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In OT, two righteous people went through severe testings - Abraham and Job - though in different contexts.

But the testing of Abraham was - unlike of Job - killing and burning Issac on the altar with his own hands. God commanded him something extraordinary, beyond our comprehension, but not for YHWH, the Sovereign, Almighty, and all-knowing God.

  • Was it because God tests His righteous people, or did He have to test Abraham for his sake?

  • If it was for his sake, can we compile reasons from the narrative in Chapter 22 : 3 -19 in conjunction with Jesus' words in Mt 10: 37?

Text: (ESV).

"And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness" (Gen 15:6).

"After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am” (22:1).

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    When one finishes forming a pitcher one puts it in the fire to fortify it and then one fills it with water to verify it. Mar 22, 2022 at 11:23
  • @MikeBorden Indeed. That's what a vessel is for, after all. A containment.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 22, 2022 at 15:53
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    Users are voting to close this. I suggest re-writing it so it is a little more open-ended about conclusions and a little more concise about the passage. Your reasons seem to be multiple choices. And, you need to quote the verse where God tells Abraham to do this, where Abraham says God will provide, and when the angel tells Abraham to stop. You should also quote Heb 11:19 that Abraham believed God could bring Isaac back to life as an interpretation of Abraham's mindset, also showing that you did your homework. That is one way to make this a Question worthy to keep open. Cheers!
    – Jesse
    Mar 23, 2022 at 4:18
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    @Mike Borden – Testing of a new product by the inventor is a normal thing, but not for the Almighty God. God does not have to test any of His creations, including us, as we, human, has to do.
    – Sam
    Jun 7, 2022 at 14:58
  • But we are not mindless pottery, we are living vessels. Can we know the capacity for faith we are given without testing? Jun 7, 2022 at 23:59

4 Answers 4

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It is significant that Abram showed solid faith in God before he had any offspring, and before his offspring were later told to love the Lord their God with their whole heart, soul and mind (Deuteronomy 6:5). He left his homeland to sojourn in a strange land in obedience to God's command. Although Jesus' words in Matthew 10:37 could be seen to have had Abraham as one example of supreme love for God, greater than that for his child, it was because Abraham had such faith in the promise of God regarding that miracle child that he was enabled to be prepared to carry the instruction out.

His faith was such that he believed God would instantly resurrect the boy, after the sacrifice was made. He knew God never lies, and that through Isaac his seed would become as numerous as the stars in the sky. He knew it was not Ishmael who was to provide the promised seed, although Ismael would be blessed by being the father of nations too.

That is why the Bible tells us in Genesis 22:5 that Abram instructed the young men in the group, "Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you." Abraham believed Isaac would live to return to the group, that same day.

That is why, in verse 8, that when Isaac and he walked to the mount, and the lad asked where the animal for sacrifice was, Abraham replied, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering". Abraham had that immense faith before they even reached the place of sacrifice.

Yet, when he said that, Abraham had no idea that God would provide a ram, caught in the thicket by its horns, as God would never allow Abraham to kill the miracle child. That is why Hebrews 11:8-18 expands on this matter of Abraham's faith:

"By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Issac: and he that had received the promises offered up the only begotten, of whom it was said that 'In Isaac shall thy seed be called': accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure."

Although Abraham never did actually offer up Isaac, he would have done, had his hand with the knife not been audibly stayed, and his attention drawn to the ram. That is why the verse above says Abraham "offered up Isaac". It was as good as done, as far as Abraham was concerned. And then, with hindsight, we can see that this foreshadowed God giving up his only begotten son at Calvary.

This answers your main question, "How should we understand God testing righteous Abraham?" As for your two subsidiary questions, I dealt with Mat.10:37 in my first paragraph. And yes, God purifies the faith of his people, to get rid of the dross (putting that faith through the refiner's fire). We can assume that not only Abraham's faith would be all the stronger after the event, but that it would have been a testing time for Isaac; the lad's experiences that day would have imprinted on his own tender faith a never-to-be-forgotten lesson. But, supremely, this all serves to show how God was, over the centuries, working out his own promise in Genesis 3:15, about the seed of promise. With hindsight, we can see how that line led through Abraham and Isaac, all the way to Jesus Christ, the supreme sacrifice - "The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

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    (Edited only to correct a typo that I know you would wish corrected.) Up-voted +1. The Hebrew of Genesis 22:8 is even more evocative than the common English word order God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering my son. If one sees Abraham speaking prophetically and speaking, in a sense, as God, then the wording 'my son' at the end (not beginning) of the sentence takes on a different meaning.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 22, 2022 at 16:01
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It is true that God does test and try people as per the following:

  • Rev 3:19 - Those I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore be earnest and repent.
  • Heb 12:5 - And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not take lightly the discipline of the Lord, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you.
  • James 1:12 - Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.

To what extent God test each person and by what means is a matter for the Divine Will. "God is sovereign and man is responsible" as the dictum goes. We remain human and should not question Providence:

  • Isa 45:9 - “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?
  • Isa 64:8 - But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.
  • Jer 18:6 - “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
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Abraham's story is a cornerstone of faith, often cited as an example of unwavering devotion to God. But is there more to his journey than meets the eye? Let's delve into the layers of Abraham's test and discover the profound lessons it holds about "Fear of the Lord" and its implications.

