“To your offspring I will give this land.”
How should I respond when God tells me to do something? How can I be sure His promises are true? Will I look like a fool if I walk in faith and have nothing to show for it?
I have thought about these questions many times in my life, especially when God has told me to do something rather out of the box. In the Bible, out of the box commands are quite commonplace with God. Take, for example, God’s command to Noah that he build an ark. Incidentally, it took Noah around 100 years to build it, meaning he probably underwent one hundred years of ridicule from his friends and neighbors. Noah, why are you building an ark for a flood when there is no sign of rain?!
As I struggle through such faith-related issues, I find strength from Abraham’s walk with God. Before Abraham, there were great men like Adam and Noah. Yet, we find that it is starting with Abraham that God becomes more intimately known to a great multitude of people. Imagine how close Abraham must have been to his Maker for God to become known as the ‘God of Abraham.’
Genesis12:1-3 records God giving an important command to Abraham: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
I wonder if it was easy for Abraham to pack his bags, leave his community, and begin walking towards a land about which he knew nothing. How easy would it be for you to leave your air-conditioned home, television programs, Internet access, favorite movies, and sports, and walk into the wilderness?
Abraham trusted God and obeyed His command. I consider this no small act of faith. Abraham was from the city of Ur in Babylonia. He was a city boy. Yet, he was willing to leave his place of comfort and assume a nomadic lifestyle. For the first several years of his journey, all Abraham had was a promise and nothing to show for it.
While we revere Abraham today as a man who received a great blessing from God, the truth is, he and his wife had to go through fire – a difficult test of faith – before they received what was promised. In Genesis 12:7, God said to Abraham, “To your offspring I will give this land.” The only problem with this promise was that, up to this point, Abraham and Sarah had been unable to produce any offspring.
Abraham was only human and so he tried to make the promise come true through his own hands. He decided to birth a son (Ishmael) through his maidservant Hagar. It was a mistake that would have profound implications.
Abraham experienced a great deal in his lifetime. As a source of tragedy, he saw the death and destruction of the city of Sodom. As a source of joy, he finally experienced the birth of his son Isaac through his wife Sarah.
But then came Abraham’s toughest test of all. God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac. I am not even sure how Abraham gathered the courage to obey God in this regard. It was a test to his very limits.
The story has a satisfying ending. Just as Abraham was about to obey the command, God stopped him and provided another sacrifice. I love this conclusion as it daily reminds me that I serve a God who is merciful and kind.
Mount Moriah is where the near sacrifice of Isaac took place (Genesis 22:1-3). This is also where Solomon built the Temple of God (2 Chronicles 3:1-2) and where Jesus was crucified. The place was then called ‘Golgotha’. Today, it is popularly called the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Dome of The Rock, a famous Muslim site, currently sits on top of it.
I find it rather interesting that Abraham was neither a Jew nor an Arab, yet Jews look at Isaac and Arabs look at Ishmael as the beginning of their ancestries. The words of Genesis 12:7 have come true: “God said to Abraham, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’”
I am not sure if I will ever have as much faith as Abraham did. Yet I do know that when God tells me to do something, I must do it. His promises are true, and God continues to be merciful and kind to all of us. May we experience Him in the most wonderful ways that Abraham did.