Let Us Walk by Faith, Not by Sight!
Lord God, heavenly Father, impress upon our hearts the immeasurable nature of Your love for us in Christ, so that we, recognizing our sin and rejoicing in Your forgiveness, may dedicate our lives to Your service. Bless us, O Lord, as we worship in Your presence. Amen.
Old Testament priests were called by God to offer "gifts and sacrifices for sins." Christ was called by God to be our "priest forever" and became "the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" through His sufferings and death!
Jesus claimed to be and is the Son of God—the promised Christ! His mighty miracles testified to the truth of His claims. We, who hear and believe His words and follow Him, are His sheep. He gives us the gift of life and together with His Father protects us in His loving hands!
Text: Genesis 22:1-19
Now is came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Take now 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." So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you." So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." Then he said, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering." So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, Abraham, Abraham!" So he said, "Here I am." And he said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, "In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided." Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said, "By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son—blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.
In Christ Jesus, the gift of God’s grace and the object of our faith, dear fellow redeemed:
“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). St. Paul wrote those words to the Corinthian Christians. He wrote them within the context of the trials faced by the early church. St. Paul thereby described the attitude he and the first-century Christians possessed as they faced trials. St. Paul was not "whistling in the dark," for he based this statement on the truths of God’s present and providential care in their lives and His distinct promise of life everlasting in heaven. We, too, would do well to embrace such an attitude as we face the trials of the twenty-first century. Yes, LET US WALK BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT!
Such a thought, however, is so easily stated, and yet so difficult to practice. Earlier this week, I had an opportunity to sit with a friend in the waiting room of the intensive care unit of Immanuel-St. Joseph’s Hospital. His daughter had been involved in a serious car accident. As I encouraged him to place his trust in the Lord, he readily acknowledged that this was exactly what he needed to do. Yet, he found it so difficult to do in spite of everything the Bible told him. My dear friends, it is difficult to walk by faith and not by sight in the midst of life’s trials. Yet, we, as St. Paul and those early Christians, have every reason to do so, as we shall see as we examine the familiar Bible account recorded in our text. Yes, LET US WALK BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT!
In order better to understand why we as God’s children will want do so, let us consider, first of all, God’s test of faith! Can a greater test of faith be found in all of Scripture, yes, in all of history, than that which confronted Abraham? God gave Isaac to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. He was their child of promise, through whom the Savior was to come. God blessed their lives after Isaac’s birth with joy and happiness for a period of what some suggest may have been as long as twenty years. Then God came and instructed Abraham, “Take now 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.” We are not told what went through Abraham’s mind that night, but we are told what he did the very next morning. He arose early, made the necessary preparations, and set out with Isaac on that most difficult of journeys.
Two questions come to mind: Why would God ask Abraham to do such a thing, and what motivated Abraham to comply? While we cannot hope to probe the mind of our infinite God for the specific reasons of this case, we can turn to His Word for general insights into His reasons for testing His children. The writer to the Hebrews informs us, “For whom the LORD loves, he chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (12:6). That which applies to our God’s chastening, certainly also applies to His testing. Our God is not a malevolent God, sitting up in heaven thinking of ways to make our lives miserable. God is no sadist! Rather, He is above all a God of love (cf. 1 John 4:8). Everything He does, including the tests He sends us, proceeds from His love. That is true of everything that occurs in our lives, for God promises “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). Consequently, God’s reason for asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac proceeded from His love and His desire to bless him. While we likewise cannot probe the mind of Abraham to ascertain what motivated him to comply, the Scripture do give us some insight into his thinking. While en route to Mount Moriah, he instructed his servants, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” It would appear that Abraham fully expected to return from Mt. Moriah with a living Isaac by his side. The reason for this confidence is revealed in the book of Hebrews, where we are told that Abraham believed that should he sacrifice Isaac in accordance with God’s command, God would raise him up from the dead in order to keep His promise that the Savior would come through Isaac (11:17-19). Consequently, after raising the knife over his son and being restrained by God, we are told that God informed Abraham that now He knew that Abraham “feared” Him. Abraham, in other words, stood in awe of God, having complete confidence in everything He said to him or asked him to do. Having passed God’s test, Abraham was stronger in his faith and in a better position to meet the challenges with which Satan would confront him in this battle we call life. LET US follow Abraham’s example and WALK BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT!
