Summary: Why did God test Abraham’s faith and why does he test ours?
You know it’s going to be a bad day when...
...your twin sister forgets your birthday.
...you wake up face down on the pavement.
...you put your bra on backwards and it fits better.
...you call the Samaritans and they put you on hold.
...your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles.
...you wake up to discover that your water bed broke then realize that you don’t have a water bed.
...horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow Hell’s Angels on the motorway
..you put both contact lenses in the same eye
..your wife says, "Good morning, Bill", and your name is George.
I don’t know if Abraham had any of those experiences the day God told him to sacrifice Isaac, but I bet he wished he hadn’t got out of bed.
This story causes us a problem in that God asked Abraham to be prepared to kill his son. This is no less a problem for us than it has been for most Christians down through the ages. Since the Bible condemns child sacrifice – a popular practice in many pagan religions. I think we need to recognise God never intended any harm to come to Isaac, God never has been into child sacrifice. Also Abraham should not be judged by attitudes of later generations that have a clear written record of God’s character and abhorrence of child sacrifice. To Abraham with his pagan background it might seem perfectly possible that God might require this. In his day it was not uncommon for child sacrifice to take place. He lived in a different age to ours. That doesn’t mean the incident has nothing to teach us. It does, in particular it demonstrates that faith gets tested and gives us a powerful example of how to pass the test.
Faith gets tested that is a simple fact. I want us to look at why God tests us first of all. What is the point of God testing us? Why did he do this to Abraham and Isaac? We need to understand this as we will all get tested in some way and it will help us if we realise what God is doing.
1. To test the genuineness of our faith (1 Pet.1:6-7
We have all seen it in the press, an 80 year old millionaire marries a twenty something gorgeous young woman. We say she’s only marrying him for his money. Some people only love God for his money – i.e. just for what he can do for them. Now we all only love God because he loved us first, because he has saved us. Sometimes God tests us to see whether we love God more or the promise he made us, or the blessing we enjoy. This is apparently part of the motivation with Abraham: GE 22:12 "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." In other words it tests the genuineness of our faith and love. God wants relationship with us. – In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine 1 pet 1:6-7. Christians are like tea bags: You don’t know what is in them until you put them in hot water! Trials can reveal whom or what we love most in our lives . They reveal our priorities and desires. The Lord wants us to love Him more than anybody else or anything else. The depth of our love to God is revealed during the seasons of trials. The trials we go through are opportunities for us to show that even though God takes everything from us we will still trust in him. That’s faith. That’s what Abraham was showing – even if it costs me what is most dear to me I will still trust God. Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego had this faith too (Daniel 3).
2. To develop strength and perseverance (James 1:1-3).
Our faith is developed when things do not go as planned. There is a story of a Scottish discus thrower from the 19th century. He developed his skills alone in the highlands. He made his own discus from the description he read in a book. What he didn’t know was that the competition discus was made of wood with an outer rim of iron. His discus was made of pure metal, four times heavier than the ones used by his would-be challengers. He trained day after day, labouring under the burden of extra weight. He marked the record distance and kept working until he could throw that far. Of course, when he arrived at the competition, he was handed the official wooden discus. He threw it like a tea saucer. He set new records and for many years, none of his competitors could touch him. Someone said, “So that’s how you do it – train under a great burden. Some of us here today are training under a great burden. It hurts. It is unpleasant. Sometimes we despair. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we are angry at the burden. But we must always take heart. Why? Because the burden is producing perseverance that produces character and that in turn produces hope (Romans 5:1-5). Perseverance is producing maturity. Neither of these virtues so prized by God would ever be ours without the burden. One day we may look back and thank God for the strength we developed in the trial. Abraham was stronger for the test he underwent with Isaac.