Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Testing of Abraham Part 1

by Robert Fraire

Genesis consists of 50 chapters that take us from the creation of the universe to the movement of the descendants of Israel into Egypt. These thousands of years cover such events as Creation, the Fall, the Great Flood and the Tower of Babel. So it may come as a surprise that in the middle of this book are 14 chapters that contain the life and actions of one man: that man was Abraham. These chapters, 12-25, contain some of the most important truths which are referenced many times by the New Testament authors. One of these events is the testing of Abraham in the sacrifice of Isaac. This history is recounted for us in chapter 22.

My purpose in this post is to begin to set the context of chapter 22. God made a covenant with Abraham that he would be the father of a multitude and that his seed would bless the whole world. This covenant plays a central role in God's testing of Abraham so let us start by looking at the establishment of this covenant. The promise of God is found in chapters 12, 13 and 15 then in chapter 15 starting with verse 8 we read...

8He said, "O Lord GOD, how may I know that I will possess it?"

9So He said to him, "Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon."

10Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds.

(In verses 11-16 God details events that will occur)

17It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces.

18On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying,
"To your descendants I have given this land,
From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:

This passage gives us the vivid picture of how seriously God takes his own promises. The animals being cut in half and laid opposite each other would cause the blood to empty out of the halves onto the ground in between them. In essence this would cause a "river" of blood to be formed. It is through this river that the "smoking oven and flaming torch passed between the pieces". This oven and torch is a picture of God, and He is the one who passes in the river of blood. At no time does Abraham pass through the pieces. God is the one committing himself here.

This picture then is that God says to Abraham that he would keep His covenant with him. And that if He failed to keep his word He would be bound to pass through the blood (which signified the death of the covenant maker). In other words, NOTHING, would keep God from keeping His word, on penalty of His own death!

Verse 18 makes it clear that God made a covenant with Abraham that day. We will have to keep this truth in mind as we move forward to God's testing of Abraham. In the next installment of this series we will look at how God progressively reveals how He will bring about the fulfillment of His will in the life of Abraham. And finally we will take these truths into the actual testing of Abraham.

No comments: