Patience is more than endurance. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see… —Oswald Chambers, from My Utmost for His Highest.
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
“Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
So Abraham called that place “The LORD Will Provide.” (Gen 22:14 NIV).
PRAYER FOCUS: The God Who Provides.
“God tested Abraham…” (Gen. 22:1).
This is one of the most chilling passages in the entire Canon of Scripture.
Imagine what Abraham must have felt like when God told him to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice. Surely agony gripped his heart as he and the boy walked to and then climbed the mountain. Surely Abraham wished he could take Isaac’s place. Surely Abraham PRAYED he could take the place of his son. Isaac, the miraculous gift, the son of promise, asked, “Father, where is the lamb?”
Once before Abraham had tried to “help God out” and substitute his own solution for God’s. The whole difficult, painful situation with Hagar and Ishmael had resulted. Such lessons are not soon forgotten. A chastened, wiser, Abraham now declared, in faith, “My son, God Himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering.”
And he was right. God did provide—a ram in a thicket, its horns caught in a bramble of thorns. Abraham called the place Jehovah-Jireh, meaning “the Lord will provide.” (Actually, the Hebrew phrase is more correctly translated as “the Lord will see to it”).
Note the prophetic nature of this event. The substitutionary purpose of the ram’s sacrifice points forward to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who died in our place. Even the thorns that held the ram’s horns are prophetic of the Via Dolorosa and Calvary. Thus by word and deed the prophecy announced that the Lamb of God would come through the line of Abraham, who was rightly called “God’s friend.”
Abraham’s faith, so great here, was not born in a day. It was the result of years of seeing God’s faithfulness to His promises. This faith grew daily in prayer as he spoke to, and listened to, his Lord and God. Abraham chose to believe what God promised. Abraham chose to depend on those promises. Like so many of us, Abraham had stumbled over his lack of faith and had to learn the hard way that God’s ways are better than our own.
Why did God test Abraham? God didn’t want Isaac’s life, He wanted Abraham’s heart. And He got it. Abraham’s previous failures worked together to produce the faith that spelled success this time.
Let’s take a look at the elements of Abraham’s test:
1. What could Abraham depend on? a) He could not depend on his feelings; everything he felt would have compelled him to run away from this terrible, painful test of faith. b) He could not depend on his friends and family–Sarah was far away; the men who helped him were back at camp. He faced the test alone, with his son Isaac. c) He could depend on God’s Word. d) He could depend on God’s promises; God had always come through in the past and had never let him down.
2. Where did God provide? At precisely the point of his need. Abraham was “in place”. We have no right to expect God’s help if we are not in His will.
3. When did God provide? At precisely the right time. God stayed Abraham’s hand only after he had raised it. Abraham didn’t see the ram until after the test was over.
The best evidence of our reverence—our love—for God is being willing to serve and honor him with that which is dearest to us, to give away all of it to Him, or for Him.
Please don’t confuse God’s tests with Satan’s temptations. God’s tests call forth what is best and highest in each of us. Satan’s temptations bring out our worst. When we pray that God will “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” this is specifically what we mean to discern.
Scottish evangelist Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) wrote,
“We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first [response]. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all. Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don’t want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of ‘good time’ is seldom in sync with ours.”
Christian, do you want the faith to move mountains? Then go to your Father-God in prayer and ask which one He wants moved. However, don’t be surprised if He tests you first. He may ask you to wait. He may ask you to give up something you cherish. Do not recoil–pray. He may yet stay your hand, as He did Abraham’s. And do not shrink if in your prayers He shows you a mountain so great you can’t conceive any way you can budge it. Because that is precisely the point—God, Almighty God, our Eternal Father, the Lord Who Heals, the Lord Who Saves, will see to it.
It’s Monday Morning. Draw near to your loving Father in Heaven. Affirm the good He has promised you. Thank him for the good he has already provided for you. Remember there are fellow Christians around the world today who desperately need a miracle of provision. Please pray for them.