By Faith, Abraham
Lesson 4: Faith Means Action – Abraham’s Sacrifice
Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
Author’s Notes: This week we’ll be concluding our lesson series on Abraham, based on the accounts recorded in Hebrews 11. This lesson is perhaps the most well known – Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac. We’ll look at the faith Abraham needed to obey God’s request. Then we’ll consider whether we are willing and able to put everything on the altar for God.
For those of you who were with us for our last lesson, do you remember the illustration we used of a puppy? Let me refresh your memories. We imagined that your mom and dad promised that they would get you a very special puppy. And that after waiting a very long time, it finally happened. The promised puppy had arrived.
Now, I want you to imagine that you have had that puppy with you for some time, now. He has grown into a wonderful, fun, obedient dog. He’s your very best friend and goes with you everywhere. You love your dog so much that you can’t even remember what life was like before he came. And you certainly can’t imagine having to live without him.
But one day, your parents tell you that they have a friend who’s been very lonely since his wife died. And they think giving him a dog, your dog would make him very happy. They don’t give you any more explanation. But they tell you that they will know that you love them and trust them if you are willing to give up your dog, the one that they promised you, for their friend. But they won’t force you to do it. The choice is up to you.
How do you think you would feel? Your parents are supposed to love you so much that they would only do what’s best for you. But how could this be best? This dog is your best friend. And he’s the one they had promised to give you. What do you think you would do?
This is only a pretend situation, of course. But for Abraham, the man we’ve been learning about over the past few weeks, it was not. And he was not being asked to give up a beloved pet. God was going to ask him to give up something far greater. Do you think he will have enough faith in God to do what God asks? That is how we show our faith. By acting on what we believe; doing whatever God asks of us.
And that’s what our memory verse for this week is talking about. We can say that we believe in God. But there’s no proof that it’s true until we do something to show that we really believe Him. Let’s learn our verse. Then we’ll look at what God asked of Abraham. And see his faith in action.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” James 2:17
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for the examples of Abraham’s faith that we find in the book of Hebrews. Help each one of us to be attentive to what You would have us learn, today. Give us open ears and hearts, ready to listen to Your words. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: Faith Means Action – Abraham’s Sacrifice (Hebrews 11:17-19 and Genesis 22:1-18 )
(a review of God’s gift - a son for Abraham)
God had promised to bless Abraham in many ways. One of those was giving him a son through his wife, Sarah. You may remember from our last lesson that they had to wait many years to see this promise fulfilled. But God was faithful. And when they were nearly one hundred years old, Abraham and Sarah did indeed have a son, and named him Isaac.
Even before Isaac was born, the Lord had promised Abraham that Isaac would be the son that God’s blessing would be passed down to. Listen to His words in Genesis 17:21, “But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.” And again, after Isaac was born God said to Abraham, “…in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” (Genesis 21:12) God wanted Abraham to know without any doubt that Isaac was the son He had promised. And that all of His blessings would be fulfilled through Isaac.
(a request from God)
So when God came to Abraham several years later with a very strange request, Abraham must have wondered what God was thinking. Why would God ask such a thing? Let’s look at God’s request of Abraham.
1And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
2And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
We should note first of all that the word translated “tempt” here does not mean that God was trying to get Abraham to do something wrong. It could also be translated “test.” God was testing Abraham’s faith.
So what did God ask Abraham to do? Yes, He asked Abraham to take his own son, Isaac, the son that God had promised to give him; the son through whom God had promised to bless the world – he was to take that son, and offer him as a burnt offering to God.
Why would God ask Abraham to do such a thing? This is the son He had promised to Abraham and Sarah. How could He now ask Abraham to kill him? And what about what it would do to Abraham…to have to put his very own son on an altar, and kill him with his own hands, just to show God that he loved Him more than anything else; and would do anything for Him. Surely there must be some other way for Abraham to show God that He loved and trusted Him.
But God knows our hearts. He knows what is most important to us. And He wants it to be Him! That’s why the first commandment He gave to Moses was for us to have no other gods before Him. A god is anything that we worship or give our lives to. And if anything ever takes God’s place, then He will ask us to deal with it.
Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that Abraham loved his son Isaac more than he did God. It just means that this test would allow Abraham to show God that He was number one in his life. And it would require Abraham to check his own heart, to see just how much he really did love and trust God. Remember our verse says that our faith might as well be dead if we don’t show it by our actions.
(a response of faith and love)
So what do you suppose Abraham did? Do you think he asked God if he could think about it for a few days? What do you think you would have done? Remember the illustration of the puppy. Would you have been willing to give him up just because your mom and dad asked you to? Would you trust them enough to know that they would make it right, somehow? That’s just what Abraham did. He didn’t even ask God for time to think or prepare. He just got right up the next morning, and obeyed. That’s demonstrating true faith!
3And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
4Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
5And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
6And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
7And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
Evidently, Isaac knew that they were going to go and sacrifice a burnt offering to the Lord. But what detail had Abraham not shared with Isaac? Isaac didn’t know that he was to be the offering. Let’s listen to Abraham’s reply, and get a glimpse of what Abraham had been thinking, as he prepared to sacrifice his own son: noticing, too, that he said he and the lad would both return:
8And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
After hearing this, what do you think Isaac was expecting would happen? What do you think you would have thought if you were Isaac? Perhaps he expected to find a lamb on the path, somewhere along the way. But as they got closer and closer to the place of sacrifice, and as Abraham began building an altar there stone by stone… there was still no lamb. Do you think it ever even crossed Isaac’s mind that he could be the sacrifice?
