Monday, March 7, 2011

This week's message: The Test

Genesis 22:1-18.
It says in verse one that God was testing Abraham. We need to pay attention to that word: testing. God was not tempting Abraham to sin, or expressing some kind of power trip. God wanted Abraham to see that his faith was real. This is an event that Abraham never forgot. It is something his children never forgot. It is essential to the faith of every Jew and Christian that has come since that time!

Abraham was God’s chosen servant. He did not always make good decisions, we have seen that! But we have seen Abraham act in faith, stepping out in obedience when God called him to do something specific. This story is often cited as one of the greatest proofs of Abraham’s faith in God. But this morning I want us to look at this from a different angle. I want us to see how this is a story about love; Abraham’s love for God and God’s love for Abraham.

In verse two, God takes special care to emphasize Abraham’s love for his son. In essence he is saying, this is the most important thing to you. It seems as if Abraham was in danger of loving Isaac more than God. Remember when Abraham tried before to make God’s promise happen his own way, or when he begged God to choose Ishmael to be the child of promise? Here he has the child of promise, Isaac and it may be that Abraham is now giving more value to the gift than the giver. Isaac was the child of promise, but it was God’s promise, not Isaac’s, and not Abraham’s.

It is interesting to see Abraham’s response in this. He does not argue, but I wonder what he is thinking. I know what I would be thinking. Did I hear you right God? You really didn’t just say what I think you did. Seriously?!? This had to be a joke, right? The Bible does not record Abraham’s verbal response, but it does say that he was obedient; he packed up and went to the place where God told him to go. Abraham was showing his love through obedience. By doing this, Abraham was affirming his love for God. He was saying to God, and he was telling himself through these actions, “I love God more than I love this gift that he has given to me.

This is so important! With all of the times Abraham stumbled, or went astray, or made his own path, Abraham needed to know that his love for God was supreme. God didn’t need to know. God sees our hearts. This was not a proof to God of Abraham’s love and obedience, this was a proof to Abraham of the condition of his own heart! God loved Abraham enough to give him this opportunity to see into his own heart and witness the growth that God had brought about in himself.

In verses 11-14, we see God’s deliverance and his provision. Because Abraham had shown that his love for God took the greatest precedence in his heart, God gave him the gift all over again. I find it really interesting that when we look at God’s message through the angel compared to his statement at the beginning of this story, God says, “You have not withheld your son,” God leaves out whom you love. It is not that Abraham has stopped loving Isaac. He did not stop loving this son that God gave to him, but because he had shown that his love for God was greater, his love for his son was no longer an issue.

Verses 15-18 stand as a reminder and a reinstatement of God’s promise to Abraham. If you look at verse 16, it says that the reason that God is able to fulfill his promise is that Abraham has chosen to put his love for God above his love for his son, the gift that God had given. Abraham’s love for his son no longer stood in the way of Abraham’s faith and love and trust for God.

We all have things that God has promised us. We have blessings that God has given us and it is tempting to allow those things, those gifts to compete for our love. Love for other things, even good things—even things God wants us to appreciate and love like our children, our families—if we love them more than God, it can keep us from God’s best for us.

We know that love is a choice, we have the choice of whether to give God precedence in our hearts, or let love for other things rule. God may have a test for you of your love or your faith. Don’t take that as God asking you to prove something to him, take it as an opportunity to prove the condition of your heart to yourself. When we have a clear picture of where we stand, we know the areas that need growth. We see the areas that have grown and changed for the better. We see how far we have come and that gives us confidence to walk forward in faith.

God is our greatest example of love and our love is reciprocal to his. He does not ask us to do what he will not, or make a sacrifice greater than the one he has already made. He does not ask us to love him first. 1 John 4:19 says we love because he loved us first. He gives us his power to love him above all things. But the choice is up to us. Will we choose to love God with all our hearts, or will we allow competing objects of our love and affection take precedence? Examine your life. Ask if the decisions you make every day demonstrate love and obedience to God above all else. This is a choice we have to make daily. God gives us power to follow through, but we have to start with a simple act of will. Will you make a decision today to give God all of your heart? The choice is up to you.

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