Kids today face loads of tests at school. When I was in special ed teaching, it was often known as ‘death by checklist’! Hundreds of little boxes to check off what the kids could do. Why? As their teacher, I already knew what they could do. It was to inform them and their parents (and to demonstrate to the authorities that I was doing my job in helping them to make progress!)
When God tested Abraham in Genesis 22 v 1, it wasn’t so that God could find out whether Abraham was capable of doing this very difficult thing. He already knew the man’s heart; he knew what he was able to achieve. God only tests us so that we know what we can do.
I reckon quite a few years have passed since Genesis 21. That was about the time of Isaac’s weaning, and he’s asking the questions of an older child now (v7). Up till now, God has ‘been with Abraham in everything he’s done’ (21 v 22) – he has honoured him, favoured him, fulfilled promises concerning him, blessed him in every way, whilst Abraham has had his doubts and times out of fellowship with God, and made many mistakes along the journey. Why does God think he is up to this test of all tests?
I think it comes back to the tamarisk tree (21 v 33). Here, he has called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. Here, he has not forgotten who has blessed him. He has not forgotten to call on his name. He has not forgotten to fellowship with the God who has done so much for him. At long last, he has come to know God. So when God calls him by name, he instantly replies, “Here I am.” There are no arguments, no discussions, no reasonings. Just immediate obedience.
Tests are incremental. Pass one, and you get a harder one. Fail, and there is no progression. There is no way on this planet that I would want a test as hard as this one of Abraham’s. But I do know, that God will only test me on the things he knows I can do. And when I pass, what joy then! My journey to that joy, is through spending time at my tamarisk tree, remembering day by day, even hour by hour, to call on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God, to fellowship with him, and to draw strength from him. Who knows what may be required of me? But I know this, that as I spend time in God’s company, he will enable me to pass any test!