Abraham’s Crucial Test of Faith

Russ Sharrock

The sacrifice of Isaac put Abraham to his most agonizing test, a trial which he passed completely because of his total faith in God.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (Genesis 22:2)

Abraham took Isaac, two servants and a donkey and set off on the 50 mile journey.  When they arrived, Abraham ordered the servants to wait with the donkey while he and Isaac went up the mountain.  He told the men, “We will worship and then we will come back to you.” (Genesis 22:5b)

Isaac asked his father where the lamb was for the sacrifice, and Abraham answered that the Lord would provide the lamb.  Saddened and confused, Abraham bound Isaac with ropes and placed him on the stone altar.  Just as Abraham raised the knife to slay his son, the angel of the Lord called out to Abraham to stop and not harm the boy.  The angel said he knew that Abraham feared the Lord because he had not withheld his only son.

When Abraham looked up, he saw a ram caught in a thicket by its horns.  He sacrificed the animal, provided by God, instead of his son.

Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:16-18)

God had earlier promised Abraham that He would make a great nation of him through Isaac, which forced Abraham to either trust God with what mattered most to him or to distrust God.  Abraham chose to trust and obey. 

Abraham told his servants “we” will come back to you, meaning both he and Isaac.  Abraham must have believed God would either provide a substitute sacrifice or would raise Isaac from the dead.  This incident foreshadows God’s sacrifice of His only son, Jesus Christ, on the cross at Calvary, for the sin of the world.  God’s great love required of Himself what He did not require of Abraham.

Mount Moriah, where this event took place, means “God will provide.”  King Solomon later built the first Temple there.  Today, the Muslim shrine The Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem, stands on the site of the sacrifice of Isaac.  The author of the book of Hebrews cites Abraham in his “Faith Hall of Fame,” and James says Abraham’s obedience, “…was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.” (James 2:23)

Sacrificing one’s own child is the ultimate test of faith.  Whenever God allows our faith to be tested, we can trust that it is for a good purpose.  Trials and tests reveal our obedience to God and the genuineness of our faith and trust in Him.  Tests also produce commitment, strength of character, and equip us to weather the storms of life because they bring us closer to the Lord.

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Reproduced with permission from Russ Sharrock.

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