Monday, November 2, 2015

You want me to do what?! 

Genesis 22:1-2
Abraham Tested
22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2 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.”

Heralded as the single greatest act of faith in the Bible here we have Abraham, the father of the three largest religions on the planet, obeying the Lord’s request for the sacrifice of his one and only son. However earlier in Abraham’s story we see him fail himself and his wife as he gives into fear on two occasions and lies about the true nature of they’re relationship. He allows his wife to be taken as the wife of another man, not once but twice, fearing he’d be killed if he didn’t. Also after the Lord promised him an heir that would create for him descendants as numerous as the stars, he gave into his wife’s plan and he slept with her slave girl, taking matters into his own hands once again.

I am so grateful that I have this God inspired word in my life, I am so grateful for its authenticity. Again and again scripture records the failures of its greatest figures and I am so glad it does. I can relate with failures! We don’t have a book of amazingly great heroes that knew just what to do at all the right times. We don’t have a book that so glorifies the men and women in it that they no longer seem human at all. We have a God breathed word that tells us not of how great and flawless these people were but of how great and flawless Yahweh is and how even deeply flawed people like you and me can have that greatness in our lives just as Abraham had him in his.

This is also the beginning of the significance of Mount Moriah as a holy and sacred place. About a thousand years later we see King David buy the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite in order to build an alter to the Lord so that the people may avoid a plague. Then after the death of David Solomon built a huge temple at the same location which lasted for 400 hundred years until the armies of Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it in 587/586 B.C. Seventy years later the temple was rebuilt by the Jews after they’re return to Jerusalem from Babylon. Once again in A.D. 70 the Roman armies led by Titus, the son of the Emperor Vespasian, destroyed the temple. The “Wailing Wall” we have there today is all that remains today of that original structure. Needless to say it’s been a hotly contested piece of real-estate since the Lord led Abraham there for the sacrifice of his son and it continues to create controversies today.
Every believing parent that hears or reads this story asks themselves the same question “Could I do it?” Non-believing parents would ask “how could God ask such a thing.” Many non-believers would use this story as an example of the cruelty perpetrated by men thinking they are being led by God. To the non-believing parent I would say God asks some very tough things of his people at times. In the Old Testament many of the prophets met with terrible ends. In the New Testament we have all of the Apostles martyred save John. Here in our modern day we have missionaries that feel they have been called to distant lands to further the Gospel only to be jailed, killed, or contract a deadly disease. Also the non-believing parent should also bear in mind the outcome, after all God did not allow the sacrifice to be completed. To the non-believer or atheist that would use this story as an example against our faith I would say that you are only proving your inability to hear, understand, and interpret scripture at any type of real depth when you only glean a short amount of superficial information from a verse or story in an attempt to put together a case against our faith. Take your time and really study and research what it is you don’t believe to see if your reasons for unbelief are founded on good evidence or bad, you may be surprised.
To the Believing parent I would say you can’t know what you’d do without having been in the position and circumstance that Abraham found himself in. At this point Abraham had lived many faith filled years, perfecting his relationship with the Lord. He was 100 years old when Isaac was born. The Lord had promised an heir to Abraham and Sarah and made good on that promise despite their being in they’re golden years. Can you imagine your Grandparents or your Great Grandparents having a child? Isaac’s age at the time of this sacrifice has been the subject of much discussion, from being in his twenties and a willing participant to no more than an unsuspecting infant or toddler, either one you choose puts Abraham’s age greater than 100, possibly much greater. Abraham had also been through many faith testing situations by the time we come to this point. Faith grows as we daily seek to maintain a connection and a relationship with Yahweh. Our ability to discern whether God is speaking to us and what he may be trying to tell us becomes honed and sharpened. I think Abraham’s reaction to this hard request made by God shows us the level of faith and utter dependence he had come to in his relationship with Yahweh. He heard, he discerned, and he set out to do just what the Lord had asked of him. Let’s not forget at least 25 years earlier he set out on a 500 mile journey due to another request the Lord had made. Not knowing at all where he was going he left everything he knew and asked his family to trust in him as he led them and the Lord led him.

