Focal passage: Genesis 22:1-14
“After all these things, God tested Abraham…” This is the climax, the build-up of weary years of sojourning, conflict and longing, the denouement of famine and fill: the testing of Abraham by his God.
God had promised to make Abraham a nation, had waited to fulfill His promise and had watched Abraham and Sarah as they, too, waited. The account of Sarah’s pregnancy is abrupt, almost curt: “The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised.” The entire account takes up seven verses in Genesis. (The account of Hagar and Ishmael, in comparison, takes up 14.) You’d think Sarah’s miraculous pregnancy or the birth of Abraham’s rightful heir would warrant more than seven verses. Wasn’t this blessing what he was waiting for? Wasn’t this the big moment, the proof of God’s promise and favor? Wasn’t this the high point of Abraham’s life?
Nineteen verses are given to the testing of Abraham, the sacrifice of Isaac. Even when the Lord called out to Abraham here, He belabors His point: “Abraham!…Take your son, your only son, whom you love, and go…” No explanation. No discussion. No quick peek into the thoughts of Abraham or the Lord. “So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac.” We can’t know what Abraham was thinking exactly, but we know from Hebrews that Abraham, in faith, “considered that God was able even to raise [Isaac] from the dead.” We do know what Abraham did. “God will provide for himself the lamb,” Abraham says. He takes Isaac, builds the altar and raises his knife in worship. God stops Abraham mid-obedience and says, “…now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld…from me…”
This is the blessing, the favor and the high point of Abraham’s life. God’s fulfillment of the promise was never actually in question. God would provide for Himself the lamb. “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”