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Abraham was Wrong, but He Trusted God

Posted by on Jul 12, 2010 in discipleship, scripture | 5 comments

Abraham was Wrong, but He Trusted God

Abraham trusted God. But, Abraham was wrong. He was not wrong to trust God; in that he was absolutely right! But, he was wrong in the way he had decided that God was going to work. His theological system was wrong, but he trusted God.

What am I talking about? Well, I’m glad you asked.

In Genesis 12:1-3, God promised to make Abram into a great nation through which the other nations of the world would be blessed. In Genesis 15:4-5, God further promised that the nation would spring from Abram’s own son. Then, in Genesis 18:10, God specified that the promised son would be a child of Abraham and Sarah. Finally, in Genesis 21:1-3, God kept the first part of his promise, and Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah.

But, something strange happens. God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering in Genesis 22:1-2. The Genesis account indicates that Abraham thought that Isaac would return down the mountain with him after being sacrificed (Genesis 22:5). However, Genesis doesn’t tell what Abraham thought would happen.

When we read Hebrews, we get a further glimpse into this story. According to the author of Hebrews, Abraham had decided that after he killed Isaac, God would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). You see, Abraham knew that Isaac would live and have a family, because God had promised that he would be created through Isaac.

So, Abraham rationalized that since he was supposed to kill Isaac, and since Isaac was supposed to continue living, then God must plan to raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham knew what God had promised, but he did not know how God would accomplish that promise. Like most of us, he tried to figure it out for himself.

Abraham was wrong. His theological system – his way of understanding God and what God was planning to do and how God was going to do it – was in error on this point.

But, the good news is that Abraham did not place his trust in his theological system. Abraham did not trust what he had reasoned on his own. Instead, he continued to trust God, even when God worked in a way that was contrary to his understanding – contrary to his theological system.

You see, if Abraham had continued to operate according to his understanding, he would have sacrificed Isaac. Why? Because according to his system, that’s what was necessary for God to do the work that Abraham had decided God was going to do (raise Isaac from the dead). Imagine what would have happened if Abraham had continued to operate within his theological system…

It is not bad or evil to have a theological system. We all have one. And, every theological system is wrong at some point.

However, we must be certain that our trust is placed in God, and not in our theological system or our understanding of what God is going to do or how God is going to do it.

Even though Abraham’s understanding was wrong, he is still listed in Hebrews 11 because he trusted God (sometimes in spite of his theological system).


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 7-12-2010


    You’ve caught my interest, but I think I’m missing something. I’m not sure what you think Abraham was wrong about. Are you saying he was wrong for believing God would raise Isaac from the dead? Are you saying he was wrong for ‘assuming’ God’s future actions based on past performance?

    I do agree with “…we must be certain that our trust is placed in God, and not in our theological system or our understanding of what God is going to do or how God is going to do it.” I just don’t see how Abraham had any ‘system’ to speak of or how he was wrong for thinking God would solve the Isaac dilemma.

    Wouldn’t the story of Abraham agreeing to bed Hagar be more more relevant to your thesis? Or maybe Paul dumping John Mark because of Paul’s view of who makes a good missionary? Or maybe Jonah’s system of understanding God’s justice and then being proven wrong by God’s mercy? Or maybe the ‘systems’ presented by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar in the book of Job?

    I like where you’re going with this and thing you could be onto something with Abraham.


  2. 7-12-2010

    Like Dan, I thought perhaps the Hagar story was where you were going with this, but I do think the sacrifice story is equally fitting.

    At various times, Abraham (like us) had different views of God and how He was going to do what He had promised, or how He was going to act in certain situations, and sometimes Abraham (like us) was wrong (and sometimes right).

    But overall he had an underlying trust in God, even when he was wrong about who God was and what He was going to do. Very encouraging post.

  3. 7-12-2010

    I usually post as Dan, but since there is another Dan I felt like it was a good idea to disambiguate!

    I often am wrong when I try to understand what God is doing or is going to do. My main area of inaccurate speculation is: why is God doing this? I know that he has a reason and that it will be for my good, but I like to try and figure out how, and I am usually VERY wrong!

  4. 7-12-2010

    Hey guys,

    Thanks for the comments. I picked this episode because the author of Hebrews specifically mentions it in relation to Abraham’s faith, even though Abraham was wrong about what he thought God was going to do.


  5. 4-6-2013

    In faith matter there is no room for reasoning. From the beginning until the end, mankind will be tested for his faith.

    Gen 2:16-17 The LORD God commanded the man: “You may freely eat from every tree of the garden, but you are not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because you will certainly die during the day that you eat from it.”

    Gen 22:2-3 God said, “Please take your son, your only unique son whom you love—Isaac—and go to the land of Moriah. Offer him as a burnt offering there on one of the mountains that I will point out to you.” So Abraham got up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his male servants with him, along with his son Isaac. He cut the wood for the burnt offering and set out to go to the place about which God had spoken to him.

    Dan 3:16-17 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “It’s not necessary for us to respond in this matter. Your majesty, if it be his will, our God whom we serve can deliver us from the blazing fire furnace, and he will deliver us from you.”

    Mar 8:34-35 Then Jesus called the crowd to himself along with his disciples and told them, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow me continually, because whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it.”

    Jesus has praised those with little knowledge, because they don’t reason but have absolute faith in God.
    Mat 11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from wise and intelligent people and have revealed them to infants.

    In Hebrew 11:19, the writer didn’t emphasize the reasoning of Abraham as you have assumed with your theological system. The writer just wants to show that Abraham had faith in the Creator of life. If you read the entire Hebrews 11, the text has insisted about the importance of genuine faith with the statement “By faith,..”

    For conclusion, by faith we don’t question about the work of God. By faith we should embrace the simple life as little children.

    Rev 2:19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.