God Will Test But Take Care Of You
The God Who Tests
1. Today's passage of scripture begins with the words "After these things, God tested Abraham." In this chapter we come into contact first with the image of "the God who tests." God said to Abraham, "Take your son, your one and only beloved child Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah. Climb the one mountain that I command you and offer him as a burnt offering," (verse two). Though God knew that the son named Isaac was "the one and only beloved child" of Abraham, he still required him to give up Isaac before God.
2. Human experiences certainly do have things like this. There are people one doesn't want to let go of. But, in the harsh world of reality there are times we are compelled to let go of those things which are difficult to give up. Naturally, you might say it is God who forces us, and you could say that. You might call it a test from God, and you could. In this sense then, howbeit with a difference in the depth of the suffering, in the image of Abraham which we have depicted in this text there is a part that overlaps with our experience.
3. But, if we say that there is a part that overlaps with our experience, that doesn't mean that what is written here is easy to understand. A lot of people feel some resistance with the items in this passage. It's not just because they find it hard to accept it from a humane perspective, that God's demand is cruel. Deep down inside there I think there is opposition felt towards "God's testing him" in this manner in the first place.
4. When a university has entrance exams in order to select applicants into its school, it is to find out the aptitude of the examinee. The reason society has tests for employment and interviews is to find out the ability and qualifications [of a candidate]. What does God want to find out by his testing a person? We find these words in verse twelve: "For, now I know that you are a person who fears God." Huh? [You mean] God didn't know that until [his test]? What would you think of a lady who says, "If you really love me, show me the proof," and then after being given an expensive ring, she says for the first time, "You really do love me!" What would you think of her? Doesn't God, as depicted here, kind of look like that [to you]? [Even though he is God,] didn't he understand Abraham's heart even looking at the proof? I thought he was God!
5. Thus, as we read this passage the part that is hard to accept about God in this text which gives a sketch of him, in short, is the way it deals with the God of Abraham. God doubts Abraham's heart, tests him, demands proof, and after seeing the proof, he is first satisfied. Is that the way God is? Do I want to believe in a God like that? Do I want to be with a God like that? If God is that kind of God, excuse me, but I 'll have no part in that; how about you?
6. However, I would like for us to think here about the meaning of the words in verse twelve "spoken" to Abraham. [God] said, "For, now I know that you are a person who fears God. You did not hold back from offering to me even your son, your only child," (verse twelve). But, if it was all about God doubting Abraham and just wanting to know his true feelings, he wouldn't need to be explaining any of this to him. [I'm seeing] that [part of it, too]. -- Because God's goal in this was soon fulfilled as well. -- Because [you] have to check [this thought] somehow, since [God] didn't let [him] lower his hand on Isaac.
7. Therefore, "what God said to him" on deliberate purpose here has special significance. In summary, as seen from Abraham's side of things, this was about him "finding out God's will for him." In other words, this was not "an instance in time when God found out Abraham's heart" but when "Abraham found out God's heart." In other words again, Abraham came to a full realization of what God was truly asking of him. What God was demanding of him was not Isaac, nor was it some burnt offering to be offered up to God. What God was demanding of him was a heart that fears God, a faith and dependence upon God, obedience. When Abraham offered up to God his beloved and only begotten son Isaac, he found out something very important in the sight of God through this test.
8. Thus, tests are not necessary for God for him to find out our hearts. They are necessary for us for us to find out God's heart or will. As a matter of fact, unless we are tested, aren't we always a bit too indifferent and apathetic to the will of God?
The God Who Prepares
9. So, we have pondered a few thoughts about "The God Who Tests" out of this passage of scripture, but it isn't just "The God Who Tests" who is depicted here in this text. In it there is also the figure of "The God Who Prepares." Through this test, Abraham discovered "The God Who Tests" as "The God Who Prepares."
