“But I don’t understand!” How many times have I said these very words concerning something I was going through in my life? If I had a nickel for every time I said this or heard this, especially from my children, I’d be very wealthy.
The truth Is I really don’t understand many things. As I look around my society, the people and the place I love so very much, I don’t understand why people make the choices they make. I don’t understand why folks can’t see the seeds of self-destruction they plant themselves in their own lives and in the lives of their family and friends with their choices, priorities, and behavior. I don’t understand why I do the same thing in my own life!
And I really don’t understand why God does what He does; why He allows what He allows, and why He doesn’t do what I think is obvious He should do. I don’t understand.
But that’s OK.
WHAT?!? Yes, the fact that I don’t understand is OK because I am still on a spiritual journey. I am still in the middle of the spiritual labor toward faith, peace, and spiritual maturity. I am still in the spiritual development necessary to come to understand someday. That’s why this journey is called “faith.”
But it isn’t a blind faith. We are blessed in our lives with a reality that changes everything. We are blessed, we are enriched, we have access to not only the example of the lives lived before us, but also the very Incarnated God Himself come among us to show us the way. I don’t understand, but I am completely confident that one day I will! I believe!
And this belief motivates me to stay faithful, to continue to grow, and to continue to labor for my spiritual maturity.
It’s only when I lose sight of that confidence that I struggle with strength, motivation, and purpose in my spiritual life. I get the tunnel vision of doubt and I get captured by that lack of vision when I forget important lessons.
In our Scripture Lesson today we are confronted with a horrible story; absolutely horrible. And, worse yet, the story is horrible precisely because God Himself makes a horrible request of His friend Abraham! God commands Abraham to make a human sacrifice of his son, Isaac. This is the very miracle son God granted Abraham and his, up to then, barren wife, Sarah. Yep, THAT son was to be made a human sacrifice to God. This is totally out of character for God. It was the pagan gods around the area who asked for human sacrifices, but Abraham thought the God Who spoke to him was different. And now God is asking for a human sacrifice.
Look at Genesis 22:1-18. This terrifying scene is set, and what’s most amazing is that Abraham is determined to obey! But there is something even more amazing than God’s request. It’s Abraham’s response to Isaac’s innocent question as they walk up the hill to the place where Abraham will put a knife to his son’s throat. Isaac looks up at his dad and says “My father! ‘And he said, ‘Here am I, my son.’ He said, ‘Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7) Obviously, he had gone with his father many times before as Abraham worshipped God with a sacrifice, so Isaac’s question was both natural and powerful in it’s innocence.
But Abraham’s answer absolutely reverberates through history and strikes us today with as much force now as it did in the Ears of God on that fateful day “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22:8)
Abraham didn’t understand God’s request. But Abraham absolutely believed God would never break His word to Abraham to raise up a mighty nation from Abraham and Sarah. So, regardless of the fog of confusion in the moment, Abraham absolutely believed God would fulfill His promise to Abraham. God would provide the Lamb for the sacrifice. And, as we approach Holy Week and Pascha, we once again participate in God’s loving supply of His Lamb for us!
Today, when you grasp the truth that it isn’t necessary for you to understand everything at all times; when you embrace the reality that you aren’t spiritually “grown up” enough to understand everything; when you humbly embrace your own need for spiritual growth and yet trust God anyway, you will see your faith strengthened, your heart at peace in every circumstance, and your love for God grow, as He provides over and over again even when you don’t understand!
God indeed provided a lamb for Abraham’s sacrifice and God showed Abraham and, throughout history us as well, the powerful fruit of valuing faith over understanding, and trust over some false sense of our own self sufficiency. And God has provided a Lamb for us as well and He looks down from His cross that becomes a throne of victory and says to you today “God has provided you with a Lamb. And this Lamb is worthy of your faith and trust!” Even when you don’t understand.