Promised Hope, Christmas, Advent, Advent Devotional

Laughable Promises, Incredible Faith

NARRATIVE

GENESIS 16-22

Abram had shown deep faith by following the voice of this strange promise Maker.

Years passed, and the promise of a son for Abram and Sarai went unanswered. And like many of us, they got nervous and placed their trust in the words whispered by their fear. Their misplaced trust led to a son. But not the son God had promised them.

At the age of ninety-nine, after twenty-four years and multiple promises of a seed — God appeared to Abram again to call him to a deeper faith. Abram would need it.

First, God changed his name to Abraham. His new name meant father of many, though he was still a father of none through the promise.

Next, God proposed — required — circumcision of Abram, a covenant of the flesh to set him and his people apart.

And finally, God promised a son through his wife, Sarai. His ninety-year-old, post-menopausal, dead womb wife, Sarah, with an h.

Abram laughed.

And Sarah laughed.

But one year later, that laughable promise found its home when Sarah gave birth to a son, and they named him Isaac, which means laughter. Impossible joy! Faithful God.

Still later. Many years later, Abraham heard the voice of his promise-making, promise-keeping God. And this time, God would ask more of Abraham than he could have imagined.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son — Isaac —, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.

GENESIS 22:2

I will show you.

(That pesky little phrase.)

Abraham asked no questions it appears. His ridiculous faith a sign of walking with a God who was so faithful.

For three days, he journeyed to Mount Moriah. Arriving at the assigned place, he cut the wood for the offering. A task he could have delegated to his aides but saved for himself.

With sap on his hands, Abraham placed the planks upon Isaac’s back. Together they climbed the mountain to where they’d build the altar, each man carrying his own weight and burden.

The time approached. The hours turned to minutes, and the minutes eventually ran out.

With his knife raised, Abraham trusted deep. His heart was beating but breaking. Each breath was harder than the one before it. Sweat on his hands, dripping from His brow. Abraham bore the crushing weight of his obedience.

And in a holy moment, where Abraham’s faith intersected with God’s love, God called out to him,

Abraham! Abraham! Don’t lay a hand on him.

Nearby, a young ram tangled in a thicket of thorns would be the substitute lamb in Isaac’s place.

Abraham called the place the LORD will provide.

Hope will provide.

REFLECTION

Can you imagine? Trusting God so unwaveringly that you could place your son on an altar to be sacrificed, knowing God would do a miracle? Trusting God to work a miracle? To provide, again?

It’s too easy to make this story about characters on a flannel board. But these were real people, living and breathing.

If my math is correct, Abraham had been following hard after God for at least 40 years in this story. (Depending upon the age of Isaac. At least 15 years old; possibly as old as 35.) And time after time, he watched as God provided. God had always kept His promises, no matter the timeline.

Abraham had made his own mistakes and hadn’t always gotten things right. And I love that Moses doesn’t spare us any details. (You can click on the Genesis 12 – 15 link if you have time and are curious.)

But here, at this point? I believe God knew Abraham’s faith was firm. This sacrifice wasn’t another valley to grow his faith, nor was it a test.

God wanted to reveal Abraham’s faith!

God knew the depth of this man’s faith. Perhaps Abraham needed to know. And his many sons and daughters in future generations would certainly need to hear this story of impossible faith in a God who makes all things possible.

PRAYER  

Father, sometimes my yes is slow in coming. I too often want more detail—a better plan. I know in my mind that I can always trust You. But too often, the altar of convenience tempts me to do what’s seemingly best for me or the easiest, most logical. Teach me to sacrifice my good for Your best.

When what You ask of me feels unfair or unloving, remind me that You always have my best interest at heart. Lord, may my faith be as Abraham’s, willing to sacrifice whatever You ask, trusting You to meet me at the moment when my faith intersects with Your love. May my most profound joy be found in trusting You. Amen.

PRACTICE

God will not ask us to lay our children on an altar. Not literally. But He has asked me to lay my children at His feet or in His hands, even when I didn’t want to. Especially when I thought I could manage them best.

He’s asked me to lay my marriage on the altar of a deeper faith. I’ve had to lay down plenty of good things I thought were from His hands but were, in fact, little idols I had created with my own.

God is trustworthy. That’s why I wanted to share the backstory of Christmas so that we can see and remind ourselves just how deep His love is. We can trust Him because we are sure of His love for us.

I won’t ignore that God asks us to trust Him with the hard stuff. He does. And He always will.

All the stuff we secretly (or not secretly, some of us) carry around in our hearts and minds doesn’t magically disappear in December. We can try to Ho – Ho – Ho our way through, slap on a smile, and eat another cookie. Or we can trust God with it.

What is He asking you to trust Him with, even today? What do you need to lay down on the altar before Him? What’s holding you back from doing so? Fear? Loss of control? Pride? Image management?

Whew! I know; I’m meddling on a Monday. But friends, greater faith is just on the other side. You can trust God completely to provide for your best and His glory.

We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.

C S Lewis

I cannot disagree with Lewis on this.

But just maybe, one day, you’ll have the opportunity to share your incredible faith story with your children. And their children. And their children.