Saturday, November 28, 2009

DAY 4: Genesis 21:1-7; 22

Laughter and tears.

The fear found in the unknown yields to joyful laughter when God delivers the impossible. All the agonizing hours, days, and years are all worth it when Abraham and Sarah look at their son, Isaac. Joy must have leapt from their hearts with every grunt, wiggle, and sigh.

When the promise is fulfilled, we thank God and get back to life as usual. With the relief of "I'm glad that's over," we proceed to enjoy the blessings of life. We grow comfortable in this new stage of life, grateful for all God has provided.

Then comes the test.

The great question of life becomes: Do you love the things God gives more than God? Do you love the blessings more than the blessor? If God took away this thing that He has given, would you . . . could you . . . still love Him?

Abraham receives the most gut-wrenching command found in the Bible. He is told to take his most precious possession, his son Isaac, and offer him as a sacrifice to God.

In an astonishing act of faith and trust in God, Abraham arises the next morning, prepares for the journey, and leaves for the place God has told him. Surely there were unanswered questions and doubts, but there was a steady assurance that God is in control. As they leave thier possessions in the care of their servants, Abraham tells them, "We will worship and then we will come back to you." He didn't know how, but he did know that God's promised blessing flowed through Isaac.

As they take the long journey up the mountain, Abraham's toil is accentuated by the weight of his heavy heart. As they labor, Isaac asks an insightful question, "We've got everything but the lamb. Where's the lamb?" Abraham answers with faith, "God will provide." It's a lesson that Isaac's birth taught him. God will provide. When the situation is impossible, God will provide. When things don't make sense, God will provide. When we come to the end of ourselves, God will provide.

They reach the end of the journey and Isaac finds himself bound on the altar. As he looks through tearful eyes, he meets Abraham's gaze, tears freely flowing down both faces. Abraham reaches out and his fingers tighten on the handle of the knife. The matter is settled in his heart. He will obey. Regardless what the cost. If necessary, God will raise the boy from death (Heb. 11:19). Either way, he must obey God. As he lifts the knife, a voice shocks his rattled mind. "Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anyhing to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." When Abraham looks up, a ram is caught in a bush. A suitable sacrifice has been provided in the place of the son. God has provided.

Maybe this story seems harsh to you. God asking a man to sacrifice his child? This story mirrors one that is repeated later. A son struggles up a hill, carrying a load of wood to the place where he will be placed upon it and give his life as a sacrifice. The father looks on as the son is placed on the wood, only this time, there is no cry to stop the execution.

The Father is God, who watches as His only Son, whom He loves, Jesus, gives Himself as a sacrifice. Jesus died in our place, as our substitute, absorbing the wrath of god that was directed at our sin. Jesus didn't deserve to die, but He gave Himself willingly. He died in our place because a sacrifice was needed. Either our lives were required as payment for our sins or a substitute had to be found. In our time of need, when we had nothing to offer . . . God provided a sacrifice. Again.

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