Unveiling the Purpose of the Test

Contrary to the conventional narrative, the purpose behind God's test wasn't to solely assess Abraham's faith. Rather, it served as a profound wake-up call, a chance for Abraham to reflect on his deep "fear(reverence) of God." Furthermore, the Almighty, all-knowing and all-seeing, didn't require a test to reveal Abraham's "faith in God." The test was for Abraham himself, a mirror to examine his priorities, that is who he 'fears' the most as said the Angel of the Lord in verse 12 -' Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, from Me.'

At the beginning of this story of "testing", God in verse 2, specially mentioned and said -'Take your son, your only son Issac, whom you love, offer him as a burnt offer to Me.'

In this context, the test was about Abraham's 'fear of God' coupled with who Abraham loves more, Issac who is his only flesh born to him at an old age, or God who gave him Issac as He promised. The underlying motif of the "Fear of God" is "love for God."

First, Abraham's priority in his life was God. He obeyed God and followed God's word above 'his country, kindred, and his father's house.' He took the risk of following God at the cost of his family's future, not knowing the destination. Furthermore, his faith in God was beyond any doubt. In Genesis 15:6, his faith was already acknowledged by God. His willingness to offer up Isaac wasn't merely a demonstration of faith; it was a manifestation of his deep love for the divine. The distinction between faith and love is of utmost importance. Even demons, as the Scriptures remind us, believe in God, His existence, yet they lack love for Him. True devotion springs from a heart aligned with love, transcending mere belief. What's more, a "fear" of God devoid of deep love for Him is nothing more than a fear of terror, not reverential fear.

This moment goes beyond the realm of mere faith; it delves into the very core of Abraham's values. His readiness to offer his cherished son as a sacrificial offering serves as a vivid testament to his profound allegiance to the Almighty. This narrative challenges us to engage in introspection, inviting us to take inventory of our own attachments and priorities."

In sum: Commands and questions can be instruments of profound self-awareness. Abraham's immediate actions post-command attest to this fact. He recognized the wake-up call that it was—an opportunity to assess his own heart. The test was a mirror, reflecting where his affection truly lay. The lesson here is that introspection can unveil the depths of our devotion.

The divine command to sacrifice Isaac wasn't an arbitrary trial. It was a lesson—a heart-wrenching one at that. The lesson wasn't aimed at teaching God something He didn't know or anything new; it was meant to show Abraham the depth of his love. Through the test, Abraham grasped that true love for God must transcend even the dearest of attachments.

Abraham's test stands in contrast to Enoch's experience. Enoch walked with God without undergoing such a trial. The distinction is enlightening; the test was for Abraham's growth, not for God's understanding. The narrative urges us to explore the nexus of love, faith, and testing, reminding us that the ultimate aim is a heart overflowing with genuine devotion.

In conclusion, Abraham's test transcends merely our faith status. It is for our reevaluation and reaffirmation of our love, priorities, and self-awareness in our Relationship with the Almighty God. This narrative prompts a personal odyssey of introspection, guiding us to scrutinize unwavering devotion, free from worldly attachments.

Through Abraham's transformative journey, we learn that formidable trials, though seemingly harsh in God's demands, reveal enlightening truths. His story echoes, testifying to the interplay of love, faith, and unwavering determination.

Inspired by Abraham, we stand resolute amid trials, guided by unwavering devotion. Let his narrative steer us, weaving our own threads into the timeless fabric of growth and discovery."

Soli Deo Gloria!

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If we acknowledge that God is omniscient, why would God needs to test a righteous as if He doesn't know him? Whether God tested Abraham and Job is subjected to the reader's perception for in these two accounts, God did not explicitly say it was a test. The only explicit account God tested a human is Hezekiah, found in 2 Chronicles 32:31. Hezekiah failed the test for God had left him.

But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart. (NIV)

It is worth noting that before the 'test' happened, God had affirmed that both Abraham and Job were righteous.

6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6 NIV)

8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8 NIV)

If it was not a test to Abraham and Job, then how to comprehend the stories?

Abraham

Most Biblical version of Genesis 22:12 either described Isaac was a lad (KJV) or a boy (NIV). However in rabbinical tradition, the age of Isaac at the time of binding is taken to be 37, which contrasts with common portrayals of Isaac as a child. (Wikipedia). That means, if Isaac was not willing, the sacrifice was not possible for Abraham is 137 years old.

I believe the sacrifice of Isaac was an image of the future sacrifice of Jesus. There are substantial similarities of both events (beliefmap.org);

  1. Both are promised-childs, miraculously conceived
  2. Both are called their father's special "only son"
  3. Both are to be sacrificed by their loving father
  4. Both are to be sacrificed in the same place (Mount Moriah)
  5. Both are to be a sacrificial lamb to God (on wood)
  6. Both carry their own wood up on their back to die on
  7. Both voluntarily submitted to their being sacrificed
  8. Both narratives conclude: God will provide
  9. Both fathers anticipated their son's resurrection

Job

Job's calamity was caused by the accusation from Satan

9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.

10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.

11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (Job 1:9-11 NIV)

12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

If this dialogue implied a test, then the subject of this test should be Satan rather than Job. It was a test to prove whether Satan's accusation was valid.

We may not understand why the human has to be suffer by the affairs in heaven. But apparently Paul saw something promising from it, that he said in 1 Corinthians 10:13;

13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (NIV)

Conclusion

In both accounts, God did not intended to test Abraham and Job, though in human angle, it is a test. However, the account of Hezekiel is worth to be on the alert. If spirit left us, we sure fail.

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