The Pastor's Class

A Faith Tested

Genesis 22

Chapter 22 of Genesis is one of the most challenging passages in the Bible. This chapter gives us an glimpse into the heart of God.

God's ultimate desire is to be worshipped without reservation. Worship denotes a total act of obedience. Any reservation or defiance on our part destroys all attempts at worship.

Genesis 22: 1

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

Chapter 22 begins with the words "Some time later". In Chapter 21 we read of the birth of Isaac the promised Son. We also read of the conflict between Sarah and Ishmael. How much time has elapsed between the chapters? Isaac, at this time, was not a child. He was probably a young man.

The text says that God "tested" Abraham. Some older translations may use the word "tempt". Test is a much better translation for the Bible states clearly that God does not tempt anyone. There is a big difference between tempting and testing.

1. Why are tests important?

You will notice that the question implies that tests are important. Some teachers have tried to teach subjects without testing, however, the results have not been satisfactory.

A test sets standards of acceptability. 

A test forces us out of our comfort zone.

A test affirms our abilities.

A test offers the reward of accomplishment.

Genesis 22:2

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

It is thought that human sacrifice, namely child sacrifice, was practiced among the pagan nations of Abraham's time. Therefore the idea of offering his son would not be totally alien to him. Possibly he had wondered; "Do I love my God as much as these pagans love their god?"

2. Was God really asking Abraham to sacrifice his Son or was Abraham mistaken in his understanding of what God was saying?

One of the greatest challenges for Christians is to hear and understand the will of God for your life. Christians generally believe that God speaks and thus guides and directs our lives to the extent that we hear and obey. However, we can oftentimes be mistaken about what God is calling us to do. If someone today told you that they believed God was telling them to sacrifice a child we would take immediate action to stop them. Yet, this is exactly what God is telling Abraham to do.

3. Why does the text emphasize the fact that Isaac is Abraham's only Son?

Ishmael and Hagar have departed. Isaac is the only son of Sarah and the son through whom God promised to bless Abraham.

4. Where is the land of Moriah?

The only clue we have concerning the location of this area is the statement in 2 Chronicles 3:1, that the Temple of Solomon was built upon Mount Moriah.

Genesis 22: 3-5

Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

5. What is your idea of worship? How does your idea of worship compare with Abraham's idea of worship?

Abraham's idea of worship was quite different from the modern day idea of worship. Read what George Barna has to say below.


Famous researcher, George Barna recently conducted a survey on worship in American churches. He had some very interesting things to say, “Worship is a non-negotiable obligation and privilege of every Christian…We agree that when it comes to worship, God deserves it, the Bible commands it, and churches try to facilitate it, But we have a problem when it comes to worship. ... True worship is rare.” According to his results, he found that in American churches, thirty-two percent have never experienced God’s presence in worship, forty-four percent have not experienced his presence in the past year. And the younger the person, the less likely she or he has experienced that presence. Isn’t that astounding? Barna continues, “Only one third of church-going adults identify worshiping God as "the most important responsibility of a Christian.” And less than half of them defined worship as a "top priority" in their lives. “The focus needs to be on God, not us. We worship for God’s benefit,” he stressed. “The reason why we’re doing this is God commands it, God deserves it, it pleases him.” “Worship is as much an attitude as an activity," he added, "and the right heart allows intimacy with God.”

Genesis 22: 6 - 9

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

The word faith is a popular word in the bible. It is mentioned about 250 times in the New Testament and only twice in the Old Testament. The idea of coupling faith with religion was not common at all in the Old Testament. It was the Prophet Habakkuk who first spoke of the just living by faith.

However, long before Habakkuk Abraham trusted God and lived out his faith before Him. The Hebrew writer says; "By faith Abraham, when God tested him offered Isaac as a sacrifice.

6. Think of a time when you acted on faith in obedience to God's command.

7. What does Abraham's response to Isaac's question reveal about his faith?

True faith is concerned with obedience rather than results. In today's world we are performance driven. We are expected to produce results.

It is a fact that most Christians who are faithful will go to their grave without ever seeing the full results of their faithfulness.

Whereas we may never see the results of our faithfulness the rewards are immediate. The reward for faithfulness is intimacy with God.

Abraham was convinced that God would produce the desired results from this experience.

Genesis 22: 9-12

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

8. Why did Abraham have to prove his faith by offering his son Isaac?

Abraham had already demonstrated his faith to God in many ways, however, his son was the one thing that could possibly stand between Abraham and God. Without a doubt Abraham cherished his son Isaac. God is a jealous God and is not totally pleased with us until we are willing to sacrifice (i.e. lay before him) everything we have.

In the New Testament Paul writes; Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

9. If God knows everything then why did Abraham have to prove his faithfulness to Him?

We must remember that God created us in His image and with that comes the right to make choices. We are not God's puppets. He has not programmed us to do or think in a particular way.

God tested Abraham for Abraham's benefit not for His own benefit.

ILLUSTRATION: When I was in college I would go to the gym and lift weights. Even thought I knew in my mind that I could lift the weights, the benefit came not in knowing but in doing.

Oftentimes we think we would be willing to give to a just cause or go on a mission trip or teach a Sunday School Class. However, when put to the test we sometimes fail.

10. Do you think we would be reading and studying about Abraham today if he had failed this test of obedience?

Genesis 22: 13 - 14

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

Abraham predicted that the Lord would provide and He did. He provided a substitute for Isaac. Also he has provided a substitute for you and me.

Abraham predicted that God would provide a lamb. Little did Abraham know that God would one day give his own son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

11. What important truth can we learn from this section of scripture?

This act of obedience proved to all who would follow that God is not pleased with human sacrifice. Abraham was able to prove that ultimately it is our willingness to obey that pleases God most.

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