This lesson is the most recent. I’m writing about it first because it’s fresh on my heart. This came, again, from our series on Genesis at our church’s college group. Last week we were talking about Abraham and Isaac and we got into a big discussion about why God would test Abraham. If God already knew Abraham’s heart (which He did) and knew what he would choose (which He did)…then why test him?
There’s a lot of verses about testing & trials in the Bible that would lead us to believe that God was testing Abraham for Abraham’s sake. But Genesis 22:12 says this,
“He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy 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.'”
What Jared pointed out to us is that this test was for God’s sake. It was because God wanted to experience Abraham’s love/fear/reverence/adoration. If you’ve ever been loved by someone, you know that the knowledge that they love you is much different than the experience of their love-fueled sacrifice, especially when it’s costly.
Let me give you an example.
Many of you know that one of my very best friends in the world is Esther. Now I’ve known Esther for a long time, we’ve traveled abroad together, we were roommates, I was in her wedding….but there was one day that changed our friendship for good (I’ve told Esther how much it meant to me, but I still don’t think she believes me).
I was moving out of my old apartment in Valencia and into the dorms at TMC. I had to get the entire apartment ready for check out all by myself because all my roommates had already moved out and left town. So this one afternoon a bunch of people came over and we all went hard to work getting the place cleared out. I had hired some maids to come in and do a thorough cleaning afterwards so we could get our full security deposit back….but the maids never showed up. So here I was, in the middle of summer in Santa Clarita, trying to clean the entire apartment start to finish by myself. I worked for 6 hours and got 1 bedroom done. I was exhausted and it dawned on me that I wasn’t going to have enough time to finish by the time we were supposed to check out. Hundreds of dollars were on the line. So I went back to TMC to grab some more stuff, and somehow Esther came over, or she called…I can’t even remember how she found out…but somehow she knew I had been cleaning all day, and she invited me over for dinner. It was the best meal I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. I can still remember it. Homemade challah bread and eggs with herbs in these personal casserole dishes. After she served me dinner, she insisted that her & Rick come over to the apartment to help me clean, and forced me to get the guy I liked at the time to come over too. So the four of us scoured that little apartment, ran around Target, and wore ourselves out cleaning. We laughed and played the entire time and what had been an overwhelming burden to me became a rich night of friendship that is still one of my fondest memories. I’ll never forget how loved I felt. It was truly amazing to me that they would help me and serve me when they had nothing to gain from it. Even though I knew Esther loved me, it was such an amazing thing to get to experience it in real, tangible ways.
And that’s what God was wanting from Abraham. He had blessed Abraham, He had made promises to Abraham, and every time Abraham obeyed God & followed His call. This was the one time that God didn’t make any promise to him. There was no benefit for Abraham in doing what God asked him to do, in fact he was actually putting to death his very hope for those promises being fulfilled, his hope for salvation. In that moment Abraham was saying, “You are more important to me than anything you could give me. I want You more.”
This broke me for two reasons:
- I started to see God as He truly is – a personal, intimate, relational God who is in the business of redeeming us, forgiving us, and saving us so that He can give Himself to us. It’s not about the redemption, or forgiveness, or salvation — those are just means to the end. It’s about getting Him back after we lost Him because of sin. He wants YOU. He wants ME. He doesn’t want what we bring to the table or what we can give to Him. He wants our hearts, our love, our affection, our devotion. I had forgotten about that much like we forget about the feelings of someone who seems to be so strong.
- In the same instant that I realized God wanted my heart, I knew that it was the one thing I’ve withheld from Him. See, when I get upset with God I don’t have the chutzpah to go off and be outwardly rebellious (much like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son) so I just get busy. I make myself busy serving Him, serving His people. serving His church, so busy I don’t have to actually deal with Him. I envision it much like a husband and wife when the wife is upset and she is scrubbing the dishes furiously so she doesn’t have to turn to face her husband. That’s the kind of stiff arm I’ve been giving God all year long. I failed the test. God wanted to see if I loved Him more than what He could give me….and I proved to Him that I didn’t. The one thing He wanted, I didn’t give Him.
So I came home Sunday night a broken woman. I picked up my Bible and journal and just spent some time repenting. I had to repent of wasting my suffering, of wanting the gifts more than the Giver, of avoiding God, of withholding myself from Him, of bitterness and joylessness, and of simply not loving the One that my life is all about. Somehow God used that brokenness to change me. Unfortunately, I can’t go back and redo this trial. There’s no makeup test. All I can do is respond rightly to whatever is left of it. So I vowed not to waste this trial, to use this trial to run to God instead of away from Him. I vowed to make sure things are right between God & I before anything else, to love Him more than anything else.
And you know what? I do. I really do love Him more than anything else right now.
I love it when God swoops in and changes your heart and brings you to the spot where you go beyond wanting to love Him to actually loving Him more than anything else, actually wanting Him more than anything else, actually feeling this very real relationship between the two of you.
That’s where I’m at now. I took the long road to get here, but I’m glad I finally made it.
Keep your eyes pealed for the next lesson: Suffering poorly makes you miserable.