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rope tied in knot January 21 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Genesis 22, 23, 24

Difficult Tests of Faith

Has God ever asked you to do something difficult to test your faith? Are your emotions tied up in knots, wondering what to do? Perhaps you, like the Biblical Patriarch, Abraham, moved to another country or another area where you have no family or friends. Maybe finances are difficult or your crops failed, and you don’t know how you can pay your bills and put food on the table. Or, because of circumstances you feel the pressure to lie or to compromise your integrity. These are difficult tests of faith. This Bible study presents some of the most difficult tests of faith for Abraham. Examples from his life will encourage us to keep trusting God through our circumstances.

Abraham and Sarah wait twenty-five years to have a baby which was promised by God. After waiting ten years, their faith falters and they try to help him. Abraham takes a wife, by Sarah's maidservant, Hagar, and has a son, Ishmael. However, God says he is not the son who will inherit the LORD’s promised blessings. After fifteen more years, at last Sarah becomes pregnant and has a son. They name him Isaac, meaning “laughter”. Abraham and Sarah laugh in delight that they, senior citizens, are blessed in an unbelievable way—they finally have a child, a son to become their natural heir!

Abraham and Sarah dote on their new son. Imagine Abraham's shock when several years later God tells him to offer his one and only beloved son, the son of his old age, this promised heir, as a burnt offering upon Mount Moriah. What? Why is God making such an outrageous request? Has God suddenly changed his nature? Has God forgotten that Isaac is the promised heir? What the LORD tells Abraham to do makes no sense. What is God doing? Perhaps you are facing some perplexing situations and wonder the same thing.

In Abraham’s case God is testing his loyalty (Genesis 22:1). Does Abraham's love for his son exceed his love for God?

What is Abraham's response to God’s directive? Does he adamantly refuse, try to run from the LORD or hide his son? That would be understandable. Does he tell his wife what God said? We don't know that he did. No, Abraham gets up early in the morning, saddles his donkey, takes wood and a torch for the sacrifice, and then he, his servants, and his son Isaac start out for Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:2). Does Abraham change his mind along the way and back out? We would understand if he did. How many of us would be willing to sacrifice one of our children? According to Genesis 22:9, Abraham proceeds to offer his young adult son as a sacrifice.

How could Abraham do it? What is he thinking? Our first clue is the instructions he leaves with his servants. “He said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you’” (Genesis 22:5 (NIV), emphasis mine) .

Our second clue is from the book of Hebrews.

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” [Gen. 21:12]

Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death (Hebrews 11:17-19, NIV).

Wow, that is real faith! What happens next?

God stops Abraham from sacrificing his son—the LORD is consistent with his nature—he deplores human sacrifices (Leviticus 18:21; Jeremiah 7:31).

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:13-14, NIV)

On that same mountain, a couple thousand years later, another sacrifice will be offered—around 33 A.D. Jesus is offered as a sacrifice for our sins on the cross, providing us salvation from sin and giving eternal life to all who trust in him.

Abraham’s obedient faith, to not withhold his only beloved son, proves his love and loyalty to God. It also gives us a beautiful picture of how God did not withhold his only beloved son, Jesus Christ, from being sacrificed for us (more...).

What do we do when God’s directions don’t make sense? We need to trust him anyway and keep following him. Perhaps he is testing our loyalty. Here is a video of that event.

In time, Abraham's wife, Sarah, dies. Burials were usually done in a person's native land; yet Abraham does not take her back to the city of Ur, from which they came. Instead, as a quiet testimony of his faith that God will eventually give him the land of Canaan (Genesis 23), Abraham buys land there to bury her and later himself and his progeny. Abraham purchases a part of the Promised Land and claims it as his new native land (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament, edited by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p. 66). What do we do to lay claim to God’s promises? Will we act in faith?

Choosing a mate is also a difficult test of faith for many of us. Are we willing to let God choose for us, or do we think we can handle this decision ourselves? Abraham acts in faith choosing a bride for his son Isaac (Genesis 24). Abraham knows it would be a bad idea to get a wife from Canaan—they are very wicked people—by faith he sends his servant to the house of his near relatives in Northwest Mesopotamia. In our culture we choose our own mates, but in their culture the parents chose. Abraham believes God will help his servant to find a wife for Isaac and, through some very providential circumstances, he does. Here is a video of that event.

Perhaps getting a spouse is not what you desire or the decision you need to make at this time. Whatever big decisions you need to make in your life, are you willing to trust God to lead you?

Lessons to Live By

  • What do we do when God’s directions don’t make sense? We need to trust him anyway and keep following him. Perhaps he is testing our loyalty.
  • Let's lay claim to God’s promises and be willing to act in faith.
  • Like Abraham, God sacrificed his Son to provide forgiveness of sins, peace, and spiritual life. Have we accepted his sacrifice on our behalf? (more...)
  • What difficult decisions do we need to make? Let's trust God to lead us.

Focus Verse

Galatians 3:6 (NIV) “Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’”

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A Look Ahead: Having passed the difficult test of faith, Abraham soon faces another challenge—how to get along with his neighbors. How do we have Peace With our Neighbors? Find out in our Next Lesson.

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