While I was growing up, my dad was not a Bible-believing/Church-going type of man, but I did have a very Godly and strong Christian mom. (Mom prayed for him for years and he gave his life to the Lord before his passing in 1993). And though our home was divided over this, God united my parents when it came to raising my brothers and I. My dad taught us obedience. He and my mom made sure we did almost everything together, I think this was his way of teaching something to us if we were always with them. If mom had to go to the grocery store, we all went. Dad never put up with us if we started begging for a certain box of cereal or candy, etc. He merely took us to the car and that would be the end of it. If they went to vote, we went along and waited in the lines with them. And when it came time for television, we had to watch what dad wanted to watch–60 Minutes, Abbott & Costello, Star Trek, the Lawrence Welk Show, Hawaii 5-0, Dragnet, and always a war movie (I am so glad Mike likes war movies too, or else we’d have some issues).
So as I was remembering my childhood and war movies, I shared with Mike this illustration, as I have been spending time studying Genesis 22. If you can picture this scene, typical in the movies: There is a soldier on the battlefield. The soldier has been given orders from his commanding officer, it is something urgently important and completing these orders will save lives. The solider is focused, assembles his team, even includes backup plans in an unforeseen event. Once the team is ready, they proceed with caution. And almost always, in an unexpected moment, enemy fire begins to descend on the team. The soldiers run from the gunfire to locate safety and regroup. The gunfire is distraction from what needs to be accomplished. We, the audience cheer the soldier on, hoping that all will end well. Deep down, we understand that in his obedience to his commanding officer, something great will be saved.
Now from a Christian perspective, the enemy’s fire are the distractions that inevitably show up to take away our focus. It is in the midst of these distractions that we often lose perspective and find ourselves in valleys that keep us from trusting in the one who can save us.
In Genesis 22, it is like reading a screenplay for a very dramatic movie. We know from previous chapters how Abraham and Sarah had waited a lifetime for God’s promise of a son. At the end of Genesis 21, they now have their son and what a joy! Everything should be at happily ever after….But God begins the next chapter with these words, “God tested Abraham.” Another test? For a 100-year-old man? Why God? At this age? What more can anyone learn? Has Abraham not proved that he has learned to be faithful? And yet, here was the assignment: Take your son, the promised one whom you love, and offer him as a sacrifice. We, the readers, the audience, may tend to place ourselves in Abraham’s shoes. We would grumble or be like a Gideon, asking God for proof of his will in this assignment. I can only imagine that he felt his heart fall into his stomach when God assigned this test. Yet, the Bible does not describe Abraham’s feelings or thoughts. From these verses, remember these three things: Abraham goes, Abraham prepares, and Abraham worships.
In Genesis 22:3, after Abraham had been told what to do, “Abraham rises early the next morning, saddles his donkey, and takes his son and two men.” In other words, Abraham just goes. He did not wait another day, week, month to see if God would change his mind. It was the next day! All I can say is WOW! In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus told the disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Did Abraham just know that God would be with him? Had God provided him with the needed essentials to accomplish this assignment? He must have had so much faith knowing that God had given him all he needed and more to handle such a test. But Abraham proceeded and knowing full well that through this test his son would also learn to become obedient to the Lord. So what of our own lives? We will come each day into the school, with all eyes watching us and ears listening to what we say. Can we reflect obedience as Abraham did for his son?
Abraham continues on this path, focused and undeterred from what he needs to do. He “prepares the wood for the sacrifice.” As I shared earlier about the soldier who prepares the way for his team to accomplish the task, the same went for Abraham, he prepared. In II Timothy 4:2-4, “Preach the word; be READY (in other words, PREPARE) in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. “To prepare is always the most difficult. We want everything perfect. But it is in the midst of a trial, that our preparation is the most significant–we prepare for our own personal growth in order to live out God’s plan for our life. If we resist the preparation, we lose the benefit of always learning something new. As teachers, this is most important feature to our calling, we need to be ready at all times for the sake of our students. It is for them and their families that we need to be Godly examples of always being prepared.
