Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the Coronavirus. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthian 9:8)
God kept His word and did for Sarah exactly what He had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac. Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born.
And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!”
Yes, it was not an easy journey for both Abraham and Sarah to have a son, which took 25 years. Isaac was not an ordinary son, but the son who would be the foundation of God’s promise to Abraham. His wife was barren, and his faith was strong. However, he could not always be firm on his faith because it was too difficult for him to continue holding on tight to God’s promise — being the father of a great nation without his son and a barren wife.
Abraham struggled like us in faith. Indeed, his struggle in faith was his faith in God. If not, why did he struggle? Without faith, there was no reason to struggle while fighting against reality. Indeed, his faith was the source of his struggle because his struggle was not worldly but Godly – keeping his faith in believing God’s promise, although it was not reality that he saw and touched because it was impossible.
Then Abraham, like us, sometimes failed when it was too hard to grasp the impossible God’s promise. Abraham then looked around the world by taking off his eyes on God. He saw many attractive solutions in the world, which were so logical and sound. He also saw many chose such a solution without hesitation. He felt he was the only one who did not select a sensible solution. He continued grasping something impossible, invisible, intangible, and illogical — having a baby through a lifetime barren wife. If he spoke out what he was doing, all would laugh at him because it was completely ridiculous. Abraham, then like others, created a logically workable solution rather than waiting for God’s impossible promise, which God had never delivered for so many years.
Then when God came to Abraham, Abraham told God,
“O Sovereign LORD, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.” (Genesis 15:2b-3)
Then the LORD said to him,
“No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” (Genesis 15:4b)
God then took Abraham outside into the night sky and said to him,
“Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” (Genesis 15:5b)
And Abraham believed in God’s promise again, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith. By the way, where did the faith come from? The faith came from God, and Abraham, then, hold on to the faith. Precisely speaking, God saw Abraham who held the faith again without rejecting it. Then God counted Abraha as righteous. What we learn is not to refuse God and His promise when God comes to our hearts. Then God pours the Holy Spirit in our heart to be with us forever and completes His good work in us.
God then left Abraham, as Abraham believed in God’s promise again. But it was not the end of his struggle in faith. Abraham and Sarah struggled again when doubt came in, which reminds us of our faith. Then out of their struggle, they agreed to make a son rather than waiting for God’s promise yet to come, and there was no set date either for the promise. Per their plan, Sarah brought an Egyptian servant girl, who bore and begot a son. They named him Ishmael and thought it was the end of the journey to find a son, but it was not. Ishmael became the source of the domestic conflicts. Many ups and downs followed. Only was God made them go through the difficult time by together holding faith in God. It is the amazing love of God, who is always faithful under all circumstances to His chosen people – Abraham, Sarah, and us.
God’s faithfulness continued regardless of their unfaithfulness. It lasted for 15 years, and then God gave Isaac to Sarah as promised. Yes, God’s faithfulness never failed.
Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:45)
Then Isaac became the center of their joy at their old ages. Abraham was 100 years old, and Sarah was 90 years old. Most of all, Abraham and Sarah had a son whom they could see and touch. Finally, they physically saw and touched God’s promise. There was little reason to doubt God’s promise that their descendants would be as many as the stars in the clear night sky and become many great nations. Therefore, all of their struggles now had gone. Their lives were filled with laughter. Wherever they looked, they could see God’s blessings because of Isaac. Then they looked at each other and smiled. They won the victory in faith after the dreadfully long, difficult years of struggling in faith spending sleepless nights.
For we live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Fighting against the dark cloud of doubt was so difficult to anyone, including Abraham and Sarah, but by God’s help, Abraham and Sarah won the victory.
But they did not know the danger of their blessing, which was the deadliest enemy to their faith. But they did not notice. Why? The enemy was so subtle. Without knowing, they indulged in Isaac, the son of God’s promise. Then what’s wrong with indulging in Isaac? Didn’t God give Isaac as promised? Yes, it was not that simple as they thought.
They became more and more attached to Isaac. Their hearts were full with Isaac. Without knowing, they loved Isaac too much to the degree that they love Isaac more than God. Who did give Isaac to them? God. However, Isaac became their god whom they worshipped.
Their fall is not uncommon. If we carefully examine ourselves, we can see the same pattern. We tend to love more what God gave us than God. As Abraham and Sarah did, then we worship what we got from God instead of God. Why do we follow the wrong path that Abraham and Sarah too? It is who we are. All of us worship something without exception. Someone says, “I don’t worship anything.” Indeed, the person means worshipping one’s own self by putting oneself at the center of the world by judging the world around, which means self becomes a god.
