After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 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 that I shall show you.’”
I spent much of my life as a student. During those many years, I took hundreds of tests. All in all, I did just fine on them. But the thought of taking a test still makes my stomach churn. Truthfully, I still have nightmares about having to take a test for a class that I forgot to attend.
So, I must confess that the thought of more tests is not a happy one. I don’t want to take any more tests in school, at the Department of Motor Vehicles, or in my relationship with the living God. Besides, I think to myself, why should God have to test me at all? God knows everything. Nothing about me is hidden from his gaze. So what’s the point of God’s testing me?
Genesis 22 doesn’t answer this question directly. It does offer a moving and even unsettling example of God testing someone. The chapter begins with the simple statement: “After these things, God tested Abraham.” The Hebrew verb translated here as “tested” means “sought to prove the quality of” rather than “tempted to sin.” If I’m climbing a tree, for example, before I put my full weight on a branch, I will test its strength. Similarly, there are times when God tests us not to break us or lead us into sin but, rather, to reveal our spiritual strength (or weakness).
Yet, doesn’t God already know what the test will reveal? Yes, I believe so. Therefore, the point of the test isn’t so much a demonstration for God as it is a demonstration for us who are being tested. It shows us where we are strong and where we are weak. The very act of taking the test can be an opportunity for us to grow in faith. Thus, after the demanding test of Genesis 22, Abraham knew as never before how his faith in God had become strong. He had trusted God through obedience even when God asked him to do something that must have seemed absolutely crazy to Abraham.
God tests us not to see if we pass or fail but, rather, to form us to be more fully the people he intends us to be.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you respond to the account of God’s testing Abraham in Genesis 22? What do you think? How do you feel?
Can you think of a time in your life when God was testing you? Why do you think what you experienced was a test from God?
Gracious God, as I read about how you tested Abraham, I wince. Partly, I’m not fond of tests. But, even more, I find the way you tested Abraham to be incredibly uncomfortable. What would I do if you asked me to sacrifice my son? I don’t even want to really think about this.
Still, I know that you are at work for good, for my good. You are forming me in a variety of ways, including testing. May I become more and more the person you intend me to be.
Finally, I thank you that I do not have to fear your tests because you offered your own son as the perfect sacrifice for all people, including me. How grateful I am that I don’t have to earn my salvation by taking a test I could never pass. Thank you, Lord, for your grace in Christ. Amen.