In “Moving Mountains” author John Eldredge says that there is a way that all things work. After using several examples, he applies this to prayer. I am reading several other books on prayer and his thoughts tie in with the principles presented by the other authors.
For instance, one of them uses Scripture to point to the way I can hinder God’s answers to my prayers. Prayer works in surprising ways, but usually not when I am harboring sin and refusing to give it up.
Chambers’ subject for today is the way God works to reveal His nature. He points specifically to our obedience as His method, but I’m not sure this can be dogmatically stated, even using the passage he selected . . .
And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:15–18)
God had already revealed to Abraham that He could be trusted. Otherwise Abraham never would have obeyed the command to sacrifice his only son. This man knew the promises of God and that He is faithful to keep them. God promised that through the boy Isaac the nations of the earth would be blessed. Abraham believed Him and God confirmed Abraham’s faith after stopping the sacrifice.
He blessed this man and in this situation and this time, His blessing came through obedience. However, the whole earth has been blessed through the sacrifice of another “only Son” and for an entirely different reason: not one person was being obedient! In that most remarkable event, God revealed Himself and His great love without anyone doing anything to deserve it: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Sometimes God’s blessing comes through answered prayer: “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:11)
Sometimes God’s blessing comes through faith: “In Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:14)
Sometimes God’s blessing comes because of repentance: “For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” (Hebrews 12:17)
Yet forgiveness, salvation and eternal life, which are the greatest blessings, are neither earned nor deserved. We cannot do anything to make this happen: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)
As for the revelation of God to me through obedience, sometimes I become more aware of what He is like by obeying Him, but not always. He takes great care that I am not operating on a ‘do this and be rewarded’ basis. Obedience is an act of faith and love, not a carrot on a stick or a game of hide and seek.
Instead, I believe God reveals Himself to me so I am able to obey Him: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)
The reality is, God makes the decisions. Obey or not, He reveals Himself according to His choice, just as Jesus said: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Luke 10:22)
It is never wrong to obey God, but I cannot determine whether He will bless my obedience by revealing more of who He is — He may say “Well done” or He may not say anything at all.