Friday, November 19, 2010

Genesis 22:1-5 The Hardest Test

God tested Abraham in this passage.  It is important to draw a distinction between 'testing' and 'tempting'.  God does not tempt anyone.   James 1:13 (NIV) says:  "When tempted, no one should say 'God is tempting me.'  For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;".  The devil tempts a person with the intent of seeking to make them fail or fall.  "Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (I Peter 5:8 NIV)  God, on the other hand, tests His servants in order to strengthen their faith or confirm their commitment to Him.  This difference in approach highlights the fact that seeking after God leads toward life, while the devil seeks only to destroy.

Abraham has been staying in the land of the Philistines for a long time (Genesis 21:34).  Some time later (Gen.22:1), God tests Abraham.  "...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." (Genesis 22:2 NIV)  This has to be a bit unnerving to Abraham.  He loves his son, of course, and Isaac is the one through whom God has promised further offspring, and promised to make " everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you." (Genesis 17:7 NIV)  How will this be possible if Isaac is gone?

Despite this dilemma, Abraham gets up early the next morning and takes his son Isaac and two servants and heads out to do what his God has commanded him to do.  Before he left, he cut enough wood for the burnt offering.  It takes nearly three days to get to the place where God had told him to go -- the region of Moriah.  Can we pause here for a second?  Not only is this offering of Isaac a horrible task to contemplate, but it takes three days to get there.  Three days of being in close company with the son Abraham is being asked to give up.  Three days of hiking along, watching Isaac walk ahead of you.  Two nights of lying there wondering, why?

Finally, on the third day, Abraham sees the mountains of Moriah in the distance. (v.4)  Abraham instructs his servants to remain behind, while he and Isaac continue their journey:  "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 22:5 NIV)  Did  you catch that? -- "...then we will come back to you."  Abraham seems fully ready to do what God has commanded.  However, he also seems fully convinced that both he and Isaac will return to the servants.  There is only one explanation for this:  Abraham fully believes that God can raise Isaac from the dead, if He chooses to do so.

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