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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!

  1. What Purpose?

    1. 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 son, Ishmael.)

      1. 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).)

    2. 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.")

      1. 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 Satan!

      2. 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?)

      3. 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.)

        1. Do you think you have any hope of separating the two in your mind?

    3. 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.)

    4. 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.)

    5. 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 Abraham?

    6. 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.")

      1. Is there a parallel to Jesus giving up His life so that He could "get back" all of us?

      2. What purpose did God have in this special relationship with Abraham and his descendants? (To share the nature of God with the world.)

    7. 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.)

    8. 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 God.)

    9. 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!)

      1. Consider how that anticipated what God did for His own Son in the parallel situation.

    10. 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.)

    1. Of the difficulties that come your way, what percentage are tests and what percentage are temptations?

      1. 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!)

  1. The Purpose

    1. 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.)

      1. 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.)

      2. 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 comforter.)

        1. 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.")

    2. Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. What other purpose does trouble serve? (It causes us to rely on God.)

      1. 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 process.)

    3. 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?

  2. 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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