What do you value above all else in your life? Excluding spiritual blessings like salvation, you might answer your significant other, your home, your parents, your career, maybe your health. We all have something or someone that we “couldn’t live without”, right? In Genesis 22, Abraham’s faith is put to the test in a way we cannot imagine. After 25 years of waiting and praying, he finally had the son God had promised, Isaac. Abraham must have cherished every minute of Isaac’s childhood. The boy was the dearest thing in Abraham’s life.
So imagine the suffocating nausea and cold sweat he felt when God said: “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering.” The request to give up Isaac was itself shocking, but add to it the idea that Abraham himself was asked to kill his son. At that time, child sacrifice was not unheard of. Some of Abraham’s Canaanite neighbors practiced it. How a parent could do such a thing is beyond my comprehension. Yet here is Abraham, at the request of God Himself, climbing up a mountain to sacrifice Isaac. Every step must have tested his resolve to obey God. Doubts must have bombarded his mind: Did God really say that? Did I understand Him correctly–what if I misunderstood Him? What will my son think? What will SARAH think?
We often forget that Abraham also had a wife who loved Isaac. Sacrificing Isaac would also mean sacrificing his relationship–a marriage of many decades–with Sarah. That thought must have also weighed heavily on his mind. What God had asked Abraham was essentially to give up everything in this world that he loved.
Now that we’ve attempted to understand the gravity of this situation and how Abraham must have felt about it, we can think about how he responded. Abraham obeyed. He chose to trust God. He packed up and took Isaac to Moriah, where they climbed the mountain and prepared for the sacrifice. And when Isaac asked where the lamb was, Abraham replied in faith, “God Himself will provide a lamb.”
Which, of course, is exactly what God did. Abraham had learned in 25 years of waiting on God, that God keeps His promises and answers prayer. So he knew that somehow, some way, God would preserve Isaac. Because God had said, “through Isaac that your offspring[b] will be reckoned.” Isaac was the heir God had promised. Abraham would father a great nation through Isaac–God had promised it, and Abraham believed it. He passed the test of a lifetime. How? By choosing to trust God in spite of everything.
I once found myself in a “Moriah” test–a mountain-sized test of my faith. My eldest child lay in an ICU unit, victim of a tragic accident, with life threatening injuries. On the long drive from our home to the hospital 9 hours away and over the next 2 weeks she was there in the ICU, three thoughts kept running through my mind, truths I clung to like a lifeline: God is good, His mercy is new every morning, Great is His faithfulness. They were bits of Scripture I had read many times before. But they never had so much meaning as they did then. I didn’t know how we would live if God took our daughter, if our family would survive the loss, but I knew I could trust Him somehow to see us through it. For me, that dark time was a test–not of God’s faithfulness but of my faith in it. What did I learn? I learned that my faith was real and it could lead me through dark valleys where only eyes of faith can see.
You see, I don’t think God tests us for His benefit–to satisfy Himself that we really believe in Him. He tests us for OUR benefit–to show us whether or not our faith is real and to demonstrate to us His faithfulness. I wouldn’t choose to go through that test again, but I am thankful for it because through it I was assured of the power of God’s Word, of the power of prayer, and of the power of God’s love channeled through His people. If you haven’t faced your “Moriah test” yet, make sure you’re ready. Anchor your faith in the Word, dig deep into the truth about Who God is and hold on to it. Because God IS good, He IS merciful and He IS faithful. And best of all, He loves you and will carry you through every dark valley you may face.
Reading: Genesis 22