The Ultimate Test

Genesis 22:1-19

Everyone knows this story, and I’m sure you don’t need me to retell it: God told Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering to God, and Abraham obeyed God’s instructions. At the last moment God stopped him and provided a ram as a substitute for the boy.

The theological implications of this scene could (and does) fill hundreds of volumes of scholarly discussion. Since we are looking at this through the lens of the Christmas story, I thought we might focus on these verses today:

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.” (22:15-18)

The entire story of Abraham is centered around the birth of Isaac, for Isaac was the key to God’s covenant relationship with Abraham, the Son of Promise. The Hebrews author tells us that Abraham’s faith was so strong by that time that he was thinking God would simply raise him from the dead if he had been sacrificed, and I’ll take his word on that. Yet Isaac, as critical a player as he was, was not the Son who would die for our sins and be raised again from the grave… but this story sure points us in that direction!

In this case, God provided the sacrifice in Isaac’s place, and in the case of the Son of God, God provided the sacrifice in our place; amazing.

The faith and obedience, yes obedience, that Abraham displayed in this scene resulted in God’s restatement of His promises to Abraham, a sort of confirmation of their covenant. Perhaps this took place because of Abraham’s lapses during the course of their relationship, or perhaps it was to instruct the generations that would follow; I don’t know. What I do know is that Abraham, as a model of faith for all of us, sets the bar very high in this scene, and I doubt strongly that any one of us could meet his standard; I know I wouldn’t.

Thankfully, God has already provided the last sacrifice for sins.

It would be easy for me to say here that we need more faith, and I would imagine everyone would agree with that. Yet it would also be a bit absurd, for faith isn’t the kind of thing you just pick up at the store, or force upon yourself. Faith is the natural outgrowth of relationship, in this case that would be relationship with our Lord and with others who follow Him; it is a lifelong pursuit and all of us are works in progress.

I suppose we could call it a journey; it certainly was a journey for Father Abraham.

Where will our journey take us in the weeks that lie ahead? That’s the real question.


About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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5 Responses to The Ultimate Test

  1. kathyayers1 says:

    Tomorrow will mark the one year anniversary of a discussion I had with my eldest son regarding social media (Facebook and George Takei) and the anti- God posts that prevail in his rhetoric ! I warned him to investigate, search, and trust in Jesus! One year later, my family is broken….and the personal attacks toward me this past year are many and they are vicious… so hurtful and painful !!! … my husband and I will not see our three young and innocent grandchildren this Christmas ! I humbly ask for your prayers …. What started as an innocent warning against Anti- Christ propaganda on social media has turned into a nightmare! But I love my Savior!! Any and all prayers from fellow believers are greatly appreciated as I sit here and so dread next week !

    Christmas greetings to all those who truly know the reason for the season !

  2. DWMartens says:

    In addition to what Hebrews says about Abraham’s belief that God would raise his son back to life, I think that Abraham showed the sort of faith that Jesus was saying in Matthew 10:37 that we must have to be worthy of Him: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (NIV)

  3. Pingback: Today’s thought “And he counted it to him for righteousness” (January 12) – Belgian Ecclesia Brussel – Leuven

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