Tests grow our dependence on God

Church calendar readings for the week leading up to Sunday, April 29

MONDAY  Genesis 22:1-18Abraham and Isaac tested on Mount Moriah

TUESDAY  Psalm 22:25-31Test of believing for unlikely people turning to the Lord

WEDNESDAY  John 15:1-8Teaching on the test of abiding in Jesus

THURSDAY  Acts 8:26-40Philip the Evangelist tested with a nudge from God

FRIDAY  1 John 4:7-21The test for believers of living out the love they profess

MONDAY, APRIL 23
Genesis 22:1-18

Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah. The Lord sees and provides, and establishes a covenant principle

1  Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

“Tested” – the Hebrew verb nissah means to prove the quality, not incite to do wrong as implied by ‘tempted’ in some versions.

2  Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Mount Moriah is generally agreed to be the site of Solomon’s temple, 2 Chronicles 3:1, and also Calvary. This sacrifice of Abraham’s precious and only son foreshadows the place of sacrifice which the temple became, and Calvary nearby being the place of the full and final sacrifice of God’s only son.

3-4  Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.

“Early the next morning” – There is a lot of detail about the preparations and the early start, implying facing up to a very difficult assignment resolutely.

5 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.”

“We will come back to you” – Spoken in faith. Abraham was certain that God’s promise would be fulfilled through Isaac – “it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned” – and the writer of Hebrews explains that he expected Isaac to be resurrected, Genesis 21:12, Hebrews 11:17–19.

6-7  Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

This brings to mind the hard-to-grasp partnership expressed in Isaiah 53:7, 10. Both foreshadow the Cross and force us to relinquish our perspective, in order to grasp God’s higher purpose.

We can have all the arrangements and means in place for worship – the wood; and the fire of the Holy Spirit is always ready to be invited to ignite the wood. But where is the lamb? Where are our hearts in making the sacrifice? It was Abraham’s heart that was being tested.

8  Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

“God Himself will provide” – Abraham’s life motto and an example for us of the faith principle of speaking out what has been ‘seen’ in faith, not as empty presumption but in the way of agreeing with what is being revealed dimly.

For further study: Does Abraham’s practice follow God, who spoke the Creation into existence? Romans 4:16-18

9  When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12  “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

The pace of the story slows right down as it reaches its climax. Abraham is prepared to offer to God in sacrifice what is most dear to his heart, what represents the whole of his life’s purpose and God’s promise, to build a nation.

13-14  Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.  So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

“The Lord Will Provide” – This translates ‘Yahweh Yi’reh’ or more popularly, Jehovah Jireh (which is easier to say and read and work into a song). The ‘Yi’reh‘ component is from ‘ra’ah‘ which means ‘to see’. It can also have the secondary sense of  ‘see to it’, or ‘provide’.

We hardly need reminding that God ‘provided’ His own Son for the ultimate sacrifice that would positionally spell forgiveness for mankind, on this very mountain. Also v.8.

15-18  The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed,  because you have obeyed me.”

“I swear by Myself” – If we swear, it would be by someone or something greater than ourselves, but who is greater than God? This is explained in Hebrews 6:13-18.

Abraham’s life story was about successive tests of his devotion, loyalty and obedience to God, which are always followed by a new encounter and renewed assurance – as in Genesis 13:14-15 and here in v.17.

Application

There is a principle here, that we cannot out-give God. As we give to Him, He gives back to us.

The test was whether Abraham was prepared to risk all that was most precious to him, prepared to give up Isaac who was not only his precious son but also the living representation of his life’s purpose. Abraham was brought to the point of being prepared to trust God in giving it up.

The sets out a wider principle in how we walk through our lives with God.

It is the test that comes to each of us at the point of deciding to ask Jesus to be Lord of our lives, which by definition involves giving up to Him all that is most precious, and trusting Him in that. The encounter and new life that people recount in their stories of how they found Christ is what follows a difficult step of obedience.

It is the test behind our decision to tithe the first tenth or first part of what the Lord gives us as income or provision, giving it back to Him in faith – typically giving to church and/or other mission representing the Lord’s work. Can we afford it? Of course not. Will the Lord honour it? Again, many testimonies demonstrate how God’s economics seem to overturn the rules of ours.

For reflection and discussion

Abraham had been through some tests with the Lord before – and most likely you have known what it is for whatever faith you had to be stretched. How have you grown through it?


Also published on Medium.

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