“It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him.” ~ Hebrews 11:17 (NLT)
My son loved to climb and leap when he was very young. At four he fell off of a tall slide and bumped his head. Because he couldn’t remember what had happened, I told him we had to go to the emergency room. He put up a terrible fuss. He did NOT want to go.
Photo by: Michael Pdger
“It will be all right,” I said. “We have to go.”
He calmed down and complied. After the doctor examined him and left the room, Brant turned to me with searching brown eyes and asked, “Is he going to cut off my legs now?”
“You hurt your head,” I said, “Why would he cut off your legs?”
“Oh. Is he going to cut off my head?”
His resistance to going to the hospital finally made sense. I’d recently visited an elderly neighbor who had had both legs amputated. In his mind, a hospital was a place that cut off limbs.
Jesus said, “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 18:4 NLT). That day, Brant showed me what childlike faith looks like. My son was willing to set aside his understanding and completely trust me even if it meant losing his legs.
After waiting 25 long years to hold this baby, after savoring every facial expression, every word, and every moment with Isaac, Abraham could have reasoned with God and begged for a different test. “How can You fulfill Your promise if You take Isaac? You’ve already taken away Ishmael. You can take me, but please don’t take our laughter away.”
But Abraham didn’t argue or bargain. He humbly trusted his heavenly Father knew best. God had promised to give him descendants through Isaac. And He would keep His promise.
When my Bible study discussed this test, several called it a cruel test for Abraham. Since God is never sadistic, why would He put Abraham through this? Here are some possible reasons.
Why Test Abraham?
- To protect Abraham: Before the law was given to Moses, Abraham intrinsically knew he could have no others gods before the Lord. As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24). Anything we love more than God harms us and undercuts our potential. God was protecting Abraham. “Don’t transfer your hope onto Isaac.”
- To testify to Abraham’s belief in the resurrection: Three major faiths trace back to Abraham. This story points to Jesus in a most affecting way and testifies to Abraham’s belief in God’s power to raise the dead.
- To reveal how much God loved Jesus—and us: This test of a father and his beloved son humanizes the story of God offering His only Son. A cruel test? God stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, but He gave His Son.
- To display the genuineness of Abraham’s faith (1 Pet. 1:7): God wasn’t trying to break Abraham. He was showing off his faith.
- To show the worthiness of Jesus. Abraham’s worship showed he recognized Christ’s worth.
Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Our greatest battles are not waged between love and hatred, but between two loves: our love for God and our love for God’s blessings. And the deeper we love, the more difficult is the test.” 
Childlike faith knows that God’s tests are not punishments. “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:3-4 NLT).
Abraham began his journey of faith by leaving his home, gods, and relatives in order to obey God. Through the decades, each act of obedience strengthened Abraham’s trust in God. He circumcised his men, lived as a stranger, and sent Ishmael away. Each test hurt in the way exercise leaves you sore but builds muscle.Abraham's grownup faith trusted God in the most childlike way. Click To Tweet
He packed his donkey and set off to sacrifice what he loved most in the entire world—because he loved God most of all.
Do we love God more than His gifts? Do we trust Him with what is most dear to us?The more grown-up our faith, the more childlike our trust in God becomes. Click To Tweet
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Debbie W. Wilson
 Warren W. Wiersebe, Run With The Winners (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1985), p. 81
Photo of girl by: Karl Fredrickson
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