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rope tied in knot January 21 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading: Genesis 22, 23, 24

Difficult Tests of Faith

Has God ever asked you to do something difficult to test your faith? Are your emotions tied up in knots, wondering what to do? Perhaps you, like the Biblical Patriarch, Abraham, moved to another country or another area where you had no family or friends. Perhaps finances were difficult or your crops failed, and you didn’t know how you would pay your bills and put food on the table. Perhaps you felt the pressure to lie or to compromise your integrity. These indeed are difficult tests of faith. This lesson presents some of the most difficult tests of faith for Abraham. Perhaps examples from his life will encourage us to keep trusting God through our circumstances.

Abraham and his wife waited twenty-five years to have a baby that was promised by God. After waiting ten years their faith faltered, and they tried to help God. Abraham took a wife, Hagar, and had a son, Ishmael, but God said he was not the son who would inherit God’s promised blessings. After fifteen more years, at last Sarah became pregnant and had a son. They named him Isaac, meaning “laughter”. Abraham and Sarah laughed in delight that they, senior citizens, were blessed in an unbelievable way - they finally had a child, a son to become their natural heir!

As may be expected, Abraham and Sarah doted on their son, their promised boy. Imagine his shock when one day God told Abraham to offer his one and only beloved son, the son of his old age, this promised heir, as a burnt offering upon Mt. Moriah. Why did God make such an outrageous request? Did God suddenly change his nature? Didn’t God remember that Isaac was the promised heir? What God told Abraham to do did not make sense. What was God doing? Perhaps you are facing some perplexing situations and also wonder the same thing.

In Abraham’s case it appears God was testing his loyalty. Genesis 22:1 informs us that this was a test. Did Abraham's love for his son exceed his love for God?

What was Abraham's response to God’s directive? Did he adamantly refuse, try to run from God or hide his son? That would certainly be understandable. Did he tell his wife what God said? No, he got up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, took enough wood and a torch for the sacrifice, and then he, his servants, and his son Isaac started out for Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:2). Wow, that is amazing, isn't it? Did Abraham change his mind along the way and back out? We would understand if he did. How many of us would be willing to sacrifice one of our children? According to Genesis 22:9, Abraham proceeded to offer his young adult son as a sacrifice (what an obedient and trusting son Isaac must have been to comply with his father’s wishes).

How could Abraham do it? What was he thinking? Our first clue is in Genesis 22:5 (NIV): “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,’” [emphasis mine]. Our second clue is in the book of Hebrews 11:17-19

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” [Gen. 21:12]

Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. (NIV)

Wow, that is real faith! What happened? God was consistent with his nature; God stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son and provided a ram in his place. Abraham’s obedient faith, to not withhold his only beloved son, gave us a beautiful picture of how God did not withhold His only beloved son, Jesus Christ, from being sacrificed for us (more...). What do we do when God’s directions don’t make sense? We need to trust him anyway and keep following him. Perhaps he is testing our loyalty.

In time, Sarah, Abraham's wife, died. Burials were usually done in a person's native land; yet Abraham did not take her back to the city of Ur, from which they came. Instead, as a quiet testimony of his faith that God would eventually give him the land of Canaan (Genesis 23), Abraham bought land there to bury her and later himself and his progeny. Abraham purchased a part of the Promised Land and claimed it as his new native land (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p. 66). What do we do to lay claim to God’s promises?

Choosing a mate is also a difficult test of faith for most of us. Are we willing to let God choose for us, or do we think we can handle this decision ourselves? Abraham acted in faith in choosing a bride for his son Isaac (Genesis 24). Abraham knew it would be a bad idea to get a wife from Canaan; they were a very wicked people. By faith he sent his servant to go to the house of his near relatives to get Isaac a wife (in Northwest Mesopotamia). In our culture we choose our own mates, but in their culture the parents chose. Abraham believed God would get him a wife, and through some very providential circumstances, he did. Perhaps getting a spouse is not the decision you need to make at this time, but you can trust God to lead you.

Lessons to live by:

  • What do we do when God’s directions don’t make sense? We need to trust him anyway and keep following him. Perhaps he is testing our loyalty.
  • Lay claim to God’s promises
  • Like Abraham, God sacrificed his Son to provide forgiveness of sins, peace, and spiritual life. Have you accepted his sacrifice on your behalf? (more...)
  • What difficult decisions do you need to make? Trust God to lead you.

Today’s Bible Memory Verse:

Galatians 3:6 “Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’" (NIV)

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