Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Granddaddy of Dangerous Faith: Tested by Fire

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"

"Here I am," he replied.

Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."
Genesis 22:1-2

This passage can be rather disturbing. In many ways it seems completely out of character for the Christian God. We don’t serve a God who wants human sacrifices. That’s the sort of thing you see in movies. (You know, the village people have to throw a virgin into the volcano to appease the gods or the volcano will erupt.) But this isn’t how the true God of heaven and earth operates. So why does God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son? And why, as the rest of the chapter bears out, does Abraham go along with it without any emotion whatsoever? He just walks up the mountain, ties his son to a pile of rocks, and is ready to slit his throat.
Certainly this is a difficult passage, but I believe that if we are willing to listen, the Lord will teach us something from this passage.  

First, we see that God did this to test Abraham. Now it’s interesting that we consider this passage just two weeks after having looked at the rich young ruler. He was put to the test, you will remember, after he approached Jesus to ask for eternal life. Jesus responded by telling him to sacrifice all his money and possessions for God. Unfortunately, the rich young ruler’s faith did not pass this test. Abraham's faith, on the other hand, was put to a far greater test and passed. In fact, according to James chapter two, Abraham’s faith was “made complete” by his obedience to God's strange command.

James points out for us that this strange request from God wasn’t an isolated incident in Abraham’s life. Many years earlier (several decades at least) God had promised Abraham that he would have a son in his old age and that it was through this son that he would be made into a great nation. His descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore and through his descendants all the nations of the earth would be blessed. When God told Abraham all of this, the Bible says that, “Abraham believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6).   

So James shows us that what God was really doing was testing Abraham’s belief in that promise He had made to him several decades earlier.  In a sense, God was telling Abraham that it was time to put his money where his mouth was…or I guess more appropriately that it was time to put his obedience where his faith was. Abraham had faith but his faith was not complete yet because he had not truly acted on it. 

In the same way, you and I can have all of the dangerous faith in the world, but if we never put that faith into action it is meaningless. It is not enough for us to simply confess and believe, we must also do. Indeed it is in the doing that our confessing and believing is made complete. James puts it this way:
 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead…

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
James 2:14-17, 20-24

So here’s the challenge for you this week. We have been studying dangerous faith for about ten weeks now, but has that affected your actions at all? Are you living your faith out more dangerously? Are you willing to join Abraham in saying, “Here I am?” Will you get alone with the Lord right now and say “Here I am, Lord. In what ways am I not acting out my faith? How can I live more dangerously for You? What do You want me to do, Lord? Here I am, speak to me. I am ready and waiting.”   

For further reading this week:
  • Genesis 22:1-19: Read the entire story.
  •  Romans 4: Read how Paul understood this important Old Testament passage.
  • Hebrews 11:17-19: Abraham is remembered in the great chapter of faith for his unwavering belief in God's ability to keep His promises no matter the circumstances.
  • Genesis 12-22: If you really want some perspective, read all of Abraham's story leading up to this point.

No comments: