Shhhh! I have a morning off. Don’t tell anyone. I allowed myself to sleep in until 6.45am this morning. There are no appointments. I don’t have to get anyone anywhere. There is no work – nowhere I have to be right now. There is a list, but the list can wait. I have a large pot of coffee on the brew and a whole lot of thoughts in my head to try and put into coherent sentences.
Life over the last few months felt like walking up a mountain. It still does. Walking up a steep mountain. Get over the brow of one steep stretch of climbing, only to be faced with another challenge right away with some unpredictable weather thrown in for good measure. The temptation to collapse in a heap and give up is always present. Each step not knowing if we’re ever going to reach the peak, or even keep going, and start heading downwards. It feels like we’ve had to put aside everything in order to keep going. We feel tested.
I know we cannot work it out. We have God’s promises, we have the struggles we’re facing and sometimes it makes no sense. We have a lot to be thankful for alongside some big – ‘How is this going to turn out?’ – questions.
The big question is whether we trust God to be faithful or not.
The other day the story of Abraham and Isaac cropped up in my Bible study. It’s one of the stories I’ve found disturbing in the past. God tests Abraham’s faith:
2 He said, “Take 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.” Genesis 22:2, ESV
Isaac, the child God promised. The child born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. Their miracle child. God asks Abraham to lay down the promise in obedience to Him. This is no small thing.
Abraham sets out with Isaac, who was likely not a small boy at this point. By the time they were reaching the top of the mountain Isaac had an idea of what was going to happen, yet still continued walking with his father. He allows himself to be bound and laid on the altar, yet just as Abraham raises the knife the angel of the Lord commands him not to kill the boy (Genesis 22:12). Abraham looks around to see a ram trapped in the bushes which he sacrifices instead. Because Abraham didn’t withhold his son, God renews His promises to Him once more.
The story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son is an amazing foreshadowing of the Heavenly Father sending his own Son to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus, God’s only Son, willingly laying His life down.
The point that has gripped me from the story in these last few weeks is about Abraham’s faith. What did Abraham believe to make him so obedient and willing to do as God asks? How did he overcome the offence, sadness and conflicting emotions he must have felt as a parent as he walked up the mountain to do this? The Bible does not say anything about Abraham questioning God about what He asks him to do. He gets up and obeys. He doesn’t look around for an alternative until the angel of the Lord speaks and stops Him killing His Son. He keeps following God, confident God himself would provide (22:8). He believed in God’s faithfulness, and he believed God could raise from the dead. Hebrews tells us
‘He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking he did receive him back.’ Hebrews 11:19 ESV
If God gave him promises, Abraham believed He would fulfill them, no matter how unlikely it looked. Abraham didn’t have the benefit of living after Jesus came. He didn’t know the story of the resurrection. Everything he believed was looking forward in faith to what Jesus would do.
We do have the benefit of living after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. This is the hope we have. It changes everything.
It has application in the day to day as well as the eventual hope of eternal life with Jesus. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in our lives today.
This power helps us to walk up mountain-like challenges. It enables us to be obedient when it looks like everything is not going in a promising direction. It enables us to be a bit more like Abraham. I’m one for looking at every alternative route, to try and engineer the dreams and promises God has put in my heart (actually Abraham and Sarah did go that route earlier in their lives, but that’s a whole other post – he must’ve learned it’s not a great idea). Faith in a God who is faithful, who knows the better way, and can raise from the dead means it’s not necessary to do that. We can trust him to accomplish what He has set out to do.
Are we willing to not withhold our dreams, even the promises God has given us? Are we willing to lay things down? Do we trust God to be faithful or try to work it out ourselves? These are questions I ask myself. I find I can be obedient and stick out the climb, because he can make what’s dead come alive. He can turn what looks like a sunset into a sunrise. He can make what is dead come to life.