“Dad, will you come with me?” It may seem like a simple question from child to his father, but it is pregnant with meaning. Will you come with me to comfort me in my fear? Will you come with me to encourage me along the way? Will you come with me so I am not alone? It is a parent’s job to comfort and encourage their children. We want to protect them from suffering and pain, and yet, we know that is only through suffering they can learn how to truly rely on God. Trials are the chisel in God’s hand to cut off worldliness and self-righteousness. The world looks at our suffering and says, “Why me?” while the Christian looks at suffering and says, “Teach me.”
How do you view suffering? Is suffering a tool in the hands of God Almighty to mold and shape you into the image of Jesus, or is suffering the cruel hand of circumstances designed to ruin your life? God’s Word says,
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:16-18)
No one enjoys suffering in the moment, but we can rejoice because we know what suffering will produce in us. Suffering is preparing us for the hope of glory.
As a child looks to his parents and says, “Will you come with me?” when they are heading onto fear, we often look to the Lord during our trials and say, “Are you with me? Will you take care of me? Will you get me through this?” The Lord shows his people in Genesis 22 that He will always be with them. I pray that whatever trial you are in and whatever trial you will go through that you will trust God’s heart as Charles Spurgeon writes, “God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.” Allow God’s Word to chisel away your self-reliance and self-righteousness by transforming your view of trials.
The Lord Tests His People through Sacrifice
Abraham and Sarah waited for 25 years for God’s promise of a child. They laughed in disbelief when God told them they would have a child. Their disbelief turned to joy when God gave them Isaac, the son of laughter. After waiting for 25 years for an heir, they finally received a child, but now God gives a seemingly impossible request. Genesis 22:1-2,
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.”
God tests Abraham. A “testing” shows what someone is really like usually through hardship and trials. Will you trust me Abraham? Abraham had demonstrated several times in his life a distrust of God in the midst of trials. During his years of waiting for a child, he attempted to fulfill God’s promise himself through Sarah’s servant, Hagar. When he was tested in a foreign land, he lied and claimed Sarah was his sister twice. Abraham believed in God’s promise, but during times of trials his actions did not always demonstrate that belief.
God is not indifferent or unaware of the difficulty of the request. God says, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love.” The repetition is not random. God understands this test will be difficult for Abraham as he understands the test will be difficult for us. Unlike in the past, Abraham did not question God, but he obeyed. Genesis 22:3-4,
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.
One can only imagine what Abraham was thinking during this 3-day journey. His mind would have gone to God’s promise to make him the father of a multitude of nations through Isaac. He would have thought about what to tell Sarah. He would have thought of how God miraculously gave him Isaac in the first or maybe how he didn’t trust God by having Ishmael.
We don’t know what he thought, but we know he obeyed. It is interesting that God made him take a 3-day journey to obey. This decision would be one that would require deep resolve. Abraham believed God, Genesis 22:5, “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.” Notice that Abraham confessed his faith to the servants. The boy and I will come again to you. Hebrews 11:17-19,
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
Abraham did not know what was going to happen, but he believed God. He believed that God was able even to raise him from the dead. How? God had already given life through his body which was as good as dead. Romans 4:20-21,
He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
Notice the phrase in both accounts, Abraham believed, “God was able.” God had the ability to deliver. After a 3-day journey, Abraham was convinced concerning the promise of God and grew strong in his faith.
Beloved, do you believe God is able? Abraham’s story of faith is to encourage you to believe. God asked him to give up the Son of promise, he may not have been able to trace his hand, but he trusted his heart. God was able. He gave him Isaac so he could give him Isaac again. God is able to give life, even from the grave. God’s people have always been tested to believe in God’s resurrection power, whether it was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, or the Scottish martyrs tied to the pier to burned. We have to believe that God is able to raise the dead.
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy power to save
In 2 Corinthians Paul writes why God gave him trials,
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)
Genesis to Revelation is God’s story of deliverance. It is the story of God’s people trusting in that deliverance. Do you trust in God’s deliverance?
