When I was in high school, sociology and psychology were required classes. A student was required to take only one of those classes junior year or senior year. I took both. I took sociology my junior year and psychology my senior year. And I enjoyed it. I enjoyed those classes because I enjoyed the teacher, Mr. Gibeaut. He taught using no notes. He told the best stories. And he rarely gave homework, if ever. But he gave tests. There was nothing special about his tests. Each test was a typical test – short answer; true/false; matching; fill in the blank and multiple choice. But question number ten on every test demanded special attention. It was always multiple choice. And it was always the same answer – C. Once graded, tests would be returned and Mr. Gibeaut would take class time to review each and every question, especially question number ten. There would come a short pause accompanied by a slight smile. Then Mr. Gibeaut would say, “And ten…is C. Ten is C! Just like the state, Tennessee.”
God Tested Abraham
Genesis 22 is a test. There is no short answer; no true/false; no matching; no fill in the blank; no multiple choice. There is no question number ten. It is not a driving test; hearing test; sight test; pregnancy test; sobriety test. It is not an aptitude test or compatibility test or durability test. It is not even a taste test. What is this test?
Listen to Genesis 22:1. “After these things God tested Abraham.” Notice the word tested. This is the only time this word occurs in Genesis. This is going to seem really obvious, but who is being tested? Abraham. So, this is the only time this word occurs in Genesis and the individual to be tested is Abraham.
Keep that in mind and notice the first few words that introduce the chapter. “After these things God tested Abraham.” So, this is the only time the word tested occurs in Genesis and the individual to be tested is Abraham. But he is only tested after these things. What things? The word after is a key word. After these things God tested Abraham. So, to know what after is referring to, it is probably best to know what is before. What happened before God tested Abraham?
Notice that the word things is plural. So, the better question is what things happened before God tested Abraham? Before Genesis 22 is Genesis 21. Things happened in Genesis 21, three things. First, Isaac was born. Second, Abraham sent Hagar away with Ishmael, Abraham’s son, into the wilderness. They got lost in the wilderness.
After these things God tested Abraham. Why is Abraham being tested now? Why is Abraham being tested after those things? The Hebrew text literally begins this way: And it came to pass after these things… The New International translation picks up on this and begins verse one “Some time later…” There it is; it is not just after these things, which surely includes Genesis 21, but there was some time that past after these things. How much time? Isaac is in Genesis 21. He was born in Genesis 21 and had a birthday party in Genesis 21 when he was about two or three years old. Isaac is also in Genesis 22.
In Genesis 22:12, Isaac is a called a boy. In Genesis 21:18, Ishmael is also called a boy. In Hebrew it is a different word than for child (21:8). The short definition for boy is man. In Genesis 21, Ishmael is about fifteen or sixteen years old. How old then could Isaac be in Genesis 22? The point is that Genesis 22 is some time later after these things. How much time later? It is about fifteen to sixteen years later.
Charles Spurgeon had this insight. There was a course of education to prepare him for this great testing time, and the Lord knows how to educate us up to such a point that we can endure, in years to come, what we could not endure today – just as today he may make us stand firm under a burden, which ten years ago, would have crushed us into the dust.
Three things happened in Genesis 21. Third, Abraham made a new friend and got a little help from his friend securing a well of water. This third thing that happened was described as humdrum. In other words, boring. This third thing was about a boring, humdrum, mundane day. Some fifteen years after this particular day, God tested Abraham. Why does that matter? We mentioned last week that our lives are made up of days. The average life expectance today is 78.7 years or 28,725 days. How many of those days will be boring or mundane? A lot. The last thing that happened before Genesis 22 was a mundane day. God was at work in that mundane day. Do not miss the splendor of God in mundane things on mundane days. The point is that it may be the course of education to prepare you for a great testing time.
And think on this: Abraham was over a hundred years old. After these things, after all this time, God tested an old man, a really old man. And for what reason? What is being tested?
