Genesis 22:1-8 (ESV)
1 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. 4 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.
If God told you to kill your child and to incinerate the body, what would you do? Don’t worry. That won’t happen. This episode with Abraham and Isaac is a once-in-history event. But… what if? It is an interesting (although troubling) mental and spiritual exercise.
So, what is going on here?
The short answer is that God was testing Abraham. Would Abraham obey God, even at the expense of his son? Whom did Abraham value more, God or Isaac?
Testing. We despise being tested, don’t we? After all, testing can reveal weaknesses, flaws and frailties. This, of course, is precisely why tests are administered. Tests tell us the truth about ourselves.
And that is why God tests us. He knows us inside and out. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He doesn’t test us to learn about us. God tests us so we can learn about us. In particular, God will test us in ways that reveal where God is in our life. What are our true priorities? How important is God to us… really?
Life is filled with things that serve as substitutes for God. Children, money, status, homes, comfort, recreation. These are a few common surrogate gods. Even good deeds (including ministry) can serve as proxies.
And that is what is so disturbing about Abraham and Isaac. Good things in our lives can readily become the ultimate thing in our lives. But only God has the right to be the ultimate in anyone’s life. He alone is worthy.
So, what about you? Here is a little test. What, in your life, could you not live without? What would destroy you if you lost it?
If the answer is anything but God, you failed the test.
Dear God, incline our hearts to you. Amen.