Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 11:17-22 – Faith When Tested Grows Stronger

Grace For The Journey   

We are studying through the Book of Hebrews and finding our place today in Chapter 11 and picking up at verse 17.  This chapter is all about faith – Trusting God . . .  Taking God at His Word . . . Acting like God is telling the truth.  We have already seen in chapter 11 a number of people who lived that way.  Today we look again at Abraham in verses 17 through 19 and his immediate descendants, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.  We are going to find out what we can learn about faith in verses 17 to 22? 

This morning we are going to study about when faith is tested.  We will learn that . . .

Our Christian faith grows stronger

When God tests it and tries it. 

It is through God’s testing

Of our faith that we really

Grow to maturity.

Warren Wiersbe says, “Faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.”  Faith grows and gets stronger as it is tested.  I heard Adrian Rogers tell about a man who was having surgery and the doctor said, “You seem a bit nervous.”  And the patient said, “Yes, this is my first surgery.”  The doctor said, “I know how you feel.  It’s mine also!”  We want people who have been tested.  We know they have something of experience and are mature and tried and true.  Faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.  God tests our faith to strengthen us. 

We read first in verses 17 and following about Abraham, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.”  The background of this narrative, this true historical account, is found in Genesis 22:1-18, “1 Now it 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.  10 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.’  15 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.”

In Hebrews 11 and verse 17 the writer says, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.”  Isaac was not Abraham’s “only begotten son” in the sense of his being the only one born to Isaac.  Isaac had another son named Ishmael.  Ishmael was 13 years older than Isaac.  Strictly speaking Ishmael was Isaac’s half-brother.  And Abraham had other children as well (Genesis 25:1-2).  Isaac, however, was Abraham’s “only begotten son” in the sense of his being unique, and one-of-a-kind, the one through whom God’s promises would come.  Verse 18 says Isaac was the one, “of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called’”(Genesis 21:12)Isaac was the sole heir of the promise.  Abraham was willing to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice because, we are told in verse 19, “Concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”

Remember when we read Genesis 22 you cannot help but notice Abraham’s confidence that he and Isaac would go up together to Mount Moriah and both would return together, that somehow God would intervene so that Isaac would not be sacrificed.  And even if God did not prevent him from sacrificing his son, Abraham trusted in the miraculous power of God to raise his son Isaac from the dead.

Abraham had been told three days earlier to sacrifice his son and for three days he knew his son was as good as dead and when he finally got to Mount Moriah and prepared to sacrifice him there, he was at the very point of death- but God! – God stepped in and rescued him, raising him up – in a manner of speaking – raising him up from the dead and preserving his life.

Now if we do not think too deeply about this we may just commend Abraham for believing somehow God was just going to rescue his son so he would not have to sacrifice him.  But . . .

Abraham is commended because

Of his faith in God’s Word,

God’s promises that many children

Would be born through this son of his. 

Abraham believed God and it

Was credited to him as righteous. 

He knew God was going

To do what he said.

It was not so much that he feared for Isaac – though I am sure he did – this exercise on Mount Moriah is more about Abraham’s trust in God’s Word, His promises.  Whatever may happen to Isaac, Abraham knows God will keep His Word.  The Bible tells us in Romans 4:21, “And being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” 

Before we go any further, I want us to think about this – there are so many parallels here with the Gospel here!  This whole worship experience with Abraham and Isaac anticipates the Gospel story of redemption. 

  • Isaac is divinely named by God.  Jesus is divinely named by God. 
  • Isaac is born supernaturally.  Jesus is born supernaturally.  
  • Father Abraham dearly loves his only begotten son Isaac.  The heavenly Father dearly loves His only begotten son Jesus. 
  • Abraham travels 3 days before his son Isaac is “raised up” from death.  Jesus was raised up on the third day. 
  • Mount Moriah, where Isaac was to be sacrificed is the same general area where God’s son was sacrificed. 
  • Just as God provided a substitute – a ram in the thicket to die in the place where Isaac was to die – so God provides the substitute of the Lamb of God to die in our place.

There is a sense in which Jesus’ words about Abraham in John 8 have Gospel implications.   Jesus said in John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad.”  While not the main point of the writer of Hebrews here, it is hard not to notice the beautiful Gospel message, paralleled and pictured, there on Mount Moriah.

In verses 20, 21, and 22, the writer mentions three people at the time they reached the very end of their lives, and all three – Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph – died in faith.  They kept their trust in God to the very end, the point at which each one spoke blessings upon their children and grandchildren.  

Verse 20 says, “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.”  Isaac had hope for the future!  This is the truth spoken by God through the Prophet Jeremiah 29:11: “’I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord; ‘plans to help you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.’”  Like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac “died in faith” (verse 13).  Isaac died knowing of the blessings that would come to Jacob and Esau.

Verse 21 states, “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.”  Like Isaac, Jacob also was able to die in faith, praying a blessing upon each of the sons of Joseph as he “leaned on the top of his staff.”  The picture is that of an older man propping himself up by virtue of his staff and speaking of God’s future blessings upon Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh. 

Verse 22 says, “By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.”  Joseph also died in faith and “when he was dying” gave instructions concerning his bones.  The instructions were, in essence, “Have my funeral here in Egypt, but don’t leave my bones here!  When that future day comes when God brings our descendants out of Egypt and into the Promised Land (the exodus; literally the word that is translated “departure” there), make sure someone takes my bones along so I can finally be buried in the Land of Promise.”  Not only did Joseph die in faith, he had faith to look far into the future, seeing the day when he himself would enter into the Promised Land, his bones carried by many sons of Abraham crossing the Jordan and entering into a land flowing with milk and honey.

