A Most Difficult Trial

A Most Difficult Trial

God knows how to try our faith.  Right now many of us are wondering when this pandemic trial will end.  We feel like we’ve had enough already, thank you. I’m ready for normal.  And yet we hear, “And it’s going to get worse.”  Ugh!  I hate those words.  I’m thankful, though, as I write this I haven’t heard of anyone in our church testing positive to the Coronavirus.  Of course, that could change quickly.  Let’s pray for one another and the doctors and nurses and medical staff serving in these days.  

But God knows how to try our faith.  Our small group studied Genesis 22 this week, about Abraham’s most difficult trial.  If you haven’t read that story recently, go back and read it slowly and thoughtfully.  God tells us right up front He is testing Abraham.  And what a test it is.  “Abraham, go and offer your son Isaac, whom you love dearly, as a burnt offering on Mt. Moriah.”  Why did God test Abraham like this?  Was Abraham’s greatest treasure God or had it become his beloved son, Isaac?  We find out in this chapter.

One thing we need to remember when God brings a trial into our lives.  Everything in your life belongs to God, even your loved ones.  God in His sovereign goodness gave Isaac to Abraham and Sarah as a gift.  Had the gift become Abraham’s idol?

Abraham woke at the crack of dawn and heads for Mt. Moriah with Isaac and two servants.  When they arrive he tells the servants, “We are going over there to worship and we will return to you.”  Father and son walk on together, Abraham carrying the knife and fire, Isaac carrying the wood.  Isaac’s young voice breaks the silence. “Father, where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”  Let’s use a little imagination here as Abraham builds the altar and puts the wood on it.  “Son, let’s sit down here for a few minutes.  You know God gave you to your mother and me as a gift and He promised He would bless the world through you.  But now, God told me to offer you as a burnt offering.” 

Isaac looks into his father’s face, fearful, questioning, but trusting his father’s heart.  “I love you, son, but I love our God even more.  As I obey God and offer you as a burnt offering, I know somehow you are going to live. You are the promised seed.  (Hebrews 11:19 says Abraham “considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead”).  So give me your arms and legs.  I’m going to bind you now and lay you on this altar.”

Up on the altar goes Isaac.  Tears coursing down his cheeks, Abraham grips the knife, ready to plunge it deeply into the heart of his only beloved son in naked obedience to his God.  Suddenly a voice calls out, “Abraham, Abraham.” Surely the most welcome voice ever heard by man.  Abraham looks up and cries out, “Here I am!”  Where was he?  In the place of trusting obedience, taking this God-given test, giving his most prized earthly treasure up to God.

We know the rest of the story.  Abraham had told Isaac, “The Lord will provide,” (Jehovah Jireh), and He did.  God provided a substitute for Isaac, a ram caught in the thicket.  And we know that this story perfectly foreshadowed that future sacrifice, when the Father did not spare His own beloved Son on Mount Calvary, but offered Him as a substitutionary sacrifice in the place of sinners. 

God knows how to test us. This was Abraham’s most difficult trial and he passed it.  Two more joyful souls we’ll probably never meet than Abraham and Isaac walking down that mountain.    God uses all kinds of trials to test and purify our faith.  James 1:2 describes them as “various trials.”  Like Abraham, God may test you with the one thing you love most in this world.  Those trials may be very difficult, but they are always for His glory and our good.

Let’s keep a hopeful spirit, even though our patience runs thin.  Our God knows what He’s doing in this trial of isolation, social distancing, and financial uncertainty.  However difficult the trial, let’s trust and obey God and know He will provide what we need every day to pass the test.  

Ernie Godshall