“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.
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.
Look at our lesson today in Genesis 22:1-18:
After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; and he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the ass; I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “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?” Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place The LORD will provide; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”
There’s no making this scene any more horrific or even understandable. God asks Abraham to do a human sacrifice!
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.”
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 trusted God would provide. God would provide the Lamb for the sacrifice. And, as we continue our Lenten journey, we once again participate in God’s loving supply of His Lamb for us! While Abraham was willing to offer his son, his only son; our God did just that for us. There was no ram caught in the thicket for our Lord Jesus!
Today, when you grasp the truth that it isn’t necessary for you to understand everything at all times; 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! 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!” This is the hard part of being Orthodox on Purpose.