Abraham, when he was tried - See the history of this whole transaction explained at large in the notes on Genesis 22:1-9.
Offered up his only-begotten - Abraham did, in effect, offer up Isaac; he built an altar, bound his son, laid him upon the altar, had ready the incense, took the knife, and would immediately have slain him had he not been prevented by the same authority by which the sacrifice was enjoined. Isaac is here called his only-begotten, as be was the only son he had by his legitimate wife, who was heir to his property, and heir of the promises of God. The man who proved faithful in such a trial, deserved to have his faith and obedience recorded throughout the world.
By faith Abraham - The apostle had stated one strong instance of the faith of Abraham, and he now refers to one still more remarkable - the strongest illustration of faith, undoubtedly, which has ever been evinced in our world.
When he was tried - The word used here is rendered “tempted,” in Matthew 4:1, Matthew 4:3; Matthew 16:1; Matthew 19:3; Matthew 22:18, Matthew 22:35, and in twenty-two other places in the New Testament; “prove,” in John 6:6; “hath gone about,” in Acts 24:6; “examine,” 2 Corinthians 13:5; and “tried,” in Revelation 2:2, Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:10. It does not mean here, as it often does, to place inducements before one to lead him to do wrong, but to subject his faith to a “trial” in order to test its genuineness and strength. The meaning here is, that Abraham was placed in circumstances which showed what was the real strength of his confidence in God.
Offered up Isaac - That is, he showed that he was ready and willing to make the sacrifice, and would have done it if he had not been restrained by the voice of the angel; Genesis 22:11-12. So far as the intention of Abraham was concerned, the deed was done, for he had made every preparation for the offering, and was actually about to take the life of his son.
And he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son - The promises particularly of a numerous posterity. The fulfillment of those promises depended on him whom he was now about to offer as a sacrifice. If Abraham had been surrounded with children, or if no special promise of a numerous posterity had been made to him, this act would not have been so remarkable. It would in any case have been a strong act of faith; it “was especially” strong in his ease from the circumstances that he had an only son, and that the fulfillment of the promise depended on his life.
To those who have made strange paths for their feet, the Lord offers words of encouragement. He will accept their prayers, if they will repent and be converted. Through the infinite sacrifice of Christ, and through faith in His name, they may receive the promises of God. The sons of Adam may become sons of God. O how full of thankfulness we should be that by the act of Christ in assuming humanity, fallen men are granted a second trial! Christ places them on vantage ground. Through connection with Him they may be laborers together with God. Through the grace given daily by Christ, they may be elevated and ennobled to become the sons and daughters of God. Such love is without parallel. TDG 255.2Read in context »
Your age does not excuse you from obeying the divine commands. Abraham was sorely tested in his old age. The words of the Lord seemed terrible and uncalled-for to the stricken old man, yet he never questioned their justice or hesitated in his obedience. He might have pleaded that he was old and feeble, and could not sacrifice the son who was the joy of his life. He might have reminded the Lord that this command conflicted with the promises that had been given in regard to this son. But the obedience of Abraham was without a murmur or a reproach. His trust in God was implicit. 4T 253.1
The faith of Abraham should be our example, yet how few will patiently endure a simple test of reproof for the sins which imperil their eternal welfare. How few receive reproof with humility, and profit by it. God's claim upon our faith, our services, our affections, should meet with a cheerful response. We are infinite debtors to the Lord and should unhesitatingly comply with the least of His requirements. In order to be a commandment breaker it is not necessary that we should trample upon the whole moral code. If one precept is disregarded, we are transgressors of the sacred law. But if we would be true commandment keepers we should strictly observe every requirement that God has enjoined upon us. 4T 253.2
God allowed His own Son to be put to death in order to answer the penalty of the transgression of the law; then how will He deal with those who, in the face of all this evidence, dare venture upon the path of disobedience, after having received the light of truth? Man has no right to urge his convenience or wants in this matter. God will provide; He who fed Elijah by the brook, making a raven His messenger, will not suffer His faithful ones to want for food. 4T 253.3Read in context »
But Abraham did not stop to question how God's promises could be fulfilled if Isaac were slain. He did not stay to reason with his aching heart, but carried out the divine command to the very letter, till, just as the knife was about to be plunged into the quivering flesh of the child, the word came: “Lay not thine hand upon the lad;” “for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me.” 4T 145.1
This great act of faith is penciled on the pages of sacred history to shine forth upon the world as an illustrious example to the end of time. Abraham did not plead that his old age should excuse him from obeying God. He did not say: “My hairs are gray, the vigor of my manhood is gone; who will comfort my waning life when Isaac is no more? How can an aged father spill the blood of an only son?” No; God had spoken, and man must obey without questioning, murmuring, or fainting by the way. 4T 145.2
We need the faith of Abraham in our churches today, to lighten the darkness that gathers around them, shutting out the sweet sunlight of God's love and dwarfing spiritual growth. Age will never excuse us from obeying God. Our faith should be prolific of good works, for faith without works is dead. Every duty performed, every sacrifice made in the name of Jesus, brings an exceeding great reward. In the very act of duty, God speaks and gives His blessing. But He requires of us an entire surrender of the faculties. The mind and heart, the whole being, must be given to Him, or we fall short of becoming true Christians. 4T 145.3Read in context »