“After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’” – Genesis 22:1-2
I’ve never liked the story of God calling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It seems foreign and barbaric that God would ask someone to do such a thing. But perhaps there is more to the story than the blurb which we all know. Let’s back it up a few verses.
“Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. And Abraham sojourned many days in the land of the Philistines.” – Genesis 21:33-34
Seemingly dull, but there is a world to explore here in these two small verses. Is Abraham calling on the name of the Lord before he journeys to a pagan land or is he just trying to appease his Deity before running off to Vegas for the weekend? I don’t know. Yet going to the land of the Philistines carries a connotation in itself.
Remember the story of Samson and Delilah? This beautiful woman lured Samson into giving up his position before the Lord.
She was a Philistine.
Remember the mighty warrior Goliath whom God’s people trembled before?
The Philistines were rich sea merchants. They mastered the skill of making purple dye, an expensive commodity at the time. And they worshiped many gods… So they were rich, mighty, technologically advanced, and sexy… No wonder God wanted to test Abraham’s faith upon his return!
The grass always looks greener on the other side. Human instinct gravitates us toward glitz and glamour, toward bigger and better, toward rich and sexy. And without warning and without our own cognizance these things become what we value as most important to us.
God desired to see if Abraham succumbed to the temptations. So He tested Abraham by asking to give up that which was most important to him, his son. God wanted to see if spending time in the land of the Philistines has changed Abraham’s heart, if it had compromised his faithfulness.
It did not.
You know how the story ends. Abraham lifted the knife to sacrifice his son when an angel stopped him. Then Abraham looked and saw the ram God had provided for the sacrifice, the ram which was stuck in a bush by the alter.
Abraham remained faithful. He passed the test.
Following Christ and being faithful to God costs us what we hold most dear, at the very least we must be willing to give it to God. And what we hold most dear is easily influenced by the world around us. So maybe we ought to call on the name of the Lord more like Abraham, firming our hearts lest they by tempted away by what seems bigger, better, stronger, richer, or sexier. In the end, it is only God that satisfies.
When God tests your faithfulness, will you pass?