Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Advent Paradoxes: Abraham

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…” -Hebrews 11:17

We all know this story from Genesis 22. Abraham is told by God to offer up his son as a human sacrifice to God. This was the same child God had promised to use to give Abraham innumerable descendants. Abraham is willing to obey God, showing us a picture of how God would later offer His only Son for the sins of the world. Isaac is willing to be sacrificed, presenting a picture of Christ giving His own life. In the end God stops Abraham and provides a substitutionary sacrifice. It is an important story, especially for us as we approach Christmas, but it raises some questions:

God tested Abraham. Why? If God knows our hearts, if God has a plan for history and our lives, why test people? God knew Abraham. He knew what sort of man Abraham was. He had created Abraham to be the man He needed him to be. Why did God need to test Abraham?

One reason is that God has created people with free will. He can test us because we can choose to go His way or not. The fact that He is still in control and can know our choices before we make them is a paradox; a truth we cannot hope to grasp.

The other reason for tests is for our benefit. God knows who we are, but we have to learn who we are through the choices we make. Prayer works in much the same way. God knows our hearts and our needs before we ever speak to Him, and yet He wants us to pray. Prayer is powerful and can change the world, but it begins by changing us. God’s testing also helps to make us who we need to be for God’s plans to be fulfilled.

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