The dramatic story of God testing Abraham’s faith is ripe with lessons we can apply to our lives. Those lessons, however, are easy to miss because the premise of the story is so compelling.
Let’s hit rewind and see what God can teach us. We pick up the story in Genesis 22:2:
“Then 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 on a mountain I will show you.’”
Stop! Hold on a second. I’m not one to question God, but I’m pretty sure I would have responded with something like, “Ha ha haaa. Good one God. It sounded like you said you wanted me to sacrifice Isaac. That’s hilarious. You’re too much… But for real, how many goats? One? Two? Twelve?”
God doesn’t mince words. God knew just how precious Isaac was to Abraham, having had to wait until he was 100 years old to have him. It would be far less of a test of Abraham’s faith if the sacrifice didn’t mean much.
LESSON #1: The greater the cost, the greater the sacrifice.
The story continues in verse 3:
“Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac.”
Two things strike me about this. The first is that Abraham had all night and morning to be terrified about the coming events… and to talk himself out of it.
Ever had a deadline that you dreaded? Root canal. Sending your child off to college. A firing.
At least with those events, you knew the reason behind them. Abraham was given no explanation. He was just told to do it, plain and simple.
LESSON #2: Sacrifice doesn’t always come with answers.
Secondly, notice that verse 3 says, “Early the next morning…” There was no delay. Not dilly-dallying or procrastination. Pure… unwavering… obedience.
LESSON #3: Godly obedience should be swift.
Next, we read in verse 5 that Abraham tells his servants:
“Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
Did you catch that? Abraham says “we” will come back to you after worshipping, meaning he and Isaac. Abraham believed the Lord would salvage the situation.
We see this faith displayed again when Isaac asks his dad where the lamb was:
“Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’”—Genesis 22:8
LESSON #4: Obedience both relies on God for strength and expects God to deliver.
The altar got built but still no lamb. Now if I’m Abraham, I’m facing a crisis of belief. Where’s the help? Where’s the provision? Where’s the relief?
Not Abraham. He continues in obedience:
“He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.”—Genesis 22:9–10
Imagine the anguish and horror in that moment. Envision reconciling the internal conflict of sacrificing someone you love for someone you love more. Your knife is raised high and ready to cut short the life of someone so important to you.
Of course, we know the story doesn’t end there. God interrupts:
“‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’ Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide.”—Genesis 22:12–14
God came through, just as Abraham had expected. Not only did God provide, He then rewarded Abraham’s obedience. Abraham would have “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.”
LESSON #5: What God requires, He provides.
As a fitness trainer, I see people reluctant to make sacrifices necessary to reach their goals: junk food, too much exercise, not enough exercise, free time, TV, alcohol, comfort zones, caffeine, accountability, and so on.
Until they give up what they want for something they want more, they’ll always come up short.
Is there anything in your life that is a little too precious? Could you be making an idol out of something that God merely intended to be a gift in your life? Only you really know.
But understand, God is always at work, molding and shaping us for His purposes. This sometimes comes by sacrifice. By testing. And by trusting.
When that happens, let Abraham’s example be a blueprint for your obedience.
And let the Lord’s faithful sovereignty encourage you unto completion.
Has God asked you to take a knife to something? Has He asked you to put something on the altar and trust Him with it? How have you responded?