In the month of September, we are reading through the book of Genesis. Nicole introduced us to the book and directed us to four theological themes present in the familiar stories we may be familiar with and will read this month – https://waysidewomen.com/2018/08/29/a-new-beginning/
- God is Creator
- Sin and Its Implications for Creation
- God’s Unavoidable Judgment
- God’s Preserving Grace
Last week we camped out in Genesis 2 where God is on display as our Creator and King. This week I selected a passage – Genesis, chapter 22:1-19 – where God’s preserving grace is on display although initially it almost seems as if God is out to get Abraham.
Have you ever had to wait months, years, or decades for an answer to prayer? Maybe your desire(s) is (are) still unanswered. Abraham and Sarah are two examples who had to wait nearly a century for their desire for a baby to be fulfilled. They did not wait perfectly and took matters into their own hands which resulted in consequences later (story of Haagar and Ishmael). However, can you imagine their joy when Sarah became pregnant with Isaac and he finally arrived as their beloved son? So, what in the world is God doing to Abraham in Genesis 22, when Isaac was around ten years of age?
He (God) said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” ~Genesis 22:2-3
Really God? Abraham is to take his long-awaited son Isaac and sacrifice him? What in the world?!? One perspective is that “God tested Abraham, not to trip him up and watch him fail, but to deepen his capacity to obey God and thus develop his character” (Life Application Bible, p. 44). God was out to develop Abraham’s character, to see the depth of his true allegiance and love.
After the initial command from God, Abraham set out almost immediately the next morning with Isaac to obey God. He did not delay. Talk about first time and on-time obedience. I’m not sure if God asked me to give up my first born child, I would wake up early and follow the command without intense agony – asking if there was another way or taking time to consult my spouse or close friends. Scripture does not indicate any consultation between Abraham and others before this journey to Mt. Moriah. The only thing we see is a quiet confidence in God.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son. And the two of them went on together. ~Genesis 22:7-8
Even in the face of questions from Isaac, Abraham remained faithful and steadfast. Abraham continued walking in obedience, building an altar, binding his son to it, and raising a knife to slay his only son when an angel of the Lord calls out to Abraham to stop and not lay a hand on Isaac.
“Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide.” ~Genesis 22:12, 14
God acknowledged Abraham’s obedience and, in that moment, God provided a ram as the sacrifice. Abraham had followed God’s instructions and God took him right to the edge before He provided a ram caught in the thicket.
Do you recognize the parallel of the ram offered on the altar as the substitute for Isaac and Christ on the cross as a substitute for us? God’s preserving grace was evident in preventing Abraham from sacrificing his own son, Isaac. However, ultimately sin and its implications for creation had to be reconciled with God’s unavoidable judgment. For this reason, God did not spare His own Son in order to allow us to live. God’s preserving grace turned into an amazing gift of eternal life for all of us who believe in Jesus.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16
So what are the implications for us today in reading this story of Abraham’s faithfulness and singular devotion to God? Have you ever found yourself holding onto something: whether it is a person, an activity, a lifestyle, or a desire — more than your devotion to God? Do you become angry or distressed when life doesn’t quite go as planned or God asks you to give up something you cherish deeply? It can be extremely difficult to let go of what we deeply love. And what is more acceptable than to love your children, a spouse, or a parent? But even love for our children is not supposed to trump our love for and obedience to God.
God does not tell us to have no desires or to forsake deep love for others. But rather He calls us to,
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” ~Psalm 37:4.
“ Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” ~Deuteronomy 6:5
When our desire for anything starts to control our behaviors, our thoughts, our emotions, and our devotion more than our allegiance to God, this is idolatry. “It (idolatry) means turning a good thing into an ultimate thing.” (Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World). God wanted to see if Abraham truly loved God more than anything, and he proved faithful in Genesis 22. Would we prove faithful if God asked us to sacrifice what we hold most dear? Don’t see giving up the things we deeply love as God’s punishment or taking something away, but remember He loves us and He is concerned about developing our character and deepening our singular devotion to Him. And often when we lay down our “Isaac,” God will provide and return to us greater blessings than we could have imagined – although we may not see it in this lifetime and it may not look like we expect.
God provided for Abraham because of his devotion. I believe God will provide for each of us if we remain faithful to surrender all to Him each and every day, including our loved ones, our time, our treasures, and our talents.
I urge each of us this week to examine our hearts to see what we are clinging to more than the Lord. It is not easy, and often we don’t even know what our idols are until God removes them (our health, a loved one, a lifestyle, money, etc.) from our lives.
I have recently used this prayer of surrender to help me lay down my “Isaac.” The prayer is found in a new book by Susannah Baker titled, Secure: The Prayer Guide, Connecting to God through Persistent Prayer. This book may help you re-align your focus and surrender your Isaac.
Song for your worship time – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLSDBG1OcGE
A Prayer of Surrender
“Father, I come to You today and bring all that I am and I surrender it all to You. I place my time, my talents, my words, my actions and reactions, my finances and spending, my family, my friends, my past, my longings, my hopes and dreams for the present and future, and my plans for this day at the foot of the cross, at the trustworthy feet of Jesus. Fill me and seal me with the power of Your Holy Spirit and root and ground me in Your great love (Eph. 3:16-17). Open my eyes and make me aware of Satan’s schemes (2 Cor. 2:11), and help me stand firm against temptation through the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and prayer (Eph. 6:17-18). Deliver me from evil and from all my fears, and keep my eyes fixed on Your kingdom, power, and glory (Matt. 6:13, Ps. 34:4). You are my good Father, and as Your child, I place myself securely in Your loving care. It is in the mighty name of Jesus that I ask all these things. Amen.”