November 11, 2016

Faith in the face of contradictions

When God commands action, He seldom gives the word a few hours beforehand. He knows the human heart. We might stew and fret about it, or make elaborate plans for carrying it out without His specific instruction.

However, He also knew the heart of Abraham and in one incredible instance, He gave the command and allowed Abraham an entire night to think about it.
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 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 of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. (Genesis 22:1–3)
This man did not debate with God. I would have. Offering anyone, never mind my own child, as a sacrifice seems totally against the will of God. But Abraham did what God said without debate and without any evidence of “why?” He knew the voice of God and trusted Him.

As for me, I would have at least ran it by a few friends, or grumbled, or tried to get Him to rephrase the thing so it made sense. In the case of Abraham, I might also think that his willingness to do it, which showed up in the morning as he set out, was enough. How far did he need to go to prove his faith in God without actually killing his child? Surely that would be a sin? Yet the New Testament says:
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11:17–19)
Abraham’s faith was not based on the wrongness of God’s command, but on God’s promise that this son would grow up and have children who would carry on the family name. No matter what happened on that mountain, Abraham believed God would keep that promise.

God is saying that when He asks a hard thing I need to bank on His promises. The test may contradict them, but God is not a promise-breaker. He wants me to believe Him, and may even ask me to prove it by acts of obedience that seem to be contrary to the promise, but not contrary to faith.

Faith is about holding the promises of God in one hand and the often conflicting realities I can see and rationalize in the other, and live with the tension between the two. Faith means knowing that God is true and what seems true will be eventually exposed or changed.

I cannot choose the situations or the tests. As Chambers says, God may make my cup sweet or bitter, yet I must drink it with grace and in communion with Him. If I am living in touch with my Lord, I will know that whatever He takes me through He wants me to know Him better. He is at work for His highest ends until His purpose and my purpose become one.

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