Advent Day Three: The Test

The angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”  And he said, “Here I am.”  He Said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22:11-12)

Sometimes life goes sideways: family problems, financial challenges, career setbacks, natural disasters, or health scares can derail five-year plans in an instant.  This is particularly upsetting when you are trusting the LORD to lead.  We’re tempted to say, “God what did I do wrong?”, even though we know that he takes no pleasure in our pain. 

Abraham must have felt this way when the angel of the Lord told him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering.  Child sacrifice was a common practice in pagan worship; but the living God was supposed to be different.  When Isaac asked, “Where’s the sacrifice?” his father responded, “The Lord will provide.”  This was not only a test of Abraham’s faith, but also of God’s love. 

Taking risks when there is no safety net may seem foolish, but in our vulnerability, we are open to God’s intervention.  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You alone have the words of eternal life.” Abraham’s willingness to lay it all on the altar made him a friend of God, who was prepared to give his only son as a sacrifice for the whole world.  When we see the babe in the manager, it’s easy to forget that it was the moment of no return.  Just as Abraham began the ascent of Mount Moriah with Isaac, Jesus begins the ascent to Mount Calvary with the annunciation of his birth to Mary.  “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)

 “When life brings us to the edge, Lord, you are there. None of the sacrifices we make can compare with the offering you made of your only son on our behalf.  The God of the universe became one with us in the incarnation.  Thank you for being our substitute.”  Amen

Mindi Oaten’s painting “The Anointed Deliverer”is from God’s Garden of Grace collection.  Hyssop was used to apply the blood to the doorpost at Passover.  Oil represents the Holy Spirit.

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Paul was a preacher and teacher until he retired in 2015. He continues to write and listen to what God is saying to him in the ordinary and extraordinary things of life. Elaine was a public school teacher and administrator until she retired in 2018. She is using her retirement to reflect on God's work in her life and to share insights with her family and friends.

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