by James Smith, 1860
Great and godly men have always been tried men; and generally the greater the grace, and the more elevated the station — the greater the trials. We sometimes overlook this, when we long to be exalted, and employed in public. Little men make much, and talk much of little trials; but great men, very gracious men, suffer in silence, and hide their sorrows from others. How much we read of the trials of the Lord's people in his word, the tests they were put to, the crosses they had to carry, the faith they exercised, the courage they displayed, and the patience they manifested.
How honorably Paul speaks of Abraham, "By faith, Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall your seed be called." Hebrews 11:17,18.
Abraham's Trial. "God tested Abraham." To test here is to try, to examine, to prove if genuine, if strong. The nature of some things have to be proved, and the strength of others, because there are counterfeits. There is counterfeit grace, and weak grace. God therefore tries grace, and proves it to be genuine, he tries it also that we may know its strength. God had promised Abraham a son, he had waited long, he had received the son promised, and that son was the joy of his heart, and the sunshine of his house. He was now near to manhood, a fine, healthy, lovely lad — enthroned in his mother's heart, and the stay of his father's old age. God now requires that son to be given up — to be given up in sacrifice — to be sacrificed by his father's own hand!
Think of sacrificing a son, an only son, a son such as Isaac was. Yet Abraham was required to take him from his home, travel with him three days, and at the end of that time, offer him as a sacrifice on the top of the mountain pointed out. This was the trial, and the command seems to have come upon him suddenly, and when it was not at all expected. Perhaps just after the father and son had been enjoying each other's company and conversation in a particular way. How mysterious often are the ways of God! How frequently the command is given, or the sacrifice required, without any reason being assigned. Abraham was thus tried, now observe,
His honorable conduct. "He offered up Isaac." He offered him up as required. He offered him up where he was directed. He offered him up without questioning, or asking the reason why — without interceding, that his Isaac may be spared — without praying to be spared the trial. He seems to have obeyed the command readily — without hesitation or delay; calmly — without excitement or confusion; piously — from a right motive, and that God may be glorified; consistently — with his profession, character, and high standing as the friend of God. How much depends on the spirit in which we present our sacrifices! How frequently all is spoiled by the motive from which, or the manner in which, we present our offerings to God. How much more ready we are to receive from God, than we are to return anything to God. We laugh when he gives us our Isaacs — but we weep when he requires us to return them to him; whereas we should be as willing to surrender, as to receive. Wotice now,
The principle of action. "By faith, Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac."
He believed God's word when he required the sacrifice, as much as he did when he promised him a son. Faith should be as much exercised on the commands of God, that we may do them; as on the promises of God, that we may expect him to fulfill them.
He admitted God's right. That he had a right to claim, and dispose of all that he possessed, even his Isaac. He allowed that it was proper, that God should do as he would, with his own.
He revered God's authority. Strong faith, always inspires us with deep reverence; it is presumption that inclines us to trifle, or take liberties with God. True faith always bows to the authority of God, while it believes the love, and trusts in the promises of God.
He had confidence in God a goodness and power, and therefore felt persuaded that what he required was good, and if necessary that his son could be restored to him from the jaws of death.
He obeyed God's command, and obeyed without reasoning, or objecting. This is what faith always does, and is therefore the root of all good works. In proportion as we steadily believe the promise — we shall diligently, and devoutly, obey the command. Faith will always do so, and thus honor and glorify God its author.
Isaac was a type of Jesus. Isaac was offered up in purpose and intention by his father — but Jesus was really and truly put to death by his Father's sword, as a sacrifice to his Father's justice. The sacrifice of Isaac, prefigured the sacrifice of Jesus, who so many years after, as the only begotten Son of God, died the just for the unjust, near the same spot.
Abraham is an example to all who believe. An example of faith — in that he believed what God said, expected what God had promised, and sacrificed what God required. An example of acquiescence — in that he acquiesced in God's will, even when that will required the sacrifice of his only, his tenderly beloved child. What a reproof to thousands who profess to have like precious faith with Abraham. What a reproof to us.
Abraham is an example of surrendering all to God. He kept nothing back. With him there were no exceptions. He held all he had as the Lord's. He held all he had for the Lord. He was therefore ready to surrender at any time, whatever the Lord required of him.
Abraham is an example of ready obedience. Like David, he made haste and delayed not to keep God's commandments. With him there was no asking, "what will others say?" or "why should God require this?" Pride, prejudice, or passion, were not consulted; but God's will was law, God's word was his rule. He acted because God commanded, and just so should we. We never lose by giving up what God requires, for whatever he takes from us — he always gives us something better in its place. If he take away temporals — he will gives us spirituals; and if he take away a son — he will give us himself. Indeed he very generally takes away our idols — in order that he may fill the throne of the affections, and reign and rule alone.
Beloved, have you an Isaac? If so, are you prepared to part with it — to sacrifice it, if God calls for it? You profess, if you are a believer, to have surrendered all at God's throne; and to have consecrated all at the Savior's cross. Be faithful then, and if you consult your own happiness, or wish to live to God's glory and praise — hold everything temporal with a loose hand, and be ready to sacrifice any, and every Isaac, if the Lord should call for it at your hands!