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The Test

God's tests of faith are not trials by ordeal but the refining of gold.

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Introduction

Elie Wiesel, the great Jewish writer known best for his writing about the Holocaust, wrote many other things as well, including Messengers of God about Bible characters and stories. In his chapter "The Sacrifice of Isaac: A Survivor's Story," he says:

As a child, I read and read this tale, my heart beating wildly; I felt dark apprehension come over me and carry me far away. There was no understanding the three characters. Why would God, the merciful Father, demand that Abraham become inhuman, and why would Abraham accept? And Isaac, why did he submit so meekly? Not having received a direct order to let himself be sacrificed, why did he consent? I could not understand.

There is no other story like this in the Old Testament. There is but one other in all of human history. It is the great finale to Abraham's life. Oh, he lived on many more years. He had other children. He buried his wife, Sarah, and finally died at age 175. His faith story started in Genesis 12.

(Read Genesis 12:1-3)

And now in Genesis 22, the words follow the same pattern: "Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you" (v. 2).

Once God had asked Abram to burn his bridges behind him. "Now he asks him to burn the only bridge ahead of him," as Sidney Greidanus puts it.

We cannot help but ponder the impenetrable emotions of this story, but our text does not help us. There is not one feeling word in this story, yet we can't help but wonder what this felt like.

The three characters here—God, Abraham, and Isaac—each invite our focus. Each focus gives us something significant to consider. Focus on God, and we must weigh his goodness, ...

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Lee Eclov is pastor of Village Church of Lincolnshire in Lake Forest, Illinois and author of Pastoral Graces: Reflections on the Care of Souls (Moody Publishers). Eclov also leads a gathering of pastors for mutual support and learning called Pastors' Gatherings. To find out more about these Gatherings visit his site www.leeeclov.com.

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