By Zac Poonen
The First Test : When Abraham was 75 years old, God had called him to leave his hometown and his relatives in Ur of the Chaldeans and to step out in faith in God, into the unknown. That was the first test that he passed. It is not easy to make a break with father, mother, brothers and sisters etc., but until that umbilical cord that ties us to them is broken we can never be disciples of Jesus! Jesus said, ” If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. ” (Luke14:26). Abraham obeyed God at once. I have wondered what would have happened if Abraham had turned down God’s call. God would certainly not have forced him. God would have found someone else; and we would never have heard of Abraham again. That someone else who responded to God would have become the father of faith and the ancestor of the Messiah! How much Abraham would have missed if he had failed in that first test! Little did he realise when he stepped out of Ur, turning his back on the pleadings of his relatives, what a glorious future God had planned for him. God still calls people, as He called Abraham. Little do those who are being called realise what great issues hang in the balance when they have heard the call of God. Church history, throughout these 20 centuries, is filled with the amazing stories of men and women who responded to God’s call immediately, joyfully and wholeheartedly like Abraham and who fulfilled God’s purposes.
The Second Test : Once Abraham had become free from his relatives, then God could test him in relation to material things. This too is a further requirement for discipleship. Jesus said, “Whoever does not forsake all his own possessions cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33 ). In Genesis chapters 13 and 14, we read of two incidents where Abraham was tested in relation to mammon. The first time was when he and Lot had to separate, because their flocks had become too large for them to stay together. It would have been easy, and right too, for Abraham as the senior man and as the man whom God had called to Canaan, to take the first pick of the land. But with genuine unselfishness and large-heartedness, he told Lot to choose first. Lot chose what looked like the best to human eyes – the land of Sodom. But neither Abraham nor Lot realised that God had been a silent witness to this transaction – as He is to all our financial transactions. God was so delighted with the unselfishness manifested by Abraham that He immediately spoke to him and told him that his seed would inherit all the land that Abraham could see – in all four directions. This included the portion chosen by Lot as well . “The Lord said to Abram after Lot had separated from him, ‘Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.” (Gen.13:14, 15) . In Genesis 14, we find Abraham again behaving with the dignity becoming of a true servant of God, in the matter of material things. Abraham had rescued the people and the property of the king of Sodom from his enemies. As a reward, the king of Sodom offered all the property to Abraham. But Abraham refused to take anything. “And Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, lest you should say, `I have made Abram rich.'” (Gen.14:22, 23). In effect, what Abraham was saying was, “Since my God is the Owner of heaven and earth, I don’t need anything from you.” Again God was a silent listener to the conversation. He immediately appeared to Abraham and told him that He Himself would reward him. ” After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.'” (Gen.15:1). If we honour God, He will certainly honour us.
The Third Test : Abraham had been tested in relation to his parents and in relation to material wealth. Now he had to be tested in relation to his son. In Genesis 22:2, God told Abraham: “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest and get thee into the land of Moriah and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” It was a costly thing that God asked him for that night. Abraham could have gone about the next day, doing nothing about it, and no-one would have known that Abraham had disobeyed God. That was how God was going to test whether Abraham feared Him or not. And that is how God tests us too. He speaks to us secretly in our heart – so quietly that not even those living with us know what God has said to us. One reason why God has given each of us a totally private area – our thought-life – is to test us to see whether we fear Him or not. Abraham passed the test. He did not seek just for a good testimony before men. He wanted to obey God even in the secret area. And so he took Isaac the very next morning and journeyed towards Mount Moriah and there he offered the darling of his heart to God, saying thereby, “Lord, I love You more than anyone and anything on earth.” It was then that God gave Abraham His certificate of approval and promised to bless him without measure: “‘By Myself I have sworn,’ says the Lord, ‘because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you….and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. And in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because you have obeyed My voice.'” (Gen.22:16-18). Nothing delights God as much as sacrificial obedience. No-one can be approved of God who does not pass the test here. Only when we come to the place where we can sincerely say to the Lord , “Lord, whom have I in heaven but Thee, and there is no-one and nothing on earth that I desire beside Thee” (Psa. 73:25), do we qualify as far as God is concerned. This is the Mount Moriah that each of us has to climb, where we offer everything that is dear to us on the altar to God and are left with God alone.