You might have noticed this contradiction before, James 1:13, states, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” and Genesis 22:1, which states, “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham…”
How could James say God does not tempt when we see that He tempted Abraham?
The misunderstanding to this contradiction lies with the words tempt and evil. When we read James 1:13 generally our focus is on the word “tempt,” but to understand the true meaning our focus needs to be on the word “evil.”
James states, God cannot be tempted with evil, nor will He tempt any man.
This verse is saying, God is not tempted to do evil nor will He tempt any man with evil, not that He will not tempt, but that He will not tempt with evil. God does not tempt with evil because it goes against His character.
In the instance of Genesis 22:1-2, it looks like God is tempting Abraham to do evil because of the offensive nature of the temptation. God asked Abraham to offer his son which automatically leads us to think this is an evil act. God did not say Abraham go kill your son, He said offer your son. God was never going to allow Abraham to kill his son.
So how does this not make it a temptation to do evil?
Temptations from God are like the tests we took in school, they are designed to show you how much you have learned and which areas need improvement. This temptation showed Abraham how much he had grown since he started walking with God.
In Genesis 12:1-3, Abraham receives a promise from God that He will make him a great nation and also in verse seven, God said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” These verses imply Abraham will live long enough to have children.
Like most of us, he thought it was up to him to insure the promise would be fulfilled, so in verses 10-13, when Abraham was afraid for his life, he and Sarai lied to the people of the land. He did not trust God to keep His promise.
In Genesis 16:1-2, Abraham again was tempted to have a child with an maid, this time he did not trust enough to wait on God and listened to the voice of Sarai, not God.
In Genesis 22:1-18, the last temptation, God shows Abraham how much he had grown.
God said, offer your son, and he took his son to the mountain God specified, a three day journey.
Then he told those with him, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go worship and return to you.” He was trusting that God would do something to keep His promise.
When the son asked where the sacrifice was Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” He still trusted God would keep His promise.
Then Abraham went as far as tying the boy up and raising the knife, all the while believing God would keep His promise.
In Hebrews 11:17-19, it tells us what Abraham was thinking, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; to whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your descendants shall be called.’ He considered that God is able to raise men, even from the dead…”
In conclusion, we can see how Abraham’s faith grew over the years and the temptation God gave was for his good and not for evil.