Abraham & Isaac – Justified By Faith [Faith of Our Fathers 4]

Justified by Faith

Steve Daskal

 Gen 21:1-21 — Isaac, the child of promise, the transmitter of the Abrahamic covenant to the next generation, is finally born. Isaac is an Anglicization of the Hebrew Yitzkhak [pronounced YEE-tz-khawk, which has the same consonant root as the Hebrew word for “laugh”]. We do not know the “how” of this miraculous conception and birth — given the realities of normal human biology, the LORD would have had to have re-enlivened long-dormant tissues, organs, and bodily functions, but for He who created man from dust, this was easy.

The friction between Sarah, the “founding mother” of the covenant, and Hagar the Egyptian servant, has continued on, and is now transmitted to Hagar’s son Ishmael, who “mocked” [laughed at, teased] Isaac, his younger half-brother.   By custom and by God’s decree, Isaac the son of Abraham his wife would supplant Ishmael, the son of a concubine, as Abraham’s heir in all senses of the word. Sarah demands that Hagar and Ishmael be expelled (this would be unusual according to the customs of the time), and God tells Abraham to do so. Ishmael leaves the field of view in the Torah. (Ishmael’s grand-nephew Joseph is sold to some of Ishmael’s direct descendants, who transport him to Egypt.) God’s mercy to Hagar and Ishmael is described in verses 15-21.

Gen 21:22-34 — describes Abraham’s cordial relations with the Philistines. An oath is sworn at Be’ersheva that acknowledged the power of the God of Abraham and calls for honest and fair dealings between their descendants. This oath was kept in the time of the patriarchs, while the Hebrews were sojourners in the Land, but when the Children of Israel returned [after 430 years in Egypt], this agreement had been long forgotten by the Philistines. God, of course, remembered.

 

Gen 22:1-18

          Gen 22:1-3 — The “binding of Isaac” is the spiritual peak of Abraham’s life — he is given God’s greatest test of faith and found absolutely trusting and obedient. We always think of the “binding of Isaac” as Abraham’s faith being tested in his old age, but ISAAC’s faith is tested, too. Isaac starts strong. Listen carefully to verse 3. Note that the text says they brought the wood and the torch — but said nothing about the sacrifice. Everyone is faithfully accepting what is coming.

Gen 22:4-5: Note what Abraham tells his servants — “WE will worship and then WE will come back to you.”

Gen 22:6-8:   Abraham so thoroughly expected God’s reward that he knew God would somehow keep His explicit promise to give him descendants through Isaac (17:19, 21 & 21:12), even if Isaac were sacrificed. Abraham had clearly led Isaac to great faith as well. Note that Abraham’s answer is entirely true, but in another sense, no answer at all. Abraham is simply telling Isaac he doesn’t know where the sacrifice is, only that he is confident God will provide it. AND ISAAC ACCEPTS THIS. Here’s this 100 year old man, by himself, with this young boy (if one does the math, he was about 10-12 years old). Do you really think that if Isaac’s faith in both his father and in God had not been very strong, he would have allowed himself to be tied onto that altar? Would you have let your father do that to you — and remember, Isaac had never heard the stories of faith recorded in the Scripture, because the revelation of Scripture was centuries into the future. Now THAT’S faith and love in action!

Gen 22:10-18: Especially note v. 18 — even as Adam’s disobedience doomed all of his descendants, Abraham’s obedience in such a weighty matter blessed all of his descendants, and through them — and one in particular, Y’shua of the House of David — all the peoples of the earth would be blessed.      This begins the deeply rooted connection between Mt. Moriah (later known as Mt. Zion) and God’s Chosen People, a link that was re-established centuries later when King David seized the area from the pagan Jebusites and established it as his capital, Jerusalem, and his son King Solomon built the Holy Temple there. The Qur’an asserts that it was Ishmael, not Isaac, who was bound here. Muslim tradition also holds that Muhammad was assumed up into heaven from Mt. Moriah.

Many secular humanist unbelievers see this story as terrible — that God would even ask such a thing makes Him abhorrent to modernist and post-modern homocentric readers. Remember — God knew that Abraham and Isaac trusted Him, and Abraham and Isaac knew God would not break His covenant. There was never going to be a human sacrifice like the pagan Canaanite rituals of child sacrifice to Molekh.

