Saturday, September 15, 2012

Passing the Test


“Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now 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 of which I shall tell you.” – Genesis 22:1-2

Faith is like a muscle.  It has to be exercised to grow stronger.  Sometimes God will give our faith a test to enable us to grow.  We win some and lose some. We have all failed tests of faith, finding the test too much for us to bear, and not seeing God as our partner in the test.  But God does believe in retesting and continually growing our faith. 

Abraham had already gone through several tests at this point in his life and passed.  He was tested when God asked him to leave his homeland and dwell in tents in the land that would later be given to him.  He was asked to believe that God would provide a child for him through his wife Sarah when they were elderly.  Abraham had tried God and found Him faithful.  But the more faith you have, the greater the next test will be. 

The test Abraham faced in Genesis 22 was the hardest of all.  God asked him to take his only son Isaac, tie him to an altar, cut him, pour out his blood on the altar, and burn him in sacrifice.  As a parent, my heart breaks at the thought of this test.  To cause harm to someone you love so dearly is unimaginable.  But yet, that’s what God required.  God wanted proof that Abraham loved Him more than the child.

This test wasn’t completed in a few hours.  God asked this of Abraham three days before he took Isaac up on the mountain to be a sacrificed.  And although Abraham was a man of great faith, there had to be those creeping thoughts of doubt running through his head. 

“What will I tell Sarah if Isaac dies at my hands?”
“What will Isaac think when he sees the knife coming at him?”
“How will I be able to live with the knowledge that I killed my only son out of obedience to God?”
“Is God truly telling me to do this?”

At some point during those three days, Abrahams faith had grown to full size.  I believe a lot of the time was spent in prayer over those three days.  I would also imagine he first pleaded with God not make him walk through this test.  Prayer, speaking to God and listening to God, will strengthen your faith in times of trial, and apparently it did for Abraham. 

On the third day when he took the wood, his son Isaac, his knife, and all his supplies off his donkey, he said to his servants, we will come back to you”.  WE.  Abraham stepped out on faith knowing God was going to meet Him there.  He expected himself and Isaac to return.  Faith without expectation is nothing more than a wish.  But when you can believe with expectation -  living as if it had already come to pass - that’s faith!

James 2:18-24 talks of Abrahams test of faith when it says:

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?  Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

These verses are often misunderstood as saying that in order to be saved you have to “earn” your salvation through your works.  NOT SO! (Ephesians 2:8-10, Romans 4:1-8).  When James 2:24 says that “a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone”, the word justified that is used is the Greek word dikaioō (Strongs Greek 1344).  Dikaioō means to show or prove righteousness.  He was already righteous, but his works in being willing to sacrifice his son made that evident.
The more faith you have, the closer to God you become.  And that is God’s goal in testing our faith.  Abraham was willing to exercise his faith in God to extremes, and he was called “the friend of God”.  Would it not be worth enduring any to one day stand before our God and hear Him say, “Hello Friend.”?

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