What is Love? A Ram in the Bush - Part 4

Do you remember the story of Abraham and Isaac?  Abraham received the promise from God that he was going to be the father of a great nation. 

“I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants as a permanent possession.  And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted.” Genesis 13:15-16

But there was just one little catch.  Abraham was old – even in those days and certainly by today’s standards.  His wife was old also and to make matters worse she was barren (Genesis 11:30).  There were no fancy fertility drugs so there wasn’t much they could do.  They had a choice; they could trust God or they could take matters into their own hands. 

“Abram said. ‘Do with her whatever you think best.’"  Genesis 16:6

After a decade of waiting for a child, Sarah came up with a bright idea: “Hey why not help God out a bit.”  So she sent Hagar, her Egyptian-born servant to her husband and he fathered Ishmael (Genesis 16).  But that wasn’t God’s promise.  Needless to say that didn’t turn out well for anyone concerned.  Sarah was despised, Hagar was mistreated and Abraham was caught in the middle.

God fulfilled His promise when Sarah finally had a child in her nineties (Genesis 21).  But the story doesn’t end here.  Sarah sent Hagar away.  God promised to bless both of Abraham’s children. God promised that each son would have numerous descendants and become great nations (Genesis 17:19-22).  Ishmael’s descendants became the Arab people and Isaac’s decedents became the Jewish people. 

“Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."   Genesis 22:2

So after waiting for years for God to fulfill His promise, this elderly couple finally got their beloved son.  They named him Isaac, which means Laughter, because Sarah laughed at the stranger who brought the news that she would have a child in her old age (Genesis 18:12).  Abraham loved Isaac; he was the child of God’s promise.  I can only imagine what he must have thought when he got his instructions from God to sacrifice his son.  Let’s be honest for just one second, most of us would bargain, rationalize, or dispute the soundness of the plan.  After all, how could his descendants become a great nation if he killed the child that was the fulfillment of that promise?

“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:37

It’s pretty clear that Abraham had great faith, but I believe that he also loved God with all his heart, soul and mind.  He loved Him so much that he was willing to sacrifice the most important thing.  I imagine that Abraham didn’t even mention his conversation with God to Sarah.  I’m a mother, so I’m pretty sure that if he did, there is no way she would have sat idly by waiting for him to return from Moriah.  The Bible doesn’t say it, but Jewish legend connects Sarah’s death at age 127 with the attempted sacrifice of her beloved son. 

“And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering…” Genesis 22:8

Abraham didn’t even say a word to Isaac who seemed to be getting just a bit suspicious (Genesis 22:7).  Abraham is admired for his faith, so maybe that’s why he didn’t hesitate to offer up his son.  Maybe he trusted in God’s sovereignty and ability to do anything including raising Isaac from the ashes of the burnt offering.  Whatever was going through Abraham’s mind, he went straight to the mountain and prepared the son that he loved to be sacrificed.  He piled up the stones, arranged the wood, tied up his son, laid him on the altar and picked up his knife ready to strike. 

"Do not lay a hand on the boy," He said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." Genesis 22:12

God did not allow the promise to be destroyed.  He did, however, find out just how much of a priority He was in Abraham’s life.  Abraham loved God even more than the son he waited for.  God loved Abraham and made provisions for him.  In the end it was a test (Genesis 22:1).  It reminds me of the one that Job endured with God’s permission (Job 1:6-12).  Like Job, Abraham passed the test with flying colors. 

We get tested day in and day out.  We face many trials and tribulations throughout our lives.  The question is, do we show our love for God by being obedient to His will or do we miss the mark by leaning unto our own understanding or taking matters into our own hands?  Do we wait on the promise or do we find a Hagar to help God out?  Do we sacrifice the most important thing in our lives or do we offer something of little value?  Do we do it God's way or do we look for another solution?

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.   So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." Genesis 22:13-14

This is how much God loves us.  He provides for us on a regular basis.  I can’t tell you how many times I found my ‘ram in the bush.’  God loves me so much that He shows up with a solution when I need Him the most.  I’ve gotten job offers without interviews, debts paid off in record time, and doors opened when I least expected.  God has provided for me on so many occasions. And this is only one of the reasons why I love Him so much.  I bet if you take a moment you probably have lots of stories of God’s love. 

How has God shown His love for you?  What was your ‘ram in the bush?’