In closing, I want us to consider Three Marks Of True Faith that we learn from out study today . . .

1) Obeys God Without Wavering (cf Hebrews 10:23; Romans 4:20).

When Abraham was called upon by God to sacrifice his son Isaac he immediately obeyed.  He did not waver.  Hebrews 10:23 tells us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  And Romans 4:20 states, “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.”  True faith obeys God without wavering.  True saving faith knows that God will keep His Word.

2) Trusts In The Miraculous Power Of God.

Abraham had already witnessed the miraculous power of God.  Remember from a couple days ago when we studied Abraham’s call.  God called Abraham out of his homeland when he was 75 years old and said, “I want you to go to a place I will show you and I’m going to give you a son and from him will come as many descendants as stars in the sky and sand on the shores.” 25 years later when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old, God gave them a son named Isaac.  And one of the points we drew from that study was that “Faith is the means by which God does the impossible.”  

Abraham had already witnessed the miraculous power of God so little wonder he obeys God without wavering.  God told Abraham to offer up his son Isaac and he immediately obeyed, “concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.”  He knew God was able to do anything.  He trusted in the miraculous power of God.  It is not the size of our faith that matters, it is the size of the One in Whom our faith rests.  Jesus said you can have faith the size of a mustard seed, a tiny little seed, and yet if your faith is resting upon the One True and Living God, then you can move mountains in that power.  Abraham had that kind of faith.  He trusted in the miraculous power of God.

What is your miracle?  What are you believing God for?  What is your burden?  Are you burdened for a child’s soul?  Are you burdened for a loved one’s life?  Are you wondering about the future, how your situation’s going to turn out, that job, that relationship, that position, that test, or that court case?  When you pray, do you trust in the miraculous power of God?  Like Abraham, who reasoned, who “concluded that God was able to raise up Isaac even from the dead” is able to “raise up” your situation?  Able to do the miraculous?

Remember Jesus who said, “Have faith in God.”  And in Mark 11:24, “Whatsoever things you desire, when you pray, believe that you shall receive them and you shall have them.”  You do not need to remain in darkness, despair, and doubt.  You need not remain in affliction and addiction.  Look to the miraculous power of God to do great things in your life and in the life of those for whom you pray.  True faith, saving faith obeys God without wavering.  True faith looks to the miraculous power of God. 

3) Does Not Withhold Its Most Cherished Possessions From God.

It is hard not to reason that Isaac had to be Abraham’s most cherished possession.  Here was his son and God was testing Abraham’s faith as if to ask: “Abraham, do you really love Me?”  When the Angel of the Lord called out to Abraham and stopped Abraham from offering up Isaac God said, “now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Genesis 22:12).  Abraham did not withhold his most cherished possession from God.

When we talk about repentance and how repentance is necessary for salvation – and it is – Repentance involves turning to the Lord by faith and repent from sin.  Two sides of the same coin. 

Salvation involves conversion is faith and repentance. 

Repentance leads us to turn away from sin.

Faith leads us to turn to the Savior.

Most of us readily understand that we cannot follow Christ and hold onto sin at the same time.  We understand that following Christ and loving Christ means getting rid of the bad things that keep us from Jesus.  But what about the good things?  What about other things or people – possessions – things that are not bad in and of themselves, but we have been allowing them to occupy the throne of our hearts.

Is your heart bound up or wrapped up in your possessions, even good things like a house, or a boyfriend or girlfriend or, in the case of Abraham, maybe a son or a daughter?  And your happiness is dependent upon what happens to your house, your stuff, your money, your son, your daughter?  What did Jesus mean when He said, “No one can have two masters?”  Following Christ does not mean you cannot enjoy the blessings of life.  It just means that God is always and forever first place in our lives.  He occupies the throne of our hearts.  What occupies the greater balance of our time, our thinking, our worries, our hopes, or our fears?  Is our heart bound up with something or someone other than Jesus Christ?

If God were to test your faith right now what would happen?  Can you take your stuff, your money, your son, your daughter, your grandchildren, your health, a boyfriend or girlfriend; can you take it up to Mount Moriah and say, “God I never want to love the gift more than the giver and You’re the One who gives all things, so if you want to take back these things, take them back.  So, ‘Here is my heart, Lord.  Take and seal it.  Seal it for Thy courts above.’”   

You can trust God with the things you give Him.  You can trust Him with your daughter; your son; your health; your stuff.  You were made to love Him, to know Him, to cherish Him first and foremost.  You can sing: “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.”  And, “Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, except in the death of Christ my God!  And all the vain things that charm me most, I (LISTEN!) I sacrifice them to His blood.”  I offer them up because, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Jesus said, “If you love your life, you lose it. If you lose it for my sake and the gospel’s, you’ll find it.”  Do you love your life more than you love Jesus?  Do you live for the things of the world rather than the things of the Lord?  What do you need to offer up, get rid of, or sacrifice?  What is keeping you from being captured and captivated by Christ? Whatever stands between you and your Savior, give that up and give it to the Lord right now.  Say, “Lord, I don’t want anything or anyone to come between us.  I forsake my sin and I forsake my stuff and I turn to you.  I never want to love the gift more than the giver.”

Some of you have never really settled the matter of salvation.  You need to turn to Jesus Christ and be saved today.  God lived for you and died for you in Christ.  Be saved today by trusting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. 

We know that your love so amazing, love so divine, demands our soul, our life, and our all.  Let’s respond to that truth right now not only in our hearts but also in our actions.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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