secret had been learnt, every blessing became an actual vital blessing; every gift was changed into a spiritual treasure. Abraham had found that sacrifice lies at the very root of our being; that our lives depend upon it; that all power to be right and to do right begins with the offering up of ourselves, because it is thus that the righteous Lord makes us like Himself.
F. D. Maurice, The Doctrine of Sacrifice deduced from the Scriptures, p. 33.
References: Genesis 22:1-19 . J. J. S. Perowne, Sermons, p. 332 (also Sunday Magazine, 1871, p. 345); Expositor, 1st series, vol. i., p. 314; 2nd series, vol. i., p. 305; W. Hubbard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 228; J. B. Mozley, Ruling Ideas in Early Ages, pp. 31, 64.Genesis 22:1-20 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 156. Genesis 22:2 . Parker, vol. i., p. 235; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 868; Outline Sermons to Children, p. 5; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xvii., p. 148. Genesis 22:6 . J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year (Holy Week), p. 454.
Thus unconscious spoke our human nature of its terrible want, and of the almost hopelessness of the remedy for that want. The want was occasioned by sin. That terrible evil still exists in the world, and there is no real remedy but from this one source of revelation and belief in Christ. Those who on that day ascended the mount found the remedy provided. A sacrifice was found and substituted, and it was a type of what befell long afterwards, when God provided His own beloved Son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Bishop Claughton, Penny Pulpit, No. 565. Reference: W. Meller, Village Homilies, p. 158.
Abraham was not picked out as a model of excellence. He was apt to fear, apt to lie. What he was apart from his Teacher we see in his journey to Egypt: a very poor, paltry earthworm indeed, one not to be despised by us, because we are earthworms also, but assuredly worthy of no reverence which was his by birth or which became his merely in virtue of his call. What he was when he was walking in the light, when that transfigured him from an earthworm into a man, his after history will help us to understand.
I. The thought may have struck our minds that the circumstances of Abraham were eminently favourable to the cultivation in him of a pure, simple, monotheistic faith. A man living under the eye of Nature on open plains, amidst flocks and herds was likely, it may be said, to preserve his devotion unsullied and to give it a healthy direction. But we must remember that there was nothing in the perpetual beholding of natural objects which could preserve him from the worship of those objects. You cannot, by considerations of this kind, escape from the acknowledgment of a distinct call from an actual, personal, unseen Being, addressed to the man himself and confessed by him in his inmost heart and conscience. But if you begin from the belief of such a call, the more you reflect upon Abraham's outward position the better. His work was the image of a Divine work; his government over the sheepfold, and still more in the tent, was the image of the Divine government of the world.
II. This we shall find is quite as important a reflection with a view to Abraham's personal character as it is with a view to his position and office as a patriarch. His faith carried him out of himself; it made him partaker of the righteousness of Him in whom he believed. He became righteous in proportion as he looked forward to that which was beyond himself, and as his own life was identified with the life of his family.
III. Abraham's intercession. Abraham believed God to be a righteous Being, not a mere sovereign who does what he likes. On that foundation his intercession is built. It is man beseeching that right may prevail, that it may prevail among men, by destruction if that must be, by the infusion of a new life if it is possible. It is man asking that the gracious order of God may be victorious over the disorder which His rebellious creatures have striven to establish in His universe.
IV. As the life of the family is inseparably involved with the life of the individual, the most awful experience in the personal being of the patriarch relates to the child of promise the child of laughter and joy. If we take the story as it stands, we shall believe that God did tempt Abraham as He had been all his life tempting him in order to call into life that which would else have been dead, in order to teach him truths which he would else have been ignorant of. God did not intend that a man should be called upon to make a sacrifice without feeling that in that act he was in the truest sense the image of his Maker. A filial sacrifice was the only foundation on which the hearts of men, the societies of earth, the kingdom of heaven, could rest.
F. D. Maurice, Patriarchs and Lawgivers of the Old Testament, p. 83.
References: Genesis 22:8 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 98. Genesis 22:9 . Bishop Armstrong, Parochial Sermons, p. 172.Genesis 22:9 , Genesis 22:10 . Ed. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, 2nd series, p. 163.
A temptation had come upon Abraham; he thought that it was the right thing to do, and that he was called to do it; so after brooding over it intensely for several days, he was irresistibly drawn to take the knife for the purpose of slaying his son.
I. Since the child of promise had been born to him, his natural tendency had been to repose on Isaac rather than on God. After a while he would awake to the troubled consciousness that it was not with him as in other days; that he had sunk from the serene summit on which he once stood. Brooding thus from day to day he came to feel as if a voice were calling him to prove himself by voluntarily renouncing the son that had been given him. He was driven wild, fevered into madness, through the fervour of his desire to maintain trust in the great Father, even as now men sometimes are by the lurid burning of distrust.
