Abraham—A Model Father
‘Twas a sheep, not a lamb, that strayed away in the parable Jesus told.
A grown‑up sheep that had gone astray from the ninety and nine in the fold.
Out on the hillside, out in the cold, ’twas a sheep the Good Shepherd sought.
And back to the flock, safe into the fold, ’twas a sheep the Good Shepherd brought.
And why for the sheep should we earnestly long and as earnestly hope and pray?
Because there is danger, if they go wrong, they will lead the lambs astray.
For the lambs will follow the sheep, you know, wherever the sheep may stray.
When the sheep go wrong, it will not be long till the lambs are as wrong as they.
And so, with the sheep we earnestly plead, for the sake of the lambs today;
If the sheep are lost, what terrible cost some of the lambs will have to pay!– Unknown
You know, there are a lot of lambs that are paying a high price because many of the sheep have gone astray! As we look into God’s Word today, I pray the Holy Spirit will challenge, convict, encourage and change the sheep; in this case, every father or father-to-be listening today.
To accomplish that goal, we turn our attention to Genesis chapter twenty-two. I’ve titled the message, “Abraham, A Model Father.” I remind you, that Abraham was not a perfect father, but he was a model father. Now I will read Genesis 22:1-19
From our text, I highlight several WAYS in which Abraham was a model father.
The First WAY is,
Abraham Acted on God’s Command
I marvel every time I read this account, at Abraham’s obedience. Many people who read this account are perplexed, “How could a loving God, who had already expressly forbidden Abraham’s forefather, Noah, against the taking of innocent human life, now ask Abraham to take the life of his son?” In our way of thinking it’s a most unreasonable command!
All the promises God made to Abraham were wrapped up in the life of Isaac. Notice how specific God is with his commands; they pierce to the very heart of Abraham. “Take now your son, you only son, Isaac, whom you love…” Wouldn’t it have been enough to say, “Take your son to the land of Moriah, and there sacrifice him to me?” But no, God makes it deeply personal.
The word, only, in the Hebrew, means united, or beloved. Isaac was deeply loved by his father for several reasons. First, recall the circumstances of his birth. He was an absolute miracle baby! Beyond that, in Isaac were united all the promises of God. The promise of a seed, of descendants without number, the promise of a land, and of a descendant who would bless all nations. To what avail were all these if Isaac should die now, childless? God reminds Abraham that Isaac is his only beloved son. Further, he speaks his name, Isaac, which means, “he laughs.” But this is no time for laughter! And then God clinches it by saying, “the one whom you love.” It’s like twisting a knife in the very heart of Abraham.
But what does Abraham do? We have no record of any questions, no hesitation, no accusation, no rationalization. Abraham gets up early the next morning, makes the needed preparations to fulfill God’s command, and sets off for Moriah. He doesn’t even know exactly where he’s going to perform this unthinkable deed, just the general area!
Dads, what would be your response to a command like this? You see, Abraham is not the only one to face this test. Yes, his circumstances were unique, but this test is one that you and I and every Christian father must face! Will we obey God or our own inclinations?
Most likely, God will never ask you to lay your son or daughter on a literal altar of stone. But He may ask you to sacrifice your prestige or your reputation with your peers for their spiritual wellbeing. He may ask you to give up your current career, so you have more time to develop godly character in your sons and daughters. God may ask you to give up your plans for your child, so they can be free to fulfill His plans. God needed to be sure that Abraham’s faith was grounded in Him, not in Isaac’s ability to fulfill the promises.
I believe that Abraham understood what every father needs to understand. The children God gives to us are His, not ours. As their Creator, He has the right to do with them and their lives whatever He chooses. Without this understanding, we will wrestle with unfulfilled expectations, broken dreams, and shattered hopes. Abraham had enough faith in God to trust Him implicitly. That’s what enabled him to obey God without having answers to the questions that most surely crowded his mind. As fathers, we too need that same kind of faith that leads to obedience.
The Second WAY (Abraham was a model father) is,
Abraham Anticipated God’s Provision
Notice that not only was Abraham obedient to God’s command to go, but he made specific and thorough preparations for this sacrifice. He took the wood, the fuel for the fire. He took the coals of fire to ignite the wood. And he took the knife he would need to kill the sacrifice. Abraham accepted the fact that a sacrifice would take place, so he prepared accordingly.
Verse three tells us that he took two servants with him: why? I believe it was so they could be witnesses. These young men were surely aware from Abraham’s preparations that there was going to be a sacrifice, but there was no appropriate animal accompanying them. Yet he said to them in verse five that he and Isaac would go, worship the Lord, and return to them again. Abraham could make this statement in all sincerity because he was so sure of God’s provision.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” So, Abraham went to Mt. Moriah with the assurance that either, he would slay Isaac and God would raise him up, or God would provide an animal substitute. Abraham didn’t know how the details of this were going to play out, but he had confidence that God knew what He was doing.
What about us, fathers? Do you and I have the confidence that God knows what He’s doing when our daughter lays aside a financially lucrative position to fulfill God’s calling as a homemaker or embraces singleness so she can better serve on a mission field? Do we have the settled assurance that God will take care of her and provide for her needs? Do we accept God’s plan when our son is called to pastoral ministry, and we hoped he would take over the family business? Are we able to trust God with our most cherished possessions, our children, and the dreams we have for them?
