Genesis 22-24: The God who Tests Us

At my ordination, I remember Dr. Ray Pritchard shared very wisely with all of us gathered when he said, “people don’t live up to what you expect, but what you inspect.”  Over the last few weeks, most of the narrative we have read has revolved around the lives of Job and Abraham.  Throughout, one lesson that has sounded loud and clear is that the God of Abraham and the God of Job who is our God is one who is not afraid to stretch our faith to its outer limits. 


The reality is that it is very easy to think theoretically about faith.  We sit and read and study they text and almost as detached observers we can sit as judges over what Abraham or Job should have done or what they should have thought.  Yet, the truth is that God is one who also tests us in our own lives and he allows us to go through seasons of relational pain, financial stress, job instability and other events as part of his process of refining us.  It is when we find ourselves in those moments with the choice to take the easy way out or trust Christ that we really find what our faith is made of. Over the last several chapters we have noticed that Abraham took many steps of certain faith and he took many others where he proved himself spiritually wanting. 


In the present section we now join Abraham as he is moving toward the end of his life.  He is now a very old man and even at his age, God has decided not relent refining the patriarch’s faith.  As we enter this passage we will notice that God laid before Abraham and others a series of great tests which would radically challenge each one’s faith. 


As we have noticed from our reading thus far, Abraham, spiritually speaking, came a long way in his life.  He was born in Ur of the Chaldeans with very little knowledge of the God that he would later come to embrace at the ripe age of seventy-five year of age.  While there is no doubt that his conversion was total and that the day that he embraced the God of the Bible he gave up his idolatrous ways, this did not mean that he was without his own personal struggles.  The story of Abraham is in many ways a story about faith.  God came to him and offered him the opportunity to leave behind him a great heritage of faith.  He decided to accept God at his word and began a journey of faith that has now led him to becoming the one of the greatest and most important figures in the history of the world. 


The Test of Abraham’s Life

It seems as though there was a great turning point in the life of Abraham with the birth of his son Isaac.  He was taught by God over and over again that he was faithful and that he would fulfill the promises he had made.  Abraham believed on some occasions and in others he failed to trust in God promise.  The last great faith failure recorded in the narrative took place when Abraham entered King Abimelech’s territory (Gen. 20:1-5).  Rather than trusting in God, he asked Sarah to say that they were brother and sister so that the king would not kill him and take her away.  The truth is that Abraham should have been honest about their relationship for many reasons, but none more significant than the fact that God had promised him that he would have an heir through Sarah.  This promise hadn’t yet come true and therefore, he was safe from any danger.  Abraham, like all of us at times, failed that particular test of faith.


Yet something significant must have happened with the birth of Isaac. Here Abraham was, an old man, and Sarah a woman beyond child bearing years and they had a precious little boy.  They had waited many, many years for this miracle to happen and it actually came to pass.  There are very few things so great for human beings then the actual realization of our highest hopes and dreams.  It appears that once Isaac was born, this event brought forth a new level of maturity and trust that Abraham had never had consistently demonstrated prior to this event.  This process of growth demonstrated in the life of Abraham is what theologians many call practical sanctification.  It is the process where we continue to grow in holiness as we walk daily in fellowship with Christ.  When we have a relationship with God, growth will naturally follow because it is God who directs the entire process.  In this text we now witness, near the end of Abraham’s life, the extensive growth that has taken place in his life through the particular tests that he will face.  In this midst of these events, we will soon realize that the Abraham of chapter 22 is very different than the Abraham of chapter 20.


The Ultimate Test

After all of this waitingand after all of these promises, Abraham was not enjoying the fruits of fatherhood. In the midst of this, God then came to him and spoke these words that no father would ever want to hear, “take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”  As a side note, one of my all time favorite books is called Fear and Trembling by the nineteenth century Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard.  I would recommend it to anyone who would like to develop a deeper feeling of the emotions involved in Abraham’s test. The Genesis narrative is a very well-known text so I won’t describe all the details but I would like to point out a couple of things.


Abraham Obeyed Immediately

Early in the morning after the order came from God, Abraham set out with his son to Mt. Moriah.  What he must have been thinking throughout this three day journey is hard to know, but we do know that he was prepared to carry out God’s orders.  So how could Abraham be prepared to carry out such an act.  The author of the book of Hebrews gives us some insight, “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”  In other words, Abraham had such faith that Isaac was the fulfillment of the promise that he believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would somehow return with him after the sacrifice was carried out.  Abraham alludes to this in the Genesis narrative when 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” (Genesis 22:5b).


God Himself Would Pay the ultimate Price

As the story went, God provided another way for he would never ask a person to sacrifice make a sacrifice of his own child.  While this is true of human beings that God would never allow us to sacrifice one of ours for him, he was willing to sacrifice his own son for us.  Many people don’t realize that at this place called Moriah, where God would not allow a man to sacrifice his own son, he was willing to sacrifice his own for the sins of the world.  The mountains of Moriah is where Jerusalem happens to located.  Tradition is that Abraham sacrificed his son on the highest hill of Moriah which is where the temple was later built and now where the Islamic Dome of the Rock is presently located.  Perhaps, and it is just a hunch, but that it was not on the temple mount that he was to be sacrificed but at Golgotha, which is, of course, the place that our Lord would eventually be sacrificed.  It bears repeating . . . where God was unwilling a man to sacrifice his own son, he was willing to sacrifice his own . . . the Savior of the world.


If you have the opportunity, take a moment and read chapters 23-24 through the lens of the faith tests that God gave Abraham, his servant, Rebekah and Isaac.  Consider what it would have been like for Abraham’s servant to travel a long distance and call what a appeared to be a random young lady to leave her family to travel with him to marry someone she did not know. Consider the faith test that her parents and her siblings would undergo.  Consider the faith test that Isaac would also have to endure not knowing Rebekah at all.  Yet consider that God answered those who trusted him with blessing every step of the way.  Consider what living a life of faith will mean for you and the sacrifices you will continually be called to make but also consider the fact that the way of faith is also the most blessed way because it is God’s prescribed way for us.  And we must never forget that this God who tests us is also the God who loves us deeply.


2 Responses to “Genesis 22-24: The God who Tests Us”

  1. compassiondave Says:

    Greetings in the Name of Jesus!

    WORDPRESS says that our two blogs (at least our most recent posts) are related, so I came by to check you out–I hope you enjoy my slant on the topic (even if we are not in total agreement). Please stop by my blog and let me know what you think: Jesus + Compassion.

    God bless you!

    • Bruce Smith Says:

      Hi Dave, I’m looking forward to taking a look at your blog. Thanks for writing in and I pray for all of God’s best in your life.

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