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Seeking Things Above

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Col 3:1)

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Did God tempt Abraham to sin and kill his son?

Abraham's Test
A great question was raised in class on Sunday morning. Did God tempt Abraham to sin by asking him to sacrifice Isaac? When tough questions are raised about the Bible, the best place to look for answers is the Bible itself.

The first question to ask is, does God ever tempt anyone to sin? We don't always get black and white answers in the Bible to our questions. However, James could not be clearer when he addresses this issue.

James 1:12-15 (ESV) 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Ok, so God does not tempt us to sin. But would it not have been a sin if Abraham had killed Isaac to sacrifice him to God? The answer, is no. If God had never called off the sacrifice and allowed Abraham to go through with it, that would not have been a sin. The definition of sin is literally to miss the mark. The mark is the standard laid out by God. If God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham would not be missing the mark by obeying God.

This leads then into another troublesome question. How could a righteous God call for someone to shed innocent blood? First, none of us are innocent before God. We're all sinners, including Abraham and Isaac and the wages for sin is death (Romans 6:23). However, we do have a righteous and gracious God. The only human sacrifice he has ever called for is the sacrifice of His own Son for our sins (Romans 5:6-11, Hebrews 10:10). An omniscient (Isaiah 46:8-11, Jeremiah 1:5, John 21:17, 1 John 3:20) God knew that Isaac would never be sacrificed (1 Corinthians 10:13).

So if anyone ever commits an act that is contrary to God's standard as laid out in His Word, that person can never claim they were acting on God's direction. Even in the case of Abraham and Isaac, where God has the right to claim any life he chooses (Job 38-41), God called it off.

Abraham's faith is not that he was willing to kill his son. His faith was that he believed in God's promise that through Isaac his offspring would be as numerous as the stars. His faith, in the midst of testing, was looking forward and depending on God's promise. His faith was that God was trustworthy and what God had promised God would ensure happened.

God will never tempt us to sin. We have His word on that (James 1:13). God will allow us to be tested and in that testing, Satan and our own fleshly desires may very well tempt us. In our time of testing, let us keep our eye on God's promises and not on Satan's lies or our own worldly understanding.


Chris Taylor said...


Great thoughts here.

Also keep in mind that while God knows the future and what He will do and what Abraham will do, Abraham does not know.

So when the moment arrives, and God stays Abraham, that moment is cemented in Abraham & Isaac's life. The authority of God is sealed in their hearts.

Also God knows that this moment would be preserved in what would become scripture and would be used to edify other believers.

Ultimately everything that God causes to happen, happens to bring glory/honor/distinction to Himself and He brings us (believers) along with Him in the fulfillment of His ultimate will for His creation.

In other words, the moment wasn't so much about Abraham as it was about God and the sovereignty of God (which I think you mentioned).

God Bless,

Tony said...

Chris -

Thanks for the follow-up comments. I agree he brings believers along - if we follow his will we get to be a part or we can sit and watch from the sidelines and miss the blessings.

Alan said...

Don't forget that even in that situation God also provided the sacrifice.

Tony said...

Alan -

Thanks for stopping by. Sounds like life is changing a bit for you with a daughter graduating and seminary starting. I'll have to check in and see how that's going from time to time.

Sandra Cobb said...

I struggled with this story for years and for a long time believed that the story must have been misinterpreted or tampered with.

Over the years, I began to see another reason...

It was not uncommon shortly before this time and possibly during this time, for people to offer their children as sacrifices to their pagan gods.

Therefore, it is possible that this was a lesson proving to the people that the true God, Jehovah, would never require such a sacrifice.

A good way to prove this point would be to command Abraham to commit this terrible act of sacrificing his son to his God.

Abraham was obedient, but then God showed him the truth, which had nothing to do with murdering your child, a despicable act that only a pagan deity would enjoy.

God indeed does not tempt, and I cannot accept that he tested Abraham's faith in this way, which would be at best a prank or a joke. God is not a prankster .. Just kidding Abraham, don't do it.

My personal conclusion can only be one which portrays God using a pagan ritual to show the true love of the true God. God is love. Period.

Tony said...

Sandra -

You're right in that people in the land at that time did sacrifice their children to pagan gods. You're also right that God is not a prankster. Another lesson God may have been showing was a foreshadowing of when He would allow the sacrifice of His own Son for us.

Thanks for stopping by and contributing.


Dave Earley said...

Extraordinary men are tempted by very ordinary things.

God allows hardships which is true, and which most people don't get. But, He also allows Himself, which is much greater than any hardship.


Tony said...

Dave -

So true. Thanks for coming by and commenting.

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