Why cannot we stop worship something? Because God creates us to worship and serve God. However, our first man and woman refused to serve God, but they served their desire. After serving their desire, they realized they voluntarily rejected the beautiful relationship with God. Their fall was their own choice, and they no longer belonged to Paradise without the true relationship with God. Then God sent them out of Paradise to live in this world, where we live now.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Luke 16:13)
And what’s the first commandment that God gave us through Moses?
You must not have any other god but me. (Exodus 20:3)
Abraham and Sarah tried to serve two masters, God and Isaac, but they worshiped and served Isaac. As a result, they violated the first commandments, not the second or the third.
Why does God ask us to worship and serve God only? If not, we will worship and serve the world — money, fame, power, or oneself. None of them gives us the true promise that God gives us, nor is faithful as God is. In human history, money, fame, power, or self all betrayed us while forcing us to fall into a much more miserable state than before. Our God is completely opposite, who builds us up with his unconditional love. God is always with us and does not abandons us no matter what happens in us. As we have experienced, when we put our full trust in somebody or something in this world, sooner or later, what we trust betrays us. Although we have experienced betrayal, we all are naturally inclined to serve and worship our worldly desire. It is sad, but it might be being humans who are sinful and far from God. God’s unconditional faithfulness is only a hope for us, but where we live, such faithfulness is a completely foreign concept.
God patiently waited while watching Abraham and Sarah worshipped and served Isaac. It was a long time. Many Biblical scholars believe God waited till Isaac became a teenager. God came to Abraham. Abraham’s joy was at the peak. He daily watched Isaac, his only and true son, growing stronger. Abraham could not wait for the day that Isaac started fulfilling God’s promise of becoming a great nation.
God called “Abraham!” Abraham answered, “Yes, here I am.” Because it has been quite a long time since Abraham met God last time, Abraham became anxious while thinking about why God called him. God started talking to Abraham,
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” (Genesis 22:2)
Abraham initially could not believe what he heard from God. God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac whom he dearly loved. Even God told Abraham, “Isaac, whom you love so much.” Indeed, Abraham loved Isaac more than God. God directly confronted Abraham. Abraham saw whom he really loved. God was silent for so many years, and in the meantime, Abraham forgot God who gave him Isaac.
After hearing God’s command, Abraham spent time alone while questioning over again and again whether he misheard God’s command or not. However, God’s command was clear without any room to interpret differently. Abraham did not know what to do. It was the day that a sky was falling on him. What he heard was unquestionably God’s voice. He prayed and prayed till he could not pray anymore. But God’s command was with him.
Yes, it did not add up. God gave Abraham Isaac as the seed of God’s promise that his descendants would be many great nations. Without Isaac, what would happen? No Isaac means no descend, and no great nations of his descendant. It reminds Abraham’s old struggles completely forgotten –believing God’s impossible promise without seeing and touching it. Throughout the night, Abraham could not sleep. His prayer continued. He looked up to God in a glimpse of hope of hearing something different. But God was dead silent. It was the time for Abraham to act on in faith. As a new day was dawning, Abraham stood up. It was early morning.
Abraham prepared all things needed for sacrificing a burnt offering to God. He did not tell Sarah, his wife. Abraham chopped wood for a fire and called the two most trusted servants who would faithfully support Abraham no matter the decisions Abraham would make. He saddled his donkey, and Abraham quietly went to Isaac not to disturb Sarah. Abraham quietly woke up Isaac. As waking up, Isaac saw Abraham, his father. Isaac gave a big smile to Abraham, which made Abraham’s heart even more breaking, but he said nothing to Isaac.
As usual, he set out by leading his people to the burnt offering. In this particular case, two servants and Isaac, his son, followed. The destination was one of the mountains which God would show him later. In other words, Abraham did not know the exact destination. Still, he went, which reminded him of his initial journey when he left his native country, his father’s house, and relatives to follow God.
The journey was much farther than he thought. God guided him, and Abraham followed without knowing where he went. It was much more difficult than the first journey. He had hope for the Promised land, but the current journey was the opposite. Abraham was going to sacrifice his son. Each step by step, he prayed while asking God’s strength. He could not say anything about his inner struggle to anyone. Especially, two servants would immediately block Abraham who took Isaac to sacrifice. Abraha knew it would end his miserable struggle by his servants, not by himself. But he could not let it happen.
