A Man Of Faith

by Joseph Hunting

If we were temporarily to change places with the great patriarch Abraham, I rather fancy that Abraham would take one look at our sophisticated society then hop on to his camel and head back home! We on the other hand, because we live in an age of hi-tech sophistication, would find it difficult to recapture something of the faith that characterized Abraham's life.

What a contrast exists between the way of life that existed in the developed countries even a century ago and that of today. In the brief space of even one hundred years, Daniel's prophecy that "knowledge shall be increased" has resulted in an explosion of knowledge that is mind boggling.

Our present generation has grown up in an age when space travel is no longer science fiction, nor are test-tube babies the dream of some mad dictator planning a super-race. But perhaps it is the advent of the computer that modern man will be the hardest pressed to come to terms with as this century runs out.

Indeed, we now have in our midst a microcomputer that is becoming indispensable to our way of life. Modern man has created a tool he cannot do without. No longer does he have to sit down to think through complex problems, because the computer is able to do it for him. From birth to the grave the computer is rapidly taking over in almost every aspect of modern society.

How different is modern man, with the exacting and demanding pressures upon him, to Abraham who lived four thousand years ago! Let's roll back the centuries and have another look at the man who had extraordinary faith in God.

In the first place, Abraham had a very real problem. God had promised him and his descendants the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession. But his wife Sarah was barren, and past childbearing, and so when the Lord told Abraham, "I am your shield and exceeding great reward" (Genesis 15:1), it appears that the patriarch was more concerned with another matter, for he immediately raised the issue with God about his childlessness: "Lord God, what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?"

And in order to make sure that God got the message Abraham laid the blame for his childlessness right at God's door: "Behold, to me You have given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house (in other words, his servant Eliezer) is my heir."

The Divine reply to Abraham was simple and direct. His fears regarding Eliezer's being his heir were dispelled. "This shall not be your heir; but he that shall come forth out of your own bowels shall be your heir."

And God wasn't finished with Abraham. Not only was he going to have a son and heir but his descendants would be so numerous that God compared them to the dust of the earth. In order to imprint this promise indelibly on Abraham, the Lord "brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven and tell the stars, if you are able to number them: and He said to him, So shall your seed be. AND HE BELIEVED IN THE LORD: AND HE COUNTED IT TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS."

I have purposely put the last statement by God in capitals because it contains one of the most important truths found in Scripture. Four hundred and thirty years before God gave to Moses the Law on Mount Sinai, the principle of being made righteous by faith alone was established.

There is an interesting incident in the life of Abraham which doesn't detract from his faith in God's promise regarding his son, but rather serves to illustrate how human impatience can have disastrous consequences. It appears that Sarah had given up all hope of ever bearing a son to Abraham so, according to the custom of the time, she suggested to Abraham that he marry her Egyptian maid, Hagar, and have a child by her, which would then legally belong to her mistress.

We must remember that God's promise was to Abraham and his seed, so according to the custom of the time the course of action proposed by Sarah seemed a reasonable one. And so Ishmael was born. However, it was not until thirteen years later that God finally revealed to Abraham that Sarah would have a son through whom His original promise would be fulfilled. And so Isaac was born.


Some time later -- the Bible doesn't state just how long, but it could have been fifteen to twenty years -- the Lord again spoke to Abraham. This was to be the supreme test of his faith -- possibly no human has ever again been required of God to lay his faith on the line as was Abraham.

"Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell you of" (Genesis 22:2).

Consider again the events that had led up to this astonishing command. Abraham had reminded God, because Sarah was barren, that Eliezer would inherit the covenant blessings promised to Abraham and his seed. But God had said, "No!" -- His blessing would be with Abraham's seed. So, because Sarah remained incapable of giving Abraham a son, he produced one with the help of Hagar, and again God said, "No!" But now, having at last got the matter straightened out, Abraham hears God order the death of Isaac, the child of promise!

Humanly speaking, nothing could be more devastating. And what about the promises and covenants that God had made, not only with Abraham, but with his seed? To kill Isaac would put PAID to everything God had promised. But there is no questioning on Abraham's part, no suggestion of offering an alternative sacrifice (again to help God out!) Instead, at first light Abraham is up, he chops the wood for the burnt offering and is on his way with Isaac and two other companions.

It was a three day journey and Abraham had plenty of time to think about the awful task he had to perform on Mt. Moriah. But he didn't waver. If God was putting Abraham to the test -- and no doubt He was -- then Abraham on his part was likewise putting God to the test. This was borne out by the statement to the young men who accompanied them, when they reached their destination: "You abide here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship and come again to you."

When they reached the summit of Mt. Moriah Abraham built the altar, bound Isaac, and was about to plunge his knife into his son when God called from heaven, "Lay not your hand upon the lad, nor do anything unto him: for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."

Abraham's faith had been tested to the limit. Although he did not actually plunge the knife into Isaac, the intention was there, and God accepted that for the deed. So in a sense Isaac was raised to life from the altar.

And there is one final act to the drama on Mt. Moriah: in that moment of time, when Abraham was about to slay his son, he lifted up his eyes and saw the substitute God had provided.

Little wonder Abraham "called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen (or, the LORD will see to it or provide)." Was not the ram, caught with thorns about its head, the Divine substitute for Isaac? And how significant was the scene centuries later on Mt. Moriah when the thorn-crowned Lamb of God became the substitute for the sin of all mankind, even as Isaiah had foretold: " ... the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (53:6).