Mom wiped her hands on a kitchen towel as she went into the den. “Uncle Jim and Aunt Karen are coming over tonight to celebrate Dad’s birthday,” she said.
“Awesome!” Kyle bounced on the couch, never taking his eyes off the television screen as his thumbs tapped the buttons of the game controller.
“Have you learned your Bible verses for tomorrow’s Sunday school lesson?” Mom asked. “You’d better get that done before they get here.”
Kyle shook his head. “I’ll have time after this game,” he assured her.
Later, Kyle joined his mother in the kitchen and sat on a stool at the counter. “Have you learned those verses yet?” she asked.
“Not yet. The game went long,” said Kyle, eyeing a platter on the counter. “Yum! Cookies! I didn’t know you baked today!” He reached out to take one.
“I didn’t,” Mom said, playfully acting as if she would slap Kyle’s hand. “I baked them last week to take for coffee time after church, but we didn’t need them all. These are the leftovers. They’ve been in the freezer, and we’ll have them tonight.”
“Can’t I have one now?” Kyle asked. “Tonight I’ll be too full from Dad’s birthday cake.”
Mom shook her head. “The cookies are the cake,” she said.
“No real cake?” Kyle asked, frowning. “But you make the best birthday cake!”
Mom shrugged. “I’ve been busy, and I figure the cookies will have to do.”
Kyle shook his head. “You’re having leftovers for Dad’s birthday?” he asked in protest. “Doesn’t he deserve some of your time, too? And a cake?”
Mom looked at the platter of cookies. Then she looked at Kyle thoughtfully. “You’re right,” she said. “And your heavenly Father deserves more than just a few leftover minutes of your time.” She leaned on the counter. “A minute or two to learn your Bible verses after the video game is giving God your leftovers.”
“Oh!” Kyle looked at the plate of cookies. “I hadn’t thought of it that way.” He pushed away from the counter. “I’ll get to them right now.”
Mom smiled. “And I ‘ll get working on that birthday cake!”
In Genesis 22:1-14, God tested Abraham. He wanted to know if Abraham would sacrifice the son he and Sarah waited for. Abraham obeyed God’s call. He was taught to believe in God and His simple word. Abraham must have been torn between sacrificing his son and the promise God made. Abraham believed that if Isaac was sacrificed, God would raise him from the dead.
Satan tempts people to bring out their worst; God may test His beloved ones to bring out their best. The people closest to God often find themselves in the midst of the biggest tests. But Christians must remember: God will only ask them to do what He will enable them to do.
All people have three parts to their personality: intellect, emotions and will. Each was included in this test as God sought to refine Abraham to a purer faith. When God commanded Abraham to offer his promised son as a burnt offering, Isaac was approximately fifteen. In this defining moment, God asked Abraham to take all of his future hopes-all that Abraham expected from the Lord according to His covenant-and surrender them on an altar. Although this instruction made no human sense, he did not argue or plead; he simply obeyed.
The phrase “rose early in the morning” which was also used when God told Abraham to send Ishmael away, anticipates actions that were particularly difficult to accomplish. Abraham’s obedience was so complete the he split the wood for the burnt offering in advance, realizing that wood at the site of the altar might be scarce. Moriah was about 45 miles north of Beersheba, a journey of three days at that time.
The Hebrew term translated as “worship” describes the specific act of a person bowing all the way to the ground. More important is the force of the verbs here- “worship” and “will come back to you” express great determination and faith. Abraham in effect told his servants, “Once these acts of worship are complete, Isaac and I will return.” Abraham had no precedent for believing that God would somehow bring his son back to life after the offering, for no one had ever seen a resurrection. Nevertheless, he trusted God to do the impossible, maybe because he had already seen God deliver the impossible through Isaac’s birth.
Just as with Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness, God spoke at the very moment Abraham needed to hear from Him: just as he took the knife to kill Isaac. God did not want Abraham’s son to die; He wanted Abraham’s submission to Himself. When God said, “Now I know that you fear God,” He validated Abraham’s deep faith.
In Hebrew, the phrase “to fear God” describes saving faith; it also indicates one who values God as God, in awe, wonder and worship. In Scripture, fearing God takes priority over every other response to Him. This may be the one reason God tests the faith of His servants.
God does not accept human sacrifice. Man is morally unclean and is therefore unfit for sacrifice. God provided a substitute for Isaac. Similarly, He provided a substitute for the punishment we deserved. Only an unblemished lamb was acceptable for sacrifice. That’s why Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. He was sinless, so He was the perfect sacrifice.
Abraham’s confidence that God would provide was rewarded, for God rewards those who honour Him. God reaffirmed His covenant to Abraham with the most steadfast of oaths. The phrase, “The Lord will provide” is a fitting name for Moriah because God provided not only a ram in Isaac’s place but also a Saviour in humanity’s place.
Isaac was a type of suffering son who willingly submitted to the Father’s will; therefore, Isaac is a picture of Jesus and His sacrifice. Abraham is a picture of God the Father who (in the words of Romans 8:32), “did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.” The ram was a type of lamb who died as a substitute for our sins.
All of us will be tested at times. Tests reveal things that can’t be known any other way. God uses these times to allow us to discover something about ourselves. For example, God often gives us a vision only to allow it to die first before the purest version of the vision is manifested. When God gives us a vision and darkness follows, waiting on God will bring us into accordance with the vision He has given us if we wait for His timing. If we don’t wait for God, we do away with the supernatural in God’s undertakings.
God demands that nothing can mean more to us than loving and serving Him. That’s why He tested Abraham, and he passed with flying colors.
God tells us to fear Him. When we fear Him we will obey His law and hate all manner of evil. This pleases God and brings us into the experience of His pleasure. When we love God, we will do what He shows us to do. We have to do these three things:
- Be certain about what He is calling us to do. We are called on to listen and wait for Him to restate and reinforce His directions.
- Picture yourself in what you are afraid to do, and then prepare to carry out your obedience in faith.
- Trust God to do what He intends to do in our particular situation.
This story makes the point that everything we have-even our lives and the lives of people we love-belongs to God. He gave them to us in the first place. This story assures us that God will provide for us and that He will be present.
Do you give God cookies instead of cake? Do you give Him your best, or does He get your leftovers? Do you spend quality time in God’s Word, or just a few spare minutes after you’ve finished your book or game or time with friends? By putting God first in your life, you are giving Him your best. Like Abraham in today’s Scripture reading, put what God wants you to do at the top of things you have to do each day. He wants your best so He can make you all He knows you can be. No matter what circumstances we are facing, we must follow God’s example. We will never know how deeply we believe in God until we have to face a crisis. We should place our faith in Him.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 32-33)
- “Cookies? Or Cake?” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
- Briscoe, D.S. & Ogilvie, L.J,.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 1: Genesis (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; p.187)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Os Hillman, “Listening to the Father’s Heart-March 21, 2020.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Os Hillman, “His Vision, His Way, In His Timing.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- “Abraham Believed.” Retrieved from www.LivingFree.org
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “A Faith Test.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- T.M. Moore, “The Fear of God (5).” Retrieved from www.ailbe.org
- Thea Lunk, “Only Son Isaac.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Kathryn M. Schifferdecker, “Commentary on Genesis 22:1-14.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2138