In order to see why we further will want to do so let us consider, secondly,God’s response to faith! Abraham’s prophetic words to Isaac while climbing the mountain, that “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering,” came true in the form of a ram caught in the thicket near Abraham’s altar. Abraham released Isaac and together they sacrificed that ram. God proved Himself to be that “LORD (Who) provides!” God blessed response, however, went beyond that moment. In view of Abraham’s obedience, God reiterated His promise to bless him and his family. His descendants would be “as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore.” God kept His promise as can be seen by the multitudes of the children of Israel who later left Egypt under the direction of Moses, and by the multitudes of faithful children of God who are by faith children of Abraham down to this day!
God responds to the obedience of faith with love and blessing! My dear friends, may that truth be impressed upon our minds! God has not come to any of us and asked us to sacrifice our children to him in that sense that He came to Abraham. He has come, however, through His Word and has called upon us all to become “living sacrifices” dedicated to Him (cf. Romans 12:1). In so doing, He is testing us in love with the hope of strengthening us as we face the trials of this wicked world. How are we doing in our test? Have we willingly submitted our lives and committed those lives to the guidance and direction of God’s Word, or have we failed to trust Him? Is God able to say concerning the actions and decisions of our lives that they demonstrate our “fear” and faithful following of His will and commands, or do our words and actions contradict God as soon as we feel the situations in our lives are not to our liking?
Dear friends, let us trust our Savior God as did Abraham with our very lives as well as those of our children. He has never proven Himself unfaithful. No, He is ever faithful, if only we will follow Him. The Psalmist David says, “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:3-4). Abraham wanted an heir, and God gave it to him on two occasions—first at birth, and then secondly on Mount Moriah. What is it that you desire? A happy home-life, a faithful and loving companion, success in your God-given career, good health, or perhaps simply peace and contentment? These are blessing the Lord can and will grant you as you approach Him in prayer and with faithfulness. LET US only learn to WALK BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT!
In order ultimately to understand why we will want to do this, let us finally consider God’s foundation for faith! God’s final words to Abraham as he and Isaac stood before their altar on Mount Moriah were, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” The New Testament clearly informs us that the “seed” to which God is here referring is Jesus Christ, His own dear Son and our Savior! The reason why you and I can and should walk by faith and not by sight, lies in the fact that Jesus Christ and His redemption of our souls is the foundation of our faith and the reason for the certainty of our future.
Mount Moriah, where Abraham and Isaac then stood, would later become the site of God’s temple in Jerusalem. There on a great altar, an assortment of animals would be sacrifices—symbols of that coming sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the world. My dear friends, if God had not sent Jesus both to live and to die for us, we would be without hope in this world. Then the very best we could do is to stand with the unbelievers boldly shaking our fists in the face of fate and die. But this is not to be our fate. Our God so loved the world, that “He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Having secured for us our eternal salvation, there is nothing that God will not do to strengthen us in our faith and preserve us unto life everlasting. Are there trials and tribulations we will have to face in this world? Of course there are! We are opposed in this world by mighty and evil spiritual and physical forces that want nothing but our destruction. Our Savior, however, has conquered those forces—He has overcome the world on our behalf. Consequently, we need only follow—walking by faith through the trials of this world, knowing that our Savior God will walk with us in love strengthening us along the way and fitting us for His eternal kingdom. Let us not cower before the visible evils of this world, but strive in faith to walk obediently at our Savior’s side, for He will bless us, even as He did our father, Abraham. My dear friends, LET US WALK BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting