It seems strange to record that God tests us to see what is in our hearts, as though He didn’t already know. We read a similar thing in Abraham’s life where God called him to his greatest ever exploit of faith, namely to offer up his promised son as a sacrifice on the altar. Amazingly, Abraham does not argue or prevaricate but immediately obeys, climbing the mountain with his son.
As the boy is bound to the altar and the knife in Abraham’s hand is raised to strike him, God’s command pierces the silence. Abraham needs to go no further. His son’s life is spared. ‘Now,’ God says, ‘I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me’ (Gen. 22:12). But God knows all things, we might argue. Surely He knew what was in Abraham’s heart? Why all these tests? Inevitably there are mysteries too great for us to understand, but we must never drift into a theological stance which regards everything as so buttoned-up that the whole world and your personal history are merely on autopilot, that everything is inevitable and a locked-up system.
Obviously we will never fully understand all of God’s ways. We are mere creatures with very limited understanding, clouded vision, uncomprehending minds. Many of God’s mysteries are beyond us. Our demand for everything to submit to human logic is misplaced when we approach these themes requiring neat answers. There are secret things which are beyond us. ‘The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law’ (Deut. 29.29).
Reverent fear and holy joy
It’s not for me to know why God tests you when He already knows you through and through. Your responsibility is to live this life in reverent fear and holy joy, trusting Him with every unexpected turn in the road and believing that the One who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all is not careless or capricious. He is not heartless or indifferent, putting us through pains that we don’t need to bear and delays that we don’t have to endure.
In our fallen world there are many setbacks and mysteries. The perfect has not yet come. One day every tear will be wiped away, the whole universe, the new heavens and the new earth will be transformed into God’s temple and nothing unclean will enter in. Paradise will be regained.
Endurance through pain and delay will no longer be called for. Only in this passing age are we called upon to endure pain, setbacks and incomprehensible departures from or anticipated journey. When the Lord comes, faith will be swallowed up by sight, mysteries will vanish and we shall know as we are known. Meanwhile, we are called upon to run this race looking to Jesus who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame. He is our ultimate model of endurance. With no sense of his Father’s nearness and the horrors of death waiting to envelop him, Jesus stepped into our place enduring in his own self the fury of a holy God, His just and righteous wrath against sin.
In faith and patience Jesus walked towards the cross, climbing Golgotha in full faith and certainty that his Father would not abandon his soul to Hades nor allow him to undergo decay (Acts 2:27) but would raise him up and give him glory. ‘Consider him who has endured such hostility by sinners against himself so that you may not grow weary and lose heart’ (Heb. 12:3). No one else has known comparable suffering. So let’s run the race looking to Him full of faith and confidence, believing that ultimate, indescribable joy awaits us and that after we have done the will of God we will receive what is promised.
Don’t get sluggish. Make sure you inherit the promises!