Lastly, in Genesis 22:4 “On the third day, he arose and told the men to wait while he and Isaac went further on to worship.” Why did Abraham use the word, WORSHIP? Another way to define worship is to seek and adore. I Chronicles 16:11 says, “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually.” This is a meditation point: When a tough situation hits me, the last thing on my mind is wanting to worship. I need strength and I want someone to take the whole dilemma off of my shoulders. Then I realize that I need to blot out my distractions and come to the Lord. It is in my worship of Him that He fills my soul and my strength is regained. Abraham knew he needed God to fill his soul as he walked with his son. As we begin the school year, we will walk into our classrooms and more than anything we will need God to fill us with His presence. Those eyes and ears need to know how much we love the Lord even in the midst of our distress. And there will be days that we will come distressed, fill your souls by worshiping the Lord so that he will fill your heart.
Let’s pause to remind ourselves of the three things Abraham did. Abraham goes, he prepares, he worships– all in obedience to what was asked of him. This was his test and he did not deter from what he needed to accomplish in the midst of this storm. What could have been his distractions keeping him from focusing on the Lord? Thoughts of his wife? Explanations to family and friends? What he would tell Isaac at the altar? We are left to wonder, but we do know that Abraham continues in his obedience to God.
As Abraham and Isaac walk, there must have been a quiet silence. Abraham worshiping in his heart and Isaac following respectfully. Yet, Isaac breaks the silence in verse 7, “We have the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb?” Abraham answers wisely in verse 8, “God will provide.” This is the climax of the story. Not only has Abraham obeyed, he shows us how he trusts the Lord for complete provision. He knew God loved him and had his back and God was going to be faithful.
As Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac, we see in verse 11, “The Angel of the Lord calls out Abraham, Abraham.” Abraham responds ‘Here am I…’ Almost as if to say, I am yours first Lord, do with me as you will, ask of me what you will. I love you and I am yours and your ways are much better than mine and you have been with me through it all.
As the story ends; God stopped Abraham and said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” God saw that Abraham’s act was out of true devotion to his will. Abraham knew that if he tried to control the situation in his way, the outcome would have deterred him from a receiving God’s blessing. Just think back to when Abraham and Sarah were waiting for a son. They overreacted and thought Hagar would be a good surrogate. The blessing would come later as they learned to trust on the Lord’s word.
After God provides the ram for the sacrifice, Abraham is blessed for his obedience to God, for his faith in God, and his love for God. Can we honestly say we’d be an Abraham? That no matter what is asked of us, we would obey?
Let me conclude with this story, over a year ago I was diagnosed with diabetes. I decided to hide the news from my in-laws and my own family, and our friends. I thought this was my lot and I am too busy to worry. I made myself forget and allowed myself to create excuses. I allowed my silence to be a distraction not to get better (basically it was my stubbornness). I let the doctor start me on a regimen of medications and I continued to believe that I just did not have the time to take care of myself. Then last year, when my brother went to the hospital where he was diagnosed with diabetes. The doctors began giving him insulin and prescribing all the other standard drugs. It was then that the Holy Spirit convicted my heart…I need to get better and that my excuses were mere disobedience to God’s will for my life. My doctor helped by providing a coach, while I wept like a baby. Mike encouraged me and has even learned to eat some of the foods I have learned to cook. My coach has met with me weekly, the ladies in the office and many faculty, staff, and some parents encouraged me this last year as they learned of my story. And now a year later, I am diabetes free with no medications of high blood pressure, cholesterol, and all numbers are normal. This was my valley and I allowed it to be a crutch of distraction in my life. Instead of persevering with my race, I made a decision to forego what God had for me and thought He could no longer use me.
When Mike & I reminisce about how we got together, we remind ourselves that we wanted our relationship and marriage to be on the cutting edge of what God would always have for us and not be mediocre. God has always been faithful to us in this regard. We may have taken some turns off the path, but God has always had our back and has never let this adventure take us far from him.
In each of our lives, we can make excuses for everything that comes our way. This year we will encounter various challenges. It may be a financial strain, uncertain medical diagnosis, church or work issue, marital or other relationship burdens, unanswered prayer requests, the list will go on. It is out of our obedience that we go, we prepare, and we worship in faith and love to the one who daily gives us more of himself than we utterly deserve.