“And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” – Philippians 2:8.
Abraham was told to leave his country and go to a strange land believing God’s promise that, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2) Abraham obeyed and journeyed to Canaan. Difficult times were ahead for them. They faced famine; strife between Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s livestock; and war which resulted in Lot’s capture. Abraham and Sarah were childless. At their age it must have seemed unlikely that they would be parents as God had promised. But, God kept His promise and Isaac was born. Isaac became the ultimate test of Abraham’s faith making the earlier challenges pale in comparison.
Abraham was asked to “take now your son, your only son to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2) One cannot imagine what it must have taken for Abraham to be able to obey such a command. For years he and Sarah had been childless and now the son God had promised them was going to be taken away and offered up as a sacrifice. What about God’s promise of an everlasting covenant with Isaac and his descendants? What must have been going through Abraham’s mind as he bound his son and laid him on the altar? What must Isaac have been thinking? As Abraham raised the knife to kill his son, was it his love for God that gave him the strength to go through with such an act? God explains why He stopped him, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, 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 22:12)
Without question, Abraham obeyed God. He did not demand to know why God was asking him to sacrifice the child he and his wife had waited so long to have. He didn’t ask God why he was taking away the child he had promised him, “in Isaac your seed shall be called.” He did not wonder why God who was faithful and never broke a promise was now asking him to do the unthinkable. Abraham had no way of knowing that God would stop him. He had no way of knowing that God would replace Isaac with a ram for the sacrifice. Abraham’s faith in God was so strong, so powerful that he was able to obey the most difficult command a man would ever receive from his God. As a result, God, in His loving kindness, spared Isaac and blessed Abraham.
Obedience is not too difficult to achieve. Abraham is proof of this and so is Jesus. Jesus faced many difficulties during his ministry. He was criticised, rejected, mocked, flogged, deserted, denied and crucified because He was speaking on God’s behalf as He was commanded. When Jesus was on the Mount of Olives, He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” An angel from Heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. (Luke 22:41-44) Jesus had a crisis of faith but, He was strengthened and He remained obedient.
We too have crises of faith sometimes when faced with difficult times or temptations, but, if we pray to God, as Jesus did in His hour of need, God will strengthen us so that we don’t fall into temptation and remain obedient to Him. Obeying Him will not always be easy but if we remember that it is the only way we will be able to experience God’s best and become closer to Him, we will be greatly motivated.