Summary: God tested Abraham to ensure that Abraham’s devotion was still sound, and to free Abraham from the snare of making an idol out of something that was given by God as a gift.
In her book, “When I Lay My Isaac Down,” Carol Kent tells her story of a devastating event in their family. She recounts how her and her husband were enjoying a night together and shared their joy by saying, “does life get any better than this?”
Everything was going well for the mid-aged couple. Their only son, Jason had just graduated from the US Naval Academy. He was a stellar student. Throughout high school and the US Naval Academy, Jason was an outstanding Christian leader. He was given his first assignment as a US Naval officer, soon transferring to Hawaii.
Carol describes how their lives changed when the received a late night phone call informing them that their son was arrested for first degree murder. He shot and killed his wife’s ex-husband. The unraveling of Jason’s life was impossible to comprehend, and the couple were overwhelmed by emotion and struggled to help their son and daughter-in-law, as well as maintain their devotion and love for the Lord. Throughout her story, the author relates how she identified with ABRAHAM in Genesis 22.
This event in Abraham’s life is presented to us as the culmination of Abraham’s journey of faith. It is both the greatest struggle and the greatest victory for the “father of our faith.” James describes this event in Abraham’s life as the evidence for his faith and obedience to God. He writes, “Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 2:21–22, NIV84)
As we study Abraham’s test of faith, we need to examine our lives and ask whether we are prepared to answer God in the way that Abraham did. I believe that every man or woman that desires to walk with God will have to answer the same question that Abraham did, “do you love God more than the most cherished possession in your life?” For Abraham, it was not difficult to spot the object of his heart’s devotion - it was the son of promise miraculously born in his old age as a gift from the Lord. God tested Abraham to ensure that Abraham’s devotion was still sound, and to free Abraham from the snare of making an idol out of something that was given by God as a gift.
You see, our love of self, and our hideous assumption that the world revolves around us cause us to take the very gifts that God gives us and make idols out of them. We do this with our children, our possessions, our abilities - just about anything good that comes from God can become an object of inordinate affection, turning the gift that God intended for our good into a devilish entrapment replacing our dependency on the One who gives good gifts to his children. God calls us, as he did Abraham, to lay our Isaac on an altar of worship, not because God wants to deprive us from blessings. (After all, he gave us these blessings in the first place!) But rather, to provide us with the opportunity to demonstrate to God and to ourselves that He is first in our lives. Only then can we enjoy the gifts he gives without the entrapment of idolatry that comes when we put the things in our lives ahead of the One who gave them to us.
Let us examine the text of Genesis 22 to learn our lesson from Abraham.
1. God’s Test.
This test came late in Abraham’s life, when he perhaps said the same thing as the woman quoted above. “Does life get any better than this?” The text only gives us the indication, “Some time later” (22:1) When was the “some time later,” we must ask? We read in the previous chapter of the birth of Isaac and the expulsion of Ishmael. Years have passed, but we can observe the following:
“Some time later” was when Abraham thought everything was settled. Isaac was born, and was now growing into adulthood. The boy was healthy, and the promises of God were embodied in his life. Abraham could see the finish line of life, and rejoiced that his greatest concern was being fulfilled right before his eyes. Abraham looked to Isaac with great satisfaction and comfort, realizing that his legacy would be passed on and the promises of God would be fulfilled. Perhaps for the first time, Abraham felt that he was in control. Perhaps he said to himself, “this is the result of my walk of faith with God.”
“Some time later” was when prayers were answered and victory was close.
Isaac was approaching MANHOOD. Abraham could breathe a sigh of relief. Isaac’s age is not given in the text, but let me suggest that it was when the boy was thirteen years old. We cannot know for certain, but this makes sense in light of the fact that Isahmael was thirteen when God revealed to Abraham that Ishmael was not the promised son. It seems fitting that at the same point in Isaac’s life, God would test Abraham just as Isaac was being recognized as entering manhood. We also know that Isaac was old enough to take a three day journey in the wilderness, and strong enough to carry the wood for sacrifice up the steps of Mt. Moriah.