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The Great Faith of Abraham

Updated: Aug 18, 2022

Message for worship at West Richmond Friends Meeting, 7th of Eighth Month, 2022

Speaker: Robert Wafula

Scripture: Genesis 22:1-2

After these things God tested Abraham. He 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 that I shall show you.”

Introduction: Some decades ago, servants of God were received with joy whenever they travelled in ministry. This is a carried-on tradition from the time Abraham.

In Genesis chapter 18, Abraham is visited by 3 men who looked like angels. On arrival, they were warmly welcomed by Abraham. Abraham chose a young bull from is herd and gave it to the guests to slaughter and prepare for themselves. This tradition is a little different from the African culture in which I grew up. The host prepares the meal and take it to the guests, and not the other way round.

Pronouncement of God’s Promise: After they were entertained, it was now time to reveal the purpose for the visit. They pronounced God’s promise to Abraham and his wife, Sarah. “We have good news for you two, you are soon going to be parents.”

-For Sarah, it was a joke of the day. She couldn’t help, but to laugh at the pronouncement. For her, this was one of those jokes that are not worthy commenting on, but just to laugh out loud. “Excuse me,” Sarah could be heard asking. “How possible is that even going to happen?

-Sarah was in her 70 years by age and Abraham was either approaching 100 or doing his 100+. From the biological point of view, this was an impossible mission. But with God, nothing is impossible. Compare the story leading to Mary’s conception of Jesus.

- Alongside the shocking news of Sarah’s conception at her advanced age, Abraham is promised to be the father of a multitude through his son, Isaac. In Galatians 3:7, Abraham is depicted as the father of faith.

The Test of Abraham: The birth of his son, Isaac was the happiest moment in the life of Abraham. He becomes a paradigm of an individual who puts obedience to God in the first place and everything else including ethical obligation in the second place.

  • For the Muslims, Abraham was the first man to submit to Allah. He was the first to give total obedience to one God.

  • In the Holy Qur’an, Abraham is recorded preaching worship of one God in his home town and was persecuted for that. He destroyed idols in the temple and was forced to flee. Abraham trusted God in every aspect of his life.

  • Evidently, the angels of prosperity were also the angels of doom.

  • While Abraham was celebrating at the good news of a possibility of having a child at his old age, his guest had another piece of news – Sodom was going to be destroyed due to wickedness.

  • Abraham was equally devastated at this news just as he was excited at the pronouncement about his son, Isaac. Abraham was moved to engage in a discourse with God.

  • Eventually when Isaac was born, it was the greatest joy of Abraham’s life. Isaac was to become his hope for the future, and a culmination of Abraham’s dreams.

  • In the culture of Abraham’s time, there was no idea of Life After Death. An individual lived through his or her children. Isaac was therefore the guarantee of Abraham’s name being carried forward.

  • To some extent, the African and other global communities still maintain this culture. In Africa for incidence, for a man to live and die without an offspring is a greatest possible tragedy. The highest ethical obligation that a mother or father can have is to their child. Isaac in this case was dearly loved by parents above everything else in the world. He was the child of a promise whom Abraham and Sarah had waited for all their life.

God puts Abraham to do the impossible in human standards. While riding high with the joy enjoying his son, Isaac, God asks of Abraham the unexpected and ethically unimaginable. God demands Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.

  • Common sense has it that God was obviously asking the unreasonable, and the irrational. After all, isn’t it God himself who gave Isaac to Abraham at an advanced age, and promised that through Isaac, Abraham would be the father of many nations? How then can it be that the same God commands the killing of Isaac? By every ethical or rational understanding, God’s command was unacceptable. In fact in the international legal standards, God was asking Abraham to commit a capital crime, which in most nation is punishable by execution.

  • By all means, Abraham could have been justified by the moral and ethical law to ignore the demand. But he did not do that. Abraham’s response was to trust God and to do what God commanded.

  • As he headed out to go sacrifice his only son, Abraham still believed God’s promise that through his son, he would have a multitude of descendants. A philosopher would say, “Of course this does not make sense at all…”

  • Abraham’s faith went beyond what would be justified by reason alone. He trusted God even though he could not make sense of his faith.

  • Peter Vard, author of a book entitled, Kierkegaard (2008) says, either Abraham was a knight (great man) of faith or he was deluded in his mind.

  • When the call of God comes to you, sometimes it comes beyond the measures of ethics.

  • As Abraham saddles his son on a donkey accompanied by his two servants headed to Mt. Moriah. Abraham’s love for Isaac and his faith in God remain unchanged. Kierkegaard calls Abraham, a tragic hero. One who acted against reason. Abraham regarded his duty to God above all other duties.

Abraham Kept it to himself: of all the happenings, Abraham never shared God’s command with anyone – not even his wife Sarah, his son, Isaac, nor his two servants.

-when he arrived at the foot of Mt. Moriah, Abraham asked his servants to stay behind as went up the hill with his son (Gen. 22:4-5).

Application: Friends, as you listen or read the story of Abraham, what lessons do you draw from this story? For me, there are a few areas that draw my attention:

  1. That I should invest my faith in one and only God.

  2. When God called me, it was me alone and only joined into a community of faith.

  3. When God asks of me to give a sacrifice (offering) I should give my best, and perhaps my only remaining resource.

  4. That I should offer to God in secret without publicizing it.

  5. When I give my offering to God, I should give it with all my faith and all my heart and leave it there.

  6. Like father Abraham, I should seek to increase my faith and be known as the father or mother of a multitude.

Thanks, Friends, and may God bless you.

New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

This document is protected by U.S. and International copyright laws. Reproduction and distribution without permission from the author is prohibited. © 2022 Robert Wafula. All rights reserved.

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