Good Morning Everyone,
As I study James’ letter, I am being challenged to consider how strong my faith really is, especially in light of the world pandemic we have been struggling to overcome. James has drawn our attention to two groups. The first knows there is only one God, yet they refuse to demonstrate faith in Him. On the contrary, they “shudder” when they consider God. They represent the demonic forces of this world.
Today we are going to consider someone James identifies as a friend of God, a hero of the faith.
“Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.’”
The narrative of Abraham’s faith began in Genesis 12:1 – “The Lord had said to Abram (Abraham), ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.’” And Moses records that is exactly what Abraham set out to do.
In Genesis 15, God tells Abraham that he will have an heir, one from his own flesh and blood. The Lord tells Abraham to look into the sky and count the stars – if indeed the stars can be counted! The Lord then told Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous. And Moses records that: “Abram (Abraham) believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (15:6)
Here is what the write of Hebrews said about Abraham’s faith: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.” (Hebrews 11:8-9)
Twenty-five years later, God blessed Abraham and Sarah with Isaac. Throughout that entire time Abraham was faithful to God and believed that God would do what he promised. He was 100 years old and Sarah was 90. One can easily see the miracle of that birth. One can also speculate that believing God would give Abraham a son when he and Sarah were significantly past child-bearing age would have required great faith!
Genesis 22 records the life-changing test for Abraham. “Sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham.’ “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’”
God has promised Abraham he would make him the father of a multitude as countless as the stars through his son, Isaac. Isaac was that promised heir. Now Abraham was being commanded to offer Isaac as a burnt offering! The question most would have asked – “God how can you fulfill your promised through a child you are commanding to sacrifice?”
Look at what Abraham says to his servants when they reach Mount Moriah: “He said to His servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. WE will worship and then WE will come back to you.” Do you see the incredible demonstration of Abraham’s faith?
While Abraham may not have known HOW God would fulfill His promise to him, he knew it would be fulfilled just as God promised. Again, look at what the write of Hebrews records: “Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead…”
Because of his faithfulness to the promises of God, God pronounced Abraham as being righteous in His sight. And scripture records that Abraham was also a friend of God.
The question may arise: Didn’t God already know that Abraham would make the right choice? God did not need to create this event to validate Abraham’s faithfulness. I think this is the answer to those questions: He is allowing Abraham’s faith to be validated through the observation of his works.
A true faith produces results, the result of a costly and trusting obedience to the Word of God. Here is the process of faith demonstration Abraham’s obedience highlights:
1. Faith promotes works – works are not an exercise by themselves.
2. Faith needs works – by engaging our faith into activity, our faith grows into maturity.
3. Faith precedes works – faith must be the first and basic reality in our relationship with God.
With Abraham as James’ example, he is challenging us to evaluate how our faith can be translated into obedience to God that is demonstrated in our works. That example should serve as a challenge for each of us to consider if our works are a clear demonstration of our faith in God.
Hopefully, it will also lead us into the position of being a “friend of God.”
Tomorrow, we will look at another example of faith James presented to his reader, faith that translated into righteous action on the part of a pagan!