Just in case you are unfamiliar or need a review, here's the gist of it:
God had previously promised Abraham that he would have descendants so numerous that they would make a great nation...so numerous in fact that they would be compared to the stars of the sky. The problem with the promise, however, was that it wasn't fulfilled until after Abraham was a very old man, and his wife Sarah was not far behind. We're talking to the tune of 100 years old and 90 years old respectively. I'm sure you can feel for them when they tried to take matters into their own hands to make the promise come true (Genesis 16)!
Of course, they are told that their human schemes to help out God's plans are not God's plans and the promise is reiterated. And finally, they have a son whom they name Isaac. Fast forward a few years and God tells Abraham to take Isaac up on a mountain and sacrifice him. Now for those of us who have grown up hearing the story, we have gotten comfortable with it because we know the end of the story. God stops the process mid-knife swing and provides a ram for the sacrifice after all.
But if you really stop to think about it, it's a difficult story. How could a loving God even ask him to sacrifice his only unique son in the first place!??
Without dwelling on it, I am starting to think that maybe the story with Abraham and Isaac was really more about God the Father and Jesus, whom God did follow through with sacrificing. But that's another story. What I want you to think about as we start the year is the faith that allowed Abraham to obey this command of God to the point of tying up his son and raising the knife to stab it through Isaac's heart! Could you do that as a dad or as a mom!!?? Could I?
Maybe you don't honestly know the answer to that question. I very seriously doubt we will be asked to find out (And, Lord, do I pray I won't!). But what we can know is why Abraham was able to obey what must have seemed an absolutely absurd order from the God he had learned to trust. The Hebrews writer holds the key:
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. - Hebrews 11:17-19Why did Abraham take his son up on a mountain and prepare him as a burnt offering? Because he trusted God's promise!
He had doubted God in the past and had tried to act on his own understanding of the way things work when he consented to sire a child with Sarah's maidservant. But then he had seen God's miraculous power at work. He reasoned that if God could bring forth a son from a dead and barren womb, then God could also bring back a son from the dead itself!
The reason I point to this story is because it displays so powerfully the power to change the behavior of a man when he really and truly accepted and trusted in the promises of God. Do we accept the promises of God in the same way? God has never asked me to sacrifice one of my children. He has asked me to sacrifice my time. God has never asked me to kill my son. He has asked me to kill my selfishness. God has never asked me to do the hardest thing a parent could ever possibly do. He has asked me to live in response to the truth that He actually did follow through with the hardest thing a parent could possibly do- He sacrificed His only begotten Son.
Over the coming year, we are going to be looking at some of the promises of God. The Hebrews writer tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please Him. It's interesting to me that he points out that it's not just faith that God exists...it's faith that He rewards those who seek him. In other words...He keeps His promises!!!
Paul wrote to Titus that the "knowledge of the truth that leads to Godliness" is "in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time." (Titus 1:1-2)
God cannot lie. God has made promises. All of those promises in one way or another lead to eternal life. Will we believe them? Will we trust them? Will we please God with our faith that culminates in our obeying even the instructions that our sinful natures rebel against as we selfishly and desperately try to hold onto our lives out of fear of death? (see Hebrews 2:14-15)
Without that type of faith...it is impossible to please God.
May 2015 be a year that we learn to trust. And therefore may it be a year that we please God.