God provides all we need for what He calls us to do.
Lesson 30 from The HOPE Study Guide
Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
– Genesis 22:1–2
And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”
– Genesis 22:10–14
And together they went to the appointed place. There they prepared the altar and arranged the wood. God had not yet provided another offering. So Abraham bound his son on the altar. Still there was no other sacrifice. So Abraham lifted his knife to slay his son. Then there came from Heaven a voice saying, “Do not lay a hand on the lad.” And there in the thicket was a ram, caught by its horns. And so it was that God provided an offering in place of Abraham’s son. This was a picture of the offering that God would one day provide for the sin of humankind.
– The HOPE, Chapter 5
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
This lesson deals with one of the most dramatic and profound stories in the Bible. Abraham was a man who loved God and followed Him with faithful abandon for decades. And yet God, who loves life and loves people, asked this man to do the unthinkable: to offer his beloved son as a sacrifice. And if that was not enough drama, recall that Isaac was the one through whom God promised to bless all people! It was not only Abraham’s hope, but the hope of the entire world that was bound to that altar. What do we do with this story? How can we understand it?
On the surface, this story seems to contradict much of what the Bible has shown us about God. But as we have also seen in previous lessons, the Bible may stretch us and challenge our understanding, but it is important not to jump to conclusions based upon what “seems’” or appears to be a contradiction as we read the Bible. From our study of God’s story thus far, we know that God is perfect in His goodness and wisdom.
So with that understanding as our foundation, let’s consider the story of Abraham and Isaac.
Genesis 22:1 says that God “tested” Abraham. There are two ways to look at a test. Most of us are familiar with tests taken in school. Such tests are meant to determine the degree to which one has mastered a course of study. Most of us know what it’s like to wonder whether or not we will do well on such a test. There is, however, another type of test, one that measures identity rather than performance. For instance, metals are often tested to determine their purity. There is nothing the metal can do to affect whether or not it will pass the test. Either the metal is pure, or it’s not. This kind of test simply measures the identity of what is being tested.
Consider that in the case of Abraham, the One who tested him was also the One who prepared him for the test, namely God. And like a precious metal that is refined by fire to remove impurities and make it pure, Abraham had been refined by God through the years by the fires of his faith walk. There was no question with God as to whether or not Abraham would do well on this test. This was not a risky experiment. God knew exactly what Abraham had become: a man who put God first, before everything, even his own son. God knew Abraham’s identity, and this test would simply reveal it! Abraham’s life is a testimony to what God can accomplish in a person who is willing to follow wherever He leads. This story dramatically shows forth Abraham’s faith for the world to see …and God is glorified as a result.
Of course, as with any story in the Bible, there are many precious insights and object lessons to be found. And as we shall eventually see in our study of God’s story, the ram that God Himself provided to take the place of Isaac is profoundly prophetic of God’s promised Deliverer who would Himself free the world from sin.1 Like the covering that God provided for Adam and Eve, and the ark that God provided for Noah, this provision from God is one more reminder that we cannot save ourselves. “He only is my rock and my salvation” (Psalm 62:2).
ASK & REFLECT
- How did you feel about this story after first seeing it in The HOPE or reading it in the Bible?
- Did you think it was strange that God would ask this of Abraham? Why or why not?
- If you were in Abraham’s situation, what would you have done? Why?
- As with Abraham,2 God always prepares us for the tests He brings into our lives. Are you facing a test? Can you see yet how He has prepared you? How might God use this test to reveal what He has built into your life?
DECIDE & DO
As they were walking to the place of offering, Isaac asked his father, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God will provide for Himself the lamb.”3 But as they approached the altar, there was still no lamb. And as Abraham bound his son on the altar …there was still no lamb. And even as Abraham took his knife and stretched out his hand … still there was no lamb! Then, just before Abraham was about to slay his son, God stopped him and showed him the ram that He had placed in the thicket.
How could Abraham be so confident as to state that “God will provide for Himself the lamb”? In his years of walking by faith Abraham learned a very important principle: God will always provide everything we need to do whatever He calls us to do, no matter how difficult it seems. And He will never compromise His character or ask us to compromise ours in the process.
Is God asking you to do something that seems very difficult? If He is, then He will provide what you need to do it. Continue walking by faith with God. Allow Him to make you the kind of person that recognizes His voice and has the faith and confidence in Him to obey.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
- BibleGateway.com, a ministry of Gospel Communications International, provides online commentaries for many passages of scripture. Read their commentaries on the testing of Abraham as follows:
- God commands Abraham to offer up Isaac – (http://www.biblegateway.com/ resources/commentaries/?action=getCommentaryText&cid=18&source=2&seq=i.1.22.1)
- Abraham’s faith and obedience to the Divine command – (http:// www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/index.php?action=getCo mmentaryText&cid=18&source=2&se=i.1.22.2).
- Another sacrifice is provided instead of Isaac – (http:// www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/index.php?action=getCo mmentaryText&cid=18&source=2&se=i.1.22.3).
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB