And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. (Genesis 22:1-3)
A lot has been said about this story. It brings up some ethical questions. No matter how we approach this story, it is still a very difficult and disturbing story. It goes against everything we know and understand about God. I guess all these questions are important for us to ponder about. The challenge of this story is whether we should put a limit in trusting God. This is really the thrust of this story. Abraham had all the right reasons to say enough is enough. After all, it was not his idea that he should be the father of all nations. It was not his idea to have Isaac. He was happy with Ishmael but God wanted his heir to be born of Sarah. It was all God’s idea and now, God demanded the ultimate sacrifice. Most of us in Abraham’s situation would not have done it. However, most of us are not in Abraham’s situation. Abraham gave up everything to follow God’s promise. Abraham was the kind of disciple that Jesus demands, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple”. (Luke14:26)
I am not sure how many Christians can compare themselves with Abraham. However, most of us have been in situations where we needed to trust God even though it seems frightening and the possibility of losing everything that we treasure is at stake. God asked Abraham to sacrifice everything that gave him a sense of meaning in this life. How was Abraham able to do it? Most of us cannot say honestly that we would be able to do what Abraham did. Most of us would have just given up and gone home. Abraham did not falter. The Bible does not tell us about the anxiety and anguish that Abraham felt as he journeyed to the place of sacrifice. It was not necessary. None of us ever want to be in his shoes because we exactly know what it would be like.
Abraham’s sacrifice has been the focus of my meditation recently because we are waiting for God to act for our return to Brazil. One of the challenges of being a missionary is dealing with bureaucracy. We have to apply for our missionary visa and we need two official documents of sponsorship from a Brazilian religious entity. Usually this is a straightforward process but nothing really is straightforward when you are dealing with bureaucracy. Everything is being delayed for one or reason other and now we are just waiting. We have been waiting to return to Brazil since the end of May. In the process of waiting, it feels like nothing is happening. The idle mind is a fertile ground for doubts. We are assailed by thoughts of insecurities and like most of people, we want to be in control. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that there is no way we can ever control this situation. God is the only who can act and we need to give it up to Him. Only God can make it go in the right direction and the problem is whether we can trust Him to do it.
The writer of Hebrews states, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac, your seed shall be called,”concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.”(Hebrews11:17-18)
Abraham was able to offer his dream child to God because he understood that only God can fulfill our dreams. Even when allowing God means handing everything over to Him, it does not mean that it is the end of a dream. Abraham knew that Isaac belonged to God and God is able to do the impossible. Abraham trusted God in a way that very few of us would be able to do. When I read his story, I felt a little embarrassed. I am waiting for something that could easily be resolved. God is not asking me to give a dream but to trust him for the visa. Abraham trusted God in something which seems to be contrary very decent fibre of one’s being. Yet Abraham did not do it out of blind faith. He did it because he understood that without God, life would be meaningless for him. Isaac would fail to bring him the joy that he desire if he was not able to see the God who made Isaac a reality.
The problem with trusting God is not knowing what do to exactly. I fluctuated between being a fatalistic Christian or a manipulative one who tries to organize the outcome of everything. Both attitudes are obviously wrong. I am beginning to see that trusting God involves figuring what is God’s role and my role. So many times we try to be God that we forget what to do when we are not trying to be God. Trusting and waiting is the process of discovering my role and allowing God to be God. It is actually a process of discovering freedom. Abraham discovered the joy and freedom of knowing that all hopes and dreams do not rest on Isaac but the creator of Isaac. We hope to do the same. Please pray with us as we discover this. Pray also that our visa process will come through in God’s timing and that we would have the patience and wisdom to allow it to be so.