Tony Evans - Abraham, The Test Of Faith
When God is ready to give you a new level of experience with him, it comes with a test. Now, the bad news of a test is that it's a test. The good news of a test is that it's preparation for a higher level, and you can really know when God is ready to really move you to the next level because it will be a final exam. In other words, it'll be a major test. Now, we get minor tests, little pop quizzes along the way, but then everybody gets hit with that whopper, that test that seems like it'll knock you over. It's a major exam because God is ready to move you to a major level.
So today we want to look at the test of faith, Abraham's final exam. The author of Hebrews tells us that it came when God asked Abraham to offer up Isaac, which took place in Genesis chapter 22. So what he talks about in Hebrews 11 actually took place in Genesis 22, this final exam. He is told to offer up Isaac, who was the promise. So here's when you know it's a major test 'cause you getting ready to have a major promotion to a whole another level. You know it's a major test when it calls for something significant in your life and at the very same time makes absolutely no sense at all.
In Genesis chapter 22 where the story is unfolding for us in that chapter in detail, God tells Abraham these words. He says to Abraham in Genesis chapter 22, "Now it came about," verse 1, "after these things that God tested Abraham and said to him, 'Abraham.' And he said, 'Here I am.' And he said, 'Take now your son, your only son whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on the mountain of which I will tell you.'" That made no sense. How do you worship God when God is doing a number on you? How do you worship God when he has disappointed you? How do you worship God and go to the altar when you believe he has failed you? "God, how do I go to church today? Listen, I don't feel like worshiping today; not in light of what you're asking of me, demanding of me, instructing me, calling me to do because what you are asking is too deep".
But it says Abraham got up. That's another thing you need to observe. It says, "Get up and go to the mountain, to the place I will show you". He had to obey without all the details. "I will only give you more details when I see you moving". See, one of the reasons that we do not see more detail from God is he can't get us to move from where we are. Faith is measured by movement. If there is no movement, there is no faith no matter how faith-ish you feel. So it says Abraham got up, and now the plot thickens. When he gets up... I want you to keep this verse in mind, verse 4. I'm just going to read it right now. We're going to pick it up in a minute. Verse 4 says, "On the third day, Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance".
Let me read verse 4 again. Verse 4 says, "On the third day, Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance". Somebody say, "Third day". "On the third day, Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance". He tells the young men, the servants who helped carry the load, "Y'all stay here. I and the lad will go up, and we will worship and return to you". Wait a minute now. Abe, God just told you to go kill him. Abe tells the boys, "I'm going up here to worship. You boys stay here. Me and Isaac, we're going up here to worship. And when we finish our church service, me and the lad will come back". Wait a minute now. God just told you to kill him. "Y'all stay here. I'm going up here and take care of what God told me to do. And when I finish what God told me to do, me and the boy will see you afterwards". But God told you to kill him. So what you mean, "We coming back to see you afterwards"?
See, when you're called to faith, you got to speak the truth in the midst of the contradiction of the circumstance. Hebrews 11 says the reason he said that was 'cause he believed God was even able to raise the dead. That's what Hebrews 11 says. "So if I obey you, God, and do what you told me to do and at the same time believe your promise, that you're going to work through Isaac to make a great nation; then I also have to believe since you don't contradict yourself, that if I do what you tell me to do you got some kind of miracle you're planning to bring me and this boy back here again". But what made him speak that? Where did this faith confidence come, that God could raise the dead? Well, you recall Sarah's womb was dead and Abraham couldn't function no more at 100 years old, and God created a hookup and a miracle baby of Isaac was born. He had seen what God could do in raising a womb. So he figured the same God could raise a son.
So when God calls you to a major exam, don't forget what he did in the quizzes. Don't forget what he did yesterday when he moves you to a bigger challenge tomorrow. 'Cause if it's bigger today, then what he did yesterday is 'cause he's moving you to a new grade level, a higher experience with him. And so they make their way to the place that God said. So Abraham now is talking to Isaac. Isaac says to his father, "My father," verse 7 of Genesis 22. "Here I am, my son". He said, "Behold, I see the fire, I see the wood, but I don't see the lamb. Every other time we went to church we had a sacrifice, but today you didn't bring a lamb. What's up, dad"? Dad looks at his son, can't say anything. You know what he says? He says, "Son, God's got to fix this one. The Lord will provide himself 'cause I don't have an answer for you. I don't know how this is going to work out".
