Abraham’s Test


by Wayne S. Walker

     One would assume that most of us can remember being in school and taking a test.  If you are still in school, then such memories will likely be much more vivid.  The purpose of a test is to see if you know the material so as to determine whether you will pass the course or not.  Every statement that God makes is a test to see whether we shall believe Him or not.  Every command that He gives is a test to see whether we shall obey Him or not.  One very poignant example of this kind of thing is Abraham’s test in Genesis 22:1-10.

Knew it was from God

     To begin, we see that Abraham evidently knew that this test was from God.  "God tested Abraham, and said to him…, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering’" (vs. 1-2).  We do not know exactly how Abraham knew this, but we do know that God spoke directly to the fathers (Heb. 1:1):  We have other examples of where God spoke directly to Abraham, as the patriarch of his family (Gen. 13.14ff, 17.1-2).  Somehow, Abraham knew beyond doubt that this was not just his feelings or something from the devil but a communication from God.

     The Bible teaches that God does not communicate directly with anyone today, but He still does communicate with us, and we know precisely how God speaks to us today.  "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3.16-17).  Every teaching of scripture is a message from God for us.

     Sometimes, when people simply preach what God’s word says, someone will respond, "Who died and made you God?"   For example the Bible clearly teaches that homosexual behavior is sinful (Rom. 1.26-27, 1 Cor. 6.9-10).  Yet some people refuse to believe this and charge those who so preach with homophobic hate speech.  Also, the scriptures are quite plain that women preachers in the church are unauthorized (1 Cor. 14.34, 1 Tim. 2.11-12).  However, a vast majority even of religious people would reject this teaching as discrimination.  These are Biblical facts, not human opinions.  God tests us as to whether we shall accept what He says about these things or not, just as He tested Abraham.

Believed God

     Next, we see that Abraham believed God.  "So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took…Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had old him" (v. 3).  Abraham did not argue with God.  He did not hesitate at all.  He did not run the other way.  He simply believed what God said and prepared to do what God said.  Abraham illustrates the saying, "God said it, that settles it, and I believe it."

     This was not the first time that Abraham is said to have believed God.  When God has promised him, a childless old man whose wife was long past childbearing years, that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of heaven, "he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness" (Gen. 15.1-6).  Abraham did not just believe in God’s existence or things about God or even what God said; He believed God, and Paul points out that there is an important lesson in this for us (Rom. 4.1-3).  We must also believe God "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11.6).

     This believing God is not just an academic exercise but a principle of life.  "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5.7).  What does this mean?  Consider the example of music in worship.  Sometimes people say, "I just don’t think that God would reject sincere worship with instrumental music."  Well, what has God said?  He said that He wants singing or making melody in the heart (Eph. 5.19, Col. 3.16).  He has also said that we must do all in the name of the Lord Jesus and not go beyond the doctrine of Christ (Col. 3.17, 2 Jn. vs. 9-11).  Basically, we have to choose whether we are going to believe God, as Abraham did, or not.

Provided information needed

     Again, we see that Abraham provided just as much information as needed.  Isaac must have known all about offering sacrifices.  So when Abraham asked him to come along for a sacrifice, he may have responded something like, "Yea, Dad, sounds good–let’s go!"  Then, when they got there, he saw the fire, wood, and knife, but "where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"  Abraham’s heart must have been breaking at this point, but rather than scare his son, he simply said that "God will provide" (vs. 4-8).  Basically He was asking Isaac to trust God.  In Like manner, God asks us to trust Him.  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding" (Prov. 3:5).

    Of course, by the time Abraham had his son strapped down on the altar, Isaac would have know full well what was going on. (It is interesting that there is no record that Isaac fought; he must have trusted his father).  However, we often do this as parents.  We ask God’s wisdom to provide our children with just the right knowledge at the right time.  In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom wrote that when she was a child, she and her father were travelling on a train.  She asked her father what "sexual sin" was.  Her father asked her to lift his heavy suitcase but she could not because she was too young and not strong enough.  He replied that the knowledge of "sexual sin" was like the suitcase, too heavy for a child her age to carry, but that he would explain it to her when she was ready to bear it.

     God does the same thing for us.  "The secret things belong to the Lord our God" (Deut. 29.29).  God does not tell us everything that we might want to know, and our finite minds could not comprehend it all anyway.  For example, God does not tell us what the future holds, and in reality that is for our own good.  Mary Brainard wrote, "I know not what awaits me; God kindly veils my eyes."  He just says to trust Him.  "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matt. 6.34).  Abraham himself did not know exactly how things were going to turn out, but because He believed God, he told Isaac simply to trust God.

Obeyed God

     Finally, we see that Abraham obeyed.  "And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son" (v. 10).  While Abraham was not a sinless person, the general character of his life was that of obedience.  In Gen. 12.1-4, God had told him to leave his land, his family, and his home and to another country.  What legacy did Abraham leave his offspring and us?  "By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going" (Heb. 11.8).

     Why did Abraham obey God?  To get back to an earlier point, it was because he believed God.  Even though he was offering his son because God told him to do so, he knew that God had also promised that he would have a son with whose descendants God would establish His covenant (Gen. 17.15-19).  So how did Abraham resolve the difference?  He concluded "that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense" (Heb. 11.17-19).  Abraham just did what God said and believed that God would take care of things.

     God did not literally raise Isaac, but it was as if Isaac were raised because Abraham had fully determined in his mind to do what God said.  We must also obey.  "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Heb. 5.8-9).  Consider baptism.  We do not know why Christ commanded it, but He did.  "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk. 16.16).  Therefore, if we want to be saved, we must be baptized, just as Abraham had to obey God to be right with the Lord.


     Abraham passed the test.  We face many such tests in this life, and the final test for all of us will be judgment.  "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).  However, now is the time when we must prepare.  All of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23).   Yet God offers salvation or freedom from sin if we obey Him (Rom. 6:17-18).  Abraham believed and obeyed God.  Will you?’

     —taken from Faith and Facts Quarterly; Oct., 2009; Vol. 37, No. 4


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