“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.” - Hebrews 11:17
Last week I came across a story about a college student who was taking a class in ornithology, the study of birds. The teacher had a reputation for being extremely difficult, so this guy spent weeks studying for the final exam. The day of the test arrived, and he went to class feeling prepared. But instead of having a normal test, there were 25 pictures on the wall of birds' feet. And the exam boiled down to this: Identify all 25 birds by their feet.
Well, this young man was ticked! He walked up to the professor and said, "This is crazy. Nobody could pass this test." The teacher responded, "Nevertheless, you have to take it." The student said, "I'm not going to take it." The teacher responded, "You have to take it, or you fail the course." The kid said, "Go ahead and fail me. I'm not going to take this test." The teacher says, "All right. That's it. You've failed. Tell me your name." The kid kicked off his shoes, hiked up his pant legs to show his feet and said, "You tell me."
Have you ever been given a test that you didn’t think was fair? For some of us it was the algebra test that required us to know formulas that weren’t discussed in class. For others it was the DMV written test that asked questions that weren’t in the review book. For some married couples it was the pregnancy test that didn’t come back the way that you wanted it to. And let’s be honest: Sometimes God’s tests aren’t fair either.
In Genesis 12, God commanded Abraham to go to an unknown destination, leaving his country, his people and his family (Genesis 12:1). In chapter 22, he raised the ante quite a bit when he said: “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 12:2). Once again, God gave Abraham one very difficult command to obey in faith. And once again, Abraham had to walk in faith without knowing exactly where he was going. Last time God’s one command was “Go!” This time God’s one command was “Sacrifice!”
But there is one BIG difference between God’s command in Genesis 12 and his command in Genesis 22. According to what God’s word tells us both in Hebrews 11:17 and in Genesis 22:1, when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, it was a TEST. Now, let’s just say it: This test of God sounds warped and cruel. How on earth could a loving God ask one of His followers to murder his own son, even if God knew He wasn’t going to let him go through with it? It seems almost sadistic. And I don’t have an easy explanation -- just like Abraham, we’re going to have to take it on faith that God knew what He was doing, even if it doesn’t make sense to you and me.
As we know, at the last minute God commanded Abraham to spare his son, providing a ram for the sacrifice instead. But what can you and I learn today from God’s nerve-racking test? Here are 3 important lessons that we need to embrace as we walk by faith:
#1: Expect tests and trials from God, because the Christian life is never easy. Living for Jesus Christ is, without a doubt, the best way to live, but it’s definitely not easy, in large part because life isn’t easy. Our cars get rear-ended, our bills pile up, and our bodies break down. And following Christ, in some ways, makes life harder. Following God’s laws is not easy. But living for Jesus brings us peace with God, forgiveness, grace, purpose, hope, comfort in our sorrows—AND love and joy. Remember that as you follow Christ, God is more concerned with your character than He is with your comfort. So, at times he will send you trials and tests to prove that your faith is real, to make you stronger, and to bring out the best in you.
#2: Focus on promises, not explanations. Abraham didn’t know why on earth God wanted him to sacrifice his son, but Abe held fast to the promise God had given him—that God would make Isaac into a great nation as numerous as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the seashore. One way or another, Abraham believed that God would be true to His word. If God didn’t give Abraham a full explanation every time He gave him a command, why on earth do you think God owes YOU a full explanation every time He gives you a command? The fact is … He doesn’t owe you anything. So, if you’re going to follow Jesus Christ, you need to be okay with that. So, instead of obsessing over God’s explanations (or lack thereof), focus on the hundreds of promises of God. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.” “You are more than a conqueror through Him who loves you.”
#3: Depend on God’s provision. Just as He provided Abraham with the ram, the Lord will always provide for your needs in the place of His assignment. What does that mean? If you are walking in faith and obeying His marching orders in faith, He will meet every one of your needs. Count on it! If He isn’t meeting all your needs, the reason is simple: You’re not where you’re supposed to be. If you’re where God means you to be, then let me share a wonderful little promise with you: “My God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19
Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for our Worship Service Sundays at 10 a.m. at the new Dr. Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.