Tag: waiting on the lord

Story 37: The Faith of Abraham

Genesis 22

For three days, Abraham did not waver in his faith.  God had commanded him to do the unthinkable…to offer his own son as a sacrifice…the very son that God had promised him as a gift so many years before (see Story 36).

And so Abraham journeyed on through the desert with Isaac to the place of sacrifice, determined to honor his God with obedience.  And then he looked up.  Far off he could see the place God was bringing them to.  It was Mount Moriah.  One day, a great city would be built there by a mighty king, and it would be called Jerusalem.  But now it was a barren land with a high hill, and God was calling Abraham there.

He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5).  Did you notice that Abraham said, “we”?  The author made sure to record that for a reason.  Though Abraham had every plan to sacrifice Isaac, he was somehow sure that his son would be coming back home with him.

They left the donkey with the servants and walked up together to Moriah.  Abraham carried with him the fire and the knife.  Isaac carried the wood.  Did he understand it was for his own sacrifice?  Was he growing suspicious?  As they drew towards the hill, Isaac asked Abraham:

 “‘Father?’”

“‘Yes, my son’” said the man carrying the tremendous burden of faith.

“‘The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’” asked the son of his love.

“God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son,’” Abraham answered. “And the two of them went on together.’” 

Genesis 22:6-8

 

They finally came to the place God was calling them.  Abraham took the wood from the hands of his boy and built an altar.  In silence, he took ropes and tied Isaac’s hands and feet, binding him and laying him across the wood.  What must Abraham’s heart have felt?  What were the thoughts that must have flown to God?  And what heavy anguish and agony must have moved between father and son as Abraham obeyed his LORD.

And what of Isaac?  What choices did he have?  He was a young man.  He could have fought…argued, cried.  Yet he, like his father, was quiet…surrendered.  Not weak, but powerfully meek, full of trust.

What a remarkable moment in the history of humanity.

Abraham picked up his knife and raised it into the air to sacrifice.  The blade was ready to plunge down,   but at that very last moment, the angel of the LORD called out from heaven. “‘Abraham!  Abraham!’”

Abraham stayed his hand.  Once again, he said to God, “‘Here I am.’’  He was ready to obey to the last.

“‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ He said.  ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son.’”

Can you hear the passion in God’s voice…the intensity we can see in His repetition: “your son, your only son”?  It moved God to see the faith of Abraham, to have captured so much of his trust, to have Abraham move on this earth with such utter obedience.  How God longs to be trusted to the uttermost.

God had radically tested Abraham all the way to the most extreme limit.  The powerful inner faith of Abraham was proven true through his outward actions.

The problem of this testing by God was never that Abraham would lose Isaac.  The problem was whether Abraham would rise to faith.  God watched His servant walk for three days, persevering in obedience, willing and determined to do exactly as the Lord commanded.  He watched as Abraham arranged the wood took the very knife in his hand.  There was nothing false about Abraham’s faith, he had followed it all the way to the worst kind of death-the death of his own son.  He was willing to give the LORD what was most precious to him on earth.  He absolutely trusted God with His Promises.

And then God moved on Abraham’s behalf.  This is what the Bible says:

“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.  He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.  So Abraham called the place The Lord Will Provide.  And to this day it is said, ‘On the mount of the LORD it will be provided.’” 

Genesis 22:13-14

How deep, and powerful those words were to Abraham.  How profound his gratitude when he spoke them!  Then the angel of the LORD spoke to Abraham:

“‘I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.  Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed Me.’”

Genesis 22:16-18

 

With Abraham’s radical obedience, God gave His most extreme promise.  All the nations would be blessed through his descendants…they would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore.

The faith of Abraham, the father of all who follow after the living God, has been celebrated for over four thousand years by millions upon millions of people.  It is good to remember that it was not a perfect faith.  Abraham made many mistakes along the way.  He gave his own wife away to two different kings!  But in the end, his radical, complete trust in God was the great model of faith held up by the rest of the Bible.  Read Isaiah 51:1-2,  Hebrews 11:17-19, and Romans 4:16-25 to see how the writers of the Old Testament and New held up Abraham as one of our great heroes for all time.

Just as Abraham had said, he and his son returned to where his servants and the donkey were waiting.  And they journeyed back to their home in Beersheba together.

God did not require that Abraham give up his son…his only son.  He simply required Abraham’s faith.  But two thousand years after the life of Abraham, God did require the life of His own Son.  It was on the very same hill where Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac–Mount Moriah.

