Passing the Test by Larry W Peebles December 15, 2017 17.48
A test is intended to demonstrate how well the student has learned the subject matter of a lesson or course. I remember tests all through school, especially high school. Certain scores were required to graduate from high school in order to complete the required public education. I remember taking the ACT test to qualify for college. Then there were many tests in order to achieve the grades necessary to graduate from college, including graduate school. These were followed by tests of professional competency to become a CPA, and a Real Estate Broker. My oldest grandsons are currently in high school, and are very conscious of their test scores. They are already preparing for their college entrance exams. All my grandchildren are in school, where doing homework and studying for tests are a daily practice. They expect to be tested on what they have learned. Passing scores on a test mean they can move on to the next level. Often these achievements are celebrated with grand ceremonies and congratulations from family and friends. I was reminded of this recently when a friend graduated from Bible College. While I could not attend his graduation, I was able to rejoice with him when I saw the pictures from the ceremony. I was so proud of his accomplishment, because I knew of the difficulties he had gone through to reach that level of success.
Outside the arena of formal education, there is much to be learned about life itself, and that testing process is life-long. Formal education results in acquired knowledge, and while much of the material is widely accepted facts, some of it is not necessarily the truth. It may contain a mix of opinion and contemporary thinking subject to later revision. Life lessons teach wisdom. Similar to formal education, life has a way of making us retake the test if we continue to fail what it is trying to teach us. This is sometimes referred to as “going around the mountain again”. If we did not pass the test life sent our way, we get to go around the mountain and do it again. I believe God’s hand is in that, as the test usually has something to do with wrong spiritual beliefs or flawed character traits that need to be overcome or strengthened.
My wife, whom I respect greatly for her wisdom, likes to say that God gives open book tests. The answers are in His Word, and He doesn’t mind if we look up the test questions before responding. One of the best examples of this is contained in the Book of Deuteronomy. Chapter 28 sets forth many wonderful blessings that are promised if we obey the voice of the Lord and His commandments. It also sets forth many dreadful curses that we become subject to if we disobey. In Chapter 29 God renewed His covenant with Israel on the condition that they obey him. God reminded them again in Chapter 30 the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience. Finally, in 30:19-20 He summarized by giving the people the answer- “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days, and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them.” We are to choose to obey, which produces rich blessings, long life, and peaceful security in the land where we are to dwell.
If we need wisdom but cannot find the answer in His Word, the Bible says we are to simply ask for it. James 1:5 says- “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” When Deuteronomy says we are to obey the voice of the Lord, it is implied we can hear the voice of the Lord. James assures if we ask for wisdom, He will either speak it to us or show it to us in His Word. One of my favorite verses on this matter is Isaiah 30:21- “Your ears shall hear a word (voice) behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left”. I literally had this happen to me when I heard the voice of the Lord come over my left shoulder. He was alerting me to look in a certain direction as danger was approaching from the left while I was driving a car. We can hear the voice of the Lord. One of the favorite things my wife and I try to do on a daily basis is morning worship and prayer time with the Lord, followed by a period of lying still before Him to hear His voice or feel His touch. It takes some discipline to force all other thoughts and plans out of the mind in order to be totally still before Him, but the results are well worth it. We are both looking for wisdom and the correct answer in time so we don’t have to make that repeat trip around the mountain.
Abraham passed a huge test of faith in Genesis Chapter 22. Abraham knew the Lord, and was called out of his homeland and away from his family to follow the Lord and go to a place the Lord would show him. He had received the promise of a blessing for his obedience. Though he and his wife Sarah were well past the ages of child bearing, the Lord had personally appeared to them, and promised not only a son, but also that nations and kings would come out of them. The Lord fulfilled that promise with a son they named Isaac. The child they had waited and longed for had come to them.
In Chapter 22, the Lord tested Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah. Abraham packed all the necessary provisions and set out for the three day journey to the mountain with his son. Upon arrival, Abraham laid the wood on the place the Lord had directed, and knife in hand, he called Isaac toward the altar. Isaac observed there was no lamb for the sacrifice. Abraham responded (v. 8) – “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” He then proceeded to bind Isaac and place him on the altar, and took the knife to slay his son. The Angel of the Lord (Jesus) called from Heaven and told Abraham not to lay a hand on the boy. (v. 10-12). Abraham knew the Lord, believed the Lord, and believed that for the promise to be fulfilled his only son would have to be spared. On that basis he proceeded as instructed until he was stopped. Abraham saw a ram tangled in the bushes, and that lamb the Lord provided became the sacrifice.
Abraham called the place The Lord Will Provide, or Jehovah Jireh. Listen to what the Lord did to celebrate and commemorate the passing of that test. Genesis 22:15-18- “Then the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said ‘By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son-blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore, and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” Jesus, not Isaac, would be the innocent sacrifice that one day would save the people of all the nations. Abraham’s willingness to obey God and sacrifice Isaac resulted in that promise. His score on this test assured every nation would be blessed through Abraham. Jesus Himself promised it. As Abraham grew closer to the Lord and continually obeyed Him over a long period of time, His promise of blessing also grew. What started as a personal blessing grew to a nation that would be blessed, and then expanded to all nations that would be blessed. Each test he passed resulted in the blessing moving to the next level as well.
To avail ourselves of Abraham’s promise and blessing we need make the choice to obey God. 1 Samuel 15:22 says- “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” We must seek and obey the voice of the Lord in every situation, in order to make the correct choice and pass the test. Jesus is the (only and correct) Way, the (absolute) Truth, and the (blessed and abundant) Life, per John 14:6. Pass the test; choose life.
If we get it wrong, we can ask forgiveness and try again so long as our heart is to try to get it right or make the necessary change. God is a patient teacher. He is also a God of grace and many chances. For even the most difficult sin habits, He will help break the pattern and advance change when we cry out earnestly for His help. He wants us to score well, pass the test, and move on to the next level.