Abraham's Big Test (Genesis 22)

In the Christian life we can talk all we want about our faith and how we are ready to trust God enough to obey His commands, even when they seem strange to us. But sooner or later we';re going to have to put some action behind our faith. That is exactly what Abraham was challenged to do in Genesis 22.

After all Abraham had been through prior to receiving his promised son, Isaac, it must have been hard for him to understand what God had in mind when He gave him this command: “Take your son, your only son — yes, Isaac, whom you love so much — and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you” (Genesis 22:2).

The story of Abraham intending to sacrifice his own son before God is a stark Biblical example of what God wants from each of us: that we be willing to give up to Him anything we have, even those things we very clearly know He has promised us.

Didn';t Abraham hear God say that he would have many descendants and that they would be a blessing to all the world? How could this be? How could God ask him to do such a thing? Although what God had commanded him to do probably didn';t make a whole lot of sense — and seemed so distasteful — Abraham obeyed God';s directions to the very letter.

Early the next morning, Abraham and Isaac set out for Mount Moriah, the place where it seemed God was about to take away what had been promised so long ago. Abraham set up an altar and built a fire, then he prepared to sacrifice his son. But at the very moment of truth, an angel of God stepped in and stopped him, telling him, “Abraham! Abraham! … Don';t lay a hand on the boy! … Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son” (Genesis 22:11, 12).

Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed — all because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:15–18)

From the very beginning this was a test for Abraham, a test to see if he would be faithful and obedient to God. Abraham needed to be tested in order to prove himself worthy to be the father of the people through whom God would bring salvation to all the world.

According to the New Testament book of Hebrews, what did Abraham believe God would have done if he had actually gone through with sacrificing Isaac?

According to the writer of Hebrews, Abraham, so convinced that Isaac was the son he had been promised, believed that if he had actually slain his son, God would have raised him from the dead (Hebrews 11:17–19).

He passed that test, and because of that he stands as a Biblical example of faith, obedience, and faithfulness. That is also why his descendants were the foundation of the Jewish race and its calling, namely bringing the Savior into the world.

As you continue reading through Genesis, take a close look at the lives of Abraham';s descendants, including his son Isaac, his grandchildren Jacob and Esau, and his great-grandchildren (those who would be the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel), particularly Joseph.

Study Questions

How would you respond if God were to tell you to do something that just didn';t make sense? How did Abraham respond?

What are some of the character qualities in Abraham that you want to emulate in your own life? What are some of his mistakes you want to avoid?

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