The Old Testament reading for yesterday, the 1st Sunday in Lent, was the story of Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac found in Genesis 22. If you are not familiar with that story, you might take a few minutes to read it before you go on with what I am going to say. I preached on the OT lesson yesterday, focusing on "The Lamb," Christ Jesus who is the atoning sacrifice, the substitute for us and our sins, even as the ram was the substitute for Isaac. Powerful message from the Word of God.
But there was a question that often comes out from that reading, one which we didn't deal with in the sermon. (Nor could we deal with it since it is one that suits better for a study or a discussion.) How can God make such a demand upon Abraham? How could He ask for the sacrifice of Isaac? After all, human sacrifice is a detestable thing, even as we see from later history of the people of Israel.
The answer is not found in the outcome, for Abraham did not know the outcome before it happened. The answer is found in God Himself. As much as we do not like it, God does not have to answer our question.(What! What do you mean He doesn't have to answer our question! He HAS to!) As a parent does not need to give a reason to the child, more than "because I told you to do it," neither does God have to answer our question. Like the sinful child who huffs at the parent, we huff at God and pout because we have no way to force Him to answer us.
This leads us to one of two outcomes:
1) Faith - I trust God to know and do what is right even when i don't understand what He is doing or why it is happening. I accept His direction for my life - and for all the questions that I have no answer for.
2) Despise faith - I don't trust God to know and do what is right. I refuse to follow Him until I get my questions answered to my satisfaction.
What would we say of a child who becomes angry at the parent who doesn't give an answer? Trust the parent to know what is best for you. And when they don't trust the parent, we shrug our shoulders and say, "The problem is not the parent but the child."
So it is for us. The problem in this situation is not God but us - who wish to control all that God does - so we demand to have answers which God does not need to give us. He asks us to hear, trust and believe (faith in action) and to follow and do His will.
Abraham shows us that focus - it would have been easy for him to complain, to bring forward the "I don't understand how..." argument, to focus on his thoughts and desires to the detriment of God's desires. But instead he acts in faith. Was it easy? No way! It is not easy to act in faith - for faith is being certain of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
For Abraham: 1) God promised a Messiah. 2) God said ti would be through Isaac. 3) God said to sacrifice Isaac. 4) Trust God or don't trust God. 5) This is where it gets really tough. We have 3 choices: a) to believe and follow; b) to believe but not to follow which means in the end that I don't really believe; c) to not believe and to not follow.
Faith is complicated and can get really messy. Yet faith is just that - faith. Trust God or don't trust God. Follow God or don't follow God. (Understand? No you won't. You can't. So it comes down to those choices.) Messy? Yes. Simple? Yes. Easy? No!
Abraham trust God, follows with his life and actions. We trust God - do we follow with our lives and our actions? Does your faith say one thing and your actions another? This is the challenge of faith for us. And it is not so easy.
But it wasn't easy for Abraham either - probably harder than you and I have ever had in our lives. Though there are some who have faced critical moments in their lives. The death of a child or a spouse - trust God or walk away? The loss of financial solvency - trust God or walk away? The unanswered prayer - trust God or walk away?
Faith in action. It is absolutely overwhelming to trust and follow God when we have no easy answer and we don't understand. How could Abraham do this thing? Only but faith, deep faith that God is God and it calls for total, complete trust and faith in Him.
Total and complete trust and faith in God - that is what it comes down to.