God’s Tests

Abraham had been preparing for approximately 50 years, on the hills and slopes of his life, for his final triumph of faith. He was tutored patiently through all the previous tests and experiences of his life. Now comes the final.

Let’s recap his lessons to this point.

#1: The Trust Test—12:14. Abraham learned he could trust God when he didn’t have all the facts or know where he was going. (He teaches us to do the same.)

#2: The Tent and Altar Test—12:8-10. Abraham learned to believe the promises of God and to be a productive follower, even while he waited for the promises of God to be fulfilled.

#3: Failure Tests—12:10-13:2; Gen. 20:12-13. Abraham learned even failure can be a good teacher and can prepare you for what is ahead. He learned he could trust God for his protection and provision.

#4: The Finance and Resource Test—13:5-12. Abraham learned to have great confidence in the Lord’s provision, even when he was living in less than ideal circumstances. He also shows us that not having all we want may shield us from many temptations, e.g., Lot living in Sodom.

#5: The Warfare and Family Tests—14:1-17. This experience taught him he could trust God in the greatest of challenges—even insurmountable odds—and God would provide a victory. Even when our families are in trouble, we can trust God to provide us with the solutions and wisdom for their dilemmas.

#6: The Praise Tests—14:21-24. This experience teaches Abraham and us that even in success there will be moments of temptation to take the praise for ourselves, or to give the praise to someone else.

#7: The Giving Test—14:20. Abraham learned a tithe willingly given to the work of the Lord is a thankful acknowledgment that the provision we have received is from God. (See Heb. 6:20-7:4.) How are you thankfully acknowledging God’s provision?

#8: The Faith Test—15:5;17:1-21. Abraham learned to trust in God’s promise for his family, even when he couldn’t see how it might happen. If we believe God’s promise, no matter how unlikely it might seem, then God will reveal to us more insight into His plans and desires for His people.

#9: The Obedience Test—17:9-27. Abraham learned when God calls us to a covenant relationship, He requires evidence of our commitment: our obedience. (See also Gen. 21:4.)

#10: The Intercession Test—18:17-33. Abraham learned our responsibility reaches beyond our immediate family, and includes the need to intercede for those we know who are living outside the will of God, especially our extended family.

#11: The Patience Test—Gen. 21:1-4. Abraham learned to have patience for God’s promises. With each test Abraham was gaining experience on the foothills, developing perseverance. As he was tackling the lower mountains, they were preparing him for a greater challenge. Then God said, in essence: “Now Abraham, tackle Moriah. I think you are mature, not lacking anything.”

It is important to see that God was testing Abraham with the most severe type of positive command possible. Think about it:

God was not testing Abraham’s reason. No! God was testing Abraham’s willingness to obey without seeing any rationale.

Summarizing all the tests is the question with the most value: Would Abraham put God’s desire ahead of his own feelings for his son and obey, even though he could not see the reason?

This was no snap quiz. There were insurmountable obstacles to Abraham’s obeying:

His own reasoning powers

His love for Isaac

His love for Sarah (the boy’s mother)

His knowledge of who Isaac was (the one through whom God’s promises would be fulfilled)

His knowledge of the character of God.

Remember, Abraham pleaded—on the basis of what he knew God was like—that God would spare Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:25) If we were to give Abraham a grade or award on his test, it would be found in John 14:21. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. What a wonderful reward for all who obey and show their love; they will experience the love of the Father and the Son in a more complete way. They will understand his love better. And best of all, “(I)…will show myself to him.” What a reward: to have Jesus reveal Himself to us.

Gen. 22:1-2—Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am, he replied. 2] Then God 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.

Can you imagine how shocking it would be for us to hear these words? I cannot even imagine how I would have felt, had I been Abraham. But I am not Abraham, and it’s important for us to understand that these statements make no sense at all unless we see them through Abraham’s eyes. Even seen through his eyes, it is easily the greatest test of his life, certainly one of the greatest tests anyone has ever had to endure.

There is one very special key here that will help us to unlock and apply this incident. Without this key, you and I will miss the enormity of these events and how we might learn from them.

It is essential to understand what the word “test” means. “Some time later God tested Abraham“—v. 1a. It doesn’t mean to tempt or test to do evil. James 1:13 teaches us, When tempted, no one should say, God is tempting me.For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…” So Abraham was not tempted by God; he was tested by Him. “Test” (tested—”nagah”) means to try, or prove, or to be approved. God, knowing what Abraham was made of, intended to prove and approve him as good.

(Incidentally, this is the first time the word “test” is used in the Bible. It is always significant when a word is used for the first time in Scripture.)

Note that God never tested Abraham’s nephew, Lot, in the same way he tested Abraham. Why?

It is already obvious what was in Lot’s heart. (Let me tell you his story). Genesis tells us all the lesser tests in Lot’s life that he had failed.

God presented a more difficult test to Abraham because he, unlike Lot, was prepared for a test of this magnitude. This test did not come out of the blue, but was preceded by many previous tests, experiences and preparation.

Time and again Abraham was challenged to surrender to God’s plan and Word, and in the process was prepared for this test.

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