 

Gen 23 — The death of Sarah at the age of 127 — the purchase of the Caves of Makhpelah at Kiriath Arba near modern Hebron — to be the clan burial site for Abraham, his wife, and his covenant bearing descendants. This same area became the site where David was anointed king before all Israel (after the war of succession between David and Ish-bosheth, the eldest surviving prince of the House of Saul), and the city from which David ruled the Kingdom of Israel for 7-1/2 years before relocating to Jerusalem. From a Jewish perspective, after Jerusalem, Hebron is the most historically and spiritually important site in the Holy Land. Note that these “Hittites” are not the Indo-European Hittites who built a great empire in what today would be northern Mesopotamia/Kurdistan and southeastern Asia Minor/Turkish Anatolia; rather, they are identified as Khitti’m in the Tenakh — apparently a Hamitic Canaanite tribe the lived in what today would be called the Judean Hills in the Arab-occupied West Bank.

 

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New Testament Perspectives

 

Matthew 3:7-10 “But when he [John the Baptizer] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

          ** What did it mean to be a child of Abraham to the Jewish people prior to Jesus’ ministry? What does it mean today, either to Jews or to Gentile Christians?

 

John 8:31-38

** In Jesus’ heated discussion with the Pharisees, they assert they are Abraham’s descendants and never been slaves of anyone. Is that true? {If they were Abraham’s descendants, they were once slaves in Egypt, freed by the mighty hand, the outstretched arm, of the Almighty, so they are liars and have denied God’s Word as recorded by Moses. This is why Jesus can fairly condemn them as liars. } 8:39-47 The crowd then asserted that Abraham was their father, but Jesus denies this, saying they are not acting towards God’s messengers as Abraham did. Remember Abraham was courteous to visiting angels and respectful towards Melkhizedek, the priest of God. In verses 48-59, Jesus asserts that He knew Abraham, and that Abraham rejoiced at the thought of Jesus’ coming. The Jews were then about to stone Him. Why? {Claiming to be older than Jesus, and calling Himself “I AM” was asserting Himself to be God. }

 

Luke 16:19-31 ** In the parable of the callous rich man and the beggar Lazarus, what does Abraham represent? {He is the ultimate representative of a faithful believer in God, alive with Him in heaven}

 

Acts 3:22-26For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.’

          “Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

          ** Who is this Prophet, this Offspring, of whom Peter is speaking? {Jesus} What is his connection to Abraham? {His most significant offspring}

 

In Acts 7, Luke recounts that most of Stephen’s preaching to the Sanhedrin before he was martyred focused on Abraham, briefly recounting his entire life of faith.

 

In Romans 4 (1-5) Paul essentially defined faith by Abraham’s example, saying, “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about — but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

 

As did James 2:21-23 –v.23: “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.”

 

** Why do the early preachers like Peter, James, Paul (also Romans 11:1, Galatians 3) Stephen, and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (remember the recounting of the story of Abraham’s meeting of Melkhizedek in chapters 6-7 as well as the “OT Hall of Faith” in chapter 11) keep preaching from Abraham when speaking to Jews — both followers of Jesus and those who do not yet know Jesus? {Because all Jews acknowledge Abraham, like Moses, to be a Godly man, a friend of God, and the founder of the Hebrew people and thus of the Jewish people.}

 

Paul also uses the example of Abraham to give hope to the Gentiles, those not born into the covenants of Israel, not circumcised on the 8th day in accordance with the Law handed down from Moses. In Romans 4:9-24, he wrote that the uncircumcised are also eligible for salvation, hope, and righteousness — not by the Law of Moses, or good works IAW the Law of Moses, but by faith.

 

[verse 24] “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness–for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.”

 

Hebrews 11:8-12, 17-19 — Abraham was obedient. He went when he was told to go, not knowing where he was going, living as a transient among aliens, longing for “a heavenly country” — the Kingdom of God. He trusted God when God tested him by calling for Isaac to be offered as a sacrifice. Abraham reasoned that even as God gave him a son when he was as good as dead — 100 years old, through a wife who was by normal accounting decades past childbearing, God could raise Isaac from the dead, and figuratively speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

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Filed under Judeo-Christianity, Religion, Steven E. Daskal

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