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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Big Test

can be in your head.

Genesis 22:4-8 (ESV)

On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 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.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

Everything so far has been leading up to this moment – all the lies and failures and embarrassments. There’s no weaseling out of this one; either you trust God or you don’t. But Abraham is finally ready for an advanced lesson. This is the ultimate educational experience; if Abraham can get through this test, he’ll be a rock.

But right now he’s as tense as a cat in a bathtub. He doesn’t know what God is going to do. He’s aware of God’s ability to raise Isaac from the dead (see Hebrews 11:19) but surely is hoping and praying that it doesn’t come to that.

So here he is not knowing what’s going to happen next and Isaac blurts out, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Bang. That’s the other thing Abraham has been dreading. Even before he gets to the actual sacrifice, he has to get through the moment when Isaac figures out what’s going on. His question shows that he’s getting close.

Abraham’s answer puts him off – but not for long. The tension is unbearable.

Notice that this test exists entirely in Abraham’s mind. There’s no physical pain, not even much physical work. No one gets hurt (in the end). There’s no cost and no physical suffering. It’s all about fear and anticipation. Abraham has no idea what’s going to happen next; he just has to trust God. This means believing that God is really there and is fully God.

We face similar trials. While many of our trials involve real pain or loss, some do not. Often we are stressed by the anticipation of something bad. Our ability to anticipate is generally a good thing, and should never be ignored, but we should still recognize it for what it is.

God tests his servants. While tests can be stressful, they’re not necessarily punishments. Our job as servants of Christ is to face them with courage, righteousness and faith.

This isn’t about trying harder; it’s about seeing tests through the eyes of a believer and depending on God. Prayer is the backbone of the proper response to a trial.

Never stop asking God to help you cope and to help you see what He’s up to.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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