And when God puts you in a final exam, you don't know how this is going to work out. "God has got to do something here 'cause only God has an answer to this dilemma of faith that I'm in 'cause this is a mid-term or a final". This is not a little pop quiz, and it's confusing, and God's got to provide the solution. And so he takes his son up, he puts him on the altar. Verse 9, he built an altar, arranged the wood, bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the wood. on top of the wood. Can you imagine what he's thinking, feeling? And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 'Cause guess what? That was what he was told to do.
Verse 11, "But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said", that's Jesus in the Old Testament, the angel of the Lord. "Abraham. Abraham". Whenever God calls your name twice... see, when he told him to obey, he only called his name once in verse 1. Abraham. But now in the middle of his crisis, he calls his name twice. That means there's something special coming down the pipe. "'Abraham. Abraham.' And he said, 'Here I am.' Do not," verse 12, "stretch your hand out against the lad and do nothing to him for now I know you fear me since you have not withheld your son, your only son from me". I don't know about you, but you should be having a problem right now and it ought to be a theological problem because God says, "Now I know". Oh, wait a minute. You God. You're omniscient. Omniscient means all-knowing.
"You already knew what I would do 'cause you're God. You know yesterday, you know today, and you got prophecy down. You know tomorrow. You know where I came from. You know where I am. You know where I'm going. What do you mean you only know this now and you're an all-knowing God? Come on, with your knowledge base I could have stayed in bed and we could have skipped all this 'cause you already know". But that's not what God says. He says, "Now I know as though I didn't know before 'cause I'm knowing it now, and I only know it now because of what you just did". So how do we feel logically bring together the concept of an all-knowing God and a not knowing something till now? How does that work? Well, I want to share with you today something God does not know. While God knows everything actual and everything potential, he does not know everything experiential.
For example, if you were to ask God what does it feel like to commit a sin, I suggest to you he couldn't answer that question 'cause he's never done it. The reason why God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ according to the Book of Hebrews is that God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ so he could sympathize with our weaknesses, so he could feel what we go through. The Father knows what you go through. Jesus can feel it. So Jesus the Son can explain to God the Father, who already knows the information, what the information feels like because he became a man. So what then is being said to Abraham at this moment? He is saying, "Abraham, now I know you love me because I see it and feel it". In other words, "You have now given me the experience of your love, not merely the verbalization of it. Sacrifice your son, the son whom you love, your only begotten son. Do you love me more than him"? That's a final exam when God calls forth a faith act of love so he can feel it.
"Now I know". Oh, yeah. Informationally, yes. Intellectually, yeah. "Today I feel your love, and I feel it because of your choice of me over the thing you love most in life". What is your Isaac, the thing that God can't have because you're too attached to it? And God says, "Bring it here". We're talking about the test of faith. And we're not talking about a pop quiz now, we're talking about a final exam. "Now I know". And there we have it. Watch this. "Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked," verse 13, "and behold behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offerings in place of his son, and Abraham called the name of the place Jehovah-jireh," the Lord will provide, "as it is said to this day, in the mount of the Lord it will be provided".
That's one of the great names of God in Scripture: Jehovah-jireh. Let me talk to you about the word jireh, provide. The Hebrew word jireh means to see beforehand. That's the literal translation of jireh; to see beforehand. What you get to see in his provision, you get to see it because of what he's already seen in his prevision. So he pre-sees what you're going to be provided. What you're provided over here when he comes through, he's already seen over here before you get to it. So while Abraham is coming up one side of the mountain, a ram is coming up on the other side of the mountain. God pre-sees before he provides, but what he provides he's already pre-seen. So you're going to be the surprised one, not him. Because when you're shocked by what he provides, it's only going to come because of what he's pre-seen. This is the quietest ram in the history of rams caught in a thicket. When a ram is caught in a thicket, it's moving and jerking to get out of being caught. This is the quietest ram in history. The ram is in the vicinity of the sacrifice 'cause it says he looks up and saw the ram.
