Devotional & Reflection
Genesis 22:1,2 The Test
Have we ever been sick, recover, but then got sicker? Have we ever lost a job, bounced back to find a job, only to lose the job again. Have we ever been tested, survived the test only to be tested again?
Abraham was in a similar predicament. He went through two heart-rending situations. In the first test in Gen 21, he lost his son, Ishmael, borne by the maidservant Hagar. Abraham was asked to send Hagar and Ishmael away and they wandered into the desert (Gen 21:10-14). Here, in Gen 22:2, Abraham faced the second test. He was asked to sacrifice his one and only true son, the Promised heir, Isaac from whom God's promised nation was supposed to come from. It must have been baffling for him just as some tests are baffling to us.
Questions come into our minds. Isn't it wrong to murder? Wasn't it in God's heart to forbid child sacrifice which was later pronounced e.g. God was angry with the pagans for sacrificing their children to Molech (Lev 18:21; c.f. 2 Kings 23:10). Indeed, it was a strange and baffling command from God with three imperatives: Take your son, go to the region of Moriah and sacrifice him (Gen 22:2). Yes, it does seem inexplicable and confusing until we read the context of the situation as expressed in Gen 22:1.
The context of the whole narrative as was shaped by the author of Genesis and the Holy Spirit was that it was a test. Abraham did not have the privilege of knowing Lev 18:21; Deut 18:10 prohibiting child sacrifice. Although, the pagans did practice child sacrifice as a form of worship during the time of Abraham, he might not have a clear cut, black and white prohibition against child sacrifice. In the narrative here, Abraham might have been confused - but he was certainly sad that Isaac had to be sacrificed.
Our testing may be no less confusing. "Why has this got to happen?" we ask. Our faith is shaken at times. But hopefully at most times, we bite the bullet and survive the test through faith and hope in God - trusting the character of God as we thrust our lives into His hands. In times of testing, we may not usually know, at least initially, the direction God has in mind for us. That is why it is so confusing and we muddle through the test.
We may wonder the reasons for such test. Though not exhaustive, tests by God may be for reasons such as these:
1. Test of our obedience to God - whether we will follow His instructions (Ex 16:4; Deut 8:2; Judges 2:22, 3:4);
2. Test to check our heart (Deut 8:2; 1 Chron 29:17; 2 Chron 32:31);
3. Test to reveal our fears and love of God are based not on gifts and blessings - but out of a sincere love of God like Job (Job 1:9);
4. Test and suffering to develop our perseverance, which in turn develops our character and hope (Rom 5:3-4), and faith. All these serve to develop our maturity and leadership.
5. Test to help us learn some principles from God (corollary of point 2). Some will learn to submit, to care for people, to love unconditionally, to exercise better stewardship of our gifts and treasures etc.
6. In testing, we learn more about God e.g. Daniel learnt that God is sovereign and faithful (God is sovereign - Daniel's dream of the four beasts as was interpreted to be the four kingdoms (Dan 7); God is in control - things happen at the "appointed time" (Dan 11:27, 29); God is faithful - Daniel in the Lions' Den (Dan 6))
In this passage, Abraham learnt the principle "Yahweh yireh" or "Jehovah Jireh." God sees and God provides. Often times, we wonder where is God in our tests. We can learn as Abraham learnt that God sees and He provides. God sees the predicament we are in and He will provide a way out. God can provide finances, a job, or a way out of the predicament we are in - in a way we never expected.
One qualification though - we need to be sure that the "testing" situation is not due to our folly, fleshly mistakes or sins; and are not due to the devil's temptation or demonic attacks.
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