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Then He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac,a whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” So Abraham rose up early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place that God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there and worship and then return to you.” So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; a and he took the fire in his hand and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”... — Genesis 22:2–8

Nurturing Three-Dimensional Faith

The Confession gives some good advice to those who feel weak and uncertain. This advice begins in the observation that saving faith usually comes into an unbeliever as the Holy Spirit applies Scripture. God normally chooses to bring saving faith through the ministry of the Word. It may come as a preacher applies a Bible passage or as a seeker remembers some long-ago Sunday school lesson or opens the Bible to seek answers. It may come through the witness of a believer who shares the Good News.

Scripture sets before us a model for what a living, three-dimensional faith should look like. If the life of faith can be seen as an Olympic event, Abraham is scored as the record holder. A close look at that record-shattering event, however, tells us a lot about how faith is nurtured. Abraham’s life shows the attainable faith that fails more often than it succeeds but in the end still stands. Abraham’s faith faltered more often than it conquered, and it matured over many years.

Throughout those years the Bible also records how Abram, whose name became Abraham, called upon God and slowly learned more about God’s covenant promise with him and God’s great provision for him. Ever so slowly his faith was taking three-dimensional form. But the final test of that mature faith came perhaps fifty years after Abram received that first call of God. His son Isaac was born when he was one hundred years old, and he saw that child of promise grow into adulthood.

In Genesis 22 God gives Abraham his final challenge. It sounds like a monstrous thing for God to suggest, but oddly we are not told that Abraham presented any of his usual arguments. He simply got up, cut the wood, gathered Isaac and his servants, and set out.

When Mount Moriah was visible in the distance, Abraham and Isaac left their servants with a singular confidence about what was to come. “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (verse 8). Yet God does not provide until the altar is built, the wood is placed, Isaac is bound and placed on the altar, and the knife is raised to strike. Only in that last second did an angel intervene with the ram that was to replace the son.

We know Abraham could only dimly see that Mount Moriah would, many hundreds of years later, be the site of a city called Jerusalem, where God would place His Son, His only Son, Jesus, whom He loved, on the altar for us.