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A Journey through the book of Genesiswith Willow Creek Community Church

Read Genesis

Week 3/Day 5: Faith Even When Things Don’t Make Sense

Willow Creek Community Church

“Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” 

~ Genesis 22:5

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Abraham’s story began in Genesis 12 with God challenging him to leave his family behind and go to a place that God would show him. In Genesis 22, his story draws to a close in a similar way. God challenges him to be willing to leave a family member behind and go to a place that God would show him. What distinguishes the second challenge from the first is the second challenge involves not just saying goodbye to family members, but actually sacrificing a family member, Abraham’s beloved son Isaac. How would Abraham handle this incomprehensible challenge?

Abraham’s life was marked by his blunders of faith, but here, Abraham puts on one of the most profound displays of faith seen in all of Scripture. He demonstrates his faith through his actions: he gathers the materials for the sacrifice, travels to the specified mountain, and comes close to sacrificing his son. Even more importantly, he demonstrates his faith through his words when he says to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” This statement could be interpreted as a white lie. By saying, “We will come back,” rather than, “I will come back,” Abraham could be trying to hide his real mission from his servants and Isaac. More likely, his statement reflects faith in a moment of cognitive dissonance. Even though God was asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham knew that God had promised to make him into a great nation “through Isaac” (Genesis 21:12). Therefore, Abraham said, “We will come back,” because he was certain that whatever happened on the mountain, Isaac would still return home with him. God had proven faithful before, so Abraham was confident that God would prove faithful again.

Abraham’s faith can serve as a model for us when God’s plans don’t make sense to us. We may not always understand what God is doing, but like Abraham, we can be confident that in the end, He will always prove faithful. 


Genesis 22–23

22

Abraham Tested

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love — saac — nd go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

Nahor’s Sons

20 Some time later Abraham was told, “Milkah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz the firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram), 22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel.” 23 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. Milkah bore these eight sons to Abraham’s brother Nahor. 24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maakah.

23

The Death of Sarah

1 Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. 2 She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.

3 Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, 4 “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”

5 The Hittites replied to Abraham, 6 “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”

7 Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. 8 He said to them, “If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf 9 so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.”

10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.”

12 Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 13 and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”

14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.”

16 Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.

17 So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre — oth the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field — as deeded 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. 19 Afterward Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.


Exploring the Text

1. In Genesis 23, Abraham buys a piece of land as a burial plot in Canaan. How does this relate to the promises God had given Abraham earlier in life?

Reflection Question

2. Sometimes God prompts us to do things that don’t make sense to us! Abraham must have felt this way as he considered the reality of sacrificing the son that God had provided and promised him. We can imagine his confusion and fear, yet he showed an immense amount of faith as he trusted in God’s plan. Has God ever asked you to do the unimaginable? In what ways has God prompted you to do something that didn’t make sense? What did you learn from those experiences? 

3. In Genesis 22:11-12, the Angel of the Lord called out to Abraham and instructed him not to lay a hand on Isaac. Abraham had passed the test, providing evidence that he feared God more than he loved his only son. If you’re a parent, consider the love you have for your children. If you’re not a parent, consider the love you feel for someone close to you. Now imagine yourself in Abraham’s shoes. What would your response be to God’s request? God calls us to love Him above all else (Exodus 20:3). Would you put God first if it meant letting go of someone you love?