It is instructive to look at God’s call to Abraham to offer up Isaac in light of James. James says, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Isaac, the son of the promise, was certainly a much anticipated and long-awaited gift.It had been 25 years from the time Abraham left Haran to the birth of Isaac. It is also a great gift when Abraham receives his son back “from the dead” as the writer of Hebrews points out.
But James also says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” So even the trials, or maybe even especially the trials, are gifts from above, from the Father of lights. It is by these trials that we are tested and revealed. It is because of Abraham’s response to the trial that God said, “now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me… because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
“Because you have done this, because you have obeyed my voice,” God said, “I will bless you.” It is not for us to try to avoid the trials. The trials are not against us. They are from the Father and they are very much for us. They are tailored especially for each of us where we are. Who else but Abraham could go through that trial? For whom else would it have made sense? Ben Merkle very helpfully points out that, “when we are in a trial, the temptation in the flesh is to set all our hopes, all our prayers, all our expectations on the other side of the trial. We think that deliverance in the trial will always come in the form of getting to the other side. We put all of our hopes in the future and we completely miss the principle thing – getting wisdom, becoming Christ-like.”
James continues, “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.” We can remain steadfast under trial not because we know how all these things work and fit together, but because we know that everything the Father does is the right thing, it is the good thing. Abraham didn’t have to understand why God asked him to offer Isaac. He could do even this thing in faith, trusting the God who does good. And this is the principle thing, this is wisdom; knowing that all God does and all He asks and requires of us is for our good. This is why our obedience is absolutely necessary. He is reforming us into the Image of His Son, bringing us into His perfection, His glory, and His life.
P.S. The Ben Merkle video linked above is very much worth watching. All of his stuff is very good. Check it out.