II. But did not God tempt him? you say. Is it not so recorded? Yes, undoubtedly; in the Patriarch's mind it was God tempting him. The narrative is a narrative of what took place in his mind; the whole is a subjective scene, portrayed objectively. The old Canaanite practice of offering human sacrifices suggested to Abraham the cultivation and manifestation of trust by immolating his son.
III. Although God did not suggest the crime, yet He was in the trial the trial of maintaining and fostering trust without allowing it to lead him by perversion into crime. He spoke at length to the heart of Abraham with irresistible force, bidding him stay his hand. The Lord could not contradict Himself in the Patriarch's breast, bidding him one day kill, and another day crying out "Thou shalt not kill"; and the historian means us to understand that the latter was the true voice of God, contradicting and prevailing against the voice that had been mistaken for His.
IV. We see God penetrating and disengaging the grace in Abraham which lay behind the wrongness. He divided between the true motive of the heart and the false conclusion of the weak brain. He notes and treasures every bit of good that blushes amidst our badness.
S. A. Tipple, Echoes of Spoken Words, p. 213. Reference: Outline Sermons to Children, p. 8.
I. There come times in human life when men must undergo a crucial test. A man can have but one trial in his lifetime; one great sorrow, beside which all other griefs dwindle into insignificance.
II. The crucial test can only take place in relation to that which we love and value most. The question here is, Do we so hold that which is dearest to us upon earth that we could surrender it at the Divine bidding?
III. Abraham's answer, "My son, God will provide Himself a lamb," is the sum of all mediational history; it is the main discovery of love. After all, what has the world done but to find an altar? It formed the cross; it never could have found the Saviour.
IV. The narrative shows what God intends by His discipline of man. He did not require Isaac's life; He only required the entire subordination of Abraham's will.
Parker, The Pulpit Analyst, vol. ii., p. 265.
From this passage we learn: (1) the lesson that God taught Abraham that all souls and all beings are His, and that our greatest and dearest possessions are beneath His control and within His grasp. (2) We learn also a lesson of obedience. Abraham was called upon to make the greatest possible sacrifice, a sacrifice that seemed to clash with the instinct of reason, affection, and religion alike, and yet without a murmur he obeyed the command of God. (3) We learn, too, that for wise reasons God sometimes permits the trial of His people's faith not to weaken, but to strengthen it, for He knows that if it be genuine, trial will have the same effect which the storm produces on the kingly oak, only rooting it more firmly in the soil. (4) We learn that God's provisions are ever equal to His people's wants. Man's extremity is God's opportunity. He giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.
J. W. Atkinson, Penny Pulpit, No. 772.
I. Jehovah-Jireh the Lord will provide for the body. Temporal blessings, no less than spiritual, come to us through the medium of the covenant of grace. (1) The Lord will provide food for the body. He will bring round the seasons without fail, and make corn to grow for the service of man. (2) The Lord will provide raiment for His people. For forty years in the wilderness, amid the wear and tear of journey and of battle, the raiment of the Israelites waxed not old, because Jehovah provided for them; and doth He not still remember His own? (3) The Lord will provide for His people protection. Many times are they delivered in a most wonderful way, and to the astonishment of the world.
II. Jehovah-Jireh the Lord will provide for the soul. (1) Jehovah has provided a Lamb; in the gift of His Son we have the guarantee for the supply of every needed blessing. (2) The Lord will provide for you His Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit comes to us through the atonement of Christ, and the sufficiency of the Sacrifice entailed and implied the promise of the Spirit, so that He who hath provided the Lamb is confidently to be trusted for this also. (3) The Lord will provide for the soul an eternal home, as is clear from that word, "I go to prepare a place for you." When the toils of life's pilgrimage are over, there remaineth a rest for the people of God.
J. Thain Davidson, Sermon Preached in Montrose, Nov. 19th, 1856.
References: Genesis 22:14 . S. Martin, Sermons, p. 159; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1803; J. Van Oosterzee, The Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 346.; Genesis 22:16-18 . E. H. Gifford, Voices of the Prophets. p. 131.Genesis 22:18 . S. Leathes, Bampton Lecture, 1874, p. 49; Expositor, 2nd series, vol. viii., p. 200; Old Testament Outlines, p. 10; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 140. Genesis 22:20-24 . R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 383.Genesis 22:0 M. Dods, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, p. 3; F. W. Robertson, Notes on Genesis, p. 53; R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 364.Genesis 23:1 , Genesis 23:2 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 182.Genesis 23:2 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 86. Genesis 23:4 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 102.Genesis 23:0 F. W. Robertson, Notes on Genesis, p. 62; Parker, vol. i., p. 240; R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 388.
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