Monday, October 20, 2008

Genesis 22:3-4 Dealing with the Unknown

Genesis 22:3-4: 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 wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance.

After receiving what to most of us would be an unbelievable instruction from God, Abraham acts. There is no delay or hesitation. We do not hear any “ifs, buts, or whys”. Instead, he gets up early in the morning and saddles his donkey. Abraham chose this surefooted animal because he knew he had to climb a mountain that day. Not only did he need to climb a physical mountain, but also for Abraham this would be the biggest spiritual mountain he would ever have to ascend. When a person that walks closely with God gets a sure message from God, there is no room for unbelief or inaction. Abraham took two of his younger servants along with his son, Isaac and they went to split wood for the burnt offering that God had asked Abraham to make. As I consider this, and think of my son, my daughters, my grandchildren, anyone that I love for that matter, I wonder whether I would have it in me to actually engage them in the cutting and splitting of the wood that would be part of the very fire they would die on. I pray God never tests me in that way. But Abraham did just that, perhaps as he had done on other much happier occasions.

After all the needed wood was ready and loaded onto the donkey, the four men arose and went to the place that God had told Abraham to go to. One may well wonder, especially if they know the ending, what makes this story believable. I would offer three possible reasons, knowing there must be others. First, Abraham had complete trust in God. Second, there was no hesitation in obediently carrying out God’s instructions. Third, Abraham “went to the place of which God had told him.” While these explanations as an argument for the plausibility of this account in the Bible may not convince the unbeliever of its reality, they make all the difference in the world to the believer. Trusting, obeying willingly, and being where God wants us to be, allows God to freely exercise His love, wisdom, protection, and miraculous power on our behalf.

We also note the distance to be traveled by these four men, keeping in mind Abraham’s old age, was not short. The text said they did not see the place God had sent them to until the third day of their journey, and even then it was at a distance. As a father and grandfather I wonder what must have been going through Abraham’s mind at that very moment of seeing the place God had instructed him to go to. I cannot imagine the heartache I would feel in similar circumstances. Did Abraham know God would provide an escape plan? Could he really believe that? I’m not so sure. Having been diagnosed with cancer and having watched many around me die from one form or another of this grouping of diseases, and having devoted Christian friends that had moved into hospices awaiting death at the same time as my own diagnosis, I can only tell you I did not experience total knowledge that I would be healed. The only thing I could rely on was my faith that God’s way was best, whatever it would be. And I knew I had to obey the teaching of scripture with respect to being sick. That didn’t change what I was going through, but it sure made the journey more bearable for my family and I knew that I was not traveling it alone – Almighty God was right there with me, as He was with Abraham that day when the man of faith saw the mountain afar off. For the Christian, there is no better way, than to trust and obey. Christ does not promise us an escape from the hard realities of life but He offers to walk with us through those realities – leading us safely past them to His chosen destination for us, whether it is here on earth or in the eternal home He has prepared for us. That is the strength that Abraham was going up the mountain with that day. That is the strength we must rely on each day as we face life’s continuous challenges.

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