This is a difficult story for me.
God does something here that is hard for me to even imagine. He demands that Abraham take the son he loved and offer him up on an altar as a burnt offering. We learn later that God didn’t REALLY want Isaac to die and that His purpose was to see if Abraham would give up the thing that was dearest to him.
How could God even ask Abraham to commit such an act? He’s asking Abraham:
- First of all: To aid in nullifying the promise He Himself had made to Abraham.
- And, secondly to engage in child sacrifice… a horrific act indicative of the pagan worship in the cities all around Abraham.
Why Isaac? The Son Abraham loved so much. And why test Abraham at all? If the intent was to see if Abraham had faith, would an all-knowing God be able to see the outcome without having Abraham run out the simulation?
Why Isaac? Well, it was Isaac because the son of the promise was the only thing that could tempt Abraham’s heart away from God. If God was going to construct a true test of Abraham’s heart… it was Isaac or nothing. Why test him at all? Well, God knew Abraham’s heart. He knew what Abraham would do. But, hear this: ABRAHAM didn’t know what Abraham would do.
Charles Swindoll once said: “The wonderful thing about God’s schoolroom … is that we get to grade our own papers. You see, He doesn’t test us so He can learn how well we’re doing. He tests us so we can discover how well we’re doing.” (God’s Provision in Time of Need)
There is no substitute for experience in the Christian life. We can learn all we can about the subject of God and score an “A” on every seminary level course, but that is not the same thing as living what you believe on the work table called life. Will you pass this test? If you were called to let go of that which you love the most… would you obey? Or would you say: “I don’t believe anymore.”
Theologian John Calvin was so bold as to say: “All true knowledge of God is born out of obedience. ”
The late Bob Benson in his book He Speaks Softly told the story of a banker friend of his in Nashville. Mr. Lewis Farrell took care of the Benson family’s business affairs and had the reputation of being a “tough old bird.”
One day he learned that his old friend had been in the hospital for surgery. By the time he found out he was already back at home recuperating. He writes: One afternoon I stopped by his house to see how he was getting along. He was sitting out in the back yard enjoying the sunshine as I joined him. After awhile he said to me, “Bob, I don’t want to bore you or keep you too long, but I do want to tell you something that happened to me during this illness.” I could sense that he was getting ready to tell me something that had touched him deeply.
“Down across the years,” he began, “I have taught a men’s Bible class at the church. My favorite book to teach has always been the Gospel of John. One of the things that I always seemed to see so clearly was John’s teaching about eternal life. [Eternal Life] was not a life that comes to us when this one is over. It is in us and we are in it now.
When I learned I was going to have surgery I was not really afraid. I had to wait a week for our family surgeon to return from vacation and I went through the whole process—waiting, preparation, surgery, recovery room, recuperation—and all without ever being even the least bit apprehensive. I was gripped by a deep sense of serenity and peace. I found that I really believed what I had been teaching all these years. I was already living eternal life, and where I lived it was not really all that important.”
Benson continued: “There was peace in his eyes and satisfaction in his voice. He knew that what he had said he believed was true, really was true. And his faith belonged to him.”
Is your faith academic? Or has it passed the Faith’s greatest test?