Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I think I was about ten years-old when I heard a preacher quote Jesus' words in John 16:23, “…my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name…” I remember it clearly because I had a toothache on this particular Sunday morning, and to my third-grade ears, it sounded as if the pastor was saying if I believed hard enough, God would heal me. This was good news. I hated the dentist, and the thought of my first cavity terrified me. All the more reason to drum-up a little extra faith! That night, I prayed extra hard at bedtime and fully expected to wake up the next morning with a brand new mouth. No-go. After a fitful night of sleep, my tooth ached worse the next morning, but I wouldn't let my mom call the dentist. With tear-filled eyes, I said, “I'm believing as hard as I can that God will heal my tooth!” Ugh. As a mom, thirty-plus years later, I feel sorry for my mother in that situation. How do you look into pain-filled, faith-filled baby-blue eyes and explain the deep theological issues of faith and healing and God's sovereignty? She did what any responsible parent would do…she let me stay home from school with a toothache and come to my senses! By the end of that painful day, I didn't care if the dentist stuck a syringe or a drill or a jack-hammer in my mouth. I just wanted my tooth fixed! But I remembered the preacher's other advice, “Maintain your positive confession of faith.” Hoping this was the magic ingredient I'd been missing, I proclaimed loudly all the way to the dentist, “I don't have a cavity! I don't have a cavity!” In fact, as the dentist approached with the drill in his hand, I screamed, “I don't have a cavity!” Guess what? I had a cavity the size of Texas (Okay, I didn't look quite as bad as the guy in the picture)! Faith is NOT denial. But sometimes they look the same.

Gen. 22:1-2 – “Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, 'Abraham!' 'Here I am,' he replied. Then God said, 'Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.'” (emphasis added)
  • Isaac was not Abraham's only son. Ishmael was Abraham's firstborn son through Sarah's maidservant, Hagar. Was God in denial? Nooooo. But remember how much Abraham cared for Ishmael, asking that his firstborn be the Covenant recipient even after God promised a son to Sarah in her old age (Gen. 17:18)? Remember that Abraham was forced to reject Ishmael because of Isaac. In essence, God asks Abraham – by faith – to deny his first son exists and love his “only” son, Isaac. I believe Mt. Moriah was indeed the pinnacle of Abraham's sacrifice, but his sacrifice started with Ishmael and continued as he grew to love Isaac, the son God chose for him.
Gen. 22:3-5 – “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, 'Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.'” (emphasis added)
  • Notice Abraham didn't call a camp meeting to announce his decision, nor did he ask the boy's mother for her opinion or blessing. He was quietly obedient to his conviction. And when they arrived at the foot of the mountain, he gave little explanation to his servants. He declared that BOTH he and the boy would return from their worship on the mountain, which tells us that Abraham had full confidence that somehow God would restore the boy's life before he had to answer to Sarah!
Gen. 22:6-7 – “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, 'Father?' 'Yes, my son?' Abraham replied. 'The fire and wood are here,' Isaac said, 'but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?'”
  • First, I think it's hilarious that Abraham made Isaac carry the wood, while he carried the fire. Did he hope God would spontaneously combust the boy, so he wouldn't have parent guilt? Don't we all hope God will let us take the easy way out of our spiritual lessons? But Abraham had obviously taught Isaac a deep understanding of the materials and meanings of God's system of sacrifice. Bravo, Father Abraham!
Gen. 22:8 – “Abraham answered, 'God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.' And the two of them went on together.”
  • Was Abraham's answer to Isaac faith or denial? To a believer, his words are faith. To an unbeliever, they're denial…until they become reality (Gen. 22:13). With his son's wide, questioning eyes turned upon him, Abraham pulled off the miraculous…HE MADE A STATEMENT OF FAITH THAT ALLOWED ROOM FOR GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY. No matter what little lamb God provided, Isaac would know his father didn't lie to him, God didn't fail, and faith would sustain them both.
Lord, teach me the art of faith statements – answers to questions that give You honor without tying Your hands to my design. Teach me the art of faith living – making daily choices, attitudes, conversations that open opportunities for You to work in faith; not living in denial of reality.

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