This is a guest post by Kieran Banks, originally posted in 2011.
Read Genesis22, particularly v15-18:
And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
A film we used to love watching when my daughters were younger was A Knight’s Tale. It’s all about the commoner, William Thatcher, (Heath Ledger) who wants to ‘change his stars’ and alter his fortune, which he does, but not without opposition. In the form of Count Adhemar,’ (Rufus Sewell), Thatcher is repeatedly teased with the words, ‘You will be tried, you will be tested, and you will be found wanting!’
In Ch. 22 of Genesis Abraham is most certainly tried and tested. Think of the years spent waiting for the Lord to come through on his promise to provide him with a son. Given his age when the promise was first made (Gen 12) it will have seemed almost a tease by the Lord; now Abraham is confronted with the apparent reversal of that promise – he is to take his son and sacrifice him! How on earth must Abraham have felt? As he walked the 45 miles to Mount Moriah (3 days) he will have deliberated in agony; when asked, “Where is the Lamb for a burnt offering?” a sharp spear, surely, was being driven into his own side. What is he to do? The challenge that confronted him is the challenge believers are confronted with every day: the challenge to trust God, completely! To live not according to how things appear, but what God has promised. This was Abraham’s option, as can be seen in the incidental detail telling the enquiring servants at the bottom of the mountain: “I and the lad will go…we will worship…and we will come back,” and the more direct assertion that God would provide. What we see here is not blind optimism attempting to reconstruct reality but a robust faith in the God who can raise the dead if he has to (Heb 11v19).
And look at what such faith gave rise to: not the bare survival of one son, but the appearance of the true Son, Jesus Christ (Gal 3v16), who one day, through costly conflict, would conquer and ‘take possession of the gates of his enemies’ (Gen 22v17) by the cross. It gave rise not just to the survival of a family but descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky and the sand on any beach; a truly international family as through the gospel the gentiles are adopted into it. The truth is if Abraham could have seen the fruit of his obedient faith, in the way we can, he would have been staggered! But that’s the point passages in Hebrews and James make which comment on Abraham's faith – we can see the outcome of his faith, and should therefore be encouraged to trust this same God completely. He is the true hero of the story. Abraham (v14) names the place of sacrifice not, ‘Abraham believed’ but ‘The Lord will Provide,’ or Jehovah-Jireh. ‘Jireh’ means ‘see’ as in seeing the need and providing for it. God provides for the need of all his own that trust him completely, with their salvation, their future’s, and with their very selves. This Christmas, whatever our situation, however we feel in respect of situations that confuse and confound us, let us to look to Abraham’s God knowing that, as he saw Abraham’s need, he see’s our need and along with Christ, will give us everything needful for our good and his glory.
In A Knight’s Tale, Thatcher was tried and tested, but not found wanting. Neither was Abraham, and neither was Jesus – and neither will we if we entrust ourselves completely to the God who always see’s us, and has and will provide for us.
Sola Deo Gloria