Sunday, April 24, 2016

Abraham's test (Genesis 22v1)

You may have seen this week that the government has had to cancel the spelling, punctuation and grammar tests that half a million 7 year olds had been due to take.

One of the teachers carrying out an official trial of the test paper noticed that one of the pupils seemed to know what was coming.

It turned out that the actual test paper had been available for months on the Department for Education website and parents and teachers had been encouraged to use it as practice for the real thing.

In Genesis 22v1 we’re told that God ‘tested Abraham’.

But it’s not that sort of test.

As readers of Genesis we know this is a test, but Abraham doesn’t.

If I can put it this way, Abraham doesn’t know this is only a drill!

We know that God steps in at the last moment to stop the sacrifice of Isaac, but of course Abraham doesn’t know that’s going to happen.

For Abraham this isn’t just a test.

This is a real matter of life and death.

In fact, as we’ll see, all God’s plans and promises seem in the balance here.

We’re told God tested Abraham but of course God knows all things.

He already knows Abraham’s heart completely.

He knows and rules the future.

This test isn’t for God’s sake, so that he can find out information about Abraham that he doesn’t already know.

Rather, this test is for Abraham’s sake and for God’s glory.

By this test, Abraham’s faith is tried and proved.

It’s established.

This test gives Abraham an opportunity to exercise his faith, to put it into practice.

And as he uses his faith muscles, they’re strengthened.

This is a major faith work-out for Abraham.

God might also test our own faith.

The letter to James says:

‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.’

(James 1:2-3)

When life is all plain sailing, we hardly know whether we’re trusting God or not.

It’s when some difficulty comes, that we’re forced to depend on God.

God may test our faith.

Not because he wants us to fail.

Not because he doesn’t already know our hearts.

But because he wants to test and establish our faith: he wants us to put it into practice.

It’s perhaps worth saying that I don’t think we should expect God to test our faith quite like this.

This event is unique in the whole of Scripture.

I guess we might differ on how God speaks and guides today.

Certainly you would find different views amongst Bible-believing Christians.

But it’s worth noting that even in Bible times, as far as we know, it was pretty unusual for God to give direct instructions to individuals like this.

Abraham was the head of the Covenant family, and God spoke to him like this on relatively few occasions in his long life.

And, of course, Abraham had little or no Bible to go on.

We have God’s full and final Word concerning Jesus Christ.

The Bible is sufficient to thoroughly equip us for every good work and God directly forbids child sacrifice later in the Bible.

(Leviticus 20:2-5)

We can be sure that God won’t ask us to do something that he’s forbidden in his Word.

No comments: