Summary: God’s test of Abraham illustrates the ultimate choice that everyone must make. Will we allow anything to stand between us and God?
The Ultimate Choice
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Some choices are hard to make. But sometimes hard choices have to be made.
The 1989 movie Indian Jones and the Last Crusade has a classic scene near the end. The Last Crusade is the final episode of three Steven Spielberg and George Lucas sagas about a globe-trotting archaeologist who battles the Nazis for possession of the world’s great treasures. Harrison Ford played the title role. In The Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and his father (played by Sean Connery) seek the one great relic they have been looking for their entire lives—the Holy Grail, the chalice from Jesus’ Last Supper. The Nazis are also looking for it because they believe the legend that its owner would possess supernatural power to control the world. When the bad guys take Indiana’s dad captive, the hero eventually tracks them to a secret temple deep in the desert mountains south of the Dead Sea.
Once inside the temple, the son rescues the father. Indiana also discovers the hiding place of the Holy Grail. In the final scenes, just as Indiana reaches the sacred altar where the Holy Grail is kept, an earthquake shakes the mountain. Rocks fall. The temple walls move and then begin to tumble. The floor of the temple parts into a great crevasse right in front of the altar. Indiana watches in horror as the Holy Grail, the object of his life long quest, begins to quiver and then tilt. It falls over, rolls across the altar, and tumbles toward the gaping hole in the earth. Indiana leaps for it. He grabs it just before it falls into the darkness.
Just when he thinks he has saved it, the earth shakes again. He loses his footing and slides into the crevasse himself. In desperation, he grabs for anything to hold on to. His fingers find a rock outcropping a few inches below the edge of the crevasse. The chalice falls from his hands. He is clinging by his finger tips, certain death below him. Rocks are falling everywhere. The earth continues to quake. He can barely hold on.
Just then, out of nowhere, his father peers over the edge. “Take my hand,” the elder Jones cries out to his son. Indiana is about to reach for his father and safety when he spots the Holy Grail resting on a narrow ledge just inches away. If he stretches he can probably reach it. But does he risk it? How can he forget the Grail? His whole life has been about finding it. He can choose rescue. Or he can risk his life in the hope he can reach the chalice and still grab his father’s outstretched hand. He knows what’s at stake, but he can’t take his eyes off the Grail.
Finally the pleading voice of his father breaks the spell. “Let it go. Indiana, let it go.” He looks up at his father’s hand and away from the treasure. He lunges for the hand. His dad grabs him and pulls him to safety. They run for their lives as the temple collapses in ruins behind them.
Some choices are hard to make. Sometimes we make them harder than need be. I am reminded of that old sketch Jack Benny used to do. For those of you too young to remember, Jack Benny was one of the all time great comedians. Many of his jokes played off his reputation as a cheapskate. In this scene, Benny is walking down a dark street when a thug jumps out of the shadows and points a gun at him. “Give me your money, mister!” Benny doesn’t move. “I mean business. Your money or your life!” the thief repeats pointing the gun straight at Benny. Jack still doesn’t respond. Finally, the man insists, “You heard me. Your money or your life, which will it be?” Benny hesitates and then responds with that unmistakable slow, deliberate pattern, “I’m thinking. I’m thinking!”
Abraham had a choice to make! Notice how the story begins, “Sometime later God tested Abraham.” The King James Version creates a problem here when it uses the word “tempt” where our version (NIV) uses “test.” To tempt means to entice someone to do evil. That’s not what the Hebrew word used here means. The same word is used in Deuteronomy 13:3. “The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.” The proverb says, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart” (Prv 17:3).
Abraham had been tested before. The Lord had called him to leave his homeland and family and travel to an undisclosed promised land. Later God promised Abraham, that he would be the father of many nations. Then the Lord tested him by waiting. Years passed and no child was born.