Walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers. –Genesis 17:1-2
Abraham and Sarah (Abram and Sarai) never thought they would have children. God told Abraham he would provide “a son who is your own flesh and blood” as an heir (Genesis 15:4). Later, God relayed this promise again to Abraham: “I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her” (Genesis 17:16). The reaction of Abraham? He laughed (Genesis 17:17). God instructed Abraham to name his son Isaac, which means “he laughs” in Hebrew (Genesis 17:19). Sarah had the same reaction as Abraham when she heard the news (Genesis 18:12). It’s no real surprise that God followed through on his promise, and “Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him” (Genesis 21:2). I’ve been familiar with this story for a while; it’s one of the few I knew even before I began studying Scripture and building my relationship with God. What stands out to me now is that this story of God promising Abraham a son and the promise being fulfilled spans a few years! God promised him a son, and followed through even though it didn’t happen right away. Through that time, Abraham remained faithful to God.
Now fast forward. God tests Abraham by telling him to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering (Genesis 22:2). This is the part of the story I struggled with for years. Why would God finally give Abraham and Sarah a child, only to tell Abraham to sacrifice him? It seems so…cruel. And so unlike the loving God the Bible portrays. And what about Sarah? As God put this story on my heart today, I found myself wondering about her. She’s not mentioned in this part of the story…did she know? When Abraham left with Isaac, did she have any idea that he planned to kill his son and offer him to God? How would she have felt? How did HE feel? I cannot imagine this situation, honestly. As a mother, my heart literally broke over this story.
God made me realize something today: all these years, I have focused on the wrong part of the story. This story isn’t about what God is asking Abraham to do, but about Abraham’s obedience and faith in God. It’s about how God tests us in a variety of ways and rewards us for obedience. “Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!'” (Genesis 22:10-11). Wow. The Bible certainly isn’t boring! How must he have felt to hear God’s angel commanding him to stop, and then seeing God provide a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead (Genesis 22:13). God then promised to reward Abraham for his unfailing faith. “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possessions of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:17-18)
“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1)
I wonder if God spoke to me as he did to Abraham – actually allowing me to hear His angel’s voice in a blatant way I couldn’t deny – would I obey? I think I would, for fear of God! It shouldn’t be different for me now, though. God doesn’t speak to us like He did to his followers in the Old Testament, but He still speaks to us. A few days ago, my husband sent me a text with a screenshot. The picture was a slip of paper that said, “Remember God is in control and you are right where He wants you to be.” I literally got tears in my eyes reading those words, written by a stranger. That day, we both needed those words. For me, it was the loudest God has ever spoken. Do we always hear Him? He doesn’t always smack us in the face with His message. Often, the calls to faith are subtle nudges that are easy to deny or write off. When we hear His call, we should be obedient like Abraham. It is certainly not easy, but if everything in life were there would be less reliance on God. And let’s face it, nothing that He is calling us to do is as difficult as being told to sacrifice a child. By faith, Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son (Hebrews 11:17). Think about what you feel called to do. Is is as difficult as Abraham’s call? If you don’t feel called to do anything, pray. Ask God to reveal His plans to you. I found a journal entry I wrote a while back, while I was pregnant. “One of my biggest hurdles in my relationship with God is hearing His direction for me. I fully desire to know what God’s purpose is for me. Am I not obedient enough to hear Him? Is my mind too closed? Am I hearing Him but ignoring His call?” I still struggle with it. I believe He is calling me to write posts about my faith, but I still have doubts in my mind. Let’s challenge ourselves to be obedient like Abraham. Pray for God to reveal our call to us, and for the strength to have unfailing faith and to be obedient.