What kind of achan [teacher] is God? We are keeping this Sabbath here today in a classroom, a school where all of you normally have classes throughout the week. You all have the chance to see your teachers here on a regular basis, see them eating meals or reading books or using the computer. But do you know how God is as a teacher? Since we cannot see God face to face as we go about our daily lives, which we may be grateful for, how can we see how God acts as a teacher in scripture? Today I would like to look at how God tests in the Bible, and a little bit about why He does so.
A Test In The Garden
What sort of teacher was God to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden? Have you ever wondered? The Bible does not give all the details, but it gives enough for us to have an idea of what kind of teacher God is, at least in part. Let us first look at Genesis 2:15-25 to see God’s first teaching lessons to Adam. Genesis 2:15-25 gives us a couple of powerful lessons about the way that God works with mankind: “Then the Lord god took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the men, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the Lord God cased a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of the ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”
How does this passage show God as a teacher or instructor? We see that the first thing that God does with Adam is to give him a job. He was given the task of tending the Garden of Eden that God had created as his home. So God gave Adam work immediately, to give him something to fill his time productively. We also see God giving Adam rules. Adam was permitted to eat all of the trees in the garden except one. But something was forbidden, and so Adam had to learn obedience—would he follow the rules or break them and suffer the consequences? God then gave Adam a test that was also a sign of respect. He let Adam name the animals, showing him that while there were animals all around (probably male and female, in couples), there was no one for him. God wanted Adam to feel lonely, to long for someone with whom he could be intimate. Having accomplished His aim of having Adam recognize his loneliness, God then performed surgery on Adam and created the first woman out of Adam’s own rib. By having woman come from man, just as children are born from women, God wanted humanity to feel a close bond with others. God then performed the first marriage ceremony so that the first man and woman were now husband and wife. That is a very subtle teaching job—doing all that is necessary as a teacher, providing tests and homework, providing meaning and respect, and showing life lessons in action, providing the needs of one’s students. We might say that God is the perfect teacher.
So what happened? We know that very soon Adam and Eve were deceived into doing the one thing that God had commanded them not to do. All they had to do in the Garden of Eden was stay away from one forbidden fruit, and they could not do this. And so it is with human beings in general. God gives us commands, and we break them. Legacy gives six pages of rules, and students leave campus without permission and have to be reminded every night to turn the lights off at curfew at 10:00PM. We are human beings with the same natures as Adam and Eve. So what happened to them after God gave them a test and they failed? We read of it in Genesis 3:21-24. Genesis 3:21-24 reads as follows: “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them. Then the Lord god said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way into the tree of life.”
This is a serious failure. For one failure to obey the one command that God had given them, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden of Eden. They were thrown out on pain of death, with armed angels guarding the tree of life to prevent them from having eternal life while they remained in their sins. They got no second chance. One failure and they were out of their protected garden, to face the need to till the ground as farmers doing buffalo work. Here at Legacy we are far more generous—and may that generosity not be mistaken for weakness. For remember that ultimately we must all stand before God, who is, as we have seen, a very strict judge. Nonetheless, we see that he is also concerned for the needs of people, even sinners, in giving tunics, clothing, to Adam and Eve before kicking them out of the garden. God is strict and just, but He is not cruel, thankfully, for we are all in need of God’s mercy.
Now I Know
We all know that Adam and Eve failed their test from God in the garden of Eden by eating the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But what kind of tests did successful believers have to undergo? Let us answer that question by looking at the example of Abraham in the Bible. What did God demand of Abraham, and how was the faith of the father of the faithful tested? Let us examine that question, as we are here in Genesis, to again show what kind of teacher God is and what kind of difficult tests He gives.
We find that God tested Abraham starting from the beginning of his walk with God, in Genesis 12:1-7. What was the test? That God would give the land of Canaan to his descendents, when he had none. Genesis 12:1-7 reads as follows: “Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you. And I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendents I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.”
Here we see Abraham being told by God to leave all that he knew, his family, his position of power in a city named after his brother and ruled by his family, to become a stranger in a land that would be given to his children. Only Abraham was seventy-five years old, and had no children. Was this a trial for Abraham and his family? Absolutely. Abraham reminded God of His promises, and of the burden he faced, in Genesis 15:1-6. Genesis 15:1-6 gives Abraham’s concern about his lack of children and God’s reply, as well as Abraham’s faith, and it reads as follows: “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abraham. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendents be.” And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”
For this reason Abraham is considered the father of the faithful. And he surely has a great reward waiting for him upon the return of Jesus Christ. But his trials did not end there. For twenty five years he was an old man without the promised heir. His servant Eliezer of Damascus was his heir. Then, after twelve years, when he was 87 years old, he listened to his wife and had a child by a concubine named Hagar, whose son Ishmael became the father of the Arabs. Then after another thirteen years he finally had the promised son, Isaac.
But that was not the end of Abraham’s tests. We find Abraham subjected to perhaps the most difficult test of all, the command to sacrifice his promised son by God Himself, in Genesis 22:1-18. Genesis 22:1-18 gives one of the most difficult tests someone could be given: “Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham arose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” So Isaac took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: “My 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 heard my voice.”
