Devotion for Friday, June 12, 2020
Genesis 22:12, “for now I know that you fear God…”
In one of the most shocking stories of the Bible, God calls upon Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to the Lord. This narrative continues to captivate me, as God is instructing Abraham to sacrifice the son that the Lord Himself had promised. On the face of it, this story makes no sense. It flies in the face of the entire narrative that has built from Genesis 17 to this moment in chapter 22. Yet, within this narrative, we find so many themes that carry over throughout the Bible. One of those themes is the fear of the Lord.
An angel of the Lord declares to Abraham, when He stays the patriarch’s hand, “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.” (Gen. 22:12)
Why does God tell Abraham to stop in sacrifice? Because He KNOWS that Abraham fears Him. And HOW does God know that Abraham fears the LORD? God declares that it is because Abraham did not withhold his son from the Lord.
Here is a key truth. Abraham did not claim full ownership and possession of his son, Isaac. Abraham declared for decades to God that he wanted a child, a son to carry forth his lineage. God had called Abraham to Canaan to become a blessing to the nations through his family. Abraham continued to wonder how God would uphold His promise without giving him a son. And then, in Abraham’s dotage, God provides the son of his dreams, Isaac.
It would be seem natural for Abraham to obsess over Isaac – to do everything in his power to protect him and cherish him – to possess him as his precious son, the apple of his eye. When you read chapter 22, it seems crazy in our own sensibilities that God would ask Abraham to do such a thing – and that Abraham would actually seek to carry it out. But that is an indictment on our own hearts than God’s or Abraham’s.
Abraham was an imperfect patriarch, who had a number missteps recorded in the story of Genesis. But when God fulfilled His promise of a son, Abraham’s faith solidified into an immovable foundation.
While deeply perplexed and grieved that God would ask such a costly sacrifice, Abraham nonetheless faithfully complied and led Isaac to Mt. Moriah (the site of future Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem). We glimpse a view of Abraham’s faith when Isaac asked where the sacrifice was. Abraham replied, “God will provide FOR HIMSELF the lamb for the burnt offering.” (Gen. 22:8) Abraham trusted that God would provide. The writer of Hebrews expounds upon this understanding of God’s provision and Abraham’s faith. Hebrews 11:19 declares that even if Abraham was to carry out the sacrifice of Isaac, Abraham “considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead.” In other words, Abraham believed that God would have resurrected Isaac after the sacrifice. He knew that the Lord would provide, since God had fulfilled His promise to Abraham for a son.
God knew that Abraham feared Him, because Abraham did not hold anything, not even his own son, in greater esteem than the Lord. The fulfillment of the fear of the Lord in the life of the believer, therefore, is the understanding that, ultimately, all things belong to God.
To be honest, our lives are not our own. We live in an age of hyper-individualism with the belief that each person is the “captain of his or her own soul.” That is not what the Bible says. The Bible is clear that we owe the Lord God our thanksgiving for providing us with life and every blessing that we enjoy. The Gospel teaches us that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross frees those who turn to Him in repentance and faith from the bondage of sin and death. Yet, that freedom is not a freedom to do whatever we want to do. Faith frees us from the bondage to death, but captivates us into a service to the will of God. We are FREED to now PLEASE GOD and carry out His will.
Paul puts it this way, “You are not your own, for you have been bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19b-20)
Those who fear the Lord are captive to God’s will in their lives. They seek to glorify the Lord in all they do. They realize that nothing they have, own, or enjoy (including their families) is truly their own. They are to be faithful stewards of God’s blessings in their lives.
Friend, don’t withhold anything from God, because God did not even withhold His OWN Son from the cross, while we were yet sinners. That is the beauty of Abraham’s sacrifice. For it presaged the promise that would ultimately be fulfilled in God’s sacrifice of His own Son for our sins. Isn’t God’s grace-filled Gospel so overwhelmingly beautiful?
May the Lord declare in your life, “now I know that you fear God.”
Pastor, Sharon First Baptist Church