The Bible says that God’s ways are higher than ours. I suppose that is true, but it does not feel like His ways are too high for me to reach, but too backward to understand. God makes this huge promise to Abraham that he will have a son. Then, God waits fifteen years to finally allow Abraham’s wife, Sarah, to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Well, ok, better late than never, right? At least the Lord finally did what He said He was going to do. So, one might think that the promise given is the beginning of great blessing and fulfillment. It just seems like everything should go great and wonderful. After all, does the Lord not constantly remind us of how much He loves us and how much He wants to give us and do for us. But nope, that is not how it went with Abraham. After finally receiving this very delayed promise of a son, the Lord does something so backward and so seemingly obtuse. He says to Abraham, “Abraham, you know that son that you desired for so long that I finally gave to you in your old age?” “Yes, Lord,” Abraham answered. “Kill him,” God said.
What in the world!!!!!!??????!!!!!! The Lord promised Isaac to Abraham. Not only that, the Lord promised that Abraham would be blessed indeed along with his descendants through Isaac and now God commands Abraham to go and sacrifice Isaac, to take a knife and drive it hard and fast through the heart of his promised son.
I really must confess that I don’t even enjoy reading this passage. It is such a hard passage. But what is even crazier is that Abraham says, “Ok.” There is no arguments. There is no complaining. There is no murmuring. Was Abraham heartless or something?!?
We really don’t get any kind of answer for why the Lord would do something so backward until Abraham actually tries to do it. With knife in hand, lifted high in full motion to strike the heart of his son, the Lord stops him. Suddenly Abraham hears the bleating of a lamb caught in the thicket. Abraham unties his son from the altar and takes the lamb and offers it upon the altar. Abraham and his promised son, Isaac, worship the Lord together praising His wondrous grace.
Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son. (NIV)
The Lord was giving Abraham an opportunity to prove that his love for Isaac did not exceed his love for the Lord. There are so many promises we receive from the Lord and they are good, exceedingly good. But there are times when the Lord gives us an opportunity to prove that we love Him more than His promises. While the promised son of Isaac was helpless to produce a lamb, the God in Heaven placed one in the thicket waiting for Abraham. Too often we love the promises, the dreams, that God has given us and we put our faith in them. We begin to look to our dreams, hopes, and promises as the source of fulfillment, peace, joy, and happiness. Fathers look to their children to live out their dreams. Wives look to husbands to give them security. We put our hopes in the next promotion to cover our expenses. A weekend trip away with our spouses to find peace. The problem is that all of our promises are bound and helpless to do anything for us. They are mere promises, whether they are promises we are still hoping for or promises received. They are helpless. No one but God can bring fulfillment to our soul. No man or woman can bring us a sense of security all the days of our life. No promotion, new job will take care of all of your needs. All of the promises of God are from God. They are not God.
But when we take these promises and give then back to the Lord as Abraham did, the Lord will catch another miracle in the thicket of life. Using the promises given to us by Him to replace Him will surely forfeit the future plans of a God who loves to give to His children.
God will always put us in a position where we must hold on to Him at the risk of losing our joy, our happiness, our peace. He will require obedience that costs. Submit to your husband. Love your enemies. Give away all that you own. Leave your job. Break up with the love of your life. Unless we are willing to love God more than His promises by having a willing spirit to give up what we so desperately desire in order to obey Him, we can kiss His promises goodbye. But if we will obey, willing to give up the desires of our heart just to obey Him, miracles will come out of the thicket. From the thorns, lambs will appear. From the hardship, peace will be born. Out of the rage, joy will emerge. From the darkness, hope will shine brightly. From the most bitter place, love will thrive again.
Take a look at your life right now. Find the places in your life where you are unwilling to obey because it is not what you want. When you find these places, you will also find empty thickets, lost promises, unclaimed blessings. Jesus would later teach the same lesson. He said it this way:
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (NIV)