What’s your Isaac? Is there something you’ve been holding too closely, something God is asking you to put on the altar? A grudge, a relationship, a career, a lifestyle, even a child that you haven’t fully given to God? What blessings are you missing, as a result?
And from our New Testament reading, check out “Exposed Hearts” where Jesus delivered two demon-possessed men from the power of Satan. But the people of the region were more concerned about their herd of pigs than what Jesus was doing.
Are there any “pigs” in your life that occupy more of your concern and attention than the work of God?
Also, read about going “From Tears to Trust” and “Lean Not on Your Own Understanding.”
Genesis 21 & 22:
His Trustworthiness When Life Doesn’t Make Sense
These two chapters can be challenging to fully understand. While the truths of God are, on the one hand, so simple a child can understand, parts are so profound that we can spend a lifetime trying to fully understand them (2 Pet. 3.15-16).
As mothers and fathers and sons and daughters it’s difficult to understand the sending away of one child (Gen. 21.8-14) and the offering up of another as a sacrifice (Gen. 22.1-14). But as our Proverbs reading reminds us:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path (3.5-6).
When we don’t fully understand all the “whys and wherefores” of Scripture, we can always rely on His trustworthiness (You can read more on this subject in “What Will Steady Us in Tough Times”).
Back to our story.
Abraham and Sarah finally have the son they were promised, but as with many older siblings, Abraham’s son by Hagar isn’t all too thrilled. Chapter 21:
8 So the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned.
9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing. 10 Therefore she said to Abraham, “Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac.” 11 And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham’s sight because of his son.
Ishmael was fourteen years older than Isaac and Isaac was probably about three years old when he was weaned (no sippy cups back then). Imagine this seventeen-year-old mocking a three-year-old (Prov. 20.11).
12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called.
But, God’s mercy was still at work. God had not forgotten His promise to Hagar to protect Ishmael and to make a great nation of him. But it’s often in the “sending out,” the consequences of our sin, that we are brought to the end of ourselves and begin to look to God. Abraham and Hagar had to trust God’s work in Ishmael’s life. Later we’ll see that God kept His promise to them.
This is true in the lives of our children, too. Yet, we are so prone to try to protect them from the natural consequences of their actions. When we do, we often get in God’s way and slow His work in them.
Take Now Your Son …
¹ Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!”
And he said, “Here I am.”
2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Gen. 22).
The temptation for me with this passage is to take a few lessons from it and not think about it too deeply. The idea of sacrificing your son is just so difficult to comprehend.
But there is so much here for us to learn. First of all, there is Abraham’s quick obedience (“So Abraham rose early in the morning …” Gen. 22.3) and his complete trust in God (“The lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” Gen. 22.5). Also, that God sent him to a place three days journey away so he’d have time to contemplate. This was to be no rash decision. Imagine Abraham’s heart as Isaac asked “Where is the sacrifice?” and his response “God will provide …” (Gen. 22.8).
Abraham was so convinced of the promise of God and the goodness of God that Hebrews 11 tells us:
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead … (Heb. 11.17-19).
Don’t miss the trust and obedience that Isaac displayed, as well. John MacArthur says that Isaac was probably over twenty years old by now. Here’s his elderly father telling him that he’s the sacrifice. He had to allow himself to be tied up and laid on the altar. Just as Jesus willingly laid down His life, Isaac as a type of Christ must have willingly submitted to his father.
And finally, as Abraham raised the knife, God said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad … for now I know …” (Gen. 22.12). Of course, God knew the end from the beginning, so this was really to reveal and strengthen Abraham’s heart.
We, often, think following God is about “giving up” things that are dear to us. But it’s more about realizing that what God offers us is so superior to anything that we might try to hold on to, that we willingly offer those things to Him.
What is your Isaac? Is there something you’ve been holding too closely, something God is asking you to put on the altar? A grudge, a relationship, a career, a lifestyle, even a child that you haven’t fully given to God? What blessings are you missing, as a result?
From Tears to Trust
This passage contains a progression that we often see in the Psalms. The psalmist pours out his heart. “I am weary …,” “I drench my couch with my tears,” “my eye wastes away because of grief …” But then refocuses on God and His truth. “For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping,” “the Lord has heard my supplication,” “the Lord will receive my prayer …”
This is one reason the Psalms are such great passages to pray back to God.
Lean Not on Your Own Understanding
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.
We are so prone to want to “understand” everything, and though we should study and seek godly wisdom and understanding, ultimately we must put our faith and trust in Him.
Verses 28-34 about Jesus’ interaction with the Gergesenes (Gadarenes, NASB) reveal a sad truth about many people.
Jesus had delivered two demon-possessed men from the control of Satan, yet when He allowed the demons to go into a herd of pigs, instead of rejoicing, the people were more concerned about “their swine” than a visitation from their Savior.
Even Satan and his minions are subject to God and He sometimes uses them for His just and holy purposes. In this case, He used these demons to expose the hearts of the people.
It brings to mind a passage from a couple of days ago:
19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6.19-21).
What do you and I treasure? Is it what God treasures or could something else be occupying that place in our hearts?
In the coming days, we’ll talk about the consequences of favoritism, how we often hide who we really are, the kind of reality and full disclosure that God offers us in the Bible, and ask the question “If we act badly because of hormonal issues, is it biology or sin?”
Take the Challenge!
who’ve taken the challenge to read through the Bible this year!
If you’re not sure why you should check out, “Why Read through the Bible in 2019?”
I hope you will prayerfully consider for my daily email. It can serve as a gentle reminder to stay on track. I try to make comments that are relevant to the daily struggles we all face.
If you sign up this month, you’ll receive a free copy of my eBook, “Prayer for Busy, Imperfect Pray-ers: 5 Strategies to Jumpstart Your Prayer Life.”
If you’re a current subscriber and you would like a copy, just leave me a comment letting me know, along with your email address and I’ll be glad to send you one.
This post may contain affiliate links. But I only recommend books and resources that I have personally read, that were written by authors and ministries I know and trust or have been recommended by people whose recommendations I trust. I never receive any compensation for my reviews or opinions. I recommend them because I believe reading biblically sound books is one key to Christian growth.
Read my full disclosure statement here.
This Month’s Featured Resources:
The MacArthur Daily Bible takes a portion of the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs for each day of the year, with daily comments that guide and inform you as you read through the Bible in a year. John MacArthur’s insight maximizes the benefit of each day’s reading. If a commitment to daily Bible reading never worked for you before, this is the answer. With John at your side, there’ll be no such thing as a tough portion of Scripture.
Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney
“This little book is explosive and powerful.”
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
When you pray, does it ever feel like you’re just saying the same old things about the same old things?
Offering us the encouragement and the practical advice we’re all looking for, Donald S. Whitney, best-selling author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, outlines an easy-to-grasp method that has the power to transform our prayer life: praying the words of Scripture. Simple, yet profound, Praying the Bible will prove invaluable as you seek to commune with your heavenly Father in prayer each and every day.