And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son."
Genesis 22:7-8

For many people this story presents serious problems as it asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. Why would God put Abraham through this difficult ordeal?

Some see this story as indicating the struggles we meet in our faith journey. People read this story from the perspective of God testing our faith in him. Is it a story of blind faith in God?

Abraham finds himself in what you might call a situation of death. It is a difficult moment for him, but he remains faithful to God. We can identify with Abraham as we reflect of those times in our lives when it appeared God was testing our faith. From the perspective of faith in God’s love, the requirement to kill Isaac does not make sense. Why should Abraham have to kill Isaac to show his love for God? Why should we serve a God who makes such demands of us? Is this the kind of God we want to serve? No!

I would like to suggest that this story speaks of God’s divine providence. The key words for a right understanding of this text are "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." This story reminds us that God comes to our rescue in times of despair. It is true that sometimes it is difficult to recognise God in our death like situations when our lives crush and disintegrate. Nevertheless, people of faith always live in the hope of a brighter tomorrow. Christianity does not offer us any certainties about life; all it offers us is hope. This hope is not wishful thinking; it is a commitment to trust God in all situations and to believe in his promises.

The story of Abraham and Isaac reminds us that we can rely on God to intervene on our behalf when we encounter adversity in our lives. Adversity comes in many and varied forms, it can test our faith in God’s divine providence, it can weaken us physically and spiritually and sometimes it can drive us into despair.

Jesus’ experience in the wilderness was a time of testing. He too like Abraham struggled with his response to God. We are told that angels came and ministered to him.

Today’s Old Testament reading, the story of Jesus’ temptation and the statement “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us,” are meant to give us encouragement as we struggle with life experiences. "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son."

There is a hymn 462 in our Hymnal which says:

Be not dismayed whate'er betide,
God will take care of you!
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you!

No matter what may be the test,
God will take care of you!
Lean, weary one, upon His breast,
God will take care of you!

God will take care of you,
Through every day o'er all the way;
He will take care of you
God will take care of you

This is good news for people whose lives are put to the test day by day. It is good news for you and me; God will provide the lamb.

The Old Testament reading and the New Testament reading invites us be confident people.

Paul says to us, as a nation, a church and individuals, be confident. The confidence he espouses is not a passive optimism that numbs our suffering. He speaks about a confidence that encourages us to be positive about life and to make the best of life in all given circumstances. If we possess this confidence of which Paul writes, we will not allow our lives to be daunted or defined by the challenges that present themselves on a daily basis. Today’s reading is relevant at this time as we try to grapple with all the various issues we face as a nation and people. Its’ message says be confident, have courage, stand fast, do not despair, do not lose hope – this too shall pass.

Our self- confidence is grounded in the truth that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Without this confidence, we lose hope and our lives are characterised by despair and hopelessness. Absence of confidence equals self-defeat. Those who live according to the Spirit are always full of confidence because they know that nothing can separate them from God’s love. This makes a difference in life.

Let us personalise the text. Can parents separate us from God’s love? Can our children separate us from God’s love? Can our sins separate us from God’s love? Can our financial problems separate us from God’s love? Can our spouses separate us from God’s love? Is there anything that can separate us from God’s love? “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

What is the source of our joy? What is the ground for our hope? What is basis for our confidence?

The answer to these questions is provided for us in the Old Testament reading: God will provide the lamb.

Always remember that God will provide the lamb. 

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