The call to sacrifice Isaac is a test that all of us hope never to have to go through. But I believe the events in this chapter demonstrate God’s faith in Abraham as much as Abraham’s faith in God. God asked Abraham to do the unthinkable, take his only and beloved son, and kill him as a sacrifice. We don’t know how Abraham felt or what he thought of this. But the next morning, he and Isaac saddled the donkeys and went off to do it.
Then at the final moment, when Abraham had committed himself and Isaac to this course of events, God urgently (and, the language in the Hebrew seems to indicate, with relief!) called Abraham to stop! Of course Abraham stopped and untied Isaac. Then he found a ram to be sacrificed, provided by the LORD God (“Jehovah Jireh” or “Provider God”). The LORD affirmed all His promises and enlarged them even further, confirming that Abraham’s descendants would be powerfully protected, fill the land, and impact every nation and people group on earth. God would provide.
Would Abraham do as God called him to do? Could he?
Yes, and yes. God’s faith in Abraham was well placed.
In a powerful parallel, another gut wrenching scene was played out on a hill outside of Jerusalem over two thousand years later. This time, the sacrifice to be was not only willing but came explicitly to die on that hill, to faithfully do everything required for God’s beloved creation to be reconciled to Him forever.
Would Jesus go to the cross? Could He? Yes, and yes. He did so for the whole world, and for me, and for you, “giving His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
God the Father had complete faith in Jesus, God the Son, as Jesus did in His heavenly Father. The sacrifice was made, and Jesus raised to life in victory on Easter Day, and ascended to glory soon after.
When God tested Abraham, Abraham knew well enough that God had the means to give him his son back, through death or life (Hebrews 11:17-19). It wasn’t a wicked test for a young novice in faith. It was a command to a warrior of faith who knew and trusted the LORD his God completely. Even more, his son would never forget this lesson of faith, and pass on the lesson learnt to his sons Esau and Jacob. God provides. Jacob would become “Israel” (“he strives with God”), and the lesson would never be forgotten.
It may seem that God tests you beyond your capacity to deal with it. It’s probably true.
But the test is to see if you find your strength in Him, not yourself. Do you try to ‘fix’ it yourself or do you ask Him to do what is needed?
When you ask God to deal with the test, or trial, or difficulty you find yourself in, and ask by faith, you will find Him willing and ready to do it. Does this mean immediate healing or resolution of the problem or everything is as you think it should be again? Sometimes, but not always. We learn life’s greatest lessons through trials, and we should be different afterwards.
But when we try to do it in our own strength, or avoid it, we fail the test and face the consequences.