How can we know that God really loves us?
It’s January, which means if you’re following any kind of Bible reading plan, you’ve probably spent some time this month in the book of beginnings, the book of Genesis. It’s in chapter 22 where we find the account of God telling Abraham to take his son, his only son, up to Mt. Moriah where he will offer him up as a child sacrifice. It’s a startling command from the God who blessed Abraham and Sarah with a miracle child when they were well past child bearing age. To even imagine that the God of the Bible would command such an action from Abraham stretches our understanding about God and His ways.
We know from other passages in scripture that the practice of child sacrifice to appease a pagan god was common in the ancient near east. It might have been that when God came to Abraham with this command, the patriarch wasn’t stunned. Maybe he simply presumed that like the other tribal deities, his God could only have his anger appeased by a human sacrifice. Whatever he thought, Abraham obeyed God.
The journey up Mt. Moriah had to involve one heartbreaking step after another. Whether Abraham believed that God would resurrect his son once the sacrifice was finished, we can’t know. What we can know was that this command would have brought unimaginable grief and pain to Abraham’s heart. Isaac was a beloved son. The thought of obeying God by inflicting violence or pain on his child had to be a source of unthinkable sorrow for Abraham.
Of course we know how the story ends. At the last minute, with the knife raised and an obedient son ready to die at his father’s hand, God stopped the sacrifice. He provided Abraham with an acceptable substitute – a ram that had been caught in a nearby thicket. The ram was slaughtered in the place of the child. In one sense, Isaac experienced a resurrection. He had been all but dead when his father’s hand reached down a lifted him off the altar.
You can read the details of the account for yourself in Genesis 22. But here’s what clicked for me as I was reflecting on that story this month. In spite of the intense grief Abraham had to have experienced in offering his son as a sacrifice, Abraham pressed ahead in obedience to God’s command. There was only one thing stronger that his love for Isaac. It was Abraham’s love for God, proved in his willingness to obey no matter what the cost to himself.
But this is story is not simply about Abraham’s obedience. As he walked up Mt. Moriah with Isaac on the path of death, Abraham experienced first hand what it feels like for a father to offer up his son to suffer and die. He was willing to sacrifice his son, his heir, his legacy and all God had promised him because of his love for God. And all of us who have read the story for centuries have been able to vicariously experience Abraham’s deep pain and grief, resolved ultimately in profound joy.
The next time you wonder if God loves you, remember that He is a Father who put His own Son on a path that would lead to suffering and death. As author Collin Hansen has observed, Genesis 22 is a story that proves that John 3:16 is true. God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.
How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast, beyond all measure
That He would send His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
A quick update on Karen Houk. Her lung biopsy on Monday was successful, and while the results aren’t fully in, the doctors have been able to rule out cancer as the cause of her illness. She is continuing to recover from her procedure and is now beginning her third week in the hospital. Please continue to pray for her, her husband and family, and all the doctors and medical personnel who are caring for her.
While the first of three women’s Bible studies is now underway (going through eh book of Jonah) it’s not too early to sign up for either of the two additional studies that will be happening this spring. The study of Habakkuk begins on March 6. The final study this spring, in the book of Malachi begins on April 10. Either study is open to everyone, whether you’ve been part of the current Jonah study or not.
You can sign up on line for either or both of the two remaining studies by clicking here and then picking the studies in which you’re interested. Remember, there are two meeting times each week – one on Monday night at 7:00 and the other on Tuesday afternoons at 1:00.
Men, let’s make sure you have these dates and times on your calendar. Go ahead and open it up. I’ll wait.
First, the Thursday lunchtime Men’s Bible Study begins tomorrow.
Even if you can’t come week one, you can still jump in whenever it works for your schedule. Click here to register.
Next, February 7. That the date for the next First Tuesday men’s gathering at the church.
Then there is February 18. A Saturday. That’s when our next Men’s Breakfast will take place.
Finally, March 24-25. That’s the date for our Spring Retreat. Pastor Jeff Terrell from Ascend Church in Kansas City will be our speaker. We’ll be getting away to the Cross Heirs Retreat Center an hour east of Little Rock.
The Super Bowl is now two and a half weeks away. And there’s a lot happening that weekend besides just a football game!
Saturday afternoon, February 11, we’ll be getting together for a couple of hours of super bowling!
And then on Sunday, February 12, right after church, it’s our Soup-er Bowl Supper. Plan to bring a crock pot of soup or a dessert and we’ll all stick around after church for a meal together.
Next weekend, It’s D-Now. Can. Not. Wait.
This Sunday, we are planning to install Kendall White as an elder at Redeemer. The elders have met with Kendall and Laura and believe God has set Kendall apart for this role at our church.
Once again, in accordance with our by-laws, we are asking any members at Redeemer who would have a concern about Kendall serving to first approach him to address that concern, and then to bring it to the elders if the concerns continue.
If you have concerns, please reach out to Kendall today.
Google the word “me-ism” and see what you get. Wiktionary defines the term as “a focus on or obsession with oneself.” According to the Bible, it’s our default setting as human beings, thanks to our indwelling sin nature. This Sunday, Curtis Thomas will share with us what the Bible says about me-ism and what we can do to keep it from controlling our lives.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!