I have read the story of Isaac and Abraham time and again. Just as in Sabbath School, when I was a little girl, my focus has always been on Abraham and his faithfulness to God. Yet looking at this story with a new lens, there are questions.
What does this story tell us about God? What can we learn about His character? How could a loving God even begin to ask someone to murder his own son? This story has always been touted as a test of faith, yet, I cannot help but believe God already knew the result or He Himself would not risk the demise of this promised heir. So why would He ask Abraham to do this.
Now these are all guesses, the Bible does not answer these questions, but I can’t help but wonder if God did this for Abraham’s own growth and reflection. Honestly, if we look at Abraham’s life, he has a track record of weak faith and taking matters into his own hands. It seems that in the years after Isaac’s birth, things were changing in Abraham’s heart. I can’t help but wonder if it was Abraham that needed confirmation of his faith. I can’t help but wonder if Abraham somehow needed to go through the process of evaluating what was truly important to him, if he needed to wrestle with His own priorities and insecurities and, literally in this case, lay it all on the alter.
Through this story I see Abraham as a butterfly. He had been merely a caterpillar, longing to be fed, but through this great struggle from chrysalis to butterfly, he received his wings. Oh how hard it must have been for God to watch, yet he knew the strength that would come from the struggle. It must have been hard not to end the struggle, yet He knew how important it really was.
Are you in a struggle today? Is it hard to understand where God is in your story? Know that He is right there, loving you, eager to see you emerge from your struggle and mount up on wings. All the while, He is only one heart cry away.
My heart goes out to Hagar. She had been in this position before. This time Sarah had borne a son and the jealousy among the two regarding which son would be Abraham’s heir was great. This time Abraham sent away not only Hagar, but Ishmael, his first born son.
Hagar was alone in the wilderness again. This time the child she carried in this predicament before was with her in the flesh. He was hungry and scared and crying. From one mother’s heart to another, I can only imagine the thoughts that must have been running through her mind at this time. As someone who has been in a deep valley and by God’s grace, conquered only to fall in the same pit again, I can only imagine the questioning and confusion that must have been pulsing in her mind.
And Hagar did the one thing she knew to do, the one thing that brought her salvation before. She raised her eyes to God. She lifted her voice in pleas for mercy. God heard the cries of Ishmael. He heard the voice of Hagar. He was there with them and He never left their side. No matter how dark or lonely the road ahead, He was with them, and He would not forget them.
God never leave us. He never forgets us. No matter how invisible you feel, no matter how many times you have fallen in the same pit, no matter how neglected you feel, no matter how powerless, hopeless, discouraged or overcome with grief and confusion you are, God is there. He has never left your side. Lift your head to Him, and like Hagar, He will give you the strength to rise up and go on.
From time-to-time I will take a short break from regular posting here on At Jesus’ Feet. These devotionals are genuine and from my own time with the Lord. Sometimes, I struggle in life and simply fall at the feet of Jesus each day, seeking to press into Him. Other days I wrestle through Bible passages, spending days wrestling with God, longing to understand Him. And other times, I am learning deep lessons and resting in His word as He teaches me, but the content is not relevant to our studies here.
Keeping all these things in mind, I sometimes get behind. I’m behind right now. I plan to take two weeks off from posting new content so I can get caught up and get back to sharing Bible studies with you from Genesis.
In the meantime, if you are new to At Jesus’ Feet, welcome, and feel free to check out some past studies (see below).
I look forward to being back soon, and would love to hear from you guys and what you are learning! What are you studying? What is God teaching you? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Morning Encouragement Series – Daily encouragement from God’s Word
Be Strong in the Lord – Learning to rest in the strength of the One who holds the world
Hebrews – Getting to know Jesus more
Ephesians – Walking with Jesus
1 Corinthians – All God’s children (this study only covers the last part of the book)
2 Corinthians – Comfort in Christ
God promised vast descendants to Abraham. He promised a child through Sarah. Years had passed. Abraham and Sarah were getting older, but still no heir came through them. Taking matters into their own hands, believing the promise needed their help to come to fruition, Abraham had a son through Hagar. This created a terrible mess, yet God’s promise remained. Sarah would bare a child. It had been so long since the promise was made, the fulfillment seemed impossible, yet God never forgets His promises.
After years of waiting, despite the lack of faith and failures of these two humans, through them, God fulfilled His promise. He fulfilled it in such a way that no one could deny the working of His hand, and clearly, as we will see, it made something inside Abraham switch, and his faith grew.
I don’t know what promises you are clinging to in your heart right now, but don’t give up hope. God always fulfills His promises.
“For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
To say that my study through Genesis has been easy would be so far from the truth. The reality is that when I look at these passages, striving to set my gaze on who He is, I often feel discouraged and confused. Sometimes I spend several days with a small passage, wrestling, praying, and seeking to understand. I feel as though I can relate to a wrestling Jacob, “I will not let go until you bless me.” But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Today is one of those passages I’ve had to wrestle with. There are so many cultural nuances I don’t understand. I struggle with understanding why Abimelech is the one “getting in trouble” here and not Abraham. I struggle with understanding how Abraham could fall into the same exact sin and failure to trust that he did before. I struggle with understanding how Abraham is blessed despite His sins, how He is blessed even through them.
But then, despite all my questionings, there is a glimmer of light. God is faithful. God is long suffering. Abraham trusted God in some really big ways, but he was a sinful man who also had times of great weakness. I still do not understand God’s response to Abimelech, but the Bible doesn’t really tell his story.
What I can know from this story is that God has enough patience and forgiveness for even the weakest sinner. No matter how weak you feel your faith, no matter what you have done, or how you have failed, you can turn to God and know He will carry you under His wings
Destruction is something that is difficult to understand. Wrath and punishment from a loving God is another. As a parent I understand that discipline is necessary, and at its core, a true display of love; but ultimate destruction?
Why did God destroy Sodom? Was it really so bad that all hearts were hardened? Was it truly impossible to save any? So many questions. Such deep heartache.
Yet there is hope. From Abraham, I see that I need not be afraid to ask these questions. Abraham pleaded with the LORD to save the city, to save his nephew and family. Abraham too, struggled to understand. But God was patient, and He will be patient with me too.
His ways are far greater than ours, His knowledge and understanding more vast. Yet, as a Father, he is patient with our ignorant questioning. He treats us with tenderness, and takes our requests into consideration. And ultimately, He asks us to trust Him even when we don’t understand. Trust. I’m seeing a theme here.
Summerizing the Bible in one word is really an impossible task, but at this moment, if I had to do it, I would say, “redemption.”
God’s redemption is seen again and again as he works in lives of individual men and women, entire groups of people, and ultimately mankind as He gave His life on the cross.
God cares about the individual. He cares about His promises. We see that here in the lives of Sarah and Abraham. As we have seen before in previous stories, Sarah messed up in some pretty big ways. And from what I can tell, she still believed the promise to Abraham for an heir, for vast descendants, did not apply to her. She still doubted God’s promises. Maybe even more now that she was in her nineties! But God had not forgotten His promise. He did not give up because of lack of faith nor because of mistakes made along the way.
God reached down to Abraham and Sarah. The time had come. His promises were to be fulfilled. He would not neglect Ishmael, the child who came from so much mistrust and misunderstanding, but the promised child, Issac, was soon to arrive.
Abraham’s faith and Sarah’s faith were still so weak, but God’s power and love was strong.
No matter how impossible God’s promises seem, no matter how weak our faith, no matter our colored past, God longs to reach down to us. He will fulfill His promises. He longs to give us redemption. His love is never ending.