Jesus Christ was a descendant of Abraham, and while Abraham knew that his offspring would bring blessings to all the nations, he was not given the details about how.  It has been two thousand years since the death and resurrection of Christ, and so we can now look back on the lives of both men and see the unfolding of God’s plan.  God gave up the Son of His love…His only son…to pay the price for our ransom.  He watched His son in agony on the cross as He bore the sins of the world.  He did not withhold His wrath or spare Jesus…He did not spare Himself the pain of watching the suffering of His Child.   And all we must do in response is to receive this breathtaking gift from the Lord by the same faith that was modeled to us by Abraham, knowing there was no price God did not pay, and no request that He will make where He has not already claimed the victory.

Story 34: Sarah’s Laughter

Genesis 21-22

Abraham and Sarah had waited on the LORD for twenty-five years.   All during those years, Abraham believed in a message he had heard from God.  This was not just any deity or idol, it was the God of the universe…and the promise of the message was great.  So they packed up everything and journeyed out into the wilderness.  They wandered as nomads to strange lands with foreign people.Their former life of refined wealth was over.  They would no longer have solid walls around them and a door to lock.  They would roam around with tents.  The floor would be the earthy ground, and their walls would be made of leather or cloth…too thin to keep out the dust and cold.  There would be a constant need to search for sources of water, and because water was precious, others would want to take it from them.

As they traveled, Abraham’s family would have been an easy targets for bandits.  Other nomadic people would have felt threatened by them.  It would have been hard…if not foolish…to trust anyone along the way.  The new cities and nations around them were often places of violence and corruption.  The kings and rulers would have threatened their family, and the foolishness of Lot would drag Abraham and Sarah into even bigger problems.  Through it all, Abraham was imperfect yet faithful, constantly depending on the LORD and leading his wife and their household on into God’s promises.

Along the way, God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness.  He blessed Abraham with great flocks and military victory and vast wealth.  Yet those were not the limit to the dreams that God had put before Abraham and Sarah.  His vision was much greater!  God had promised them a nation.  But that nation would have to come from the birth of a son, and that was the great blessing they had yet to receive.

Month after month, Sarah would hope that the time had come for a child, and month after month, he did not come.  Imagine the pain and confusion they must have felt.  They had believed God’s promises and they had obeyed, and yet God had deprived them of life’s most basic and natural blessing.

It is stunning to consider how God formed his wide, epic plan of salvation for the human race in a way that would be so profoundly personal for this couple.  He designed the story of the covenant family to be birthed out of the kind of faith that is forged out of long waiting…over time…as a continual and deepening re-decision.  God’s salvation plan did not bypass the hearts of those He came to save by bringing in some outside, alternate route…it was forged through the depths of their very hearts.

Finally there came a time when it became humanly impossible for Sarah to have children at all.  Yet God was firm.  He insisted that they stand in faith.  They had to believe in an answer that they could not imagine.  They had to hope for something they could not see.

Abraham did not allow the pain and wear of the passing of time to destroy his faith.   Instead, he was strengthened in his faith and grew in his confidence that God richly rewards those who believe in His promises (see Romans 4).

And then…the time finally came.  Abraham was a hundred years old, and Sarah was ninety.  By this time, the entire region knew this couple.  Abraham was extravagantly wealthy and a famous warrior.  He was a foreigner who had come and saved five nations from the tyranny of their enemies.

The people of the region must have wondered at Abraham’s devotion to his barren wife.  Why didn’t he take another wife?  He was a wealthy man, why didn’t he build a harem for himself?  He could have had a dozen wives and a hundred children!  All the world watched, and all knew without a doubt that it was too late for Sarah.  At just the point where everyone would be sure it was a miracle, God gave His greatest blessing of all:

“‘Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what He had promised.  Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God has promised him.  Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.  When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him.  Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.’”

Genesis 21:1-5

Wow.  Imagine the joy of Abraham and Sarah as they held that little baby!  Imagine the wonder!  Those tiny feet and that perfect, soft skin was all their very own.  Has a couple ever waited longer for a child?  Each year of waiting intensified their desire for this little one.  How deeply they understood what a precious gift, what an absolute miracle, this boy was.  He was from the very hands of the Lord.

The first thing we learn about the child is how Abraham dedicated him back to God.  He circumcised his boy with his old and aged hands, delighting in this little baby who would one day be the father of nations.  If God could provide this child, the rest of the promises were also sure.

The utter happiness of the couple showed on their faces.  How they laughed now!  How different the world felt now that the promise was in their arms.  They named the boy Isaac, which means “he laughs.”  For Sarah said, “‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me…who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children?  Yet I have born him a son in his old age’” (Genesis 21:6-7).

 

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