He [God] said [to Abraham], “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 on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
[And Jesus said to the Jews who argued with him],”Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
My wife and I are walking through a “strange” time right now. Questions concerning ministry and employment, just what and where God has for us are foremost on our minds. Anyway, we both woke up around 4:30 this morning, and neither of us could go back to sleep. So we prayed, snuggled for a while, and then figured we’d go ahead and get out of bed since it was obvious that we were up for good. I put on a pot of coffee and told her I was heading out for my morning “ralk.” (That’s when you run a little bit and walk a little bit, run a little, walk a little, etc…)
As I made my way through my course, I began to pray and still my heart before the Lord. I was thinking about everything that’s happened over the past little while, the conversations I’d had with my wife and others, wondering what was going on, trying to believe that God was “up to something.” Then, in my heart, I heard the Spirit whisper,” Abraham saw my day and rejoiced.” Now, at first glance, you’re probably wondering what in the world that has to do with the situation at hand. But the statement prompted me to ask a question: “How did Abraham see?” Now we’re getting somewhere.
One of the most challenging things for us who live in physical bodies, who occupy time and space, who walk in the “natural,” and interpret life empirically is to see in the spirit. And so much of what Jesus said/says is multidimensional. During his “earthly ministry” he consistently made statements that could only be interpreted through means of spiritual revelation (“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life..”). Think about it: “Destroy this temple and I’ll raise it up in three days.” Or, “Ask me for the living water and you’ll never thirst again.” Or how about, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” This is a great one, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you.” Was Jesus speaking of the physical temple that stood in Jerusalem at that time? Was “the leaven of the Pharisees some kind of rank bread the disciples needed to avoid? Would he produce this living water from some secret underground spring? Was he offering his body for some kind of weird “Walking Dead” cannibalistic cult ritual? No, these are just a few examples of things we have to “see” by the Spirit.
Jesus is still challenging us to live by the Spirit today. And while it is true that revelation is something that we receive by the Spirit of God, frequently it is in those situations that make absolutely no sense or even run contrary to the natural mind that the Spirit uses to bring understanding. And that’s where the “Abraham saw my day and rejoiced.” took me this morning.
We know from reading the Bible that it never entered into God’s heart to demand human sacrifice from men: “They [ancient Israel]have built pagan shrines at Topheth, the garbage dump in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, and there they burn their sons and daughters in the fire. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing!” So, God’s testing of Abraham was not to see whether or not Abraham would really sacrifice Isaac. Besides, if God is truly God, he already knew what Abe would do. (Perhaps we need a more complete understanding of God’s “testing” or “tempting” as some translations regretfully put it.) I believe that it was here, in this strange and even hurtful context, that Abraham gained a revelation of what God intended to do through Jesus, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. That which made no sense in the natural brought increased intimacy, illumination, and joy.
So, where does that leave us? What’s the application as they say? As children of God we can rest assured of the kind intentions that the Lord has towards us in Christ Jesus. He is committed to bring us through the entirety of our lives and present us to himself, holy and blameless. His desire is that we might have spiritual wisdom and insight so that we might grow in our knowledge of God, that our hearts will be flooded with light so that we can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called.” And we would do well to remember that wisdom, insight, and knowledge are often derived from revelation that has been produced in patient endurance and trust in the midst of circumstances that make little to no sense in our natural minds. Circumstances that provide us with spiritual eyes through which we may “see and rejoice.”