Father and Son

I have always loved the story of Abraham and Isaac. The story of willingness and sacrifice and reprieve and provision, captivate me. After all, isn’t that ultimately the journey of every faithwalker? But this week God challenged me to reread it, in His narration, with His thoughts, through His eyes and, most of all, in regard to His heart for His beloved.

Abraham was ready, I felt sure of it. Patiently, he had waited for Me to send Isaac, and daily I watched his love for his son and pride over him grow. I delighted to see that My friend was pleased, but much rode on the faith of My beloved Abraham, a faith that I had to test for its surety and steadfastness.

He was out observing My creation, strolling among his people, eyes always trained upon his boy. He marveled aloud to Me as he watched Isaac pull back the bow how very grateful he was over the gift of his son. It was in that moment of thankfulness I chose to make My request, in the glow of his joy.

“Abraham!” I called.

Immediately he answered, “Yes, Lord! I am here.” The look on his face was eager to speak, eager to obey, age had not changed his youthful expectation, but I had the highest price to ask of him.

“It’s time,” I commanded. He seemed confused so I continued, “Take your only son, Isaac, now and go to Moriah…” I waited to finish as his smile hesitated, “…and take him and offer him…”

Abraham’s eyes took on a look of disbelief even as his soul screamed out to My heart not to finish the thought, but his obedient heart waited for Me to finish.

“Offer his as a burnt offering on the mountain of My choosing.”

His head fell, his grown man lips quivered, but his resolve was not shaken. He trusted Me. I felt it and I read it from his heart even if his lips could not utter it.

I watched the next morning, early, as he loaded up his donkey and assembled his entourage, Isaac, the most prized possession by his side as he led the way. Each day was a litany of praise to Me, stories of my goodness and faithfulness shared with each footstep closer to the unspeakable. Isaac never seemed to question Abraham’s frequent affections and head rubs. Abraham was making the most of the three days, three days I ordained for them to say goodbye. I’m a loving God, I could have chosen any mountain, but that one had significance to this sacrifice and to My own, and I wanted this for them.

When they made it there I observed intently as Abraham settled his servants and gave them directions and a time frame in which he would return. I watched as he swallowed hard while Isaac said his goodbyes. Then, I watched as Abraham placed the bundle of wood upon Isaac’s shoulders. As he did so, I felt the scars in My own back ache.

“This is necessary,” I whispered into the ear of My beloved, but all he felt and heard was the whistle of the wind.

In his own hands, Abraham carried the fire source and the knife. His grip on its handle was weak almost begging the slightest force to rip it from his hands, but his obedience carried it nonetheless. Isaac wondered often as he observed the elements of sacrifice that a significant piece was missing – the offering. He questioned his father, but he could not bear to tell his son and so I heard him say with spoken words, “God Himself will provide.” He had no idea the revelation of those words. I could feel the cries from Abraham’s bosom asking if there was any other way? And, My own voice echoed through the ages in his acceptance, “Nevertheless, let Your will be done.” Years evaporated and generations passed away as I beheld Abraham telling Isaac to be still as he bound his only son. I watched Isaac struggle and question, begging for understanding. Abraham was silent but in his heart he called out to Me declaring My name for all generations and with each name a work of goodness that preceded it. He, like his son, was begging Me to hear his cries, and I, too, remained silent. Would he recall My favor thus far? The promises I had made? The nature of My faithfulness?

I observed the Accuser reminding him of his failures, of his sins, planting doubts of My character and My affections for him. But, I encouraged Abraham to recall My love, My grace, My kindness despite what wrongs he had committed. As the Accuser started in again, I held up My hand to silence him. I tired of his lies, his attempts to discredit Me and to discourage those I love. Besides, something greater had My complete attention, Abraham reached for the knife.

All eyes in heaven stood in observance of this moment. I had issued a command, and only I could choose to undo it. A tear escaped My eternal eyes as I watched my beloved hold the knife high. Faith that once trembled from his lips now held firm in his love for Me. My heart was full! Abraham was declaring his love for Me! I had asked him to do the unthinkable, and still he chose My will over his own. Time stood still as I observed this gift. – the love he showed Me as he held a knife to his son – his beloved as he was Mine.

“Abraham!”

He didn’t drop the knife, “Yes, Lord?” Determination shook his frame.

“Stop! His arm slowly dropped its position, confusion, quickly replaced with relief, washed over him.

“Don’t touch that boy!” All of heaven was rejoicing in his love for Me! “You have shown you honor and respect Me! You were willing to sacrifice, without holding back, your son, your heir.”

I had situated the ram – spotless and pure – a most fitting offering – in the bushes beside their makeshift altar. I caught My breath as Abraham quickly unbound Isaac, clutching him to his chest and thanking Me for My provision. Together, they situated the sacrifice on the pile of wood. I touched the engravings in My hands, the scars that symbolized the name of every soul willing to be saved, and I smiled.

“ No, my friend, my beloved. I would never ask you to give up anything that I haven’t already sacrificed for you.”

Heads bowed, knees bent, I listened as father and son praised My name for their provision, but what I had truly provided was more than a ram but the Lamb of God – for with the sacrifice of MY son, I would fulfill My promise to Abraham, for I AM Jehovah Jireh. I AM the Lord who provides.

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Embrace Grace

Grace.

