Courage To Obey

Living life today takes courage.

Asking someone for a date. Job interviews. Raising kids. During this pandemic, going to work takes courage, going to the grocery store for some. When the lockdown lifts, courage will be required to reenter schools, restaurants, Red Sox games, and church gatherings.

Yet not just during this pandemic.

Plus, living for God always takes courage. Sharing about Jesus when we're afraid.  Choosing to forgive is always risky. Putting someone's needs before our own. How do you become a person who lives for God and obeys courageously?

Before the lockdown, we looked at the Big Events in the OT that displayed God's glory. We pick up with the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son. It's an iconic story that's inspired faith and courageous obedience.

If you want to grow a confident faith in order to live courageously in our world, courageous in Christ, this is a great story.

Yet it's not without controversy. Especially if don't see it in the broader story.

Forty years before this, God chose Abram and promised to bless him with land and kids, and told him the whole world would be blessed through him. That's how the story begins. Abram obeyed God and the LORD blessed him.

But if he was going to be the father of many nations, he needed to start with a son. Yet as long as they'd been married, Sarah was unable to get pregnant.

So Abram thought maybe we should adopt our servant, since we can't have our own child; this is probably what God wants. We do this. But God said, No, not Eliezer! I told you I'd give you a son and I'll do it exactly as I said. Your son through whom I'll bless the world will come from your own body.

Genesis 15:4 Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.”

Yet a decade later, Abraham and Sarah were still childless.

Sarah may have blamed herself. "I'm the problem." To alleviate shame, and not seeing how else to give him a son, she gave her young Egyptian maid to Abraham. (Genesis 16:3).

Well, that went about as good as you'd expect! Sarah felt threatened, jealous, insecure. She blamed Abraham. Not good for their relationship. Plus, they had to relearn the Eliezer lesson all over again: when we try to do for God what we don't trust Him to do for us, we flub it.

Your weakness doesn't prevent God from using you. It adds to His glory! God is faithful. And God is good! Look at His compassion on Sarah. "Abraham…

Genesis 17:16 I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.

Finally after a quarter of a century, when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. When it was beyond physically impossible for them to conceive,   

Genesis 21:1 Then the LORD took note of Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had promised. [He blessed her too; not just Abraham!] 2 So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age…

FINALLY Isaac is born. Now they know personally, experientially: God is faithful; He is good. He's worth obeying. Now all His other promises can be fulfilled because everything depended on Isaac's birth, which makes God's command even harder,

Genesis 22:1 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

Now God tests Abraham. And yes, God knows what He asks of us. He gets how hard it is! Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac and offer him there as a burnt offering.

Even here, God is good! But can you trust that?!

See, here's where the controversy lies. How could God possibly ask him, to do this? How could Abraham even think to obey such a command?!

But there is a long history between them, a deep and loving bond with God.

God doesn't ask you to do anything scary-impossible outside of a deep relationship built on trust. And it's the relationship He wants. Like with Abe, let God prove to you that He is better than good, more faithful than the sun.

So what is being tested? The obvious answer is Abe's faith in God's goodness.

But every test of our faith is an opportunity for God to prove His goodness, His faithfulness. That's the issue!! Is God the greatest good? Does God truly have your best intentions at heart? Is obeying God worth it every time? Will He overcome every scary challenge and prove Himself good if we obey Him?

Well Abraham trusted God, and he went where God said.

Genesis 22:3 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.

Genesis 22:4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad [the young man] will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”

Abraham loaded the wood on Isaac for him to carry it while he brought the fire and the knife. As they walked together, Isaac asked his father,

“Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham [in an act of faith] said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

Abraham's faith has set; it's not all jiggly. He is confident that God is good. He wants our best and He'll do good. He's trustworthy, He's worth obeying. I don't know how, son, but God will provide what we need when we need it.

And his faith in God's goodness and faithfulness gave Him courage to obey.

Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; 18 it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” 19 He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.

Faith doesn't presume to know what God will do, but it knows He'll act. Faith doesn't say I won't act until I know the outcome; it acts on God's Word trusting Him with the outcome! Trusting that He is good, He's trustworthy.

Genesis 22:9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 [Wow! Then] Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

He didn't know how or when, before or after I slay Him (Wow!) but Abraham trusted God. He learned that God would prove His goodness no matter what! While some think Abraham is terrible. The faith he demonstrates is awesome!

And God did act.

Genesis 22:11 But the angel of the LORD [a preincarnate appearance of Christ] called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Genesis 22:13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. [As a substitute for his beloved son.] 14 Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.”

While our heavenly Father never intended to let Abraham go through with this, He Himself did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us all. God provides indeed. We don't offer blind faith to an unknown deity but we offer hard-won trust to the LORD who loved us and gave Himself for us. 

Jesus Christ is the One who would come through Isaac, who would bless the world. His first blessing is to forgive and reconcile you to Him and give you eternal life.

While this story foreshadows Christ, this is a story of God's goodness meant to inspire our faith and a courageous obedience. But this story isn't a command to obey God. It's a shout-out to God that He is faithful & good. He's worthy of your trust and obedience. No matter what you face...

Psalms 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.