A while back, a man told me that God couldn’t possibly know everything and to illustrate that he was right, he pointed to the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac but right before Abraham went through with the sacrifice, God said “Now I know”: “And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Genesis 22:12).
From this scripture, we know that Abraham passed the test that God put before him by demonstrating great faith. As Christians, we must not forget that the only way to please God is through faith (Hebrews 11:6) and this test was a test of Abraham’s faith and we know this based on different factors. One of these factors is the fact that there was a ram behind Abraham meant to be sacrificed (Genesis 22:13) which leads us to an ever-important question of why.
Why was the ram behind Abraham? The only rational explanation is that God knew what Abraham was going to do. In other words, God never intended for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac but rather, was putting Abraham through a test. As most Christians know, an explanation does not have to make sense to us because God does things in His own way and He is not limited by the same factors as we are such as time, space, and matter. The creator of this world is not bound by the laws of gravity or anything else that limits man but these limitations typically influence the ideas of man including how they perceive God.
The gentleman who told me that God cannot possibly know everything did not take into consideration the fact that “now I know that thou fearest God” was spoken by an angel of the Lord, not God Himself, and that the test of Abraham was not for God’s sake but rather, for Abraham’s sake. To understand the story better and to grasp the meaning behind God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, it’s crucial that we know the culture and customs that were significant during this period of time.
During this particular point in history, for Canaanite society, sacrificing a child was a custom that was common to show devotion to the local gods. One of these gods is Moloch, also spelled Molech, who is associated with child sacrifices. Therefore, asking someone to make a child sacrifice was not uncommon. Sadly, such a sacrifice is not uncommon today and is made often in the form of abortion but this sacrifice is not for God but regardless, both reasons are not justifiable. However, God was using a custom of the day to reveal something much bigger.
Again, we know that God never intended for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and the ram being there shows us this but whatever decision that Abraham made would change not just his life but that of human history. We further read in scripture that this was not something that Abraham did wholeheartedly or something that he wanted to do but because he loved God, he went through with it. God wanted to change or transform Abraham and in order to do this, He knew that Abraham needed to be put through the fire and what better than to ask for a child sacrifice?
Although Abraham was not happy about the request and this had to worry him, he went through with it because of his love for God. Although he was worried about the situation we know that Abraham was faithful and it is revealed how faithful in Hebrews 11:19: “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” Despite being told to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham knew that God could raise him up from the dead which is not something that Molech or Baal was known to do.
Maybe you’re wondering why God had to ask Abraham to perform such a task especially if He knew what Abraham was going to do. The reason is that in order to make Abraham into what He needed Abraham to be, He needed Abraham to realize who and what God truly is. Sometimes in a marriage, two people do not realize what the other means until they are put through a test including separation but during this separation, the two find what the one truly means to them and this is a similar situation as the emotions and efforts exemplified by Abraham would forever change him: “But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:28).