“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” – Genesis 22:12
The scene before this passage is one of the more famous, sensational, and frankly disturbing passages in all the Bible. We see Abraham, with a knife raised above his head, standing over his son Isaac, who is bound and laid on an altar, ready to make an unimaginable sacrifice to his God. As a father, it is a scene that I can’t even begin to imagine being a part of. Empathy for Abraham, putting myself in his shoes, seems absolutely impossible to me.
Moreover, the request itself seems excessively cruel and unnecessary. It strikes me as something like a loyalty oath dreamt up by some misguided dictator or a hazing devised by a crooked gang leader. Now, I will admit I just don’t have the knowledge or maybe even the faith to understand exactly what it was that God was testing in Abraham and why. But I can relate, on a much lower-stakes level, to having been put through tests by people in my life: friends, coworkers, family members, even myself at some point along the way.
The story continues, and before the knife falls, an angel of the Lord appears and says, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Thankfully for all involved, Abraham passes the test from God’s perspective. But does he pass the test from our perspective? Would any of us have what it takes to pass this test? Literally speaking…no. I can safely say that any person I know living in this world would never sacrifice that much for God. Figuratively speaking, however? That may be a different story. What are we willing to sacrifice for God? What are we willing to give up in order to honor Him? Are we willing to put to death all of those things that we tend to put ahead of Him in our lives? To prioritize God above all else? It still seems like a pretty Big Test, doesn’t it? It still feels daunting, overwhelming, and all too often exhausting and unfair to try to put everything else second and Him first.
But it is, in that moment of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, that we get the Good News. We don’t have to pass the Big Test; Jesus passed it for us. You could even say He aced it. We just have to do everything we can to pass the little tests, every day, inch by inch, and if we do all that while at the same time accepting Jesus into our hearts, His A+ on the Big Test can be ours as well. Usually, taking a test for someone else is cheating, but not in this case. In this case it is the greatest act of fair play in history.