Study #6 “A Promise for Your Children” Hebrews 11:12-22
by Bob Burridge ©2021
Abraham had been called to follow God to a country he didn’t know. God promised him that he would become the father of a great nation. His people would be as numerous as the stars. His descendants would be ancestors of the Messiah, and they would become a blessing to all the nations. He obeyed in going to that promised land because he trusted and loved the God who promised.
When the promise seemed to be failing, Abraham tried his own way. Foolishly he had a child with another woman to produce that son sinfully. Later, by God’s intervention, the true promised son Isaac was born miraculously by Abraham’s aging wife Sarah.
When Isaac had grown up to be about 16 or 17,
it was time for another test for Abraham.
In Genesis 22:2 God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
This just didn’t seem to fit in with God’s ways, but Abraham knew that it must all fit together in God’s mind.
1. He knew it was wrong to take another human life.
The only exceptions were punishment for capitol crimes: Isaac had committed none! From the earliest times, God made taking an innocent life a capitol crime. Why should he kill his son? All humans are made in the image of God. But God said to do it. Only the Lord of life could issue that kind of a command.
2. No sacrifice could be made other than what God had prescribed.
God had given clear instructions about what kind of sacrifice was in order. The men in the early chapters of the Bible seem to know exactly how God was to be honored with sacrifices. But God never permitted human sacrifice.
This time, God directly commanded him to do otherwise! Only God could change the rules of worship. As God could call light out of darkness, make the sun stop in its place, give life to the dead, heal sick bodies, and make a few fish and loaves of bread feed thousands in abundance with leftovers, so he alone can make a right sacrifice out of that which is by nature not ordinarily acceptable to him. God operates by higher principles than the revealed things we know at the moment.
Abraham understood God’ instructions clearly. There was no other way to take his words. It was clear and direct. Abraham didn’t know how it fit into God’s plan. No human logic, or common sense could explain it. But he didn’t try to make God’s words mean something else.
Back in Eden, Eve’s sin started when she dared consider the question, “Did God actually say …?” Abraham didn’t question what God had commanded. That doesn’t mean he didn’t struggle with the idea. This was his own son! God’s promised son. God’s command not only made the unthinkable to be lawful, it made it his duty.
Abraham obeyed God,
even in this ultimately difficult command.
He simply did what God told him to do.
Hebrews 11:17-18, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ ” [quoting Genesis 21:12]
Abraham set off for Mount Moriah. On the 3rd day the mountain came into view. It was about a 20 hour trip from Beersheba to Moriah. This was the same place where Solomon later built the Temple, Jerusalem!
He and Isaac went on alone leaving their servants and donkey behind. Abraham shows his confidence in God’s promise about this son he was told to sacrifice. He said, “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” (Genesis 22:5). Hebrews 11:19 says, “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead…”
Abraham took wood, fire, and a knife. Isaac carried the wood, but asked, “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” He didn’t say “you are it”. He simply said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” He didn’t try to explain what he didn’t understand.
Certainly every step to Moriah was one of conflict.
– He would have to kill his own son! His only son!
– He would end the line of promise God said would not end! Isaac’s offspring were to produce Messiah. But Isaac had no children yet.
– He would offer a sacrifice that was not proper by God’s principles of worship! But he was obeying in faith: trusting, loving, and doing exactly what God said.
This is what distinguished Abraham as a true hero of faith. As a great example to us, he fully obeyed God out of full trust, and a sincere devotion.
If Abraham didn’t have God’s clear word, he wouldn’t have been a hero of faith. He would have been a hideous criminal for what he was doing. But this was God’s plain truth. It was his direct command.
They arrived at the place where God directed them. Abraham built an altar, arranged the wood, bound his son, laid him on the wood altar, then stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay him! (Genesis 22:9-10)
Only then did God’s plan become clear.
God’s angel told him to stop (Genesis 22:11-12). Abraham had demonstrated his unquestioning fear of God. He had as good as sacrificed his son! He’d passed the test. He trusted, loved, and was ready to obey God’s instructions without doubting his promises.
In place of sacrificing his son God provided a ram. As early as Eden, God promised to send a Messiah. A child would be born who would defeat Satan. To prefigure what the Messiah would do, God ordered blood sacrifices. Animals were to be killed on an altar in place of the worshipper. The sacrifices showed their trust in God’s promise to save them. Believers were saved by their faith then, as we are now.
God’s covenant with Abraham was sealed by animal sacrifice. Moving between severed bodies God promised to take the place of sinners who break his covenant deserving its curse.
Jesus later completed the sacrifice on Calvary as the Lamb of God. Peter repeated God’s promise and connected it with Christian baptism. In Acts 2:39 he said, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” The promise was fulfilled in the death of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:12, “when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God”
Abraham passed on his faith to his children.
He let his son see his faith in God. The test wasn’t for God to see how Abraham would respond to the challenge. God knows all things. He knew the result would show Abraham’s faith, a faith God had put there. The test was to make that faith grow more in Abraham, and to make a profound and clear example for his son Isaac, to the world, to readers of all ages! This was an exceptionally great lesson, for an exceptionally great purpose.
Modern psychologists would probably say, “What Abraham did would deeply scar Isaac. Making him lay there on the alter was cruel and unwise. He’ll grow up to be a mass murderer, or become suicidal, or at the very least be always deeply depressed.” But that’s not what happened.
Isaac also became a hero of the faith. Hebrews 11:20 “By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.” As he laid there on the wood of the altar, and felt the ropes holding him in place, he saw his fathers horror filled eyes while the knife was raised to do what God commanded. He knew God could be trusted. You do what ever he plainly says.
Isaac grew up in a family that passed on God’s promises and ways. Though they knew they were sinners, they knew how to confess them and repent, and grow though the trials. Hebrews 11:13-16 “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”
The greatest thing we can give our children is to raise them to know and love God’s Promises and Principles.
The faith Abraham passed on to Isaac continued to the next generations. Hebrews 11:21-22 “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.”
We’re to pass on our faith to our children.
What do we teach them when we don’t obey what God says? What do we put first in our lives? Do we give obediently to the work of the Church and Missions? Do we sometime skip church for TV shows? for sports events? or because we didn’t get our rest the night before? Do we talk about things God brings into our lives, or gossip about others? Do they see us humble ourselves admitting when we’re wrong or when we need to ask for forgiveness? Do we love our spouses as we should? or lie to keep from talking on the phone?
These are easy lessons to teach our children compared with what Abraham was called to do. That’s what makes him such a good example for us.
We should want what’s really best for all the children who see us as an example. Adults should be what’s best for their spouses. We all should be what’s really best for our friends. That’s the central idea of the law of love.
When we’re tempted to push God’s ways aside, or excuse ourselves from our Christian duties, think of Abraham. Imagine the view Isaac had from the altar.
As we see the immoral songs, behaviors, and language of young people, it’s fair to ask what examples have we set for them? Before we become too critical of the next generations, take a good fair look at the lives we’ve lived before them.
Whether you have children of your own, or not, the best treasure we have to pass on to them is this: to know, trust, love, and obey God’s promises and principles. We all need to be an example of an uncompromised devotion to all God has said.
Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Hebrews 11 index: “Faith and What Flows From It“