It’s hard for us to fathom… Something for nothing? There is always a catch. We look for the catch – surely I must do something to gain this great reward? So we involve ourselves with works, to be better, to be acceptable, to be worthy of a gift we are completely unworthy to receive. Then faith becomes about what we do rather than who we are, and relationship becomes about us pleasing God rather than being pleased by Him. We somehow forsake the gift in an attempt to earn what is freely given. We are quick to point out the hypocrites and Pharisees without seeing we often play their roles.

I will never forget the time I was so distraught and discouraged because someone that I loved and I had invested in heart and soul returned to a life of sin and depravity. I beat my chest and yelled for God to tell me why? Why was I working so hard to make a difference, why was all that time and energy just thrown away in a fit of passion and recklessness? I didn’t dishonor Him with my frustration, but I felt surely He must be just as frustrated as I felt! Then I heard these words, “You are not called to be the Holy Spirit.”

I stopped. I sat. I pondered. I meditated on that thought.

That’s what I expected. I expected that my good works and words would transform her life and when they didn’t, I felt I had failed. The Truth rushed into my heart like a whisper of correction, “You can’t change them. You can’t save them. Point them to My perfect grace and let Me wrestle with them through their salvation.”

Wow.

The truth was I had seen her as a project, and when I saw successes I marked her off my to do list and went on to the next project. I think we are guilty of thinking God does the same, and we would be wrong. People aren’t projects, they are souls that are in a process of salvation… And what happens on that journey isn’t about instant purification but enduring sanctification. It’s about the battles, the scars, and the long suffering patience of a Savior.

Faith is a journey defined by grace. None of us can ever earn what we have been given. Too often we picture God and think like the days of Moses, “I cannot look upon you and live.” This is not the God that Jesus introduced to us, a God intolerant of imperfection, but instead He sat in the midst of them telling them stories of forgiveness and grace. Not only that, it’s not the God that I truthfully see through His Word.

I see a God more like Job. Have you read the first chapter of that book? I have too, a few times and yet last night for the first time Daddy God highlighted a verse I hadn’t seen before:

When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice. (Job 1:5 NLT)

That’s the heart of a Father that loves beyond failure. The difference is, unlike Job, God knows what we have done and how we have failed, and He didn’t have to make sacrifice a daily practice – Jesus met that requirement once and for all.

Let’s not gloss over the investment in that burnt offering. Job’s kids were partiers, they had feasts and drunken social gatherings on their father’s dime. We might picture Job as taking an animal to the temple leaving it there and going about his merry way… He had 7 kids so, okay, he deposited a flock at the priests door and left. No. One by one Job would take each animal to the threshold of the temple and lay his hand upon its head to symbolize transference and then he would kill this perfect specimen to be offered up to the priests as atonement. He did this 7 times with 7 animals 7 days a week. That’s the devotion of a father who cares, who desires to see his children safe, and is willing to pay a great cost to see them free from sin.

That’s such a beautiful picture of our Father’s love. Job’s kids aren’t recorded as requesting this… They aren’t depicted as even knowing anything about it. They didn’t earn the honor of sacrifice, but because Job loved them so much, he paid the price, over and over and over again – the patient concern of a loving Father.

Grace.

We can’t explain it. We can’t earn it. We can’t fathom love so deep, so unconditional, so sacrificial, and when we try and work to make it ours we neglect the beauty of the gift.

If He loved us so much and extended enduring grace to us, a flawed and desperate people, how can we expect perfection of others? Better yet. Why do we expect perfection of ourselves? Faith is a journey defined by grace. Embrace that.

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For the LOVE of us

I was listening to a discussion last week in which someone said, “God didn’t create us for any other purpose but to worship and glorify Him.” I knew where they were coming from when they said that, but, as I thought about it, I had to disagree. You see, what most theologians shy away from talking about and what pastors don’t really chance to say is this: Our God is vulnerable. Yes, He is mighty and He is infinite and He is Life and He is Truth. He withstands the passage of time. He has always been, will always be, and is yet to come, but He has deep, emotional longings, and those longings culminated in us.

When God created the earth, He had a plan. He already had angels, they were His worshippers, His Yes men, His go to guys…or spirits…we aren’t sure if they actually have a gender. If worship was what He was looking for, He had it in mass and in surround sound! No. There was something else God desired in man. He longed for companionship…He wanted a heart that loved Him, that sought Him, that wanted Him, not because it was created to or had to, but because it chose to. Therein lies the heart of God for man.

We cannot forget this, because God is still moved by the heart of man. He still desires companionship, He longs for connection, and He seeks those that will worship Him whole-heartedly. It is this vulnerability that makes me love Him more. It should make us all love Him more…to know that the God of the universes isn’t content to simply make us but that with each stitch of bone and marrow, He planned a life with Himself!

This is why it is important that we know our worth. This is why it is important that we feel His love. This is why He takes every day of our lives to remind us that we are not a mistake, we were not created in vain; we are chosen, we are loved, and we are His. He wants us to know…not just think, suspect, or assume…but KNOW that we are loved. Not so that we feel good about ourselves, not to stroke our egos, or give us a God-complex, but because He longs for us to accept His love! He reassures us so that we will feel good about Him! He desire’s for us to live in that truth so that we can boldly speak the power of His great LOVE to all that will listen…because then THAT person will choose to love Him, and His vulnerable heart is filled yet again, and His quiver is that much fuller, and His Son’s purpose is fulfilled.

Jesus died, for the love of us, and it is because of that same amazing love that God created. Don’t mistake Him for a tyrannical celestial King, He is our Ever-present loving Father…seeking all that, like Him, long to be loved.