Despite our dislike of tests, they are part and parcel of daily life:
- With my educational odyssey of public school, university, grad school, and continuing education, I have taken more tests than I can count.
- When I turned 50, I underwent a treadmill stress test. The good news was that I had the heart of a 33 year old. The best news was I had the body of a 50 year old.
- Each year I have an annual eye exam to discern if I am keeping my heredity at bay.
Some tests reveal who passed while others expose those who failed. Some tests are designed to weed out the low performers from the high fliers. Still other tests are designed to bring to light the abilities of gifted children.
In Genesis 22:1-19, Abraham faces one more test. This one has only one question on the exam. God wants to know, “Abraham, do you love me more than you love Isaac?” The results of the exam demonstrate that when we worship God completely, we will be rewarded.
Verses 1-2 show that God tests his servants to prove their faith. God asks Abraham to take his son, Isaac, and offer him back to God on Mt. Moriah. In chapter 21, God told Abraham to send Ishmael away because his promises would come through Isaac. Now, God wants Abraham to give up Isaac as well.
As an aside, when we read Genesis 22, we tend to focus on how this chapter parallels with Jesus’ death on the cross. While those parallels are certainly there, that is not the point of the passage. The focus is not on the sacrifice of Isaac. The spotlight is on the faith of Abraham and his response to God’s instructions.
Verses 1-2 reveal that God does not ask us to give what we do not treasure or what we no longer care for or need. God does not ask us to give him our leftovers. He asks us to give him the very best we have.
Verses 3-10 demonstrate that when the test comes, we must obey God’s instructions, even if they seem unreasonable. Abraham makes the three day journey north to Mt. Moriah. He loads the wood on the back of Isaac’s back. He and his son make the solitary journey up the mountain. When Isaac asks the obvious question, “Where is the lamb to be sacrificed?” Abraham answers, “God will provide for himself the lamb.” As difficult and painful as it must have been, Abraham binds Isaac and places him on the altar.
For many of us, our favorite hymn is “I surrender 95 percent.” As we learn from this passage, God does not want a part of our heart. He wants all of us. God does not want our money. He doesn’t ask for our gifts. He does not want our time. He wants our hearts. God asks us to surrender ourselves to him, holding nothing back.
Verses 11-14 point out that when the test comes, we must wait on God to provide what we need. At the last possible moment, an angel intervenes and stops Abraham from killing Isaac. Abraham passed the test and demonstrated he loved God more than even his dearest possession, his son Isaac.
This passage reveals a significant sequence in worship. We commit ourselves to worship God, and then he provides for our needs. Far too often, I get that backwards. If God gives me enough money, then I will tithe. If God gives me enough time, then I will serve. If God answers my prayers, then I will tell others about him. Abraham committed himself to obedience, and then God provided the substitute.
The section closes in verses 15-19 by explaining that rewards await those who pass the test.
God will test each one of us on the question of commitment and devotion. “Do you love me more than you love _____________? Am I most important in your life or have you allowed someone or something to take my rightful place?” When God asks you that question, will you pass the test?
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on August 18, 2013. It is part of a series on the life of Abraham. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.