Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reflections from Mount Moriah....Genesis 22

As I began my study of Genesis 22 today,  I started out by looking up all the verses that my Bible cross-referenced with Gen. 22:1:  "God tested Abraham."  These verses over and over again state that testing is for the benefit of the one being tested.  I asked God to help me understand how Abraham benefited from this test, and the Holy Spirit brought illumination.  I was so overwhelmed by what happened on top of Mount Moriah, and I'd love to share my thoughts with you.  I pray that you are blessed by these reflections.

Abraham's Testing

Because of Abraham's obedience, He met God in a new and powerful way on the top of Mount Moriah.  He came to know God as Jehovah-Jireh, the-Lord-will-provide.  On the mountain, He learned that there were no limits to God's provision.  Creator God, Maker and Sustainer of all living things who meets our physical needs, providing daily bread and water in dry places, is also YHWH, the Covenant God, who provides for our deepest needs as well---forgiveness, atonement, reconciliation, covering.

What happened on that mountain is such a beautiful picture of the lengths God and His own beloved, one and only child of promise, His Son, Jesus, were willing to go to redeem us!  Did Abraham get that?  I believe that He did, maybe not as clearly as we can looking back on the cross, the sacrifice having already occurred, with the gospels and New Testament to help us in our understanding. But God revealed much to Abraham on that mountain and though he may have been seeing somewhat dimly, as through a fog or a haze, I believe that HE SAW CHRIST in that ram who took Isaac's place on that altar; and he understood God's heart of love perhaps like no other ever has as they shared a common heartbreak in their giving of their one and only, beloved, cherished, obedient sons.  Abraham was motivated to give up Isaac because of his love for and faith in God, and God was motivated to give up Jesus because of His love for us (Abraham and his descendants).  

What a beautiful picture!  I don't think there is anything more beautiful in all the world!

And a love that beautiful expands...that's the nature of that love, to overflow onto others and draw them in so they too can share in Love's Beauty.  It's why married couples yearn to have children:  love is too good to keep all to yourself.  By its very definition, love has to have a beloved, an object upon which to lavish the excesses of that love.  Love requires expression.  Love includes!  It multiplies! It expands! It regenerates! It explodes! It cannot be contained!  It's a revolution! True Love changes everything!

Abraham's act of obedience and love towards God SO MOVED THE ETERNAL ONE that He responds with an Ephesians 3:20 type promise, "...blessing I will bless you and multiplying I will multiply your descendants..."  In these words, I hear the echo of the New Testament:  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ!"  Who can even fathom "every spiritual blessing in Christ?"  The fullness of God's grace and blessing to us in Christ is definitely beyond all that we could ask, think, dream or imagine!  And I think Abraham got a sneak peek up on top of that mountain.

Oh, there are risks when we surrender to a life of faith!  We give up our rights.  We lay down our Isaacs.  We surrender control.  We forfeit comfort, laziness, excuses, blame, self-justification, and convenience.  We dethrone ourselves and give up being our own gods.  We turn our backs on the temporal and crucify our flesh.  We pay the price of obedience (and, undoubtedly, it will cost us something; frequently, it will seem to be costing us a whole heck of a lot!).

But what we get in return so far surpasses anything we might lose: 
  •  Knowing and experiencing God (He is found by those who seek Him!),
  •  Abundant life, 
  • Eternal rewards, 
  • God's favor,
  •  A "calling" (the fulfillment that comes when you discover the purpose and meaning for which you were created), 
  • Kingdom impact (fruit), 
  • Untold spiritual blessings (God is a rewarder of those who seek Him!), 
  • Rest for my soul (peace, security, satisfaction, agape love, "It is well" contentment that is independent of circumstance, assurance, abiding joy), 
  • Seeing God's glory, His Manifest Presence (Shekinah)....nothing this world has to offer is worth missing THIS!, 
  • A Godly heritage for my descendants
  • The thrilling adventure of letting God write my story
Abraham was no fool!  He is the father of the Jim Elliotts of this world, all those who follow in his footsteps and give up what they cannot keep to gain what they cannot lose.  And he is my father as well!

The faith and love Abraham demonstrated on Mount Moriah was received by God and poured back out in such amazing ways that I, born thousands and thousands of years later, have been caught in the net of that ever-increasing, ever-multiplying, ever-expanding, ever-widening explosion of perfect, complete love that defies explanation or understanding.  My attempts to put words to this truth are doomed to failure because it is so beyond human language.  It seems to me in this moment that our universe is expanding because God's love is actively and continually expanding as each new son or daughter comes to faith and reconnects with the God who has yearned for him or her since before time began!

