A Surreal Week -- and Abraham offering Isaac
I am climbing out of a very strange week! My husband's dad's death, the orientation for the Bethel class I am teaching, some things I've been concerned about in the lives of my friends and in the life of my church, a couple of days of being sick-with-a-fever again (which I went through a couple of weekends ago, but haven't been through much these last few years), immersing myself in a biography about Rich Mullins and live DVD of him, and "smooshing" my middle toe on my right foot accidentally on Friday night --- those things and others have warped my internal world to a place where I suspect it will never return to quite the same configuration as it was in a week ago.
Today I have been meditating on these verses:
1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." 2 He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you."
3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you." 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, "Father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." He said, "The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" 8 Abraham said, "God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together. 9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.
11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." 12 He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place "The Lord will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided."
15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, "By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, 18 and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice." 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.
And then these verses from Hebrews 11:
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. 4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain's. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and "he was not found, because God had taken him." For it was attested before he was taken away that "he had pleased God." 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith. 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, "as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore." 13 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. 17 By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, 18 of whom he had been told, "It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you." 19 He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
And, as the passage from Hebrews 11 says, in faith we believe that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him . . .
And what I've been thinking about amounts to this: God Himself is our reward!
The God who created out of nothing, and then created me in my mother's uterus, and has kept me and molded me these years . . . He is wild about me, and is giving me time and reason to be wild about Him. And all the other things that I hold onto -- the things I know I'm passionate about, like my children, and the things I don't know until they're challenged, like my health and freedom from pain -- are not things I sacrifice at great price to show my loyalty to Him, nor are they things I hold onto as idols at the expense of my loyalty to Him. They are just second things. And, in the end -- whether I hold onto these second things when I know I should let go of them, or are allowed to just keep them and take them for granted, or are instructed to keep them and cherish them and enjoy them and provide for them -- they show up as less than the One Thing that created me and cherishes me, even when I'm still worshipping idols.
I have had fun watching the DVD of Rich Mullin's talks, and reading the "devotional biography" formed around his writings. I had the privilege of seeing him perform many times when he was still alive, and have always been a fan -- but found his writings and talks amazing to me. He was a plain midwestern guy who was truly focused on Jesus to the exclusion of a lot of the things our wider culture values highly. I think he really got the idea that it was the triune God who satisfies -- and not any of the other stuff. And I don't think that's something we can teach effectively with words. I think it's "catching", and that seeing someone else live out that knowledge is life-changing.
May my life be life-changing like that, and may I have that experience of knowing the God who satisfies my deepest longings.