The book of Genesis in the 22nd chapter has a very interesting beginning that we often skim right over. It starts with “After these things God tested Abraham…” (Genesis 22:1, ESV).
After what things? The answer is the previous test Abraham had already been through. There’s some wonderful ancient literature written by rabbis that give a commentary on Genesis called the Mishnah, and in the Mishnah, it speaks of the 12 tests of Abraham. These rabbis went through the scripture and found that Abraham was severely tested by the Lord on 12 different occasions.
The first test was when he was in his homeland. God said, “I want you to get up, take your possessions and go to a new land that I’m showing you.” That’s a test! To leave everything you know, to leave everything that you’re comfortable with and to go into a different land. Was he going to trust God? He did, and he went to this new land God was showing him. He walked into it, probably saying, “God said go here! Here I am, Lord; now bless me!”
Immediately, test number two came along. The Bible says there was a severe famine in the land. So he went to Egypt, and in Egypt, maybe he thought he’d escaped from this test; but instead, the pharaoh of Egypt saw Abraham’s wife, and he wanted to take her for himself. The tests just kept on coming with no seeming relief.
All of us have been tested. Have you ever been in Abraham’s situation where you’ve had a test within a test? Have you ever rebuked Satan in the middle of a test? “I resist you, Satan; get behind me!” Then you realize the person you’re pointing at is God?
The Bible doesn’t say the devil tested Abraham. It doesn’t say his flesh tested him. All those things do happen, but there’s a difference. A temptation is from Satan; a test is from God. Satan tempts us to doubt. He tempts us to give up. He tempts us to accuse God of not being good. There’s a difference between a test and a temptation.
The Bible says, “God cannot be tempted. He will never tempt anyone” (James 1:13). A temptation moves us closer to sin, if we don’t fight it; a test moves us closer to God, if we don’t fight it. I’m glad God doesn’t tempt us, and he never tests us beyond our ability to endure.