Faith Through The Valley
by: Roberto Bruno | July 19, 2018
As we have been finishing up Mark and the last couple of weeks looking at the events leading up to the death of Jesus, and this coming week, his resurrection…I was drawn to a story that is very familiar. Most have heard it before, studied it and even dissected it, but the Word of God is active and it’s sharper than any two-edged sword and so I think it’ll be just a great reminder in this season that we’re in as a church regardless how many times we have read this passage to remind ourselves of this moment in Scripture.
Let’s go to the book of Genesis and look at Chapter 22.
This is the passage where God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.
22 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He 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.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy[a] will go over there and worship and come again to you.”6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together.7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”;[b] as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”[c]
15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his[d] enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
Let’s just start with the obvious . . . God just asked Abraham to sacrifice, kill, his son whom he loved. Not only does Abraham love his son, this is the son of promise for Abraham. In Genesis 12 and 21, God makes that promise to Abraham that from his own body would come a nation like the stars in heaven. In Genesis 21, the chapter beforehand, God actually tells Abraham that it will be through Isaac that the promise is fulfilled. So, what I love here is that Abraham doesn’t lose faith. Could he have wondered, “Wow this is interesting, I’m being told to sacrifice my son but God is good, and he wouldn’t lie and he wouldn’t deceive?” Yes, I think he was thinking all those thoughts. But as a church, we can’t let our faith in what the Lord has revealed to us and in the promises He’s given us be washed away when trial comes. When things get difficult, whether we are in valleys or deserts, we can’t let faith wash away. Could it be that the testing you are enduring now is actually the way that not only you will be able to see God’s hand move in the most amazing way, but your faith will be strengthened due to the situation you are in?
Consider Psalm 23, when David said, “He guides me on the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake, and though I have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Abraham, literally had to walk the valley of the shadow of death three days to Moriah, but that valley of the shadow of death was the path of righteousness that God was having him walk. Sometimes the path of righteousness is the valley of the shadow of death . . . but what can we see through this moment in Scripture in Genesis 22?
How should we respond when we are called to something by the Lord? The answer: Obedience. Even when we don’t fully understand and even when we are searching for answers, still trusting the Lord should be the goal of the believer. Not wavering, but being steadfast.
God’s hand was all throughout this moment in Scripture, so much so that there are these stark parallels in the passion narrative as compared to this passage . . . In verse 2, God tells Abraham to take his only son, Isaac. Does that not take you back to what maybe was the first verse you ever learned? John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave his ONLY Son.”
Still, in verse 2 we see that God commands Abraham to “Go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there…” What is so amazing about this command is that the region of Moriah is considered to be where the city of Jerusalem was eventually built. Yes, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son where God the Father would sacrifice His Only Son, Jesus.
If you look at verse 6, it says, “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac.” Picture Isaac carrying the wood that he was to be sacrificed on all the way up the mountain. Now, picture our Lord Jesus carrying His cross up the hill called Golgotha.
Then, think of what Isaac says in verse 7, “But where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Let that thought transport you to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prays to the Father in Mark 14, verse 3, “And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Not once do we see Isaac resist what his father was doing, and not once did Jesus resist what the Father’s will was.
And then, in one of the most beautiful moments in all of Scripture, we see an incredible act of God take place. Just as Abraham bound up his ONLY son to sacrifice to the Lord what was supposed to be his legacy, what his promise was, God provides in an amazing way. God’s voice stops Abraham from sacrificing his son and God tells Abraham, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” We see a powerful symbol of the resurrection of Jesus here in the figurative resurrection of Isaac.
It’s important to note here that God’s desire was never to see Isaac sacrificed. God’s desire was to see Abraham’s obedience and faith. God wanted to see where Abraham’s heart was. Did he care more about the promise or who promised? Did he care more about the gift or the giver? Did he place more weight on his calling rather than the One who called? Abraham proved faithful . . . in fact he had so much faith that Hebrews tells us, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death” (Hebrews 11:17–19). Abraham had so much faith in what God had said that he reasoned God would even raise Isaac from the dead if it came to that.
I also find it interesting that it took three days to reach the mountain where he was to sacrifice. Three days in anguish for what would happen to his son. I’m sure in those three days they hung out and laughed and all the while Abraham is thinking the day is drawing nearer. And each step perhaps was even more difficult than the last, but our Pastor, David Uth, puts it this way: “Each step that Abraham took closer to Moriah, the ram that God would provide took a step as well.”
Here are a few thoughts:
- To provide a worthy sacrifice takes faith.
- Sacrifice is acceptable when it isn’t easy.
- If it doesn’t cost you anything, then it isn’t a sacrifice.
- Doing something that’s not easy for the Lord takes faith.
I love how Abraham says the boy and I are going to worship and we will be back.
My encouragement for you, as I was thinking of a way to apply this story to our walk as a church, is twofold.
Number 1: Have the faith that Abraham had while in the valley for three days. Abraham was not on the mountaintop when he declared to his young men that he and Isaac would go to worship on the mountain and return. Abraham knew God would provide on the mountain even while he was in the valley. Whatever valley you are in, trust in the Lord’s promises and trust Him to provide.
Number 2: Abraham was a man of faith. We realize that, so much so that we’d seen him act on impulse, like when God told him to circumcise himself, he did it that very day. God could have told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac that day, and Abraham would’ve probably acted on that impulse and just went ahead and did it in the heat of that command that the Lord gave him, but God purposefully told him to go Moriah which was a three-day journey. I do believe that God wanted it to happen on Moriah because of the fact that that is where His own Son would be sacrificed but I think also that God was seeing how Abraham would respond with three days of stewing in his mind with his son by his side each step as he gets closer to the mountain and as the hours pass there being even greater pressure up until the very moment that Isaac is bound up and Abraham grasps the knife. Just know that the valley may be long and it may last a while, but God will provide.
Church, worshiping God is not restricted to singing songs to Him. Worshiping God is doing what He says to do and trusting Him through it. Believing God and having faith in Him is an act of worship. So, worship Him through your trials and through the tests. Give Him glory and praise by doing what He tells you to do, knowing that His ways are good and His plans are perfect. Make the decision in the valley to worship Him, and that will take you from the valley to the mountaintop where you will see His provision.