Faith Proven by Works

Hebrews 11:17-19 (NLT)

It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead. 


By ‘Debo Onabanjo

As was noted in last Monday’s reflection, Abraham for all intents and purposes had mentally offered his son to God before he attempted the physical act. Because of his demonstrated faith, God later reiterated his plans to bless Abraham and give him descendants beyond number (Genesis 22:16-18). 

Abraham not only believed God, he clearly demonstrated through his willingness to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering that he was prepared to prove his faith through his actions. As James later wrote, faith without works is no faith. James cited the example of Abraham’s offering of his son Isaac on the altar as faith and action working together.

According to James, Abraham’s “actions made his faith complete.” (James 2:17, 21-22.) God was never interested in Abraham offering his son as a sacrifice and later gave the Israelites strict instructions through Moses that anyone who offered their children as a sacrifice to the pagan god Molech should be put to death. (Leviticus 20:1-5.)

In what ways are you putting your faith in the Lord into action? Can people see through my actions that I have faith in God and believe his promises? Even though God does not require us to sacrifice our children as burnt offerings, he freely gave his only begotten Son as atoning sacrifice for our sins. All that he asks is that we offer ourselves to him as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2) by demonstrating unwavering faith through our actions. As Scripture tells us, “It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6). 

Just as God tested Abraham to be sure that his faith was real, God is going to test our faith in the crucible and furnace of affliction. It is not a question of IF but WHEN. We can be sure that God is not going to demand that we sacrifice our children as a burnt offering to him. God does not delight in our offerings as much as in our obedience. But God will test our faith to be sure that we are truly on his side. 

I do not know how God will test my faith or how your faith will be tested. It will come through our trials and tribulations, but when we abide in Jesus regardless of whatever comes our way, we will definitely be able to pass the testing of our faith like Abraham and Job and many others before us have done. It is important to remember that it is through our actions in the face of travails that we demonstrate the vitality of our faith. 

The only way to be sure that our faith will not fail is to keep our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus became the pioneer and perfecter of our faith because he learned obedience through his own temptation and looked beyond the pain of the cross to the joy that awaited him.

Almighty and ever living God, we thank you for your love for us demonstrated through the sacrifice of your beloved Son Jesus Christ. Help us to persevere when our faith is tested by looking unto Jesus who alone is the author and finisher of our faith. Let us follow his perfect example as we live out our faith one day at a time. By abiding in Jesus, we can overcome our trials and tribulations and bring God glory. Keep us faithful to the end in the power of your Holy Spirit. Thank you, Jesus, for your nearness to us at all times. Accept our humble prayers offered in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

When Our Faith Is Tested

Genesis 22:1-2 (NLT)

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”  “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”


By ‘Debo Onabanjo

After a long wait of 25 years from when the Lord first called and entered into a covenant with him, Abraham and Sarah against all odds had Isaac, the child of promise. Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah 90 years old when Isaac was born.

What we learn from the story of these two biblical characters is that when our Lord makes a promise, it can be trusted. Abraham’s greatest desire to have a male child through Sarah became a reality when all seemed hopeless. After having experienced a lot of challenges as part of his walk with the Lord, it was reasonable for Abraham to expect to live out his remaining years in peace. However, God had other plans for Abraham and decided to put his faith through the wringer.

A cursory reading of the story surrounding today’s verses brings an obvious question to mind. How could a loving God who had made promises to bless Abraham through his seed now ask that Abraham should go and sacrifice his son as a burnt offering? There is no doubt that this instruction by God would be repugnant to any right-thinking person. But the introduction tells us that this was a test, although Abraham was not aware that it was a test. If you were in Abraham’s shoes, what would you have done?

Abraham could have tried to reason with God and offer to give all of his livestock – and he had plenty to sacrifice to God. Even though it is not mentioned, it would have been unreasonable for Abraham to have discussed this matter with his wife Sarah. It is inconceivable that after having waited 90 years to have a son, Sarah would have acquiesced to God’s instruction for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering.

In addition to animal sacrifices, which were quite common in the ancient near East where Abraham lived, some of the pagan nations also sacrificed their children to their gods. If pagans could sacrifice their children to idols that could not do anything for them, God wanted to see if Abraham had enough faith and respect to give up Isaac. 

Without any equivocation on his part, we read that “the next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about.” (Genesis 22:3). Just imagine with me for a second what must have been going through Abraham’s mind. Before he set out with Isaac, he had already sacrificed him in his heart.

On day three of their journey, Abraham parted from his servants and proceeded alone with Isaac. He placed the wood he had chopped on Isaac’s shoulders while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the father and son walked on together, Isaac, who was definitely a grown lad by this time, realized that something was missing. He had no doubt witnessed many animal sacrifices by his father and therefore questioned him.

“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” 

In one of the most powerful faith responses recorded in Scripture, Abraham responded, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son.” They walked on together and after they arrived at the designated place, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. We are not sure if at this time it finally dawned on Isaac that he was the designated “sheep” for the offering, but there is no record of any struggle as Abraham tied his son Isaac and laid him on the altar on top of the wood (Genesis 22:9). Without further ado, Abraham took the knife and prepared to kill Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering to the Lord. 

But at that moment, the angel of the Lord called to Abraham and told him not to lay a hand on Isaac. The angel said, “Do not hurt him in any way, for I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12).  Abraham passed the test. God had no desire for Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, but chose to test Abraham’s faith to be sure that Abraham was willing to do anything for him, including offering his only son as a burnt offering.

Are you prepared to do anything for the Lord?

Gracious and loving God, you freely gave up your only Son to die in our place. Help us to be willing to do anything as a demonstration of our faith in you. We pray in the name of Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Amen. 

Bad Timing, Bad Results

“Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away,” woodblock print, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1860.

Genesis 16:1-6 (NRSV)

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian slave-girl whose name was Hagar, and Sarai said to Abram, “You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my slave-girl to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Your slave-girl is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she ran away from her.


This piece of a larger story can sound foreign, but there is a behavior within that should be familiar to us.

In the previous chapter in Genesis, we hear the Lord make powerful, ceremonially bound promises to the man we now know as Abraham, including the promise of a son. This son was to result in an uncountable multitude of descendants.

While no details were given regarding how the son would be born, there also were no codicils added to the promise—God simply told Abraham, “No one but your very own issue shall be your heir.”

Rather than simply accepting the promise, the ancient man and his old wife, who believed she was far beyond child-bearing years, tried to figure out what they must do to make the promise come true. The plan to impregnate a young servant sprang from Sarai’s mind, but her husband, who had witnessed God’s dramatically presented covenant, did nothing to dissuade her.

What ensues is a story of rivalry, jealousy, and some painful choices that have to be made once the real child of promise arrives.

Need I say it? God’s timing is what matters, not ours. In our haste, in our eagerness to see things the way we want them to be, we may take some of the shine off the miracle that will eventually happen.

It seems to me that the best strategy is to be faithful in our everyday tasks, trusting that God will lead us to better places and situations than we could ever devise on our own.

Lord, we are all afraid to pray for patience, but we do need it. May we rejoice one day in how perfect your timing has been throughout history. Amen.