All of us who have been touched by this Mount Moriah love must, in turn, lay our own Isaacs down.  Yes, just as surely as the test was for Abraham's own good, it is for our own good as well.  Because it is only when we stand before Him with empty hands that we are able to truly experience His grace.  He fills those who empty themselves in order that He might indwell them.  He will not leave you empty.  He will come, and He will fill, and you will understand the poverty of anything you held in your hands before this moment.  Our Isaacs will look different for each of us, but oh, that we would NOT CLING TO what God has asked us to surrender because there is GLORY on the other side of our sacrifice!

Why was I chosen?  Why were my eyes opened?  Why am I so privileged to be counted among the descendants of Abraham?  The only answer I find is this:  "God Almighty has set His affections upon me."  I cannot stop the tears from falling as I meditate on this truth.  I don't understand.  I don't know what He could have seen in me that would cause Him to love me so!  Me?  With a heart as dark as mine?  A pit dweller like me?  But there is no explanation; only that He loves because HE IS LOVE!  And I'm melted by that love, and the only possible response to a love like that is to love Him in return with my entire heart, soul, mind and strength!

"Father, every day, remove another scale from my eyes so I can see you more clearly and experience more fully Your heart of love.  And, every day, grow my heart a little more so I can love You more passionately, with more zeal, more whole-heartedly, more completely, more devotedly.  Because You are worth it.  You are worth it, God!"

The law did not change my heart.  But what the law could not accomplish, Jesus did.  He took my heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh!  It is a MIRACLE what He has done in my heart and life!  It's not a miracle like the world is looking for because it's internal instead of external, but that IS God's priority under the New Covenant:  the heart, the internal.  And I can tell you without a doubt that the change He has brought about in my life, the transformation I've experienced because of His Touch rivals any Red Sea parting or manna raining from the sky!

"OH, Praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!"

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Am Sarah....Meditations on Genesis 18

Since September, I have been studying the book of Genesis in-depth.  It never ceases to amaze me how these words that were recorded thousands of years ago can still speak into my life with such power and applicability!  And, boy, has God been speaking!  I am so thankful for His Word that is alive and active and sharper than a two-edged sword!  I need Him and His truth to cut away those parts of me that are not pleasing to Him and re-member me, making me whole again according to His original design for my life!

This week, as I meditated on Genesis 18 and the life of Sarah, I found so many similarities to my own life.  Let me explain....we know that many of the commands and blessings given under the Old Covenant have a spiritual application for us under the New Covenant.  For example, the command to be fruitful and multiply was a physical command to procreate and fill the earth.  We see this paralleled in a spiritual context in the New Testament when Jesus commanded his followers to "...go and make disciples of all nations..." (the Great Commission).  As it was with the command, so it is with the promise.  For Sarah, the promise was for the physical fruit of her womb.  For us (New Testament believers), the promise is for spiritual fruit bearing (John 15).

Just as Sarah was utterly incapable of producing a son on her own, I too am utterly incapable of bearing spiritual fruit on my own.  She could look at her body and see nothing but wrinkles, old age, barrenness, and a reproductive system that was long past menopause.  How can this old, worn-out flesh possibly bring forth new life?

Oh, how I identify with her!  I look at myself and ask God, "How can you bring forth anything eternal from my life?  Me?  With this root of contempt that still lingers?  With this tongue that is so quick to retort in the flesh instead of responding in the spirit?  With my Pharisee heart?  With my tendency to judge?  With this ugly pride that continues to rise up in me?"  And just as Sarah's womb was dried up, I feel like the well of my love has run dry!  Oh, Paul's lament is mine as well, "I do the things I don't want to do, and I don't do the things I want to do." (Romans 7)

Only with faith eyes could I ever possibly look at my life and BELIEVE that anything eternal (anything of Kingdom Impact) could come from my time upon this earth.  Without God, the chance of me bearing fruit isn't just one in a million; it's zero in infinity!  But with God, all things are possible!  The One who has made the promise is faithful.  He will do exactly as He says.

I am Sarah.  And my God has chosen me as His own.  Because of His great and lavish love, He adopted me into His family, redeeming my life from the pit and making me a trophy of His grace!  HE is doing the good work in me.  HE is the Author of my story!  He wrote my story before He ever created this world, and it's a good story, filled with good works which were prepared by Him for me personally and individually, tailor-made for my exact design and blueprint before the foundations of this earth were laid!  And the Author of this story won't quit halfway through.  Human authors may abandon their novels and leave them undone and unfinished, but the Lord never abandons His because when He's writing my story, He's actually writing His Story!  I am not living a Kristy-story.  I am living a God-story.  I am one of the ways He reveals Himself in this world.  I am an expression of the Divine.  My life is meant to reveal a facet of HIM!  And would He give up on Himself?  Never!  No, not ever!  It is to the Father's glory that our lives bear much fruit!  He is jealous FOR us because He is jealous for His Glory!  Never unlikely as it may seem to human eyes, we who are in Christ will SHINE  with the light and the beauty of our God if and when we abide in HIM!