Hebrews – Chapter Eleven XXIII

by Ed Urzi

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Much like the steel and concrete understructure of a bridge or roadway, Abraham’s faith in God served as the foundation for his belief that God would keep His promise to provide him with an heir. In fact, Abraham’s faith led him to conclude that God would uphold that promise,  even if it meant bringing that heir back from the dead. This is the kind of faith that truly honors God, for as we are told in Romans 1:17, “…it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith'” (NIV).

In light of this, we can say that genuine Biblical faith is focused upon the God “…who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV). That brings us to several important insights offered by the following commentator…

“Our author’s statement that Abraham believed in God’s ability to raise the dead is not a gratuitous reading into the narrative of something that is not there. When Abraham left his servants behind while he and Isaac went to the place of sacrifice, he said to them: ‘The boy and I will go on there and worship, and we will come back to you’ (Gen. 22: 5).

The plain meaning of the text is that Abraham expected to come back with Isaac. But how could he come back with Isaac, if Isaac was to be offered up as a burnt-offering? Only if Isaac was to be raised from the dead after being sacrificed. Abraham reckoned, says our author, that since the fulfillment of the promises depended on Isaac’s survival, then God was bound (as He certainly was able) to restore Isaac’s life if his life had to be taken.

And in fact, so far as Abraham’s resolution was concerned, Isaac was as good as dead, and it was practically from the dead that he received him back when his hand was arrested in mid-air and the heavenly voice forbade him to proceed further.” (1)

So, this episode from the lives of Abraham and Isaac serves as a living parable that points the way to authentic, God-honoring faith. In the words of author and Christian apologist Josh McDowell, “The Christian faith is faith in Christ. Its value or worth is not in the one believing, but in the one believed… it doesn’t matter how much faith you have, but rather who is the object of your faith…” (2)

(1) The New International Commentary On The New Testament – The Epistle To The Hebrews, F. F. Bruce, General Editor © Copyright 1964, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan [pg. 311]

(2) McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands A Verdict Volume I. Here’s Life Publishers, Inc. © 1972, 1979 Campus Crusade For Christ, Inc. [pg. 4]