Now listen, and picture in your mind what Isaac must have been thinking and feeling as his own father came close, tied his hands and feet, and lifted him up onto the wood that was to be set on fire for the sacrifice…
9And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.
10And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
These verses don’t say anything about a struggle. There is no indication that Isaac fought at all, as his father prepared to kill him there, on that mountain. Not only did Abraham have great faith in God, to be able to put his son there, on the altar; but Isaac must have had some faith of his own, believing that his father would not do anything that wasn’t the very best for him. For years, he must have been hearing about what a special boy he was. How he was the fulfillment of God’s promise. And how God had great things in store for him, too.
So how was Abraham able to come to this point of being ready to slay his own son? And how could Isaac just lie there and not fight back. Abraham was, after all, a very old man. Isaac could probably easily overpower him. We can find the answers in the book of Hebrews. Abraham had put some very careful thought into God’s request, perhaps as he laid in bed that first night. And he had come to some very definite conclusions that allowed him act, without hesitation. Listen to God’s assessment of Abraham’s obedient faith.
17By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
19Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
We know from Abraham’s response to Isaac earlier that Abraham believed that, if God wanted to, He could provide a lamb for the offering. (Genesis 22:8) But Abraham’s thoughts had even gone further than that. According to this passage in Hebrews, what did Abraham believe God could do if he did go through with the test, and kill his son, Isaac? Abraham fully believed that if he killed his son, as God had requested, that God would bring him back to life. That is having great faith in God…and showing it!
(a representation of Christ)
Now, before we get back to Abraham, as he stood with the knife held up to slay Isaac, I want to take just a moment to consider another Father who was also willing to sacrifice His own Son. Can anyone guess who that might be? Many, many years after Abraham put Isaac on the altar, God the Father sent His own Son, Jesus, into this world to be a sacrifice for our sins. And just as Isaac did, Jesus did not fight this fate. He went willingly to the cross, to be the sacrifice for our sins. And just as Abraham had believed God could bring Isaac back from the dead, Jesus also knew that He would not remain dead; but would be raised back to life again.
And there is one other detail of the account of Abraham’s sacrifice that also reminds us of the death of Christ. And that is the Father’s provision of a sacrificial lamb. Jesus never sinned, and yet He died on the cross as a substitute for us. We are the ones who deserved that punishment, because we have sinned. But God has made a way to spare us from having to shed our own blood for our sins. He offered His perfect lamb, the Lamb of God, as a substitute. When we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, we can be saved from the punishment in Hell that we deserve.
(a replacement for the sacrifice, and a reassurance of God’s blessing)
And just as God has provided a substitute Lamb for us, He also provided one for Abraham and Isaac. Let’s read the rest of the account in Genesis, to see God’s provision; and His pleasure in Abraham’s faithful obedience.
11And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
12And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
13And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
14And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.
Wow! That must have been such a relief for Abraham and Isaac. At the last second, as Abraham was ready to lower the knife, God called to Abraham and stopped him from killing his son. Then He revealed His own provision for the sacrifice – a ram that was caught in a thicket. God had allowed Abraham to go far enough to show God, his son Isaac, and even himself that he was willing to do whatever God asked of him. He was willing to put everything he loved literally on the altar, for the God that he loved even more.
And because of Abraham’s willingness and faithful obedience, God came once again to reassure him of the promised blessings that were to come.
15And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,
16And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
17That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
18And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
God was very pleased with Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice everything for Him. And He reminded Abraham, once again, of all the blessings that He planned to bestow on Abraham and his descendants.
(a resulting challenge for us)
God is not an evil tyrant who wants us to do terrible things. But He is a God who wants us to love Him more than anything else in this world. Is there anything in your life that you put ahead of God? Is there anything you would not be willing to give up, if God asked you to? Maybe the hardest thing for you to give up is your own right to do the things you think you want to do. If you have really invited Jesus into your heart, and given Him your life, then He wants you to love and trust Him so much that you could do as Abraham did: trust that God wants only what’s best for you. And if He asks you to give something to Him, then He can either give it back, or provide you with something even better. We can know that He’ll do that because He promises in Jeremiah 29:11 that His plans for us are for good, and not for evil; to give us hope. We can give everything to Him because of His great love for us.
We’re going to close today with the words of an old hymn. They ask a question that we can be thinking about as we go through this next week, and consider how much we love and trust our God. Are we willing to show our faith in God by putting everything we love on the altar, giving it back to God like Abraham did?
Is Your All on the Altar
by Elisha A. Hoffman
Oh, we never can know what the Lord will bestow
Of the blessings for which we have prayed,
Till our body and soul He doth fully control,
And our all on the altar is laid.
Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?
Your heart, does the Spirit control?
You can only be blest and have peace and sweet rest,
As you yield Him your body and soul.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your Word, and for the lessons we have learned about the faith that Abraham had in You. We have a great challenge before us, Lord, as we’ve learned of Abraham’s faithful sacrifice. And we are considering whether there are things we need to put on the altar, ourselves; so that nothing comes before you. Help us, Lord, to remember that You will never ask for something that will harm us. But that it would only be for our good, and for Your glory. For we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. Isaac knew ahead of time that he was supposed to be the sacrifice. (false – he asked Abraham where the lamb was)
2. Abraham told his servants that he would return from the mountain alone. (false – he said he and the lad would return)
3. Isaac fought with Abraham when he tried to put him on the altar. (false – there is no indication that Isaac fought against being put on the altar)
4. God stopped Abraham from killing Isaac. (true)
5. God reminded Abraham of His blessings when the sacrifice was done. (true )