Read Genesis 22:1-12 and Hebrews 11:17. What was the meaning of this test? What spiritual lessons come from this amazing event?
Genesis chapter 22 has become a classic in world literature and has inspired philosophers and artists, not just theologians. The meaning of God’s test is difficult to comprehend, however. This divine command contradicted the later biblical prohibition against human sacrifices (Leviticus 18:21), and it surely seemed to work against God’s promise of an eternal covenant through Isaac (Genesis 15:5).
What, then, was the purpose of God’s calling him to do this? Why test him in such a powerful way?
The biblical notion of “test” (in Hebrew, nissah) embraces two opposite ideas. It refers to the idea of judgment, that is, a judgment in order to know what is in the heart of the tested one (Deuteronomy 8:2; compare with Genesis 22:12). But it also brings the assurance of God’s grace on behalf of the tested (Exodus 20:18-20).
In this case, Abraham’s faith in God takes him to the point that he runs the risk of losing his “future” (his posterity). And yet, because he trusts God, he will do what God asks, no matter how difficult it all is to understand. After all, what is faith if not trust in what we don’t see or fully understand?
Also, biblical faith is not so much about our capacity to give to God and to sacrifice for Him — though that has a role, no doubt (Romans 12:1) — but about our capacity to trust Him and to receive His grace while understanding just how undeserving we are.
This truth was reaffirmed in what followed. All the works of Abraham, his many zealous activities, his painful journey with his son, even his readiness to obey and offer to God the best of himself, however instructive, could not save him. Why? Because the Lord Himself had provided a ram for the intended sacrifice, which itself pointed to his only hope of salvation, Jesus.
Abraham must have, then, understood grace. It is not our works for God that save us, but it is instead God’s work for us (Ephesians 3:8; compare with Romans 11:33), however much, like Abraham, we are called to work for God, which Abraham’s actions powerfully embody (James 2:2-23).
|What does the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah say to you personally about your faith and how you manifest it?|