So God keeps the provision quiet even though he has already made prevision in advance because he seen beforehand what he's going to do that you don't see yet. The question when you face this trial is, how can I move from God's prevision and get a hold of my provision? Until he completed his obedience, prevision didn't become provision. Whatever God is going to do in your life and circumstance he has already pre-seen, but you won't see it provided until you have completed what he's asked you to do. Most Christians are part-time saints. They'll do a little something something and wonder why God hadn't come through yet. But the question is, have you finished what he's asked you to do? So if you'll take 50 years to finish it, it may take 50 years for you to see his provision. If you delay obedience, you delay prevision becoming provision.
And in James 2 when it talks about faith it says by faith Abraham was justified by works when he offered up Isaac, and he was called a friend of God because he was willing to believe God against the backdrop of the ridiculous. God says to him, verse 15 of Genesis 22, "Then the angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven and said, 'By myself I have sworn,' declares the Lord, 'because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son; indeed, I will greatly bless you. I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore, and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies and your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because you have obeyed my voice.'" He says, "Abraham, I got it now. I got it. Because you've obeyed my voice in the final, in this tough thing I've asked you to do, I got it from here. I'm going to swear by it".
The good news here is that Abraham has had failures in his past. He's blown it a few times over these 25+ years. God just gave him retesting. Some of us are here today and we've been retesting. God says, "I'll wait till you pass because I want to give you an experience with me. You want the provision; I want the experience. Give me the experience of your commitment, and I'll show you what I can do with rams caught in the thicket waiting to move when I tell it to". But that raises a question. On this journey of faith, you're struggling, you're walking with your Isaac, you're holding Isaac's hand, you're holding that situation by the hand, and God is telling you to kill it even though you love it and you walking. How do you make it? How do I make it? 'Cause I don't know when God's going to do it. I don't know how God's going to do it. I don't know. I don't know. How am I going to make it? Remember verse 4? Says, "On the third day, Abraham looked up and he saw the place".
In St. John chapter 8 Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and Jesus is telling them who he is and Jesus is talking about the fact that he is the Son of God, and the Pharisees are looking at him like he's crazy and saying, "You aren't even 50 years old," they say. "You aren't even 50 years old and you talking about Abraham like you knew him. You're not even 50 years old talking about Abraham". Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am". That's the Old Testament name for God. Moses said, "Who should I say sent me"? He said, "You tell him I am sent you". That's the name for Yahweh.
So Jesus says, "Before Abraham was, I was God". Okay? In fact, Jesus goes on to say in the last few verses of John chapter 8, he says, watch this, "Abraham saw my day and was glad". Genesis 22, verse 4, Abraham is on his way to Mount Moriah, and he looks in the distance and he sees something. Jesus in the New Testament tells us what Abraham in the Old Testament saw. Jesus said, "Abraham saw my day". What day did Abraham see? Let me tell you a little secret. Mount Moriah is located a few hundred yards from Mount Calvary. There are just a few hundred yards that separate Mount Moriah from the hill of Golgotha. Jesus said, "Abraham saw my day and he smiled".
So Abraham is walking to kill his son, looks up, he goes, "Ha, ha, ha. Yeah". He says, "Abraham focused on me. And while he kept his eyes focused on me". That's why Hebrews chapter 12, verse 2 says, "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith". It says while you're on your journey in your final exam, keep your eyes on Jesus. Because if you'll focus on Jesus, he'll get you up the mountain of your exam until you pass the test. Don't look at people. They'll discourage you. Don't look at circumstances. They'll flip the script. He says keep your eyes on Jesus as you obey God because when you keep your eyes on Jesus, he will sustain your faith until you reach the finish line of your test.
When you're in doubt, look at Jesus. When you're afraid, look at Jesus. When you're unsure, look at Jesus. When you're tempted, look at Jesus. When you fail, look at Jesus. When you're frustrated, look at Jesus. When you don't think you can make it, look at Jesus. Keep looking at Jesus. Because if Abraham could look at him in the Old Testament and he hadn't even come yet, how much more should you and I look at him now that he's come, died, and arose and it all happened on day number three?
One of the things you need to know is that your faith will always be tested. The only way you know you have the faith that you want to have or think you have is that you pass the test of faith, and that is when God allows a circumstance to come into your life that forces you to trust him. So when God puts you in a test, the goal is to pass it because he does believe in retesting when we fail.