Is Binding Of Isaac In Old Testament Of New Testament Developing Perseverance And Wisdom In The Face Of Trials

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Developing Perseverance And Wisdom In The Face Of Trials

The book of James in the New Testament portrays trials as tests that come through suffering which Christians are to endure and overcome. James 1:2-4 sees enduring trials as a cause for joy, because they produce maturity and develop perseverance.

Perseverance is the steadfastness in the belief or assurance of eternal security in Jesus Christ, which the believer possesses after overcoming trials. R.H. Johnson, in his article “Overcoming Under Trial” (p1) describes trials as the “the old way of testing new bridges.” He further went on to explain that formerly new bridges were heavily loaded before being used for public service, not to ruin them or make them fail but remain strong with normal use. R. Jonathan, an early rabbi cited in Jewish literature works such as the Talmud; also once said “A potter does not examine defective vessels. What then does he examine? Only the sound vessels. Similarly, the Holy One, blessed be He, tests not the wicked but the righteous.” These two citations help the Christian to know that trials or suffering are inevitable for us and if endured, will lead to heavenly reward and so there is every reason to rejoice in anticipation of the reward if we stand firm in our faith.

According to Peter H. Davids in ‘James – A Good News commentary’, 1983, (p3), the trials to which James refers are the testing and refining situations in life, hard situations in which faith is sorely tried, such as persecution, a difficult moral choice, or a tragic experience. Even though these may be sad or bitter experiences, James does not dwell on them but transforms his perspective of such trials to the results. In effect, a trial is not an end in itself; it is only a means to an end. For the believer, the end result is the development of perseverance and divine wisdom in facing or handling these trials.

The wisdom of the world seeks to avoid the issues in a trial circumstance through accommodation on and/or compromise. However, wisdom from God helps the Christian to overcome trials through faith.

The story of Job in the Old Testament is a perfect illustration of a true believer in God who developed perseverance and wisdom in the face of trials. Job was an upright and blameless man who feared God and turned away from evil. However the time came for him to go through trials and suffering rained down on him in all forms. His wealth, which was measured in thousands of animals, was all lost in one day. He also lost all his ten children and as if all this was not enough, he was also with physical pain. This very righteous man was now suffering both psychologically and physically, but his reverence for God did not waver. Even his wife lost confidence in God and told Job to hasten his death, which was seen imminent, by cursing God. Job’s reply to her was that we should not only be ready to accept ‘good’ from God but also trouble. He refused to turn his back on God even though conditions became worse with the arrival of his three friends who accused him of suffering because of some secret sin. However, Job sought the face of God. He cried out to God for an explanation of his suffering, which he knew that he did not deserve. He passed his life and endured these trials with the wisdom that he gained from God, which surpassed all the human wisdom that his friends displayed. This story portrays the fact that true godly wisdom is to reverently love God more than all the gifts we receive from Him and to trust in his goodness even though we cannot always understand his ways. It is worthy to note that God gives us a special grace for every trial if we ask for it. That is why, according to B. W. Woods, 1974 (p72), John Milton could write poetry while he was blind and Beethoven could compose music even though he was living in the silent world of deafness. God’s grace is sufficient for every situation or condition. The apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians that after having pleaded with God three times to take away his “thorn in the flesh”, God told him that His Grace was sufficient for him because this power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:8-9). God’s grace produces wisdom in man, in faith and perseverance.

God uses trials or tests to strengthen our faith in Him. As Davids puts it, “The process of testing is like the tempering of steel: the heat, rather than destroying the steel, makes it stronger”. (p3). The result of trials in our lives will be the ability to persevere to the end, hoping for our reward in heaven. This ability is a virtue that only trials and suffering will produce. It also yields a stable character and a firm showing of our faith. The story of Abraham in Genesis 22 is an example of a man developing perseverance from his test.

God had promised Abraham that He would make him father of many nations and that He would establish His covenant with Abraham’s descendants, giving them the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession. God also gave Abraham and his wife Sarah a son in their old age and they were happy. Suddenly, God tested Abraham by telling him to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him as a burnt offering to Him. Abraham had promised to be obedient to God and had even consecrated his son to the Lord by circumcision. However, his hopes of becoming the father of a great nation were being dashed, as he was now to kill the son of the covenant. This did not hamper Abraham’s loyalty to God but he obediently took the boy away to be sacrificed. He was confident that God would do something to fulfill His promise to him. When Isaac questioned his father about the animal for the burnt offering, the answer was that God himself would provide it. Abraham endured this ordeal of going up the mountain with his son, building the alter for the sacrifice, arranging the wood for the fire, binding his son and laying him on top of the wood to kill him. It is almost unimaginable that a father could do this to his own son, but Abraham suffered this test, trusting God to do something for him later, as He had done before. God proved Himself to Abraham by providing a ram for the sacrifice and by also renewing His covenant to bless him and multiply his descendants. Abraham persevered as a result of suffering and was rewarded accordingly.

Perseverance is a development, which shapes a Christian believer’s character around his commitment to Christ. It indicates the assurance given to those who follow Christ, reminding them that God’s power will keep them as Christians until they die and that they will surely live with Christ in heaven forever. It involves persistence and steadfastness in prayer, seeking God’s wisdom to help him overcome his trials.

Divine wisdom is a communication of God, showing man the path to life. This communication takes place through persistent and steadfast prayer and comes directly from God to man. It is only God who gives to man a heart capable of discerning good from evil. Prov 1:7 and 14:27 tell us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the source of life; and that only fools hate discipline and wisdom. Solomon, when he became king of Israel, asked God for wisdom to rule his people and to distinguish between good and evil. It is this divine wisdom that helps Christians to make the right decisions as to the proper actions to take under specific circumstances, with the Holy Spirit as a guide. This wisdom is what we are reminded about in James 1:5 as a free gift from God to believers, which leads to practically wise living, manifesting itself in good, godly character and behavior. James says that God is very willing to give this wisdom to us and will not reproach us for asking but that we have to ask in faith, believing that God will give us the best solution to our problems.

As Christians, we must realize that trials are inevitable and are necessary for us in order to develop perseverance. We also need God’s wisdom to overcome them. James tells us that it is wisdom that enables us to face trials with “pure joy” (James 1:2) but we must have steady faith to receive and act on it. The Bible states that as Christians, God wants us to think like Christ, love like him, care like him, obey like him and sacrifice like him. (Rom.8: 29). This should remind us that even though we cannot be Christ but we must be ready and willing to suffer like him.

REFERENCES

NIV Study Bible.

Davids, Peter H, James. A Good News Commentary. Leicester: Inter Varsity Press, 1983

Woods, B. W. Christians in Pain – Perspective on Suffering. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974

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