Introduction: There are stories in the Bible, just like there are sad
events in life, that I do not understand. Sure, I have explanations
and, I suppose, a partial understanding. But, in my human intellect
(see 1 Corinthians 13:12), the matter is not clear. One of those
stories is the sacrifice of Isaac. My plan is to spend most of our
time this week on this story to see if any light shines into our
minds about how God tests us. Let’s dive in!

  1. What Purpose?

    1. Read Genesis 22:1-2. Do you think Abraham thought God was
      serious? (If you read Genesis 21:9-14, you see that God
      had previously instructed Abraham to send away his other
      son, Ishmael.)

      1. Was God serious? Would God have Abraham kill his son
        in what seemed very much like a pagan sacrifice?
        (Read Jeremiah 32:35. No. God never had in mind
        killing Isaac. Instead, God instituted the death
        penalty for anyone who sacrificed his child
        ( Leviticus 20:1-5).)

    2. Our lesson is titled “Extreme Heat.” No doubt this command
      created “extreme heat” for Abraham. Notice again Genesis
      22:1. What does it say was the purpose for this command?
      (“God tested Abraham.”)

      1. What kind of a test is this? God never intended to
        have Abraham follow His command. The command was
        completely contrary to the character of God. To obey
        (that is kill his son) would be to follow the will of

      2. Have you ever had a test of this nature? (I doubt it.
        I cannot pass the test of doing things I’m supposed
        to do. Things I know I should do. How could my
        logical brain ever hope to pass a “test” of doing
        something that I knew was completely contrary to
        God’s will and contrary to my own will?)

      3. Is there a difference between a “test” and a
        “temptation?” (The commentary, Be Obedient, has a
        very interesting approach to this. It says that
        temptations – the desire to following evil impulses –
        seem completely logical. They are used by Satan to
        bring out the worst in us. On the other hand, tests
        come from God, they seem unreasonable, and they are
        designed to bring out the best in us.)

        1. Do you think you have any hope of separating the
          two in your mind?

    3. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says that a real test has
      to defy logic, it must be something that we want to resist
      (like killing our son)! Do you agree? (I’m not so sure
      that we can draw such neat, tidy lines between tests
      (illogical and we don’t want to do) and temptations
      (logical and we want to do). For example, the last hours
      of Jesus’ life involved mixed motives – He wanted to save
      us, but He did not want to be tortured and humiliated.
      Obviously this was a test in part, but a very large part
      of it was a temptation.)

    4. If you are not familiar with the Abraham/Isaac story, read
      Genesis 22:3-8. Why did they have a practice of
      sacrificing animals? (This practice looked forward to the
      sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf to take away our sins.
      Its purpose was to teach the people about the coming
      Messiah and how He would substitute for their sins.)

    5. Read Genesis 22:9-12. If the Be Obedient commentary is
      right that tests bring out the best in us, what is the
      “best of us” that this test was supposed to bring out in

    6. Read Genesis 22:15-18. We now get back to something that
      seems logical to me. What relationship does this promise
      have to this test? (God says that because Abraham was
      willing to give up his son, God is willing to give Abraham
      many sons – “descendants as numerous as the stars in the
      sky and the sand on the seashore.”)

      1. Is there a parallel to Jesus giving up His life so
        that He could “get back” all of us?

      2. What purpose did God have in this special
        relationship with Abraham and his descendants? (To
        share the nature of God with the world.)

    7. Are you beginning to see how the pieces of this mental
      puzzle are coming together? God asks Abraham to do
      something that illustrates what God did for us. God gives
      this test of the loss of a child to someone God is going
      to entrust with numerous descendants. The purpose of
      God’s special relationship with Abraham and his
      descendants is to share the message that God is willing to
      give up His Son for us.)

    8. If God were to create a parallel test for you, what would
      it be? (The test is about selfishness and trust. Being
      willing to give all that we have and we are in love to

    9. If Abraham believed that he would have to kill his son,
      how do you think Abraham rationalized that with his
      knowledge of God and trust in God? (Read Hebrews 11:19.
      Abraham thought God would raise Isaac back to life. Such
      an amazing trust!)

      1. Consider how that anticipated what God did for His
        own Son in the parallel situation.

    10. What if God did not restrain Abraham from killing his son
      and did not raise Isaac back to life? Would we have a
      different, or merely a longer, test of faith? (Read
      Hebrews 11:39-40. Part of the background for this is
      Hebrews 11:35-38, which describes followers who suffered
      terribly here on earth and did not see any victory on
      earth. All of those in Hebrews 11 had some part of God’s
      promise left unfulfilled. We may end up going through
      things here on earth that will not be “made right” in
      terms of our personal interests, until we enter heaven.)

    1. Of the difficulties that come your way, what percentage
      are tests and what percentage are temptations?

      1. What percentage do you think come only from God?
        ( Genesis 22:1 & 12 plainly state that Abraham’s
        situation was a test from God. In my situation, it
        seems that sins and errors on my part, coupled with
        Satan’s work, create all the trouble I can handle. I
        doubt that God has to add much to my burdens to
        discern or grow my character!)

  1. The Purpose

    1. Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. What positive purpose does
      trouble serve in our life? (Paul writes that when he
      suffered, God comforted him. That taught him how to
      comfort those around him who suffered trouble.)

      1. Have you seen this in your life? (If you have
        suffered from medical problems, you are more
        sympathetic to others with similar medical problems.
        If you suffer from marital problems, you are more
        sympathetic to others with marital problems.)

      2. We were painting a picture of “God the tester,” when
        we considered Abraham and Isaac. What picture of God
        does Paul paint in this test? (God the compassionate

        1. Are these pictures consistent? “Here, let me
          break your leg. By the way, I will also set it,
          put it in a cast, pray for you and send you a
          card. If you need anything else, let me know.”
          (I think the leg breaking illustration is
          misleading because there is nothing to be
          gained. God is much like the physical education
          teacher who says “Let’s run 10 miles together –
          by the way, I’ll bring the water.”)

    2. Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. What other purpose does trouble
      serve? (It causes us to rely on God.)

      1. Paul has a very interesting way that he describes
        God. He refers to Him as “God, who raises the dead.”
        Why refer to God that way? (As a practical matter,
        the ultimate danger/ trouble that we fear is death.
        God is equipped to handle even that. What is not to
        trust? As you recall, that was Abraham’s thought

    3. Friend, are you going through trouble? Do you feel
      tested? God not only has a purpose in the testing, but He
      comes with comfort and compassion and a promise of life
      eternal. Will you, like Abraham, trust Him?

  2. Next week: Struggling with All Energy.