sacrifice-of-isaac-1659_juan-de-valdes-leal

“Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah.  There you shall offer him up as a sacrifice.”

How often it is that in a crisis situation we see God as we have never seen him before.  Such was the case for Abraham.  In the very last moment, just before his blade was to forever separate him from his beloved son Isaac, God stepped in and provided; and Abraham saw God anew.

God had instructed Abraham very clearly to take Isaac to be sacrificed on Mt. Moriah.  God spoke, “Abraham, take your son to be sacrificed.”  Abraham struggled.  He could not think of giving Isaac up.  “But God, I have two sons, Isaac and Ishmael.”  God responded.  “Yes, but I only promised the one.”  Abraham countered, seeking a reprieve for Isaac, “But you love them both, don’t you?”  God went straight to the heart.  “Yes, but take the one you love.”  Abraham tried a final clever maneuver.  “God, you know I am a father to both Ishmael and Isaac, surely I love them equally.”  God had had enough.  “Abraham!  Take Isaac.”

Torn of heart, Abraham climbed the mountain.  As he ascended out of the valley, Abraham began to gain new perspective.  He looked out over all the blessings he had received from the Lord.  The large herds of cattle, sheep, and camels.  Land that stretched forth from horizon to horizon.  He remembered all the promises God had given him.  Through difficult times in the past he had come to know that God would not fail him.  As he reached the very height of the mountain, his faith too rose to unprecedented elevations.  He became convinced within his heart that should he indeed slay his son, God would raise him back to life from the dead!  Heb. 11: 17-19.

In that final moment, before the blade would do its terrible deed, God once again spoke.  “Abraham.  My son.  How you do love me.  Spare now the son you love.”  Then in the thicket Abraham found the ram God had provided as a substitute for Isaac.  Filled with gratitude, Abraham called God by a new name.  “Jehovah Jirah.”  “The Lord Sees and Provides.”  The Lord sees not from a distance but from the depth of his heart.  Not only does he see our need but he provides for that want.  On that day a proverb was born which would be repeated by every Israelite facing hard times, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”  It was said with a touch of humor for the proverb’s implicit meaning was “God will take care of it, just in a nick of time.”

Life sometimes presents us with challenges that seem to (and sometimes do) threaten what we love most.  Trials that seek to sever us from the gifts we believe God has personally promised us.  We struggle and maneuver, trying to resist the work of faith God is seeking to bring about within us. (Though not all trials should be seen as a test of faith. The course of life in this fallen world is oft occasioned with bitter tears. Some trials have no meaning of themselves, only that meaning which we can bring to them. That itself is faith.)  When we finally submit to the strange ways of the Lord and look beyond our fears, we begin to see that God is with us.  We remember even in the midst of our darkness that God is good even though times are bad.  Step by step, we come out of the valley of despair.  We find faith.  We find ultimate faith not when the situation has improved but when it is at its worst.  It is then, just when we think all is lost, God provides. Indeed, sometimes the situation itself does not improve, but through the eyes of faith, we begin to see things through a new lens. We take hold of a new reality that God had waiting for us all along. Then once again we worship and celebrate.  We have a new understanding and revelation of God.  We call him by a new name.  Just in a nick of time.

Second Sunday of Lent Gen 22: 1-18, Rom 8:31-34, Mk 9: 2-10

Peace Connections: Making the connection between the Sunday Readings and issues of peace and justice. Copyright 1995, by Thomas L. Garlitz. “Not for profit” permission to reprint granted.

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