Think of how hard a test this was for Abraham, and for Isaac. God asked Abraham to kill the son he had waited for for so many years, the son that God had promised would be the father of uncountable descendants. Abraham knew that God had the power to give life, and his heart was heavy as he did not refuse the summons of God, saying, “Here I am” both to God and to his beloved son. He knew that God was asking him a difficult thing, but he believed that just as both he and his son would go to the mountain of the Lord in what it is now Jerusalem, so they would both return as well. But he did not know how. God waited until Abraham had the knife up in his hand, ready to kill his son, before providing a substitute animal.
Why did God give Abraham such a horrible test? We know, from reading this passage, that the connection between Isaac and Jesus Christ is very close. Both were the only promised sons of their fathers. Both were called by God to be sacrificial victims. And God, for reasons known only to Him, wanted to know for certain Abraham’s faith by asking him to do what God the Father was going to do to Christ, kill His only begotten son. Once He knew that Abraham was willing to follow His command to that extreme level, God knew that Abraham’s heart belonged to Him fully. And then he promised a blessing, that in Abraham’s seed, that it is, Jesus Christ, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. For such an immense blessing, God gave an extremely hard test. God expects much from those to whom He gives much.
One might think that the tests stopped being so hard when Jesus Christ came to this earth, but that would be incorrect. In fact, Jesus Christ, while he was on this earth, gave some very severe tests to the Jews of his time. He was no less strict of a teacher on earth than He was in heaven before coming to the earth. Let us, in the interests of saving some time, look at two tests briefly and see why He gave them to believers, so that we may better understand the approach of Jesus Christ as a teacher.
First, let us look at His test of the people of His time in John 6:53-58. Here Jesus Christ tested his listeners in Capernaum with a very difficult challenge. John 6:53-58 reads: “Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father send Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
This is a hard saying, and many of the audience of Jesus’ time thought that Jesus Christ was asking people to be cannibals, to literally eat his flesh and drink his blood. But clearly that wasn’t the case—Jesus Christ was saying that someone would have to eat the bread and drink the wine at Passover in remembrance of His sacrifice for the sins of all humanity. That was a difficult enough truth for the Jews to take. Jesus Christ came to earth as the final and ultimate sacrifice for sin—and for thousands of years Israelites had been slaughtering bulls and rams and lambs and goats in anticipation of this ultimate sacrifice for sin. Despite being familiar with the symbol, the Jews of Jesus’ day could not understand that it required the death of the Son of God Himself to pay for their sins, and that the animals they sacrificed were merely a symbol of this difficult truth. Nor did they wish, by and large, to accept the truths that Jesus Christ came on this earth to preach, more comfortable in the corrupt human traditions that they were familiar with.
Let us look at one other test, directed at the scribes and Pharisees of the time of Jesus Christ, who fancied themselves to be knowledgeable about the scriptures. Jesus Christ asked them a question that that was too hard for them to answer in Matthew 22:41-46. Matthew 22:41-46 reads: “While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, till I make your enemies Your footstool” ‘ ? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He is Son?” And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.”
Why was this such a hard question? The scribes and Pharisees knew that Jesus was the Christ, but they refused to accept Him as their Lord and King. How can someone’s son be their Lord and God? In the case of Jesus Christ, through His mother he was descended from David, and so He was rightly the Son of David. But He was the very Son of God by being born of the Holy Spirit with no human father. The Pharisees denied the divinity of Christ because they wanted to keep their power for themselves and not to accept Christ as an authority over them, despite intellectually knowing where He came from. They betrayed their faith and then sought to deny all of the clear Messianic scriptures in the Bible that pointed towards the Son of God in books like Psalms and Proverbs and Isaiah, a practice which follows on to this day. Jesus’ tests were too difficult for many people of His time to answer.
What point does all of this have for us? We have seen that God and Jesus Christ are difficult achans [teachers]. They ask hard questions and give difficult tests to believers. Why is this so? We know that it is not because God and Jesus Christ are not loving. Rather their strictness and sense of justice comes from their fairness and seriousness. God wishes to give those human beings who accept Him as Lord and King and obey His laws eternal life. But eternal life is such a precious gift that He is rightly concerned to only give it to those who have proven themselves and pass His tests. Even though no one can merit such a gift through good deeds, God will not give it to anyone who is unworthy of it in their behavior. Once Adam and Eve decided to choose right and wrong for themselves rather than accept God’s standards and obey His laws, they were thrown out of the garden and cut off from eternal life. Once God knew that Abraham was willing, like God was, to give up his only begotten son as a sacrifice, God’s testing was complete. And Jesus Christ tested the people of His day by demanding that they be willing to eat His flesh and drink His blood in the Passover service, and that they accept Him as their Lord and God. Those who were able to do so became His disciples, with the promise of eternal life. Those who did not died in their sins and await His judgment. Therefore, if we are God’s children, He will test us and challenge us, and He is a far more difficult achan than any of us here, myself included. Let us pass His tests, so that we may receive the reward of eternal life for faithfulness, like Abraham did.