February 22, 2015 Text: Genesis 22:1-18
Dear Friends in Christ,
Recently Toni and I found out about a tragedy in different ways. She learned about it while talking with her mother. Members of the Jirovec family informed me when I was helping pack the truck for Dawn’s move. It involved a 17-year-old young man who was killed by a drunk driver around the community in Minnesota where Toni grew up. She was familiar with the family.
The other night as I was doing the dishes Toni read me the obituary from her phone. As she did all I could think about was that obituary could have been for either of our sons. Star athlete, popular at school, homecoming king, helped out at his church, good student, got along well with everybody. I will admit it got me a little emotional.
That is what having children can do to us. I once received a letter from a friend who said they never understood love until they had a child. Many of you are blessed this morning to have your child or children next to you in the pew. Many more of you can think about your child or children as I relate these stories. For our children they don’t fully understand the love a parent has for their child. But they will – oh they will!
Abraham is that parent. Isaac is that son. It tugs at our heartstrings. It is emotional. The parents of the young man killed in the accident could have thought this. Abraham would have been justified if he asked God . . .
Abraham might surely have asked, “Why me?” when God asked him to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. This request from God was an amazing test of faith. Isaac was the son given to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. He was the heir who would continue God’s covenant promise to Abraham. For this and the fact he was the boy’s father Abraham loved Isaac. Oh the heartache of this parent as God makes his request.
But this test was met with faith and obedience. Abraham trusted God. He trusted in spite of the past challenges in receiving a son. He trusted in spite of future plans God predicted through that son. Abraham did as God commanded. He obeyed in spite of the three-day journey to change his mind. He obeyed in spite of the emotions he must have felt as he heard Isaac’s questions. We’ve been there, haven’t we? You hurt when your child hurts. Our empathy is strongest with our children. We completely understand the “Why me?”
While Abraham may have been asking the “Why me?” God was answering “I will” provide the lamb. God provided the lamb for Abraham. God provided the lamb for all people. God does what he would not allow Abraham to do: Not “Why me?” from Abraham, but “I will” from God.
Rembrandt painted Abraham just as he is about to thrust the knife into Isaac. In the painting, as Abraham looks up in response to God’s call, the knife is actually flying out of his hand into the air as if he had been waiting for the voice. Rembrandt portrays a mixture of awe, amazement, and relief on Abraham’s face. The painting is even more poignant when we learn that the same model used for Abraham’s face was used for the father in the return of the prodigal son. Both paintings capture the Father-heart of God.
He is our blessed Father and God’s “I will” is the result of and a demonstration of his love for sinners. And “to this day” God does work in the midst of our “Why me’s?” to provide his “I will.” God will provide for the one enduring the trials. The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who was faithful for us in all trials and temptations, now offers forgiveness freely, including those times when we prove unfaithful in the midst of life’s trials. With joy and thanksgiving, God’s words to Abraham can be spoken to him concerning his own Son, Jesus Christ: “You have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” In this way, “Why me?” can become an expression of wonder and astonishment in the face of God’s grace toward sinners.
Sometimes we pooh-pooh the fact that God sacrificed His son Jesus. We don’t get to the same place emotionally for one reason or another. His though was the ultimate sacrifice because it paid the price for all of us. He lived perfectly, yet was tortured, beaten, and killed. His resurrection gives us hope in the midst of the “Why me’s?” when we are undergoing life’ trials.
Abraham remained faithful to the words of God in the midst of what seemed illogical and contrary to reason. This faithfulness is ours through the Holy Spirit. We trust the promises of God in the midst of what seems to us illogical and contrary.
God’s people have received and continue to receive encouragement through the example of Abraham remaining faithful and obedient to God. That is why this incident is cited in Hebrews 11:17 and James 2:21. In the same way, faithfulness on the part of God’s children today can be a source of great encouragement for others, even encouraging unbelievers to inquire as to the source of their steadfast hope in the midst of life’s trials. Martin Luther wrote this, “One Christian who has been tried is worth a hundred who have not been tried, for the blessing of God grows in trials. He who has experienced them can teach, comfort, and advise many in body and spiritual matters.”
The story of the young man killed by the drunk driver made it from small town Minnesota to the big city newspaper in Minneapolis. In the article, the mother of the young man was quoted as saying, “We were blessed to have Colton for 17 years. We want you to pray for the man who was drunk and caused the accident. He has a wife and family as well. They need your prayers.” Wow! That can only come from a Christian who knows the hope we have through Christ. What a witness.
May God give us the faith by which He will work in us and through us, especially during those times we are tempted to ask, “Why me?”