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The Testing of Abraham (Genesis 22:1)

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Brace yourselves, because the next five days’ worth of devotionals are all going to be about Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac.

That’s not by accident. I’ve been waiting all Genesis to get to this story, because it’s literally my favorite story in the entire book.

There are so many layers. Abraham’s trust in God. The growth of Abraham’s faith over time. The trust of Isaac in his father. The promise repeated.

Like I said: So many stories.

I’ll try to keep them contained somewhat, but before we get to the rest of them we have to talk about Abraham’s faith, first.

Did God Tempt Abraham?

A lot of people have issues with this story because they feel like God is “tempting” Abraham to sin. That flies directly in the face of James 1:13 which says flatly that “God doesn’t tempt anyone.” Case closed.

So what exactly is happening here? 

To understand that, we first have to make a clarification. There is a huge difference between God tempting someone and God testing someone.

Tempting is a lead-in to sin. It’s where someone draws you in to a situation on purpose for the express goal of watching you fall.

Testing is totally different. When you test someone, you place them in a situation to gauge their performance.

Think back to your school days. When your teacher gave you a test, they wanted to see how you would do. If they were tempting you, they would intentionally set you up for failure. 

That God is “testing” Abraham is seen in His response in Genesis 22:12: “Do nothing to the lad, for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

God answers the question of testing vs. tempting, but in doing so, He opens up a whole other can of worms…

Did God Not Know What Abraham Would Do?

The idea that God didn’t know how Abraham would react is ludicrous. First off, God knows everything. God knows when every bird falls on this earth (Matthew 10:29); how He could be unaware of Abraham’s faith?

There’s just one wrinkle in the whole thing, though. Even though God knew how he would react, and Abraham may have been confident as to how he would react, he still has to react

God gave man free will for a reason. Despite knowing His own creation better than we know ourselves, it’s still contingent on us to follow through with our obedience. 

Joseph had to marry Mary (he could’ve backed out). 

Esther had to intercede for her people (if not, someone else would have).

Paul still had to die for his faith (though he said countless times he was ready).

That’s where the proverbial rubber met the road for Abraham. Though everyone supposedly knew what Abraham would do when asked by God to sacrifice his son, he still had to walk up the mountain with the knife in his hand. 

That’s faith in action. It’s the essence of passages like Hebrews 11 and James 2:14-26.

You might be supremely confident in your own faith. But faith without works is dead, according to James 2:17. 

You can talk a big game, but in your moment of trial, will you be able to follow through with your faith? Or is it hollow and empty, unable to stand up to a demand from God?

Only by putting it to the test will you really know.