Our church family is reading through the first five books of the Bible together in ninety days. We invite you to join us as we believe this will be a time that will change our lives.
Abraham is given a severe test. God commands Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. Years before, he and Sarai took matters into their own hands. Instead of waiting on God to provide, the barren Sarai suggested Abraham take Hagar as his second wife and Ishmael was born (Genesis 16). Having failed the first test, now, the couple is tested again. God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the very child he waited so long to come.
None of us are called to the severe test Abraham faced. Yet, God does send tests in our lives that often confuse us. Elisabeth Elliot, the prominent Christian writer, was visiting some friends in Northern Wales who owned a sheep farm. It was here that she reflected on the day she saw the shepherd pick up the sheep and take it to a vat of antiseptic, where the sheep would be submerged in order to protect it from all sorts of parasites. The shepherd put the sheep into the vat, only to have the sheep fight him, resisting with all its might. The shepherd pushed down the sheep’s head, but the sheep kept coming up, only to have the shepherd push it down again.
Elliot paints the scene for us:
One by one John seized the animals. They would struggle to climb out the side and Mack the sheep dog would snarl and snap at their faces to force them back under. When they tried to climb up the ramp in a panicky way at the far end, John the farmer would catch them, spin them around, force them under again, holding them ears, eyes and nose submerged for a few seconds.
And as their lord and master was pushing their head under, drowning them at least as far as they could tell, their panicky little eyes would look up over the edge of the vat, and it was easy to see what they were thinking. What is god doing?
Reflecting on that experience, Elliot continued:
I’ve had some experiences in my life which have made me feel very sympathetic to those poor sheep. There are times I couldn’t figure out any reason for the treatment I was getting from my great shepherd whom I trusted. And like these sheep I didn’t have a hint of an explanation.