“ After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, 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 shall tell you.” – Genesis 22:1-8.
In a story that can be called unusual from just about any perspective, Abraham is tested by God. If you grew up in the church you have heard this story many times. God tells him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Abraham goes about doing just that. You can read the story in Genesis 22, but to give you the Reader’s Digest version, Abraham never does it. He doesn’t sacrifice Isaac. He gets close, too close I’m sure for Isaac’s liking. But an angel calls off the test before Abraham has to decide to obey or disobey.
Hebrews 11:17-19 (TLB) says: “While God was testing him, Abraham still trusted in God and his promises, and so he offered up his son Isaac and was ready to slay him on the altar of sacrifice; yes, to slay even Isaac, through whom God had promised to give Abraham a whole nation of descendants! He believed that if Isaac died God would bring him back to life again; and that is just about what happened, for as far as Abraham was concerned, Isaac was doomed to death, but he came back again alive.”
If all that we had about Abraham was what we find here in Hebrews, you might think that he was an incredibly stalwart man who unflinchingly followed the Lord in a totally uncompromising manner. However, that is not the case. Rather, we find Abraham to be a man who was just like us in many ways. But we also see God never gave up on him but rather continued to work in and through him to bring him to a place of deep brokenness and repentance. As a result, Abraham grew spiritually to the point of fully trusting in the Lord and obeying Him in faith, regardless of his circumstances. God was at work guiding, protecting, and breaking him in order to bring him to the point where he would become the man of faith God intended for him to be.
Abraham had complete confidence in God. Let that sink in for a moment. Complete confidence. So can we. But if I took a moment to do a self-evaluation: Yes, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus is God’s son, the Messiah foretold in scripture. I’ve placed my faith in Him, in His sacrifice on the cross, in His resurrection from the dead, in the forgiveness of my sins. But I would be hard pressed to say, especially when roads seem closed, doors are not opening up fast enough, relationships get a little strained, and other life issues are demanding my attention, that I exhibit complete confidence in God. No, sometimes I feel like I need to pitch in. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t doubt God’s ability or plan or promises. In those moments, I try to remember a phrase Abraham said to Isaac in Genesis 22:8 (TLB): “God will see to it.” My prayer is that we will understand that God will see to it in every aspect of our lives if we trust in Him.
Let me end with a quote from Andy Stanley’s book “Deep & Wide”: “At its core, Christianity is an invitation to reenter a relationship of trust with the Father. At the cross, sin was forgiven and we were invited to trust. It makes perfect sense that salvation comes by faith, not obedience. Intimate relationships are not built on obedience. They are built on trust.”
- Twenty-five years after God promised Abraham that he would make him into a great nation (Genesis 12:2), his son Isaac is born.What do you think it was like for Abraham to hold this child of promise?
- Why do you think God tested Abraham with the command to sacrifice Isaac? What do you think Abraham was thinking as he heard God’s command?
- Why do you think tests like this happen in our lives? Do you feel like you’ve ever been tested by God?
- What do you learn about Abraham from the events in chapter 22? What do you learn about God?
- What are the things that are most important to you? Would you be willing to remove them from your life if God asked you to?