The three Patriarchs of the people of Israel were amazing examples of faith. Yet, it’s difficult to beat the example of Abraham offering Isaac in obedience to the One promising him children. This event is recorded in detail in Genesis 22. God tested Abraham. In the Hebrew, this word for “test” can refer to temptations as well as qualitative tests.
The word used in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (Septuagint) is also used by the writer of Hebrews in 11:17 for “test”. It refers to testing to determine quality, and sometimes originates from ill will (temptation). God does this sort of thing with us, but we are not to do such things with Him (Luke 4:12, quoting Deuteronomy 6:16). The Pharisees did this sort of testing of Jesus constantly.
So, here’s the way the writer of Hebrews uses it:
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.Hebrews 11:17-19 NASB
Think through this test for a second. In Genesis 21, God has had Abraham send away Hagar and Abraham’s son Ishmael, telling Abraham that Isaac would be the “child of promise”. Now, “some time later”, this same Yahweh calls on Abraham to kill Isaac, specifically calling out both Isaac, and the special relationship between he and Abraham. Think about that for a second. It should give you chills. It should give you some pause for a moment, possibly even doubt. Because behind this story is the reader’s reaction of “what might my Savior ask of me?” And that’s a very good question.
The test of Abraham is of his quality of belief. God had promised that He would fulfill Abraham’s promise through Isaac. So, Abraham had to decide whether he would believe this God even when He seemed capricious. Did Abraham believe that this God would make good on a promise even when He seemed to be reneging? Do you?
When things aren’t going well, do you still believe in the goodness of our Savior? When it’s no longer “fun”, when it’s taking too long, when you are actually being persecuted and suffering, will you persist in your belief of the goodness of your Creator? Is Jesus still on His throne interceding for you? Is the Father still caring for you? Is the Spirit of the Living God still residing within you? Do you still believe, even when it’s not convenient, popular, fun, or even safe? What if persisting in belief and being obedient actually costs you something precious?
It’s easy to answer “yes” in the abstract imagination of “what might be”. I suspect that I have a limit to my faith. I don’t know where it is, exactly, but I suspect it wouldn’t be very difficult to find. I have spent time doubting my Savior. I have spent time behaving as if He was’t real, His promises weren’t sure, and as if He didn’t truly love me. For some peculiar reason, He still forgives me. I can’t answer the above questions with absolute confidence because I haven’t been tested to the extremes of my faith, not yet, but my day is coming.
How about you?