It was the ultimate test of faith.
Here's why I'm convinced of that: God told Abraham to sacrifice his son.
"Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much . . . and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you." (Genesis 22:1–2)
Yes, you read that correctly. God's words pound against our ears like shock waves. How could God require His faithful servant to sacrifice his precious son?
You and I would run for cover if God were to tell us to do that. Not Abraham. The Bible says he got up early the next morning and set out. I love that!
He couldn't wait to see what God was going to do. As the patriarch led his son up the mountain, he spoke words not of consternation but anticipation: "God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son" (22:8).
Abraham loved his son, but he also knew his God. His life was built on the positive side of faith. Knowing deep in his soul that God is a God who provides, Abraham never doubted. He crested that rugged mountain with confidence, determined to pass this final exam of his faith.
At Moriah's peak with a west wind swirling his gray hair, aging Abraham prepared his boy, his invaluable treasure, for the altar.
He calmly, deliberately tied Isaac up. Then he raised the blade to bring it down into his son's chest. In that epochal moment, the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and shouted, "Abraham! Abraham! . . . Don't lay a hand on the boy!" (22:11–12).
This was the last of God's final exams for Abraham. You'll have some in your life. Especially if you're a parent. Parenting includes interventions from the Lord to test our faith to the maximum and deepen our confidence in His Word.
I've had some grueling exams, and so have you. We'll have plenty more.
There's nothing funny or frivolous about God's tests; they're as serious as a coronary. But just when you think it's all ending, God breaks through the silence and says, "I'm right here. I'm with you in this. I now know you trust Me. There's no longer any question your faith rests on Me . . . not with your treasure. You've passed your final exam!"
Abraham released his son to God on that altar that day. Immediately afterward, Abraham saw God provide. Read it for yourself, nice and slowly . . .
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. 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" (22:13–14).
Yahweh-Yireh. The God who provides took center stage in Abraham's story. Every major test that comes our way is designed to put God's character on display. Then after we've seen the "ram caught in the thicket," we'll tell the story of God's wonderful provision with pleasure!
That's what happens after you pass one of God's excruciating exams.
- Pleasure comes.
- Rejoicing follows!
- The heart sings!
- Faith blossoms!
- The spirit swells with cheer!
- Laughter abounds!
I don't believe Abraham came down from that mountain with a grim face. I know Isaac didn't. They came down together, probably arm in arm talking about how magnificently God provides. Can't you just hear Abraham and Isaac (whose name means laughter, by the way) singing their praise to God all the way home? And how about when they told Sarah?
Chances are good you're facing an Abraham-and-Isaac kind of test right now. It may be a material test—you have to let go of some cherished thing; a relational test—you need to release someone you love into God's hands; the loss of a dream test—you have to say goodbye to the life you envisioned as it slips from your fingers.
Let it go . . . simply, let it go.
Remember: Ultimate tests are about God. Trust Him in your darkest moment. Look for the "ram caught in the thicket." His provision is there. (Really, it is; maybe you haven't seen it yet.) Live like Abraham, on the positive side of faith. Anticipate the pleasures that come from receiving God's provision.
It's what I call the other side of letting go.