The Bible asks a compelling question in 1 Corinthians 4:7. It asks: "What makes you differ from one another? What do you have that was not first given to you; and if it was given to you, why do you boast as if you have not received it?" It is a humbling exercise to acknowledge all that the Lord has given. While it might be easier to thank the Lord for big things like work, vacation, and our homes, one must consider that the very breath that is being taken right now was also given by the Lord. Thus, if something as fundamental as the breath we take, or our next heartbeat, is given to us from God, then one must consider that all things we have are ultimately His since it all comes from Him.
The Bible even goes so far as to teach that our bodies are not our own, for we were all bought with a price by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be redeemed to the Father in salvation (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Hence, the Bible teaches that, as believers, we should use what God has given us (that is ultimately His) to glorify Him. In fact, one could make the argument that God gave us the things we have specifically to glorify Him. However, this is impossible to do without the right perspective and understanding that its all His to begin with.
This is critically important to understand when examining the testimony of Genesis chapter 22. In Genesis 22:1-2 the Lord does something interesting. The scriptures say that God sought to "test" Abraham. God had made 3 promises to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12. Over the last 25+ years, God had made miraculous efforts to work towards the fulfillment of those promises. God enabled Abraham and Sarah to have the child God had promised at 100 and 90 years old respectively. God had restored some of the land that Abraham possessed when Abimelech gave Abraham the well that he had dug. God was observably active in the life of Abraham to fulfill the promises He had made to Abraham, and so God desired to test Abraham's trust.
The Book of Hebrews explains that the context of God's test was trust. It is not that God could not measure Abraham's faith without a test. God knows everything. God knows the beginning from the end. The test was not necessarily for God's benefit. Instead, it is the documented narrative of the test that serves to benefit us who read about the test. First, readers learn that God tests believers. God will put His children in situations that demand absolute trust and dependency on Him in order that the faith that is demonstrated during the test serves as a witness to His glory and faithfulness. Secondly, when one examines the test of Genesis chapter 22, one can examine the faith of Abraham as an example to follow, thereby understanding the quality of faith that pleases God.
Genesis 22:1-2 states that the test was simple. God wanted Abraham to offer up Isaac as a "burnt offering." One must consider that a "burnt offering" is an offering that requires complete consumption and destruction of that which is being offered. God wanted Abraham to give up his son totally and completely. It is interesting to see how God referred to Isaac when He gave this command to Abraham. God called Isaac "the son whom you love." Hebrews 11:7 uses the phrase "only begotten son" to explain the situation of Genesis chapter 22. The phrase "only begotten son" is a phrase that is not used often in the Bible; but when it is, it refers to Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The reason that Jesus is referred to as the "only begotten Son" is not because Jesus is God's only child, but because the phrase refers to Jesus' uniqueness as God in flesh. Likewise, Isaac is referred to as the "only begotten son" of Abraham because he too is unique as the heir to God's promises.
This is also the firs time the English word "love" is used in the Bible. One must consider the contextual use of the word. The word love does not mention any hugs, kisses, or physical affection of any kind. In fact, God is the one that uses the word. God uses the word to describe the relationship between Abraham and Isaac. While it is true that Abraham loved his son as a father should love his son, one must consider the unique brand of "love" between Abraham and Isaac. God said that Abraham "loved" Isaac because Isaac is Abraham's "only begotten son." Isaac is unique as the heir of God's promises. Thus, Abraham's affection for Isaac is unique as well; and God described this unique affection as "love."
It is at this point that it is critical to consider the message that God is trying to convey in this test. God is painting a foreshadowing picture, and used the word "love" in the context of His picture. In fact, it is "love" that defines the essence of the picture. God tested Abraham in order to paint this picture - not gauge the faith of Abraham. God knew the faith of Abraham. Since God had revealed His faithfulness regarding the promise of a great nation through Isaac, the promise of land by the repossession of Abraham's well, God would then reveal His faithfulness regarding the blessing of Messiah and show the world what salvation would look like.
Nevertheless, this is not a truth that Abraham knew or understood. From the perspective of Abraham, God simply gave the command to kill his own son - the son that God promised would be the heir of His promises. From the perspective of Abraham, he was again told to go to a place that God would show him in order to do something he never thought he would do. From the perspective of Abraham, Isaac - the heir to God's promises - was going to die. This test for Abraham is an exercise in trust and perspective. Abraham was put in a position to demonstrate His trust in two fundamental principals that apply to every living human being.
The first principal is that Isaac was God's child before he was Abraham's child. What did Abraham have that was not given to him? Therefore, when God asked Abraham to give up Isaac as a burnt offering, God wasn't doing anything unusual. God was simply asking Abraham to give back that which was originally His. The test for Abraham was based on whether Abraham believed that was true. The test was predicated on whether or not Abraham agreed that Isaac was God's child before Isaac became his own.
The second principal is regarding the issue of trust concerning God's promises. God had just asked Abraham to kill the heir of His promises. Abraham would have to trust in God's faithfulness and power in order to be obedient to the command to kill his son. Consider this simple question: How would Isaac be the heir of God's promises if he's dead? This is likely a question that Abraham asked, but one that he would have to ignore in order to demonstrate obedience to God's command. Abraham would have to trust that the problems with a dead heir are God's problems, and that God is faithful and able to deal with those problems so that dead or not, Isaac would be the heir of God's promises.
Although God has not asked many people since to offer their children up as "burnt offerings," one must understand that this test in faith is one that all face daily. Do we consider that which we have to be the possess of God that we are merely stewards of? Would we be willing to give up that which is really His for the purpose of obedience and trust? Even if that which we have is uniquely ours, do we consider those things to be our own possession, or do we maintain the proper heavenly perspective and understanding that all things belong to the Living God who gives and sustains life? God desires that we trust in Him, not the things He gives us. The test that Abraham faced was based on his understanding of who God is. In order to pass the test, Abraham had to know basic critical things about God. Abraham had to know that God was faithful to fulfill His promises no matter what. Abraham had to know that God was able to fulfill His promises, even if He had to raise the dead. Abraham had to trust that, although God commanded Abraham to kill his son, that God has good intentions at all times, no matter how the circumstances might seem. Abraham had to trust that God's love for him and Isaac was greater than his own affection for Isaac. Consider these truths as God brings tests of various kinds today.