August 9, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 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 possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed… because you have obeyed me.’” (Genesis 22.15ff)
I have alluded to two stories (Ruth from the Old Testament and The Feeding of the Multitude from the New Testament) as “preludes to the gospel” because they speak of the blessing of fulfillment with plenty to share with others. This is the gospel. In Jesus, we have been saved and blessed with the fullness of eternal life beginning in our here and now (on earth) leading to our there and then (in Heaven.) But, we are not saved just for ourselves. We have been saved, restored, reconciled and returned to our first purpose for the sake of others who exist on earth with us in this world of brokenness. In the genre of “stories of plenty as preludes to this gospel rendering,” I would add the call of Abraham to accept his place in the history of faith which God issued. In Genesis 22, we read of the trial of the heart, mind and soul of Abraham which was conducted by God. It is a type of “temptation” story to some and as such you would think that Satan would have played a part in it as the purveyor of evil and cunning. But, this was “out of bounds” territory for Satan. This was God’s doing alone and for the purposes of God alone. Abraham, as Job, was a man of faith. He had to be. He had uprooted his family and all their possessions to follow the word of God to a land of promise. He had neither seen this God nor the land of his sojourn before until it was revealed to him. But, he believed God because this God spoke to him as no god had ever done before. Now, this God speaks again.
The call to sacrifice his only begotten son with Sarah (remembering he fathered a child with Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar, per the customs of the land) was unsettling for Abraham. I have no doubt it would have been worse for Sarah, if she had known of it. Yet, in obedience to “the Lord has given and the Lord may take away” reality in Abraham’s mind, while the flesh was weak, the spirit had to be willing. Abraham made the hard decision to trust in God one more time. He had seen what happened when he didn’t trust. The consequences of those experiences were emotionally devastating and weighed heavy on his spirit. Putting himself first never seemed to be a worthy proposition. Remaining faithful to the lead of God in his life always proved to be a blessing of plenty with more left over. The journey to Mount Moriah would prove to be no different. It was there that the call and blessing of Abraham was completed. It was because of his willingness to sacrifice “his life, his flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, the blood of his blood” in full obedience to God without seeing what was to come. When Paul speaks of “walking by faith and not by sight,” I have little doubt he included this remembered story as well. In response to Abraham’s willingness to be “obedient even unto death,” God provided not just for the day but for a lifetime and for a lifetime of lifetimes. On Mount Moriah, which some scholars believe is the sight of Golgotha where Jesus was crucified, God staid the hand of Abraham from its fatal blow. He called his attention to a ram caught in a nearby thicket to be used for the sacrifice instead. In that moment, I wonder what Isaac must have thought about the whole situation, God substituted a life for life. Isaac represented the whole of who Abraham was. He probably pleaded with God going up that mountain saying, “Take my life instead of his.” But, that would have defeated the purpose of God’s design for Abraham’s life to be a witness to the world, to make disciples of all nations through descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens, the grains of sand by the seashore, (to include Ruth) the grains of wheat in the field of plenty and (to include the disciples) the harvest of souls ready to be brought in. The story of Abraham was most definitely a “prelude to the gospel.”
Mighty ones of God, followers of the way of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, the only begotten Son of God with Mary, who laid down His own life as an atonement for our sin and accepted no substitute because He so loved us of earth and His Father in Heaven, we are bearers of the testimony of the gospel call to witness such faith before all the world. Jesus said, “No greater love is there than this but that a person would lay down their life for another.” The intention of that sacrifice was for, and remains for, their salvation from the sin-festation which leads to eternal death, the dying forever beyond the saving presence of God. This is the true measure of the love which is godly and asked of us all. It is not the familial love, the passionate love, the compassionate love, the mercy love. It is the love of obedience to the call of God to be and to do what we have been called to be and to do since before we were born. Before the gospel was, the love of God for us existed. The gospel exists because of the love of God. John declares this truth as we remember easily the words “For God so loved the world (the people on the earth), He surrendered His Only Begotten Son to death. In doing so, all who would believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” These are the words which are intended to direct, guide, form, shape and empower our walk by faith far beyond our walk by sight. They are not the prelude to the gospel, they are the gospel. The question for us today is: How much do we believe in this call of God over us? The follow-up question is: How does the world know it because of us?
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
Father, You are the Word of Life given from beginning to end. You have breathed Your breath of life into our very soul and taken residence within. We ask for forgiveness when we have treated You as a stranger in our household or worse as a pest to be rid of. You have taken the Word and shared it with us as the host would take bread, bless it, break it and give it to all who are at the table so they would know such welcome. May we become as welcoming a You in all we say and do in Jesus’ name. AMEN.