eMeditation on the Bible 


StoryGod Tests Abraham (Genesis 22) 

God tested Abraham, saying to him, “Abraham! Take your son, Isaac, whom you love so much, and go to the land of Moriah. There on a mountain that I will show you, offer him as a sacrifice to me.” Early the next morning Abraham cut some wood for the sacrifice, loaded his donkey, and took Isaac and two servants with him. When they neared the place for the sacrifice, Abraham told the servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there and worship, and then we will come back to you.” As Abraham and Isaac walked together, Isaac said, “Father! I see that you have the coals and the wood, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide one.” When they came to the place, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. He tied up his son and placed him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he picked up the knife to kill him. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham! Don't hurt the boy or do anything to him. Now I know that you honor and obey God, because you are willing to give up your own son for God.” Abraham looked around and saw a ram (male sheep) caught in a bush by its horns. He got it and offered it as an offering. 


Interpretation of Story 

The story’s context provides a key to interpreting it. In the preceding Bible story, Abraham sent his oldest son, Ishmael, to live in another region of West Asia because the presence of both Ishmael (son of Abraham’s mistress) and Isaac (son of Abraham’s wife) in one family would create conflict. Thus, God’s command to sacrifice Isaac came after Abraham had “sacrificed” (i.e., sent away) his oldest son to avoid family problems. Before that, Abraham had failed to patiently trust God to fulfill the promise of a son and, instead, had decided to do it his own way by making Hagar (his wife’s servant) his mistress. Abraham's failure to trust God created uncertainty regarding whether God could trust Abraham: was Abraham dependable enough to rely on? This mattered to God because God’s plan for Jesus to come and end our separation from God involved creating a nation to provide the context for Jesus’ career. God’s promise to bless the world through the descendants of Abraham required Abraham to be a reliable partner for God. God needed to know that Abraham would be trustworthy regardless of how inconvenient or difficult remaining faithful to God became.


General Principles 

Although this shocking story does not teach us that God commands wrongdoing, it does contain three important truths: (1) our relationship with God is based on mutual trust; (2) we trust God by faithfully living according to God’s wisdom regardless of how inconvenient or difficult doing so may become; and (3) although God does not devise tests for us to prove our dependability, life itself has plenty of hard demands and choices that test our priorities and the reliability of our trust in God.  


Personal Application

As you experience life’s problems and challenges, respond to them as opportunities to grow spiritually by learning to trust God more deeply. When you are faithful to God by prioritizing God’s wisdom in your life, God is able to accomplish the goals God has planned for your life.