Every day is a test. More accurately every day is full of tests. Tests that expose the quality of our faith. Tests that unmask us. Tests that reveal whether our claim to love and follow God is real or fake.
· Will I say or do the right thing? Will I shade the truth?…will I cut that guy off in traffic?…will I respond in kindness to criticism…will I get up tomorrow and spend time in prayer?…Will I represent God accurately here?...will I look at porn?...will I gossip?
We are tested every day, our faith and commitment comes under scrutiny all the time…most of them quizzes not tests
· …but every now and then God gives us a midterm…maybe even a final exam…a Mt. Moriah experience that defines the rest of your life.
Now to be clear….he doesn’t test us to prove to Him that you are worthy of his love but to prove to yourself whether you have the resolve to achieve the destiny he designed for you.
· Testing will force you to answer these questions – am I still in? do I still trust God? Am I still committed to following him with my whole life. Do I still want to find and live into my calling?
In the story of Abraham is just this kind of test. It was the mother of all tests.
Genesis 22:1 page 18
1 Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith.
· the word “faith” does not actually appear – just the word “test” =
o To prove the quality of something
You could say that Abraham’s entire life has been a series of tests…
· Will he leave his native country and go where God sends him…or will he not?
· Will he accept the calling to be the leader of a nation that blesses the world…
· Will he lie about his wife or tell the truth while under danger in Egypt…
· Will he believe God’s promise of becoming a huge family… like the stars…
· Will he take matter into his own hands and have a child through his wife’s slave, Hagar?
· Will he accept God’s judgment on Sodom…?
· Will he lie about his wife while under danger to Abimelech?
· What will he do with Hagar and Ishmael?
Some of these tests he passed with flying colors and some he failed miserably.
And as we approach the end of his story he faces the biggest test of his life…one that would make or break his destiny.
“Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” 2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
This is yet another of the numerous direct connections between God and Abraham…visions, dreams, and face to face encounters. But clearly this one is different.
· This test comes out of nowhere…no advanced warning
· It is, at first glance, shocking, repugnant and offensive and makes no sense whatsoever – though it was a practice of the day. Other religions did practice child sacrifice.
And God seemingly goes out of his way to make darn sure that Abraham gets the intensity of the command:
· Your son
o your only son, (the one upon whom your whole legacy rests)
§ yes, Isaac,
· whom you love so much (the source of your greatest joy)
· God could not have asked for anything more severe, more jaw dropping, more mind numbing than this. This was the test of a lifetime.
Are you facing the test of a lifetime? Some of you are or have.
· To open handedly offer to God something that is precious to you?
· People who face Mt Moriah level tests know it don’t you?
· I believe Abraham knew immediately what this was about…because he barely says a word to God. Just does it.
Now here is something fascinating – Abraham offers no objection…no argument…no push back…no questions…unlike other interactions with God. He is largely silent and compliant… Why?
· Was he in shock?...just going through the motions in panic?
· Had his faith grown to epic proportions?
Many generations later the writer of Hebrews speculated…this is an amazing statement: Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again Hebrews 11:19
Whatever was going through his head…Abraham gathers his son and the raw material and heads to the Moriah mountains.
Moriah = not just any place…
· 1000 yrs later David bought a piece of property to erect an altar to God
· On that Solomon built the first temple.
· After that temple was destroyed by Babylonians it was rebuilt on the same sight later.
· In 20 BC Herod made modifications – Herod’s Temple only top be torn down by Romans in 70 AD
· And today all that is left is one wall…the wailing wall. If you visit that wall you will be not far from where Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son Isaac.
3 The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.
The story is prolonged by such agonizing detail: saddled donkey, chopped wood…long 3 day journey…carries the wood, carries the fire and a knife
· What was he thinking? What are YOU thinking? How long has your test been going on?
o This is how some tests can be…not sudden but drawn out…time consuming forcing us to think and agonize and process and pray.
5 “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” 6 So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, 7 Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” 8 “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together. 9 When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood.
So again…precious little coming from Abraham except for two puzzling comments – one to the servants and one to Isaac
· Vs. 5 – We will worship and come right back.
· Vs. 8 – God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering
Either he was lying to keep Isaac calm or he was expressing actual faith = God is going to come through.
· Think of your test – what is your level of confidence that God will show up and provide just what you need?
Reminder – this is the purpose of tests – not for God to decide whether you are worthy of his love but to prove to yourself whether you have what it takes to fulfill what God has called you into.
10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice.
11 At that moment the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!” 12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” 13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son.
And here perhaps at the very end of this drama is maybe the bright ray of hope for anyone facing a massive test…the ram.
· It could be that it just suddenly appeared. But, why would it have its horns caught in a bush?
· I think it was there all along…he just never looked up or around enough to see it…head down in his anxiety he never noticed the provision of God.
The ram is always there, if we will but lift up our eyes.
14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the LORD will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” 15 Then the angel of the LORD called again to Abraham from heaven. 16 “This is what the LORD says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. 18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.” 19 Then they returned to the servants and traveled back to Beersheba, where Abraham continued to live. Genesis 22:1-19
· Essentially the last big story of Abraham’s life (Isaac’s wide and Sarah’s burial)
So let’s talk takeaways: If you are a follower of Jesus you can be sure you will be tested by God.
You know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. James 1:3
God blesses those who patiently endure testing. James 1:12
My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the LORD disciplines those he loves, God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. from Hebrews 12
And then there is the recurring theme through the scriptures of refinement of testing…
You have tested us, OGod; you have purified us like silver. Psalm 66:10
I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering. Isaiah 48:10
I will bring them through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. Zechariah 13:9
Fascinatingly there is one other test in the storyline of the Bible that equals and surpasses the intensity of the Isaac sacrifice…
· Jesus…God’s son…God’s only son…the one God loved had to face a test of his own…
With the cross in the near distance he struggled with his own test…
Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! John 12:27
Just hours before the crucifixion he was still struggling…
My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine. Matthew 26:38-39
Testing is inevitable. Not to prove to Him that you are worthy of his love and attention but to strengthen your resolve to achieve your destiny.
Let’s do some personal reflection:
· You can close your eyes
· Get out something to take notes
What test are you facing? Where is your Moriah? Name it.
What are you being asked to sacrifice? What or who is your Isaac? Name it.
Where is God providing? What resource or resources has God placed right under your nose that will get you through this? Name it or name them. What is your ram?
I’m going to give you a few minutes to think then I’ll pray for you.