The Lord Provides for His People through Sacrifice
We can trust in God’s deliverance because he has shown over and over again that He will provide for his people in the midst of their trial. The Lord will provide. Genesis 22:8-14,
Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
The Lord provided the lamb for the sacrifice. Isaac was saved through his trial because God provided the sacrifice. God provided a substitute to take his place.
Israel would have been reminded of God’s faithfulness to them in Egypt when he said to sacrifice a lamb and take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the house as a sign. When God saw the blood of the lamb, He passed over their houses, and struck the first born of Egypt. Israel would have known that they deserved the same fate of the Egyptians, but it was only because of the blood of the lamb that they were spared. The Lord provided the sacrifice. The lamb died so Israel could live.
Israel would have heard this story on the verge of entering the promise land. They would have known how their fathers tested the Lord with their disobedience and were made to wander in the wilderness until everyone in that generation died. Would they be like their fathers or would they be like Abraham? Would they trust that the Lord would provide deliverance?
Israel did not deserve God’s deliverance. The story of Israel is a story of rebellion. They complained about God’s provision in the wilderness. They turned to false gods when they entered the promise land. They became more like the nations than the people of God’s treasured possession. They bowed before false gods and were sent into exile. Israel did not deserve deliverance. Beloved, we do not deserve deliverance. We like, Israel, have rebelled against God. We have questioned His love and complained about his provision. We have bowed out hearts to the false gods of comfort and ease. We have lived for ourselves and not for others. We do not deserve deliverance and yet the Lord promises to give us what we do not deserve by providing a sacrifice.
John the Baptist was baptizing people in the wilderness when he saw God’s provision, John 1:29, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The Lord provided a sacrifice. Jesus is the atonement for our sins. He did not come to be served, but to give his life as a payment for sinners. God did not spare his own Son, but give him up for us all. Jesus, the lamb of God, was slain so that Israel would live. Jesus died my soul to save. Which is why the saints have always loved to sing, the great hymn of the faith,
Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
And when, before the throne,
I stand in Him complete,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
My lips shall still repeat.
Jesus died our souls to save. He was raised from to the dead so now God is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Christ for Jesus ever lives to make intercession for us. Do you believe that?
The cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an ever-present reminder when you are going through your trials that God is willing and able to deliver you. The Lord will provide because He has always provided. He provided the Lamb so that we will live. Stop for a moment and think about your trials. Meditate on your suffering. God using your suffering so that you will not trust in yourself, but in God who raised the dead. Turn from your self-reliance and give all your trust to God. He provided the Lamb of God to take away your sin. And if he provided the lamb, how will he not also with him graciously give you all things? Who will condemn you?
Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Beloved, the Lord has provided the lamb. God understands your suffering, but has given you a resurrection. He has delivered you and therefore he will deliver you.
The Lord Blesses His People through Sacrifice
The Lord speaks to Abraham one last time. This is the 35th time he has spoken to Abraham, a multiple of seven, a sign of perfection. The Lord gives the only divine oath in the book of Genesis to highlight its importance. Genesis 22:15-19,
And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba. (Genesis 22:15-19)
God reiterates his promise again to Abraham his offspring will be like the stars of heaven and now as the sand that is on the seashore and they will possess the gate or cities of his enemies and a blessing will extend to all the nations of the earth. What an amazing promise. God gives a divine oath that he will keep his promise. As we have seen, God fulfills that promise in offspring of Abraham, Jesus Christ.
We are the offspring of Abraham if we believe in Jesus Christ, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. How do we know we believe? God allows trials in our lives to confirm our faith. Suffering produces perseverance and perseverance, character and character, hope. Suffering must finish its work so that we can be complete, lacking in nothing. When our trials come, let us not say, “Where are you?” but proclaim, “Here I am.” The Lord has provided the Lamb of God in death, and the Lord will provide the Lamb in resurrection. “God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.” Beloved, whatever comes your way, you can trust His heart.