Gen 22:1,2 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
Jam 1:12-14 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Death, such a troubling topic. What humans don’t often appreciate is that there are two kinds of life, physical and spiritual. Because we live in a physical world we tend to focus almost solely on the physical life…is a person breathing or not. We also tend to think about quality of life in terms of whether someone is happy or not with their physical existence. God sees things very differently. His interest is in quality of life from a spiritual and an eternal point of view. Everything he does has the goal of improving the depth and quality of spiritual life. When he tempted Abraham it was to confirm his faith and strengthen their relationship. Remember he called Abraham out of Babylon where there wasn’t a recognition of the almighty God. He had to draw him out of that place and build a relationship with him from square one. We don’t really know what was going on at the time Abraham was instructed to sacrifice Isaac or what the instruction was in response to. The word tempt there means to test, try or prove. Abraham’s faith was being proved. All we really know is that God gave the instruction. It wasn’t evil. It was a trying of Abraham’s faith. As with so many of the events in his life Abraham learned to trust God more deeply. It would strengthen his appreciation for the providence of God.
When God instructed the Israelites to take the land and to conquer their enemies he was focused on preserving or promoting spiritual life. When they were in Egypt they were surrounded by a polytheistic culture and it had been many years since Joseph and the family were established in their relationship with God. 400 years later the children of Israel didn’t really know who God was or have a strong relationship with him. He had to prove himself to them. He led them as best he could given their willingness to be led and their obedience. The travels through the wilderness were a time for them to gain some trust in God’s guidance. We know that they were fickle. Even God wanted to give up on them at one point (Ex 32:7-14). He knew they could easily be swayed by the beliefs and traditions of the inhabitants of Canaan. The evil that was in those people would easily infect the fledgling faith of the Israelites and destroyed it. In order to preserve their spiritual life the evil had to be eliminated. That meant eliminating the people who carried it. That sounds cruel if you only think in terms of physical life, but God knows he can always recreate the physical life. God never destroys a soul that has some faith wrapped around it. He intimately knows the mixture of that soul and can rebuild it when conditions are right for making godly choices that lead to eternal life. In the meantime he does what is necessary to protect the spiritual life he is working to cultivate. If the Israelites had been overcome by the evil spirits in the people of Canaan all of his work would have been wasted and he would have had to start over with other people. He was all about protecting the spiritual life they had already grown and promoting the eternal life they were yet to grow.
The Israelites conquering Canaan land is symbolic of us taking control of our own mind. God wants people to make godly choices that will grow eternal life in their minds. In order to do this we have to choose to overcome wrong thoughts (symbolized by the inhabitants of Canaan) in our mind with good, godly thoughts. For God spiritual life always trumps physical life. Physical life is easy for him to create or recreate. But for someone to grow spiritual life they have to make that choice personally. Because God has given mankind free moral agency, he can’t just force good choices or eternal life on anyone. In a sense he is dependent on the choices of each person in order for him to provide the next spiritual meal. There are times when God is working with us to help us overcome some evil within our mind. Sometimes we are able to see it and sometimes not. If there is something we aren’t able to recognize on our own God can help us see it. Again it is a protective thing. If we don’t recognize wrong thoughts that we have in our mind they will grow and could eventually kill us spiritually. God can help us see it before it gets to that point. Then we can make the choice whether to keep it or not. God works with us in many ways to help us grow. The physical life we live is a reflection of the spiritual life we have grown in our mind. Everything God does is to support us and help us grow it. The way to understand that is to be able understand the difference between physical and spiritual life.