Please Take Your Son
It begins with Genesis 22:2. “Take your son…” The word take is a command. Actually, there are three commands in verse two. Take; go; offer. But the first command begins softly. Some translations include the word now. Take now your son. The word now literally means please – please take your son. It begins softly and then increases in intensity. Please take your son, your only son, whom you love, the son of your affection, and go.
God commands Abraham to take Isaac and go to the land of Moriah. Moriah is only used one other time in the Old Testament – 2 Chronicles 3:1. There it is called Mount Moriah in Jerusalem and it is the place where King Solomon would build the temple, the house of the Lord. God commands Abraham to go to the land of Moriah and notice where exactly in the land of Moriah. “On one of the mountains of which I will show you.”
And then it gets hard. It gets hard to read. How hard must it have been to hear? “Offer him there as a burnt offering.” Isaac was to die as a sacrifice…by the hands of his own father. So, what is being tested?
When Will It Be Over?
So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared his donkey, cut the needed wooded, took two of his servants with him and his son Isaac (22:3). The big point though that I want to make is in verse four. “On the third day…” Abraham traveled and traveled and traveled for three days thinking about his son who was to be offered as a sacrifice by his own hand. Again, what is being tested?
Ask Dad, He Knows. Those words are a part of an advertisement in the Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life. So, I asked my Dad. I asked him about testing. Testing usually always involves something difficult or hard. And my Dad shared that the big issue about testing is not how hard or difficult it may be, or how big or how dark the testing may be, but how long, the duration. How long will this test last? It was three days, three long arduous days. And for three days there was just one question. When will it be over? “On the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place from afar.” It was about to be over.
Isaac Breaks the Silence
For most of this trip there was silence. There was silence until Abraham saw the place. Listen to Genesis 22:5. “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” Pause here for a moment and ask, what is being tested? Then there was silence again. Abraham took the wood and placed it on his son. Isaac had to carry the wood for the offering. Abraham grabbed the knife and the fire. Listen to how verse six ends. “So they went both of them together.” Father and son. And there was silence.
And then Isaac broke the silence. “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Listen to verse eight. “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” What is being tested? For now, highlight the word provide. Then read again, “So they went both of them together.” Father and son. And there was silence.
God Breaks the Silence
Father and son come to the place of sacrifice; a mountain of Moriah. Abraham builds the altar, arranges the wood and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar. Father and son. And there was silence. No one said a word, not even Isaac. It makes you wonder, why did Isaac not say a word? Remember the last thing he heard his father say? “God will provide for himself the lamb.” What is being tested? Abraham reached out his hand – he must have looked at his hand – and took the knife – he must have looked at the knife in his hand – to slaughter his son – he must have looked at his son – and God broke the silence. “Abraham! Abraham! Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (22:12). Now pay careful attention to Genesis 22:13. “And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.” Highlight the word looked.
The Lord Will Provide
And pay even closer attention to Genesis 22:14. “So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ The word provide is the same word for provide in verse eight. It is also the same word for looked too. It means to see. But it gets better. It is the same word for saw in verse four. And it gets even better. It means not just to see, but to see to it. Abraham first saw and then said, “God will see to it” (Genesis 22:4, 8). Then Abraham looked and said, “God saw to it!” (Genesis 22:13, 14).
What was being tested? Abraham was known for his faith. I think Job 23:10 is helpful. “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” What was being tested? His faith. And for what purpose? To purify it, that it may come out as gold, even more precious than gold. And what did it? God will see to it.
We get the word providence from the word provide. And providence is all about that God will see to it. God will sustain. God will take care of it. And when he does, there is just one thing to say, “God saw to it!”
It is the one thing to grab tightly to as if your life depends on it in any hardship, any difficulty, any storm. God will see to it. Do you know how you can know that God will see to it? It is because he already has. God has already saw to it.
This land called Moriah is the same place where a cross of wood would be laid on the back of Jesus. It is the same place Jesus would be nailed to that cross of wood. It is the same place he would be silent. It is the same place he would break the silence with “It is finished.” It is the same place that the lamb of God would take away the sins of the world. And it is the same place that after three days the grave could no longer contain him.