Isaac, bound and laying on the altar, saw his father lift up his hand with a knife ready to kill him and sacrifice him to the Lord. Abraham was asked to dedicate his faith to the Lord in the act of giving. Seeing that Abraham’s faith was authentic, God through the Angel of the Lord said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son. Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. ” (Genesis 22:12-13). It was giving that proved his faith! The offering of Isaac was a special kind of offering: a burnt offering.
The more I study the different types of offerings made by God’s people in Israel; I find this one offering in Genesis quite fitting to the circumstances. At first glance we might see this as a sin offering. After all the ram does foreshadow Jesus being provided in our place. And Jesus did come to be sacrificed for our sin. However, this specific offering actually foreshadows God’s commitment to send Jesus as the One to save us from our sin.
There were many offerings made in the Old Testament, but four were consistently made on a daily basis during the time of the Tabernacle:
- The sin offering compensated for sin
- The burnt offering dedicated oneself to the Lord
- The meat offering offered thanksgiving; eating of this offering also symbolized communion with God.
- The incense offering was given as intercession by the Priests on behalf of the people.
These were practiced consistently at the time of Moses – long after Abraham. However, we find in the day of Abraham the burnt offering.
The burnt offering was a test to see how dedicated Abraham’s faith was to God. Abraham trusted God’s faithfulness to his original covenant made to him: to be a great nation and have many descendants that would come from Isaac, his son. But it was Abraham’s action added to his faith that would prove his faith was real. The burnt offering was necessary to prove this. Not the sin offering. There was no sin to atone for, only a proving of Abraham’s faith. However, if Abraham had withheld his son, then a sin offering would have been necessary. For to withhold what God asks for is sin.
“Faith without works is dead” James says in 2:26. God may not ask us to literally sacrifice our sons or daughters on an altar as a burnt offering, but he still asks us to offer the same burnt offerings in our actions. Works mean “anything accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind, an act, deed, thing done.” If you read the entire passage of James 2:14-26 you will find that works can also mean to give. Giving is a work that reveals our dedication to the Lord.
“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 14-17). Notice the word give. Giving is a work. To say that one has faith and then never gives is a dead faith. Abraham gave his son, Isaac.We give our money and our possessions.
Giving our money is a way to prove our faith is real. Some may worry that if they give, they won’t have enough to meet their needs; at that point, it is important to follow Abraham’s example and trust in the “I wills” of God. “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). God also promises us, “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness (giving). You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11). I love both of these passages, but 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 is my favorite.
While God supplies the means for us to have the riches we have, he can also supply the increase so that our ability to give and be generous on EVERY occasion is possible! That means when God presents to us a need, we won’t have to wonder whether we have enough to give, God will have increased our resources so we can! Each time we give, and stretch that giving, God increases our resources to give more. It all starts with the first dedication to give!
“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not give? Can that faith save him?” The word faith in this passage does not attack our salvation. Faith without the burnt offering is a faith that eventually weakens over time. Our convictions become compromised; therefore, we are open to falling away from God and trapping ourselves into sin; in this case the sin of withholding.
One of the many works we do as believers in Christ is giving – giving to the church for the furtherance of the gospel and giving to the poor, the needy, the widow, and the fatherless in our church community. Giving shows that our faith is real and that our heart is fully devoted to our God. Giving also strengthens our convictions in the promises of God.
The benefits of giving reap a harvest of many “meat offerings” which represent thanks being lifted toward our God in heaven by you and all who you give to! This one work makes a sweet aroma of thanksgiving to God and it deepens our communion with Him! What a beautiful view of grace, love and mercy – unity at its best!
Make this year a New Year of burnt offerings! Strengthen your faith, believe in the ‘I wills’ of God. Open the floodgates of blessing that increase your ability to be generous on EVERY occasion!