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When Abraham and Isaac reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “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.”
13 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. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
– Genesis 22:6-14
Diane and I are teaching an English as Second Language (ESL) class through Cypress Assistance Ministries, a local human care ministry. Last night was test night. There are many challenges in teaching ESL, not the least of which is understanding thick Asian accents. Then there’s the matter of successfully communicating instructions to the class members. Sometimes we just laugh at each other … in a good-natured sort of way.
Their performance last night was really quite good. After we did a second run at two questions – which I believed they simply misunderstood – they got 100% correct. Well, mostly. Little things like the rule about spelling out numbers less than 10 (“three,” for example rather than “3”) proved to be easily forgotten. But we’re making progress.
Abraham was being tested by God. But the stakes were much higher than passing an ESL test. His son was on the line. His faith, too, was being tested. And so was his willingness to obey. Abraham passed the test. According to Hebrews 11 he believed that God could even raise someone from the dead if Isaac had actually been killed. Abraham is, after all, the Father of Faith.
I’ve been tested plenty of times. Sometimes I’ve passed the test. I’ve remained faithful. I’ve kept the faith. I’ve been courageous. Sometimes I’ve not. Abraham has had his moments of failure (as have I). This was not one of them. He did not withhold his son. He was willing to give him up. And God honored his faith.
That’s the hope we can bring to any test of our faith. If we remain faithful God will show up. He will be present. He will see us through. And, thankfully, even if we fail, God will not deny himself.
The statement is trustworthy:
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He will also deny us;
13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. – 2 Timothy 2:11-13
James tells us that God does not tempt anyone. He never seeks to lead us away from himself. But he may test our faith. To make us stronger. To refine us. To focus our hearts and minds on him and his word. That’s a good thing.