“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
In this dreadful command God invites Abraham into his purposes, into his way, and into his plan. He asks Abraham to do the very thing he himself had purposed before the foundations of the world and in so asking he invites Abraham to walk in the way of the cross.
Obedient Abraham clung desperately to the Promise with each step and confessed that God himself would provide when asked by his beloved son about the sacrifice to be offered. Surely God would intervene. Surely God would not thwart his own promise, his own word. Surely.
God knew what Abraham did not, that up ahead there was a ram in the thicket, and also that up ahead, two thousand years down the road, he would offer up his own beloved Son to take our place and atone for our sins.
Christ bids us take up our cross daily and follow him. We hear an echo of this from Peter when he says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12)
A few verses later we find the comforting conclusion to inevitable suffering (the very thing I believe Abraham did) “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” What great comfort there is in having God as a friend.
Today we remember Annunciation, the appearing of the angel Gabriel to Mary, the mother of our Lord. Today we remember the Incarnation. A lifetime can be spent meditating on God becoming man and his identification with us. My morning readings included Hebrews 2.
“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering.” (vs. 2 RSV)
Why suffering I pondered until I realized that in the Incarnation Jesus was perfectly identified with us and suffering has been the human condition since the Fall. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted and he able to help those who are being tempted. My own sufferings can never compare to his but they can be united to his. He bids us take up our cross and follow him. I can suffer with him every time I am tempted. Likewise I can be crucified with him every time I refuse to indulge feelings of irritation at another and own that the problem is not them but me. It’s not that the other person is irritating but that I am irritable. These are the micro sufferings and the daily dying we all must undergo. But thanks be to God we have One who took on flesh and walks with us through them.
In Genesis 17 Abram, the man of faith has been walking with God for twenty-four years. God had promised him a son and Abram believed God. Abram waited on God…and waited. Eventually, tired of waiting and pressured by his wife, Sarai, Abram took things into his own hands and tried to bring about God’s promise using the conventional wisdom of the day. The result was indeed a son, but a son of Abram’s own works, not the son of promise. So the wait went on.
Finally, at 99 years old, God appears to Abram. The appearance was unlooked for; Abram had not called upon God yet God reveals himself to Abram as “God Almighty” and this Almighty One can override the laws of nature. He can cause an 89 year old barren womb to conceive a child. He can keep an impossible promise. He also can make a requirement. His requirement? “Walk before me and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and multiply you greatly.” If God is to bring about his promises Abram must be His man, not walking in his own way so as to bring about God’s word by his own effort, but walking in God’s way by faith.
“Walk before me and be blameless.” Can you hear God speaking to you in these words? God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and gave him the covenant of circumcision. In the circumcision of the flesh God was looking for a circumcision of the heart. Abram means exalted father but Abraham means father of a multitude. The name change indicates a confirmation of God’s promise and with it, a new character, a deeper relationship with God. God himself will work to bring the promise about. Abram’s old nature will no longer be operative. It is cut away in circumcision just as our old nature is washed away in baptism and is no longer operative. In the new man by the power of the Holy Spirit we can walk before God and be blameless.
Lord God Almighty, fill my heart and mind with your thoughts today that I could walk before you and be blameless not allowing anything to hinder your fullness in my life to the glory of your name, amen.