August 10, 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)
In light of the current culture and climate of this nation politically, economically, socially and spiritually, I am moved to see this “prelude to the gospel” as a call to action. As mighty ones of God, followers of the way of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only begotten Son who is our Lord and Savior, we must not only be “hearers of the word but doers; otherwise we only deceive ourselves.” (James 1.22) Deception, my friends, is running rampant. As I have proposed in the past when the occasion was given, there is a vast difference between hearing and listening. Abraham would be a good example of one who listens and not merely one who hears. God spoke, Abraham heard the word and then he listened. How do I know he listened to the word he heard? Because, as James proposed, “You are not deceived if you are doers of the word.” Abraham obeyed God and left the Ur of the Chaldeans to stay with his father who had already moved to Haran. But, that was not his final destination. God called him to move on and Abraham with his brother, Lot, and their families moved on to the land of Salem. They became established in the land that was given to them. He was called in the prime of his life to follow God and he did. He was called to a future that he could not see but he grasped the word of it and “walked by faith, not by sight.”
God spoke to him of the birth of a son. Abraham heard it and laughed. He wasn’t listening then as he had in the past. How do we know he wasn’t listening? We know it because Sarah wasn’t listening either. She was eavesdropping and when she heard the word, she laughed as well. And in their “not listening,” a plan was devised to “give Abraham a child” which was not the way of the Lord but a provisional application of “not believing” or believing too much in the human condition that the “other possibility” doesn’t exist. With that accomplished, God intervened and in spite of their “not listening,” Sarah became one with child. I propose “the flesh was weak but the spirit was willing.” The spirit of Sarah obeyed the Spirit of God and what was “impossible with man became possible with God.” As I mentioned yesterday, Abraham had on other occasions not followed God’s lead but assumed he knew better the way in which they would go to and through this Promised Land. Hardship followed when Abraham listened to himself and only heard God. When Abraham listened to God and became a doer of the word, blessings followed. Isaac was one of those blessings born after Abraham repented of his way and did what was right in the sight of God. Faith is “walking in the sight of God.” Only those who have “faith in God can walk with the sight of God,” otherwise it seems that God has turned His back so that His eye does not follow us. Now Abraham was faced with another word from God. He heard it: take your son to Moriah and there prepare to offer him as a sacrifice. Abraham could hardly believe what he heard but he listened. How do we know he listened? He listened because he took Isaac, wood for fire, binding straps and a sharp knife to Moriah. His steps may have been heavy. His heart may have been heavier. But, experience had taught him that listening to God was his only true option in the midst of many other options. Much in the same fashion as the beginning of Abraham’s journey in the Ur of the Chaldeans where there was the worship of many gods but only one of them was the True God. That means everyone else had the opportunity to listen to God but they had chosen only to hear Him as one of many.
Now, God would speak again as Abraham fully committed himself to listening to God’s word. Isaac helped to build the sacrificial pyre. His father then bound him and put him on top of the wood carefully in order to burn hot and fast. How Isaac was convinced by Abraham to do so, we do not hear. But, listen to his response to Isaac’s question of “Father, everything is here but where is the sacrifice?” Abraham replied, “God will provide a lamb for the sacrifice. He knows what is best.” All I can say is that Abraham must have done a great job of raising Isaac because he, like we have heard about Jesus as He went to Golgotha (Moriah?), “went as a lamb led to slaughter but uttered not a sound.” Even with the knife raised to Isaac’s throat to bleed him out as was the practice of lamb sacrifice, there was no utterance. We don’t even know if Isaac’s eyes were open or closed but he listened to his father and did what was required of him. So, too, did God, as He listened to the entire scene from Heaven. We know God listened because He intervened twice with His word. The first intervention was to stop the killing and direct Abraham, and a grateful Isaac, to see a ram caught in a nearby thicket. I guess the ram got caught there because he was gloating about being spared such a horrible death and didn’t look where he stepped. All we know is that “God provided in abundance.” We know this because we listen to the very claim of Abraham who said “Jehovah Jireh” has done this. But, it wasn’t just that God provided a substitutionary sacrifice to fulfill the call which He had given Abraham causing him to make such a declaration. God added the blessing which is recorded in verses 15 and following in Genesis 22. That blessing said that Abraham’s descendants would be in abundant number (read “beyond counting”), they would not have to build cities but reside in those of their vanquished enemies (read “did not destroy the cities causing them to be rebuilt”) and that all nations would then be blessed by those very descendants (read “come to know the One True God as their own”) because of Abraham’s obedience. It is a “prelude to the gospel” plain and simple which we can hear and receive if we are those who listen and believe. It is the Old Testament version of the New Testament “Great Commission.” Sadly, the descendants of Abraham didn’t listen very well. It would be said of them “they have ears to hear but do not; they have eyes to see but will not.” They do not become “doers of the Word” but mouthers and pretenders only.
So, what of today’s culture and climate? If the Great Commission is the New Testament version of the Old Testament promise through Abraham, then the Church represents the descendants of Christ in the new world as the Hebrews were the descendants of Abraham in the old. Is the Church hearing and seeing only? What would the Church truly look like if we listened, obeyed and did what God called it to be and to do? We see the condition of the world as it is and know without doubt that it is not listening to the Word and Will of God. The list of violations and ignored teachings “rivals,” parenthetically speaking, the “number of stars in the heavens and the grains of sand by the seashore.” But, the number of the gospel declares, for those who listen, an abundance that can exceed the need. God is still at work. God is still speaking not merely to be heard but to invite listening to the level of action. He has revealed His plan in “old and new” ways through His “original and renewed” covenant. We can see it in Paul’s list of “so great a cloud of witnesses” and in the new list that was being formed by those who call themselves “followers of the Way,” Christians or The Ones of Christ. Are we “one of that number” or are we “one of those numbers”? Let’s think upon that today and reflect more on it tomorrow, shall we. Until then, shalom, y’all.
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
Jehovah Jireh, You not only have called us but You have provided us with what is promised: Your response to our obedience sight unseen. We know the history of such response and marvel at its height, depth, breadth and volume. It defies the human imagination but falls so in line with “the image in which we have been created.” We receive the blessings of the day which come to sight as we practice being doers of Your Word. It is perfectly revealed in Your Son, the perfect Lamb of righteousness provided for our salvation and reconciliation. We receive it and believe it so much that we can do not less than offer it to the world. May they see You in us as we live in You in Jesus’ name. AMEN.