This morning’s sermon continued to look at the life of Abraham, looking at Genesis 22 where Abraham’s faith is tested. Like it or not, trials and testings are an inevitable part of our walk with God. They are not necessarily a sign of God’s displeasure or His anger against us; they are part of His refining process. James 1:2-4 TNIV reminds us to look at trials as gifts from God which refine our characters and refine our faith (see also 1 Peter 1:7 TNIV.)

We might wish life was a bed of roses (to quote Christopher Marlowe’s romantic poem ‘The Passionate Shepherd to his love’), but it rarely is! We live in a fallen world of sin and temptation, but we also need to remember that nothing happens to us without God’s knowledge and permission.

Genesis 22:1-19 TNIV has much to teach us about how to respond to trials and testings. We see here that:

1. God was the initiator of the trial. That is sometimes hard to understand and it’s necessary to understand that testing is not the same as temptation (see James 1:14-15 TNIV). It’s also necessary to dwell on God’s benevolent kindness and loving nature so that we do not view Him with wrong eyes as the source of all trouble. Nonetheless, we see that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit of God to be tested (Matt 4:1-11 TNIV), so we should also expect to face trials and testings. At those times, we need to remember that whatever comes our way has been filtered through God’s loving purposes. Even when we have to undergo discipline and rebuking, God does this out of love and for our good: “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10 TNIV) Testing is not a sign of God’s displeasure or anger, but a sign that He is at work in our lives. We must also remember and lean on God’s promise: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted [or tested] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted [or tested], he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13-14 TNIV)

2. What God does and says doesn’t always make sense to us! Killing the son of promise for whom he’d waited such a long time can’t have made sense to Abraham! Hebrews 11:17-19 TNIV offers us some insights into Abraham’s thought process at this time. He was confident God could even raise Isaac from the dead if necessary! God’s ways and thoughts are beyond our understanding (see Rom 11:33 TNIV), but we can trust Him even when we don’t understand.

3. Abraham’s response was obedience to God; that needs to be our response too. Even when we can’t see how God can work good from the circumstances, even when we can’t understand what God is doing in our lives, we can obey.

‘Trust and obey
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey.’ (Traditional hymn)

4. Abraham received new revelation of God through his obedience. He discovered in that place that God is Jehovah-Jireh – the Lord our Provider. That God, the God who provides, is our God too. For we must always remember:

God has provided a lamb
He was offered up in your place
What Abraham was asked to do, he’s done
He’s offered his only son.’ (‘God Will Provide A Lamb’, Michael Card)

‘God Will Provide A Lamb’, Michael Card