Obedience, The Way To God’s Heart
Genesis 22: 1-12, 15-18
1 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” 6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”……… ………..
15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
Recently something interesting happened to me. The Lord wanted me to do something but I did not quite agree with Him. You know there are times He wants you to do something and you know He is right. But there are times He gives instructions you cannot begin to understand. This instruction was one of those. I strongly felt, I should do things differently. However, I am one of those people who will obey once the instruction is clear. It was clear even though I did not understand why He asked me to go that way.
Despite obeying, I was reluctant and complaining a lot, trying to get Him to change the instruction, explain why my way would be better or give me enough reason to come to terms with it. One of the days, I was driving alone in my car, when the Lord said to me ‘You are sitting, but in your heart you are standing’. I am sure that does not really make sense to you, unless you know the joke about the little boy whose father asked him to sit down. After the instruction was given repeatedly, he sat down. Then he turned to His father and said, ‘Daddy, I am sitting down but in my heart I am standing up’.
That jolted me. When you have been a believer for a while, you tend to be able to manipulate out of God’s instructions. You take His love and mercy for granted and forget who He really is. He may be Father but He is still the Ruler of the universe, the one who puts and keeps it all in motion. I immediately repented and proceeded to adjust my attitude.
Why am I telling this story? I have written quite a bit on faith and we concluded that obedience and faith walk hand-in-hand. That is why Abraham is our reference today. When we obey Him it means we trust Him. When we don’t, it means we don’t. When we obey Him, it means we truly believe He has lordship over our lives. When we don’t, it means we are lords over our lives. When we obey, it means we know He can truly take care of us. When we don’t it means we are not really sure He can. When we obey, it means we believe He has what it takes to settle a matter. When we don’t we doubt His ability to care of things. When we obey Him, we acknowledge who He is in its entirety- His bigness, His Power, His character etc. When we don’t we underestimate who God is and what He is capable of doing.
In today’s story, Abraham had every reason to disobey God. This was a son born to him in old age by an old woman. She had no business having babies when she had him. At this time, he had sent away his older son Ishmael because God said he should (Genesis 21:8-19). He had no consolation if he lost this one. He could have reminded God, ‘Lord, this is the son of promise, have You forgotten?’ But he did not.
I have often tried to put myself in His shoes, just to imagine what must have been going on in his mind. The Bible does not say if he told Sarah, his wife. He just took the son for the sacrifice. They walked three days to the mountain of sacrifice. Did he try to change God’s mind. Did he have times he thought he should turn back? Did he think he was crazy? Did he abuse God in His heart? In my early walk with God, I used to call Him a tyrant whenever He gave me those kind of instructions.
Being human, he probably went through all these motions. But in all the musing and questioning, he just kept walking towards Moriah. When they got to a point, he asked the servants to stay back. He realised they would be a distraction. They would have tried to stop him. They would have called the police- anything to stop him from doing this ridiculous thing. So he left them behind.
Meanwhile, God gave the instruction and seemingly walked away. He did not try to explain it. He did not try to comfort him. He seemed not to be anywhere nearby. Meanwhile, Isaac is innocently following his father assuming it would be a normal sacrifice. At some point though, he realised there was no ram. There should have been a ram. So he asks his father, who answered ‘My son, God will provide for Himself a lamb for the burnt offering’. Great answer, one could even call it a prophetic word. Is that what it was? Or just something he said because he did not know what to say to his son. ‘How could he have told him, ‘My son, you are the lamb for today’s sacrifice’?
Eventually they got to the spot for the sacrifice. The Bible does not say when Abraham broke the news to Isaac that he would be the ram. It does not say if Isaac resisted. It just says that he bound his son and laid him on the altar. Even Isaac fell in line when he understood what was going on. Isaac was as good as dead. I can imagine that Abraham had gone through the process a million times in his heart. He actually lifted his knife to strike, when the Lord came to the rescue. That is obedience-the kind that pleases God. Total, trusting obedience. Not half hearted obedience.
This test was Abraham’s last major test. He had obeyed other instructions before this one. He left home-all that he knew, for a place he did not know( Genesis 12). That must have been painful. He sent his first son away(Genesis 21). That must have been painful. He let his nephew go(Genesis 13). Also painful. These were major obedience bus stops in his life. He was now in the habit of obedience. Not like my own, where I was standing in my heart, but the kind that is total, holding nothing back, including Isaac his most precious son.
This story is one of my favourite stories in the Bible. When I first began to preach in church, it was one my first references in my first public sermon. I was speaking on faith. I still refer to this story every time the Lord gives me instructions, especially difficult ones. How did he pull through? What gave Him the courage to pull through? His total trust in God. His strong belief that God is able to come to the rescue. His past experiences with him. He just went all the way and did not look back.
Was God pleased? What do you think? What does this sound like? ‘because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
His obedience positioned him for the blessing. You can never obey God and lose out. He will make it worth your while. It may not be immediate but you will look back and smile, because His goodness will be written all over your act of obedience. We delight Him when we obey. He comes through when we obey. He takes care of stuff better than we ever could when we obey. His faithfulness is always wrapped around our obedience. I am sure that Father Abraham is one happy dude, when he sees the nation of Israel and the church, both coming out of his act of obedience.
At this time, I still do not understand why He gave me my last instruction. It does not make that much sense, but the more I think about it, the more I realise it’s all for my good. Right now, I am sitting both in the physical and in my heart. I have peace and I know He is pleased with me. I have not yet seen the result, but I know and I know, that it will be worth my obedience. Because like Abraham, I know He is faithful. I know He has my best intentions at heart. I know He knows what He is doing. I have experienced Him several times before. I cannot regret my obedience. There is absolutely no reason to hesitate. Simply obey and it will be worth your while. God bless. Ck