Building Faith on Faith
“After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 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.” 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.On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 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. 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?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.” (Genesis 22:1-8, ESV)
I think one of my favorite things about Abraham was how imperfect he was. The founder of faith itself was an imperfect person. To me, when I really see that, it encourages me that I can have earth-shaking faith, even
when I think I’m failing.
I mean, think about it. Abraham, over the course of 10 chapters of the Bible, evolves from an ordinary man picked from the masses with a weak faith and a large ego to someone who God Himself created a covenant with and made the faith we all cling to possible. And over the course of those ten chapters, we experience a wild ride of promise, doubt, intercession, deception, battles, blessing, and trials. Abraham goes from a zero living in the land of Ur with no possessions or people to speak of, to conquering a land promised to him by God, great wealth, and a son borne to him out of impossible circumstances.
Without a doubt, God’s hand is on Abraham’s life. We see the evidence of it all around and throughout his life. And although Abraham was by no means perfect, his faith was definitely tested, stretched, and affirmed over the course of over 25 years. God was working on his faith from before the moment we met Abraham in Genesis 12. Little by little, God built it up; even in the moments that Abraham doesn’t realize it.
How do we know? Because Abraham’s walk with God culminates to one moment of awesome faith in Genesis 22. Here, we see just how great his faith has built up to through one gigantic test of just how far he’d go to obey and glorify God.
You see, in Genesis 22, God calls upon Abraham and asks him to take his only son, a son that Abraham loves with all his heart, and offer him up to God as a burnt sacrifice. Isaac, the son God promised Abraham at the beginning of his walk of faith, the son that God promised Abraham for 25 years– now God was asking Abraham to offer him up as a human sacrifice?
For any one of us, we would probably question God immediately. Wasn’t this the son by whom God would make Abraham a great nation? Wasn’t Abraham and Sarah way too old to start again? Didn’t God say that Isaac would be the child with which He would establish the same covenant God made Abraham? For us, I’m sure we’d say, “Are you sure, God? Didn’t you have big plans for my son, Isaac? How could you ask me to kill him for you? How could a God who loves me ask me to give up my only, beloved child?”
And maybe, if Abraham was half the man he was before God started building his faith, he would have said any one of those things. But you know what Abraham does? He obeys without hesitation. The Bible says he rose early the next morning. He didn’t sleep in and put off what God asked of him. He gathered the men and cut the wood himself. He didn’t arrange or delegate any part of the job. He took his son and started out on the journey immediately. He didn’t wait for God to change His mind. He didn’t pray for God to send him “confirmation” to make sure God was being serious.
He went out and found the place God was showing him, placed the wood for the sacrifice on his son’s shoulders and went to the place without hesitation. Yes, Abraham believed that God would provide the sacrifice– we know this because this is how he reassured Isaac when he asked his father where the sacrifice was– but he also knew that even if God didn’t, God would still be sovereign to make Abraham a nation. He knew that even if it meant giving Isaac back to God, that God would remain faithful.
For me, in the verses leading up to what would happen at the top of Mount Moriah, I think about the man that Abraham used to be. He was the guy that couldn’t even be trusted to follow God to the promised land without disobeying in some way. As the years passed, he’s caught in situations where he could have been a better witness to God’s greatness had he just trusted in what God told him, rather than trying to make his own way out.
But in Genesis 21, I see God testing Abraham in a very specific way: God tells Abraham to let his firstborn son, Ishmael go. Abraham loved Ishmael similarly to the way he loved Isaac. He had bonded with him and raised him and cared for him. But suddenly, God asked him to let that son go. And Abraham, who had been learning for decades how to follow God’s every word, went against his father’s heart and turned Ishmael and his mother away.
Could you imagine the position Abraham would be in had he chosen not to let go of Ishmael? Could you imagine how short Abraham’s faith might have fallen had he chosen to not follow God’s will in letting go of his first son? At least when he turned Ishmael away, it was so Ishmael could go on living. That was a soft dress rehearsal compared to what God was asking of him now: to offer his only remaining son, the son promised to him by God, as a sacrifice. To let him die. To quite literally give him back to God.
And Abraham would have. In an ultimate test of faith, Abraham showed that he would have given God everything– including the only remaining chance he tangibly had to become the nation God promised he would be.
Oh, I pray that my faith might prove just as strong in the moment it counts the most. I pray that we all might be found with a faith that would trust God enough to give the very best of what we have so that He might be glorified. But that faith is not just naturally within us. Like Abraham’s, it must be built. We must go through trial after trial, and test after test, so that our faith could slowly be stretched and strengthened to the point where we could confidently lean into obedience.
I want to continue to stay in this story for the coming weeks, because I think there’s so much more for God to show us here. For today, focus on this: God will never take you from square one to our biggest test of faith. He will always slowly build us up to be the man or woman we need to be to handle that moment of great and pressing faith. Wherever you are in your faith today, remember that today’s trial is simply a building block for the faith you’ll need to have tomorrow. Find joy in that strengthening.