Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matthew 5:8 ESV]
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” [Genesis 22:1 ESV]
Do not think God simply winds us up and lets us go wherever we may. He is intimately and intricately involved in our lives as He prepares us for eternity.
Genesis 22 is a heart tearing and gut wrenching story. Abraham had shown his willingness to obey God, had received God’s blessing, believed God when He spoke. Now, he is told to sacrifice the promise and blessing of God. “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” [Genesis 22:2 ESV].
God tested Abraham. “Test” is also translated “tempt.” We know God does not tempt anyone though He will allow all to face temptations. This word does not carry the idea of driving Abraham toward sin. God seeks obedience which is never sin. Nor did God tell Abraham to do what He was unwilling to do Himself. “Test” means to prove or assay, as in find out what the level of purity is within the substance. In this instance, the substance is a man, created in God’s image, corrupted by sin, chosen by God. We are not to test God, but He is perfectly justified in testing us.
What raced through Abraham’s mind and heart as he, his son, and his servants traveled to the place where God directed him to sacrifice his son? I am a father. Not knowing what he thought and felt I can imagine his turmoil. Before leaving I imagine Abraham wrestling with himself through a sleepless night, struggling with obedience. Every step of the journey brought a search for compromise, or manufactured an excuse to disobey. Every compromise and excuse fell at his feet trampled as he journeyed. He pondered the promise of God, finally seeing His trustworthiness.
Every step brought him closer to God who is not some dumb idol, chiseled from stone, carved from wood, empowered by corrupt imaginations. He is God, the Creator of All, the One Who Sustains All, the Giver of Purpose to All, the Owner of All. At sometime during the journey, from the moment of the command to the raising of the knife, Abraham decided God is worthy of such worship. Abraham will do what His God commanded.
Notice Abraham’s confidence in the God of the Universe. “Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you’” [Genesis 22:5 ESV]. We will worship. We will return.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. [Hebrews 11:17-19 ESV]
From the first time God spoke to Abraham until Genesis 22, and beyond, God prepared Abraham, teaching him, working in him, changing him. This test was not so God could determine Abraham’s progress in his studies but to drive out more of the impurities brought by the corruption of sin. Obedience tested by sacrifice reveals the motivation and purity of the thinking of the heart toward God.
God’s intent is not to change the world and us so we can live in the world but to change us so we can be with Him wherever He puts us. He uses the world to test and assay His new creation in preparation for eternity. He will purify our hearts, for only that which is pure will be in His presence.