His struggle was getting intensifying as time went by, but at the same time, he was also comforted, which he could not explain why. It was clearly not himself but someone in his heart who powered him to continue the journey. Of course, his mental state was not calm and stable. Sometimes he was about to tell his full story to his servant to let them stop him. Again, not by his own strength, but by the power of someone in his heart, he could overcome such an extreme temptation. Indeed, God was with Abraham all the way walking with Abraham step by step.
On the third day of their journey Abraham looked up toward the mountain area, and God showed the place in the distance. Abraham knew it was time to separate himself and Isaac from his servants, who might intervene in his sacrifice to God. He said to his servants,
“Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” (Genesis 22:5)
What can we see from Abraham’s conversation? Abraham still did not know the exact destination. He still had to go more to the destination in faith, not by sight. Then Abraham said, “We will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Yes, he said he and Isaac together would come back. If he sacrificed Isaac, then how could he and Isaac come back together? Impossible, but it was Abraham’s belief at the moment in faith in God.
Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead. (Hebrew 11:19)
What a faith! But it was not Abraham. Indeed, God made Abraham reason as the above. Abraham gave up Isaac as a sacrifice to God, and Abraham believed God would bring Isaac back to life again to become the seed of a great nation as God promised. God was with Abraham, and Abraham followed God while believing God without a doubt. What a beautiful relationship between God and Abraham. It is the faith that we should desire. One thing is sure that as God led Abraham, God will lead us, and we will follow God, not because God is logical and rational in our eyes, but because we see through behind the scene where God’s merciful and loving hand actually is.
However, it was not the end of his unthinkable journey to the sacrifice.
Abraham kept moving forward in faith. He placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together,
Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together. (Genesis 22:7b-8)
Abraham truly struggled while answering Isaac, but again God helped him. As getting closer to the mountain, God did not tell the final destination. Thus, Abraham still did not know exactly where he would sacrifice Isaac. He continued walking with Isaac till God showed the final destination.
God finally revealed the place. Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then Abraham tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. Isaac, a strong teenager, could have had easily subdued his old father, much weaker than Isaac. But Isaac did not resist. Isaac’s obedience pleased God, which was the great help given to Abraham by God.
And then Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice.
Abraham, Isaac, and God were there together at one place at the very moment. Abraham successfully followed God till the end, and God was extremely pleased with Abraham. Finally, Abraham proved his faith before God. It was the very moment that Abraham became the father of faith, not just the father of many nations, which is the most glorious name that a human being can have. Abraham restored the lost faith of Adam and Eve by following the desires of their eyes.
At that moment, the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven,
“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!” (Genesis 22:11b)
God called the name, Abraham, twice, which is rare in the Bible. Abraham passed the ultimate test of his faith, and God hurriedly stopped Abraham by calling him twice.
“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12)
Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Isaac, practically speaking, was given to death and resurrected because of Abraham’s faith.
Then Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the LORD will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
Then the angel of the LORD called again to Abraham from heaven, which is the final approval of Abraham’s faith:
“This is what the LORD says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. And through your descendants, all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:16-18)
Then they returned to the servants and traveled back to Beersheba, where Abraham continued to live with Isaac and Sarah.
What’s the treasure in our hearts? God or something else? It is the question that we should ask daily. Abraham’s faith started out by firmly planting in God, but Isaac, the most precious gift from God, made him drift away from God. Only when God gave a wake-up call, Abraham understood where his heart was. Then he struggled and fought in faith. Throughout the night, Abraham could not sleep, but he chose God while trusting in Him infinitely.
How about us? Are we drifting away from God because of His blessings? Or are you resentful to God because of the harshness of this world? Then we should go deep down into the depth of our hearts to see why. We will soon realize we love something other than God. Such a love drifts us away from God or makes us resentful to God. Especially, when don’t get what really want, we blame God. God loves us unconditionally and patiently waits for us. How many years did God wait for Abraham after Abraham fell into the love of Isaac? Till Isaac became a teenager. God always waits for us patiently, which is God’s love.
Yes, we cannot serve God and the world together. And we know that the world is not so faithful as our God. Our God is infinitely faithful to us unconditionally. Now, we know the truth. Let’s love God with all our heart, all your soul, and all your mind. And experience His unfailing love in us while waiting for Him.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)