Many of us who grew up in California live with the mythical idea that we are owed a Disneyesque existence of sun, surf and well you name it. Anything but the pain and character-building suffering most mortals experience. Gods testing of Abraham in calling him to sacrifice Isaac reveals a number of lessons for us as we face lifes trials, and yes, Gods testing. As I was mulling over Genesis 22, I was reminded of several close friends who today are suffering severely. Is it possible that God is testing some of them as he did Abraham? I wonder. Among them are two spouses whose partners recently died of cancer, two others who are approaching death unless God intervenes, a couple whose two adopted children (now adults) are giving them unimaginable grief, and a delightful and accomplished couple whose son, through his peccadilloes, is now on the brink of divorce.
Seven lessons from Abrahams testing:
#1 Gods testing in our life may follow His great blessing: The joy of the birth and early life with Isaac was followed by God instructing Abraham to sacrifice this precious lad. (Gen. 21)
#2 Everything we have in life is expendable, as God may test us in that which is dearest to us: For Abraham, it was Isaac. For us it may be our family, our privileged life style, our reputation, health, sense of significance, hope, or career. Just yesterday Julie Andrews was interviewed on television, having now lost her voice and capability of singing.
#3 The ability to trust God during severe testing may follow Gods program of character building: In old age, Abraham finally seemed able to trust God totally, having learned a valuable lesson of faith through his experience with Abimelech (Gen. 20), and through the miraculous birth of Isaac. (Gen. 21) His trust in God is again exhibited in how he approached obtaining a wife for his son Isaac in Genesis 24.
#4 God may call you, as He did Abraham, to do something that makes no rational sense to you: For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strengthFor my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (I Cor. 1:25; Isa. 55:8, 9)
#5 God, in his testing may take you to the brink, as he did Abraham: When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, Abraham! Abraham! Here I am, he replied. Do not lay a hand on the boy, he said. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." (Gen. 22:9-12)
#6 Gods character building through testing may be a necessary precursor to His blessing and his choice of entrusting you with greater responsibility: 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." (Gen. 22:15-18)
#7 If believing God, as evidenced by uncompromising obedience is the ultimate test, then Abraham passed: Jesus answered, The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Jn. 6:29; Heb. 11:1,6)