I'm going to focus today on Chapter 22. This is a heavy chapter...who could possibly fathom the idea of being asked to sacrifice their own child. That would be a test beyond all tests for me. I'm not sure my faith would hold up if God asked that of me.
I did a study once by Beth Moore on The Patriarchs and she spent a good deal of time on Abraham. She spoke on these 5 points.
1) God specifically called "Abraham". Our tests have our names on them. The tests God has for us are for each of us individually. You will never have to take someone else's test. Generally testing occurs to show the quality of someone or something through stressful circumstances.
2) Our hardest tests often involve our dearest loves. Often when God tests us it requires a sacrifice of something we dearly love. I can't imagine how difficult this test must have been for Abraham. He and Sarah waited so very long to have this child and now God was asking Abraham to sacrifice him. I'm not sure that I will ever be able to understand how Abraham could just respond to God and say "Here I am" and then carry out God's instructions without question. Especially after he was so bold in Genesis 18 when he was pleading for the people of Sodom.
4) Obedience is not the hardest part of our most trying tests. Keeping the faith can be the hardest of all. We can obey God and then still decide to be bitter about it. It might have cost us something. Do we believe that God has a plan and will carry it out? Abraham tells the servants to "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you." (vs 5) Whoa! What! Abraham said..."then WE will come back to you". Hebrews 11:17-19 says,
"By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death."
There had been no recorded examples of resurrection when Abraham lived. Abraham had enough faith to believe that God would do something he had never even seen. He took God at His word when he had told Abraham that kings of people would come from Sarah. God would just have to raise Isaac from the dead. Do we believe God enough to do something we have never even seen?
5) Like Abraham, we're likely to discover that the harder the test the further the ramifications. God is never just out to hurt us. When God is up to something hard, God is up to something big. And it has a huge ripple effect. The picture of Abraham sacrificing Isaac is a parallel to God giving His one and only son. Galatians 3:8 says,
"The scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham."
God was teaching the gospel of Christ to Abraham and his descendants. The place where Abraham sacrificed Isaac was commemorated by the name "The Lord will Provide". It was not called "How Abraham obeyed". I think we often look at this passage and think it was about Abraham and Isaac but it was really all about God and Christ. Abraham would never forget this gospel because he had acted it out and felt the feelings of it. God tells Abraham "Tell you what...we are going to stage this thing and you are playing me..." Only Abraham had no idea that Isaac was playing Christ until the point that Isaac got to get up. It was really all about God and his message of salvation.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16