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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 40 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 5: Extreme Heat *
Introduction: There are stories in the Bible, just like there are sad
events in life, that I do not understand. Sure, I have explanations
and, I suppose, a partial understanding. But, in my human intellect
(see 1 Corinthians 13:12), the matter is not clear. One of those
stories is the sacrifice of Isaac. My plan is to spend most of our
time this week on this story to see if any light shines into our
minds about how God tests us. Let's dive in!
- What Purpose?
- Read Genesis 22:1-2. Do you think Abraham thought God was
serious? (If you read Genesis 21:9-14, you see that God
had previously instructed Abraham to send away his other
- Was God serious? Would God have Abraham kill his son
in what seemed very much like a pagan sacrifice?
(Read Jeremiah 32:35. No. God never had in mind
killing Isaac. Instead, God instituted the death
penalty for anyone who sacrificed his child
( Leviticus 20:1-5).)
- Our lesson is titled "Extreme Heat." No doubt this command
created "extreme heat" for Abraham. Notice again Genesis
22:1. What does it say was the purpose for this command?
("God tested Abraham.")
- What kind of a test is this? God never intended to
have Abraham follow His command. The command was
completely contrary to the character of God. To obey
(that is kill his son) would be to follow the will of
- Have you ever had a test of this nature? (I doubt it.
I cannot pass the test of doing things I'm supposed
to do. Things I know I should do. How could my
logical brain ever hope to pass a "test" of doing
something that I knew was completely contrary to
God's will and contrary to my own will?)
- Is there a difference between a "test" and a
"temptation?" (The commentary, Be Obedient, has a
very interesting approach to this. It says that
temptations - the desire to following evil impulses -
seem completely logical. They are used by Satan to
bring out the worst in us. On the other hand, tests
come from God, they seem unreasonable, and they are
designed to bring out the best in us.)
- Do you think you have any hope of separating the
two in your mind?
- The Bible Knowledge Commentary says that a real test has
to defy logic, it must be something that we want to resist
(like killing our son)! Do you agree? (I'm not so sure
that we can draw such neat, tidy lines between tests
(illogical and we don't want to do) and temptations
(logical and we want to do). For example, the last hours
of Jesus' life involved mixed motives - He wanted to save
us, but He did not want to be tortured and humiliated.
Obviously this was a test in part, but a very large part
of it was a temptation.)
- If you are not familiar with the Abraham/Isaac story, read
Genesis 22:3-8. Why did they have a practice of
sacrificing animals? (This practice looked forward to the
sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf to take away our sins.
Its purpose was to teach the people about the coming
Messiah and how He would substitute for their sins.)
- Read Genesis 22:9-12. If the Be Obedient commentary is
right that tests bring out the best in us, what is the
"best of us" that this test was supposed to bring out in
- Read Genesis 22:15-18. We now get back to something that
seems logical to me. What relationship does this promise
have to this test? (God says that because Abraham was
willing to give up his son, God is willing to give Abraham
many sons - "descendants as numerous as the stars in the
sky and the sand on the seashore.")
- Is there a parallel to Jesus giving up His life so
that He could "get back" all of us?
- What purpose did God have in this special
relationship with Abraham and his descendants? (To
share the nature of God with the world.)
- Are you beginning to see how the pieces of this mental
puzzle are coming together? God asks Abraham to do
something that illustrates what God did for us. God gives
this test of the loss of a child to someone God is going
to entrust with numerous descendants. The purpose of
God's special relationship with Abraham and his
descendants is to share the message that God is willing to
give up His Son for us.)
- If God were to create a parallel test for you, what would
it be? (The test is about selfishness and trust. Being
willing to give all that we have and we are in love to
- If Abraham believed that he would have to kill his son,
how do you think Abraham rationalized that with his
knowledge of God and trust in God? (Read Hebrews 11:19.
Abraham thought God would raise Isaac back to life. Such
an amazing trust!)
- Consider how that anticipated what God did for His
own Son in the parallel situation.
- What if God did not restrain Abraham from killing his son
and did not raise Isaac back to life? Would we have a
different, or merely a longer, test of faith? (Read
Hebrews 11:39-40. Part of the background for this is
Hebrews 11:35-38, which describes followers who suffered
terribly here on earth and did not see any victory on
earth. All of those in Hebrews 11 had some part of God's
promise left unfulfilled. We may end up going through
things here on earth that will not be "made right" in
terms of our personal interests, until we enter heaven.)
- Of the difficulties that come your way, what percentage
are tests and what percentage are temptations?
- What percentage do you think come only from God?
( Genesis 22:1 & 12 plainly state that Abraham's
situation was a test from God. In my situation, it
seems that sins and errors on my part, coupled with
Satan's work, create all the trouble I can handle. I
doubt that God has to add much to my burdens to
discern or grow my character!)
- The Purpose
- Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. What positive purpose does
trouble serve in our life? (Paul writes that when he
suffered, God comforted him. That taught him how to
comfort those around him who suffered trouble.)
- Have you seen this in your life? (If you have
suffered from medical problems, you are more
sympathetic to others with similar medical problems.
If you suffer from marital problems, you are more
sympathetic to others with marital problems.)
- We were painting a picture of "God the tester," when
we considered Abraham and Isaac. What picture of God
does Paul paint in this test? (God the compassionate
- Are these pictures consistent? "Here, let me
break your leg. By the way, I will also set it,
put it in a cast, pray for you and send you a
card. If you need anything else, let me know."
(I think the leg breaking illustration is
misleading because there is nothing to be
gained. God is much like the physical education
teacher who says "Let's run 10 miles together -
by the way, I'll bring the water.")
- Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. What other purpose does trouble
serve? (It causes us to rely on God.)
- Paul has a very interesting way that he describes
God. He refers to Him as "God, who raises the dead."
Why refer to God that way? (As a practical matter,
the ultimate danger/ trouble that we fear is death.
God is equipped to handle even that. What is not to
trust? As you recall, that was Abraham's thought
- Friend, are you going through trouble? Do you feel
tested? God not only has a purpose in the testing, but He
comes with comfort and compassion and a promise of life
eternal. Will you, like Abraham, trust Him?
- Next week: Struggling with All Energy.
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.