“God will provide”
In Genesis 22 there is a rather terse account of God commanding Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham makes the preparations, takes Isaac and two servants and sets out as directed by God. After three days they arrive at a mountain in the land of Moriah. Leaving the servants with the donkey, Abraham and Isaac set out to climb the mountain. It was at this point Isaac asked an obvious question. “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham replies: “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” Centuries later Jesus was crucified on the same mountain.
It is a difficult account to understand. We are told nothing of Sarah’s reaction, Abraham’s thoughts about God’s command, or Isaac’s reaction when his father bound him ready for sacrifice. It flies in the face of everything we know from the OT about God: who rejected the Jews angrily, when they practised child sacrifice following the ways of their neighbours. Jeremiah 7:30-31.
In itself the account is troubling. The finale; the ‘Angel of the Lord’ calling to Abraham to stay his hand, the ram with its horns caught in a thicket, what can all this mean. Centuries later; a crucified Messiah, wearing a crown of thorns, died on the same Mountain; that is a revelation.
Abraham was a man of faith; he believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. When God gave him a command: which was beyond his comprehension; he obeyed. He didn’t try to reason with God, or argue with Him.
(Earlier in Genesis he did argue as they looked down onto the plain of Sodom. Genesis 18.) Abraham obeyed God’s command without delay; even though it seemed to contradict all that God had promised earlier. Genesis 17:19.
Anyone familiar with the OT and reading the NT will see the pattern which flows from Genesis 1 through to Revelation 22. God’s planning is immaculate: but frequently unseen by people at the time.
Many of us, can look back on past events in our lives; some of them very difficult, and see God’s hand in what happened. At the time we had no idea what was happening or why. We might have questioned and pleaded with God, but our prayers were seemingly unanswered.
Our persistent need to understand everything before we act, can be a huge barrier to serving God faithfully. (It might even betray a lack of trust on our part!)
Another story from the bible of people obeying without understanding can be found in John 2. I’m sure we are all familiar with the first miracle in the gospel, of Jesus changing water into wine. After the short discourse between Jesus and his mother; in which Jesus didn’t seem too willing to get involved. Mary said to the servants; “Do whatever he tells you.”
Jesus tells the servants to fill six stone water jars with water: each held between 20-30 gallons. They did. Jesus told them to take some of the water they had put in the stone jars and take it to the master of ceremonies. He would have been a significant figure, entrusted with ensuring everything went according to plan.
What went through the servant’s minds as they drew water from a stone jar, normally holding water used for ceremonial washing, and took it to the man in charge. Did he have a sense of humour? How would they explain taking him water when he expected wine? Would he be offended? Did he have a temper?
You all know what happened. If you don’t, read it for yourself. John’s gospel chapter 2.
Not knowing the end, doesn’t mean we cannot act now. We are called to follow Jesus; literally this means being obedient to his teaching and example. We may find ourselves in a situation where obedience is costly. Jesus said to his followers; “Take up your cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23
In John 14:21 there is a statement and three tremendous promises from Jesus: Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”