Whether you think so or not God does send us tests. The tests are not so that He will know how we will do, they are so that we will know ourselves better. He doesn’t send us tests in order for us to fail, He sends them to build our faith and make us into the perfect image of Christ. James 1:2-4 says it like this,
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
God tested Abraham’s faith as well. Verses 1-3 read,
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 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.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
He had waited years to have his son Isaac. He had to give up Ishmael, the son provided by his own effort and not God’s promise. He had waited and grown old and finally the promise he waited on for so many years was fulfilled. He probably loved Isaac more than he could imagine loving a child. He envisioned his son’s future as he birthed nations and kings. God needed Abraham to know where his heart was and where it could be so that he would raise Isaac as a father of faith.
His response was immediate, “Here I am.” He didn’t ask God what he wanted before he responded, he was there, ready, and waiting for God’s word. And Abraham didn’t hesitate in doing as God had told him to do. He rose up early and took two men, Isaac, and the wood and left for the mountain in Moriah. Abraham knew that God had promised him that Isaac would become many nations. So though God told him to sacrifice his son, Abraham knew that he could obey and God would still somehow keep His promise. In the past, Abraham had doubted God’s word from time to time. Perhaps he might doubt it again in the future. The Lord wanted to show Abraham that he could trust Him enough to obey Him and never doubt or worry. With that knowledge Abraham probably wouldn’t doubt much in the future.
I try to imagine what that journey was like for Abraham. It had to have been difficult. He couldn’t scare his son by telling him. He couldn’t lighten his burden by sharing it with his servants. He had to walk toward a mountain knowing that when they reached the destination, he would have to kill Isaac, his only son. Did he savor every moment with his son? Did he pray throughout the journey for God to change His mind and give them something else to sacrifice? Or was he more stoic, accepting the terrible situation as it was? All we know is, Abraham trusted God to keep His word and he was willing to give His only son to God because he loved God so very much. Verses 4-10 read,
On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.
I love the similarity in conversations between Isaac and Abraham and Abraham and God. Clearly Abraham loved his son deeply. His answer to Isaac is so similar to his answer to God, “Here I am, my son.” When Isaac asked where the sacrifice was, Abraham’s faith was exhibited beautifully when he answered, Isaac, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” He wasn’t telling his son a lie in order to keep him from being afraid, Abraham knew that he could trust God.
Abraham’s agony reminds me of Jesus praying in the garden before his arrest and crucifixion. He begged the Father to spare Him, but He knew that He couldn’t be spared. He knew that He was the salvation of the world and had to lay His life down (Matthew 26:39-42). Unlike Jesus, Abraham knew that somehow God would spare Isaac. The moment had come and God had not provided a way out of yet. Abraham’s hand held the knife and he was about to plunge it into his son. Verses 11-12 read,
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
The angel of the Lord is God the Savior Jesus. He called to Abraham and Abraham answered again, “Here I am.” I would guess he was overwhelmed with joy to hear his Lord’s words this time, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” God spared Isaac and provided another sacrifice in his place. Verses 13-14 read,
And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
Then God blessed Abraham by reiterating His promise. God knew long before Abraham was Abraham, that he would “pass the test.” He knew that He could make His promise and that Abraham would be faithful to it. He made the promise then and He repeated it after the sacrifice. Verses 15-19 read,
And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.
God promised Abraham a son and descendants like the stars and the sand. Abraham believed and it was counted to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). What Abraham went through is also a reminder of faith for us. God promised you salvation and eternal life and when we believed it was counted to us as righteousness. Ephesians 1:11-14 reads,
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Abraham showed his love for God by sacrificing his only son. God showed His love to Abraham by sparing Isaac. God showed His love for us by sacrificing His only Son, by providing the lamb necessary to pay the price for our sin (Romans 5:8). He didn’t spare His own Son because His love for us is so deep. We can trust in the promise of salvation, in our perfect transformation in eternity because we know God loves perfectly and keeps His word.
Whatever test you may go through remember this, God is sending it to you so you can pass it and be strengthened and become more like Him. He wants good for you, not bad. Tests are not punishment, they are not made for you to fail. Tests are gifts, opportunities for blessings, and reasons to rejoice. Romans 8:32 reads,
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?