What is there in this world that does not belong to the Creator? What things are just mine? Is there anything? You may say “well I paid for my car” or “I own my home” but nothing on earth can be made from anything the Creator didn’t make or foresee man making, or for that matter foresee you specifically having. The things that we own often were once owned by someone else or will at least be owned by another person after we are long gone. The closer a relationship I have with him the more I can see where he had everything to do with giving me everything I have, so these things are his, gifted or loaned to me by him.  If nothing is mine and everything belongs to the creator what would make me think that my kids are mine? My children are his and he has the power to take them or to give them at any time just as he has the power to take my things if he so desires. I am of course speculating but I think that Abraham’s relationship with the Lord was so strong, so dependant, and so much apart of his daily existence that he had come to know fully that he only had what he had because God had willed it. He knew that Sarah was Gods and if he had saw fit to take her there would be nothing he could do to keep God from taking her. I think he also had come to a place where he knew to not live with the Lord was to not live at all. Throughout this entire story we see him from the beginning going where God tells him to go and doing what God tells him to do. Now we can see he screwed that up from time to time but he was certainly seeking, following, and living for the Lord. He knew to turn from the Lord was to essentially stop taking in air and he knew to trust and follow the Lord is where real true life resided.

It is of intense interest to me what Abraham says later in verse 5- “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” He says “We will come back to you” Abraham trusted that the Lord would not fail in his prior promise to him; he knew that the creator could give life back where it was taken if needed. I do not believe this makes his act of faith any less great though. He trusted the Lord with his life and now with the life of his only son as well, but why not trust, Isaac belonged to the Lord with or without Abraham’s trust. At least now at this point in my studies I believe God led Abraham to do this for the sake of Abraham alone. I am not of the camp that thinks God was testing to see what Abraham’s reaction may be, or how strong his faith was, or to see if he valued his son more than the Lord, he is God the Alpha and the Omega, he is unrestrained by time, all seeing, and all knowing. Yahweh certainly knew what Abraham’s reaction would be; he knew his heart better than Abraham did. Sometimes relationships need an event of great strain to stretch and almost snap the ties that bind it together in order to then make it all the stronger. It is possible the Lord felt this was a necessary exercise for Abraham to be put threw, but we could guess all day at the immeasurable mind of the creator. We are but tiny specks of intellect compared to the mind that would devise and choreograph the dance of unimaginably immense galaxies. He is the engineer of the stars and also concerned with creating the immensely small workings of our human cellular structures. He arranged the very workings of time and space but still created us for him to love. Some of our life struggles are of our own making through the gift of free will but some struggles the Lord leads us into for the sole purpose of sharpening us. This Christian life he has sent his one and only son to gather us into is not an easy one and if it feels easy then we need to take a good look at ourselves because we may be children of the other father, the father of lies. Abraham was great only in his capacity to become a vessel, to submit completely to the will of God, to put his own wants and needs aside and just do and be what the Father was asking. How many times have you complimented your cup on the wonderfully delicious beverage inside? No of course you don’t give any credit to the cup, only to what the cup has been filled with, if the cup is doing its job it’s no more than a tool to carry what’s inside.  Abraham was also a man of great resilience and perseverance, even after he had failed the Lord, as we all do, he did not stay down, no, he rose and began again, and again. We have a God that not only allows but he encourages making new beginnings. When we are teaching our children to walk we too know they will fall just as they will when trying to ride a bicycle for the first time, but how heart breaking would it be to see your child give up on that bike and never climb back on it again? We are all fallen, if the father of our faith couldn’t get it right all the time we certainly won’t but what’s most important is we do not give up, we get up, we repent, and we get back to serving God’s will!