This is an interesting question that has led many a Bible student to stop and think further–myself included.
“God cannot be tempted with evil,” according to James 1:13, neither does He tempt any man. But the Bible says, “God did tempt Abraham” (Genesis 22:1, KJV). How can we reconcile this conflict of terms?
“We read that God tempted Abraham, that He tempted the children of Israel. This means that He permitted circumstances to occur to test their faith, and lead them to look to Him for help.” (BC 1094.2)
The Bible says so little about it, we must believe that God’s Word about Himself is true. If God doesn’t tempt man with evil, then that’s what happened. God must have tempted Abraham with something that was not evil. God must have tempted him with a different motive. We can read that Abraham believed that God would raise His son from the ‘dead’ when his faith was tried.
Hebrews 11:17-19 “By faith Abraham, when he was tried [this same word can be translated examined, tested, proved], offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, [we know Isaac was not Abraham’s only son, but he was the only one begotten according to the promise or prophecy, see Galatians 4:22-31]
Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
Accounting [this word can be translated esteeming, concluding, reasoning or thinking] that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”
So because Abraham believed God would raise his son from the dead, as it says in Hebrews, that must have been the test. There must have been something to give Abraham the idea that God would raise his only begotten son from the dead, else he wouldn’t have thought or concluded that He could.
James says in 2:21-24, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”
God was tempting/testing Abraham’s faith. Why? Because the story of a father offering his only begotten son which was prophesied beforehand, was illustrating the bigger picture of a Father offering His only begotten Son which was prophesied beforehand. So, in order to help the people see the depth of the future sacrifice of the Son of God, God illustrated this amazing scenario through Abraham offering his son.
God was illustrating a symbolic point. The point was not evil, it was beautiful.