Too many of us as dads are focused on making our children financially successful in life. We ought to be more deeply concerned that they are developing spiritually and morally with excellent character. We need to focus more on the promise of Jesus in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (necessities for physical life) shall be added to you.” Can our sons and daughters observe our lives and see how God provides for those who obey Him? Are we willing to do what God asks, even though it looks extremely risky or foolish on the face of it?
When God called us to Heralds of Hope in 1994, Joyce and I had four children. I was leaving behind a good-paying job, a job I enjoyed immensely. I knew that my salary in this ministry would not be comparable to the wages from my previous employment. We also were open to the possibility that God would bless our marriage with additional children, which He did. How was all this going to work out?
My former employer even asked me how much I was going to be paid in this new position. All I told him was, “much less than I’ve been making here.” Then he asked me, “How are you going to make it financially?” I said, “you know, when I came to work for you, I took a substantial reduction in pay. And my family never went hungry, never went without adequate clothing or shelter. I believe that the God who provided for us in the past will provide for us in the future!” And you know, that is exactly what God did.
I do not share that to lift up myself. I share that so you can bless God with me. Fathers, I assure you, we can trust God. Let’s show our children the reality of our faith by anticipating God’s provision for all our needs.
The Next WAY is,
Abraham Addressed Isaac’s Concern
Many Bible scholars believe Isaac was more than a boy when these events took place. He very likely was a grown man. Yet we have no record that he questioned the decision of his father. For three days, Abraham and Isaac had traveled together. From the brief details that are given, we can deduce at least some of the thoughts that must have passed through the minds of these two men, father, and son. Isaac addresses his father with tones of love and respect, “my father.” And Abraham responds with, “Here am I, my son.” Then the fateful question; “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
Do you know what many fathers do with this kind of question? Some say, “well, don’t worry about it, everything will work out.” Others might say, “I’m not going to answer your question because that’s for me to worry about. “And others may just act like they didn’t hear the question. None of those is a proper response to a legitimate question.
I want you to notice something very interesting. Isaac asked a question relating to the present, “where is the lamb?” I don’t believe the possibility crossed Isaac’s mind that he was to be the sacrifice. For three days of traveling with his father, he must have pondered this question. He couldn’t arrive at any satisfactory answer, so he asks his father. Imagine Abraham’s thoughts.
Abraham answered Isaac’s inquiry about present things, by referring to something in the future. “God will provide himself a lamb…” Abraham, at this point, does not know where the lamb is. But he is sure that God will provide one. Faith sees what is invisible to the human eye.
This response is a marvelous example for us fathers. He answers Isaac’s question, by directing his attention to God, we must learn how to address the immediate concerns of our children by pointing them to God, the heavenly Father. We must help them understand that, in reality, God is the only one who can meet their needs. We need to cultivate the ability to see the deeper, underlying issues in the questions of our children, and then help them to address those issues from a biblical perspective. We must never ignore their sincere concerns.
The Final WAY is,
Abraham Acquired God’s Approval
Abraham obeys God’s command. He gets the altar ready, binds Isaac and lays him on the altar, and raises the knife. At the very moment, he is prepared to plunge the knife into his son, God stops him by calling his name! And then He adds, “now I know that you fear God…” Didn’t God know that before? Of course, he did, but Abraham authenticated it by his obedience.
I’m reminded of what the Hebrew writer said about Jesus, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him…” Jesus’ suffering authenticated His obedience; it proved it was real!
Abraham’s obedience and his anticipation of God’s provision are now amply rewarded. In response to God’s call, he lowers the knife, turns to look behind him and there’s a ram caught by its horns in the bushes. This is the answer to Isaac’s question, and it becomes the substitute for him. Can you imagine the profound effect this whole incident must have had on Isaac? To see his father’s unflinching obedience to a command that seemed absolutely crazy.
Who got the blessing? Oh yes, Abraham did, to be sure! But it was really Isaac, and all his descendants, and you and me, who have received the benefits of Abraham’s obedience. Through his seed, Jesus Christ, we have received the blessing. He offered Himself to the Father as our substitute, He died in our place.
In closing, notice verse nineteen. Abraham and Isaac returned to the two young men who waited with the donkey, and together they went home to Beersheba. Abraham kept his promise to these two young men. They were witnesses to the truthfulness of Abraham’s word.
Fathers, does your obedience to God’s commands authenticate your faith? If God rated your obedience in comparison with Abraham’s, how would you measure up? Are you willing to step out in obedience even when you can’t see what the end result will be? Do your children know that Dad will obey the commands of Christ no matter what it may cost?
And do you anticipate God’s provision? Can you move ahead with confidence even when you can’t yet see how God is going to provide for the need? Have your children experienced the joy of seeing God meet your needs supernaturally?
Dad, are you willing to honestly address the concerns of your children? Are you pointing them to Jesus as the only one who can meet their deepest needs? Are you using the temporal things of life to teach eternal lessons?
Finally, are you and your family reaping the rewards of God’s approval? Is the world being blessed because of your commitment to Christ? Abraham is truly a model father. By God’s grace, let’s make it our goal to incorporate these ways into our lives.