This is one of the chapters in the Bible that most of us are very familiar with. A lot of questions swirl around this story: Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son? And why in the world would Abraham do it, even without asking a single question? Regardless of the possible answers to these questions, I think this chapter tells us something very important about God that is easy to overlook: He knows what’s in the heart, and He knows how to reveal it.
It’s similar to the story in Genesis 20, where Abraham "judges" that there’s nobody in Abimelech’s kingdom who would fear, or respect, God. It doesn’t take long for Abraham to realize that he’s totally wrong about that, as Abimelech both hears and obeys God’s instructions!
Abimelech was revealed as one who respected the Lord in that story. And in this story with Abraham and Isaac, Abraham was revealed as one who would listen to and obey the Lord... even when given an impossible-to-fathom assignment.
This is the same Abraham who has lied and schemed, trying to preserve his life, fulfill God's promises, and prosper his family. Throughout many of the preceding chapters of Genesis, Abraham hasn’t made a very good name for himself... or for God.
But what if there has been a change in Abraham? What if his association and friendship with God has changed him from someone who feels like he must have full control over his life to someone who is willing to trust God? Given all the wrong Abraham had done up to this point, how would anyone ever guess that such a change had occurred in him?
The only way for anyone to realize such a thing (outside of God, of course, who can read the heart) would be for it to be revealed through circumstances. You see, circumstances don’t shape our character; circumstances reveal our character. The only way another person can truly know what’s in your heart is to see what you do when you’re confronted with something you can’t control.
And no matter why God had Abraham take Isaac up that mountain, one thing is clear: Abraham was finally revealed as a person who trusted in God and was determined to follow His way, even if it meant losing something dear to him. God knew that attitude was already in Abraham’s heart—that’s why He could ask him to do what he did.
Sometimes, circumstances are also the only way we can see what’s in our own hearts! Often, we might think we’re better than we are revealed to be, or vice versa. But God knows just how to reveal our hearts—to us and others. And as He transforms us from people who only "look out for number one" to people who are willing to trust Him, He is eager to reveal the beauty of His handiwork!