10. When Abraham heard the words "Take your son, your one and only beloved child Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah," early the next morning, he put a saddle on his donkey, he cut firewood to use for the offering, he took two men and his son Isaac, and headed for the place that God commanded [him] to go to. The land of Moriah to which he was headed, going by what we are told, is the place where Solomon's temple would later come to be built, Second Chronicles 3:1. All the while with a heavy heart Abraham proceeded on his journey, a walk extending to three days, a path extending more than sixty kilometers, from Beersheba to a place later called Jerusalem. Then, at last, the place soon appeared. After that, the two men and Isaac were walking. He made his son carry on his back by his own hand the firewood to burn the child. He himself had the knife to slice the throat of Isaac and to slay him, and in his other hand he took in it the fire to offer up the sacrifice with. As Abraham took each and every heavy step, what in the world was he ever thinking?
11. It was Isaac who broke the silence. "We have the fire and the firewood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham answered, "My son, God will surely prepare for us a lamb for the burnt offering," (verse eight). Out of his pain he looked to God and lifted up his eyes. He lifted his eyes to the testing God. "God will prepare [one for us]." That's as far as any one can ultimately say. Everything else had been said. Again, they climbed together in silence.
12. Then at last, they arrived at the place which God showed [him]. Abraham constructed an altar, lined up the firewood, bound Isaac and laid him on the firewood. Abraham raised his hand and took the knife, he was fully intending to slay his son. He was not acting or posing for a show. Isaac was already dead at this time in Abraham's heart. Isaac was already offered up to God. But, when the knife was actually about to come down, a heavenly voice stopped him and said, "Do not lower your hand on that child. You must not do that."
13. Afterwards, a very symbolical picture will follow. "Abraham strained his eyes and looked around. Whereupon, in the brush behind a ram had its horns caught. Abraham went and apprehended the ram, he offered it up as a burnt offering in the place of his son," (verse thirteen). Make no mistake. God "did not" give the ram in the place of Isaac at the time when the voice from heaven stopped Abraham from slaying Isaac because the ram did not appear suddenly out of nowhere and hook his horns in the brush. It was already there ready and prepared for them. Abraham just discovered upon it.
14. The word "prepare" which is repeated in this passage was originally a word with the meaning "see." In saying the Lord already had it prepared it was also saying the Lord has certainly seen it. When Abraham was going forth on his journey with those heavy steps of his, the Lord was not looking the other way. He was pouring his attention on Abraham. When Abraham in the midst of such blood coughing pain was climbing up the mountain with Isaac, and when he said , "God will provide [it]" as if squeezing it [somehow] out of his voice box, the Lord was certainly focusing his attentive eye on him. Just as Abraham said as he put his hopes in God alone, God had already prepared a subsitutionary sacrifice in those moments. While he was dead in his pain, Abraham didn't know what it was all about. He couldn't see [the reason why]. But, now Abraham had come to see and know "the testing God" as "the providing God." Because of that then, Abraham named that place Jehovah-Jireh (Yahweh-Yireh, which means the Lord will provide, the Lord will see [to it], the Lord will take care [of you]).
15. The revelation given to him was not for himself, but for those after him as well, even for those of us today. In that place that Abraham named Jehovah-Jireh it soon became clear that God would certainly be "a God who provides."
16. Abraham said to Isaac, "My son, God will surely prepare for us a lamb for the burnt offering." He certainly did prepare a sacrificial sheep in place of Isaac. But, at this [same] time God was preparing a true sacrifice, which would be slain in this world after some days to come. The God who commanded "Offer up as a burnt offering ... your beloved and only begotten Isaac" had prepared his beloved and only begotten son Jesus as a sin atoning sacrifice. Just as Abraham had Isaac bear the firewood for the altar on his back, God the Father had Jesus his son walk and carry his cross that would be his altar upon which he would be offered up. But then, ... Abraham's only son Isaac was not slain but saved, God's only son Jesus did die on the cross just as he was.
17. Because of this, along with Abraham we are allowed to state with confidence that "The Lord will provide; [he will take care of me]. Jehovah-Jireh." Lastly, I would like to close up by reading to you [some] words from Paul. "So, what should I say about these things? If God is our ally, who can be our enemy? Will he, who handed over to death not sparing even his son for all of us, not give as a gift to us all things along with his son?" (Romans 8:31-32).