Friday, April 29, 2011

Genesis 22:3-5

As I’ve been meditating on our story this week, foremost on my mind has been my sister, Jodi, and the former parent of my classroom, Beth, and the devastating loss they have just suffered in the deaths of their children. When Jodi received the news of Justin’s death, she was still trying to fathom the news of her cancer. When Beth learned of Briana’s death, it was coupled with the news that her son Ian was in critical condition. This is the kind of news that Job received when his servants ran in to tell him first that his oxen and donkeys were all carried off in an attack and the servants tending them were all killed but the one messenger. While the messenger was still speaking, another ran in with the dreadful news that fire came from the sky and burned up all of the sheep and those tending the sheep, except the one. The third wave came before Job could even catch his breath: a raiding party had taken away all of the camels and killed the servants, except this messenger. Finally, a messenger brought the tragic news that a “mighty wind” had destroyed the home where all of his children were having a party, and all of his children were dead!

We are dumbstruck by such calamity! The tornadoes that swept through the South this week, killing about 300 and devastating the region, particularly Tuscaloosa, and the tsunami that killed thousands and left millions homeless in Japan are disasters that defy comprehension. They are counter-balanced by the sweet news of new babies: Justin’s wife, Stephanie learning she is carrying her baby girl, my Emmy receiving our precious Penelope, and my dear friend, Lisa, just receiving her newly adopted Luke. Rays of sunshine and hope in the midst of horror. Even this morning, we all rejoice in images of the royal wedding of Prince William and his Kate, in between shots of the utter loss in Tuscaloosa!
What is truly amazing about the stories of Job and Abraham is their responses:

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
   “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, 
   and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; 
   may the name of the LORD be praised.”
 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22)

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” (Gen 22:3-5)

Job worshiped God, and in today’s passage in Genesis 22, Abraham is on his way to worship. This is truly what the Bible calls the “sacrifice” of praise! Praise that costs! The differences between the two stories struck me. Job received all of this news in one fell swoop. It was instant disaster. Abraham, however, had to travel THREE days to Mt. Moriah, knowing what he was about to do. Which is worse? I don’t know. The agony of the wait must be excruciating. The parent who has watched their child suffer and slowly die of cancer suffers the same loss as the parent whose child is taken in an instant, but being stuck in that place between hope and resignation for an extended period has to be torture!

How are people able to get through this with their faith intact? How did Abraham make that journey up the mountain? Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

Abraham KNEW his God. He knew God’s character and was fully persuaded that God was able to raise from the dead, even though that had never happened in human history at this point. He remembered God’s promises. God had promised that Isaac would be the one from whom the promised generations would come. He did not know HOW or WHY, but he knew WHO!

We look at all going on around us - the losses, the illnesses, the bankcruptcies , and on and on, and we can become desolate in our spirits. Sin SUCKS big time!!! But we are people of HOPE and we KNOW whom we have believed in and are persuaded that He is able to keep that which we’ve committed unto Him! We know the end of the story.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)

Keep your head lifted and your eyes on Christ! We, too, can worship in the midst of pain!
A personal note: today is a day of praising in our home! Don is retiring today after more than 37 years at Mission Hospital! Hallelujah!! I’m so thankful to God for His faithfulness and to Don for his faithfulness to provide for his family all of these years. It’s a good day!


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