James 2:21 – “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Abraham’s Issac was his only son — the son of the promise, and yet God would have Abraham offer Isaac as a literal sacrifice on an alter. I would assume this caused Abraham at least a little angst of heart and mind. However, he was quickly obedient.
What has God required of us that causes us pause by way of reason or feelings? How are we to approach obedience to God? Are we willing to offer up our “Issacs”?
Puritan Thomas Manton in his most excellent work “A Practical Commentary, or an Exposition with Notes, on the Epistle of James” applies Abraham’s experience in a practical way to our lives in this verse.
You can listen to all of verse 21 here:
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The entire book is available here: https://ia800904.us.archive.org/2/items/apracticalcomme01mantgoog/apracticalcomme01mantgoog.pdf#page=246, and this section starts on PDF page 246 (in the print, page 227), or you can get it in other formats here…
…or you can listen to the entire book on this page:
Thomas Manton – James Commentary
From Thomas Manton:
Obs 4. From that Offered Isaac upon the altar He brings this as the great argument of the truth of Abraham’s faith. It is not for faith to produce every action, unless it produce such actions as Abraham’s. Such as will engage you to self-denial, are troublesome to the flesh. David scorned such service as [that] cost nothing. There — where we must deny our own reason, affections, interest — that is an action fit to try a believer.
Let us see what is observable in this action of Abraham, that we may go and do likewise.
But Abraham was not only to conflict with natured affection, but reason; not only with reason, but faith. He was, as it were, to execute all his hopes; and all this was to be done by himself; with his own hand he was at one stroke to cut off all his comforts. The execution of such a sentence was as harsh and bitter to flesh and blood, as to be his own executioner.
Oh! go and shame yourselves without, you that can so little deny yourselves for God, that attempt duties only when they are easy and obvious, never care to recover them out of the hands of difficulty and inconvenience. Public duties, if well done, are usually against carnal interests; private duties against carnal affections. Can you give up all that is near and dear to you? Can you offer up your Isaac? your ease and pleasure, for private duties? your interests, for public? Every action is not a trial of faith, but such as engages to self-denial.
(2nd.) Resolutely: he concealed it from his wife, servants, from Isaac himself, that so he might not be diverted from his pious purpose. Oh! who is now so wise to order the circumstances of a duty, that he may not be hindered in it?
(3rd.) He denied carnal reason. In difficult cases we seek to elude the command; dispute how we shall shift it off, not how we shall obey it. If we had been put upon such a trial, we would question the vision, or seek some other meaning; perhaps offer the image of Isaac, or some youngling of the flock, and call it Isaac; as now we often pervert a command by distinctions, and invent shifts to cheat our souls into a neglect of duty; as the heathens, when their gods called for a man, they offered a candle; or as Hercules offered up a painted man instead of a living.
But Abraham does not so, though he had a fair occasion; for he was divided between believing the promise and obeying the command. God tried him in his faith; his faith was to conflict with his natural reason, as well as his obedience with his natural affection. But he ‘accounted that God was able to raise him from the dead’ (Heb. xi. 19), and he reconciled the commandment with the promise. How easily could we have slipped out at this door, and disobey out of pretences and reasons of religion! But Abraham offered Isaac.
May God grant us to be able to see the “Isaacs” in our lives that we might not be willing to easily let go of;
… may we not lessen duty because it goes against carnal selves in some way;
… may He grant us the faith and trust in Him to not hold on to any things of this temporal world;
… may we see ourselves only as stewards of anything we have, with God as the actual owner of them;
… may we cheerfully and obediently surrender and submit ourselves to whatever His pleasure is in the retrieving of these things from us at any moment, even those things most dear to us and least pleasing to our carnal selves;
… and may the Lord grant that He be our only portion, now and always!
Psa 16:5- “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.“
Psa 119:57 – “Thou art my portion, O Lord: I have said that I would keep thy words.“
Psa 73:25-26 – “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.