A Heart of Obedience
by Charmain Hibberd
Marketing Assistant (Writer), CBN Europe
Obedience can sometimes seem like a dirty word. It occasionally has connotations of dictatorship and domination. But the kind of obedience that God requires of His people is gentle, humble and true and always comes from a place of love, wanting the best for us.
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
(Genesis 22v1-2 NIV)
Same Story, New Eyes
Recently I was drawn to read the account of the testing of Abraham.
Now, I have read this particular part of scripture quite a few times but, as often is the case with God, this time around He highlighted a few new revelations. Each new insight reveals something new in the story of Abraham and Isaac and what it means to be obedient, even in the face of confusion.
I’d love to share these revelations and insights with you today…
Delayed Obedience is Disobedience
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.
(Genesis 22v3 NIV)
The first new insight that God gave to me was that Abraham got up early the next morning to begin his journey of sacrifice.
Now, I personally doubt if Abraham got any sleep that night but the fact that he readied himself early that next day proves that he intended to obey God no matter the cost. He did not delay, he did not drag his heels, he was up early and he was ready to do all that God had asked of him.
That speaks to me of radical obedience.
Delayed obedience is really just disobedience at its heart and I love that Abraham did not wait in following God’s instructions to him.
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘obedience?’
An Extra Burden to Carry
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.”
(Genesis 22v4-5 NIV, emphasis added)
Three days Abraham carried the added weight of the knowledge of what God had asked him to do with him.
I don’t know about you but I could have easily have buckled after 1-2 days and turned back, unable to complete the task that I had been set.
But not Abraham. Quietly and calmly he journeyed on with Isaac and his two servants, knowing what the journey’s end would be.
Again, this simple but profound highlight revealed to me by God as I read the text spoke loud and clear of the faith and the obedience of Abraham.
A Picture of Jesus
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
(Genesis 22v6-10 NIV, emphasis added)
Perhaps the most moving and shocking of insights that God gave me this time around was the imagery of Isaac carrying the wood for the burnt offering.
Immediately I was reminded of Jesus.
He, too, had wood placed on his back by His Father and had to carry the material that would lead to His ultimate sacrifice.
A foreshadow of what was to come, Isaac did the same.
What can we learn from the account of Abraham and Issac?
The Critical Climax
But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“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.”
It is only at the critical, climactic point of testing that Abraham’s true intentions were revealed. So far, he had done all that he was asked but until the moment where he is actually willing to sacrifice his only son, to the point of death, his obedience remains untested.
This got me thinking about the point of highest pressure in our testing. Whether it be at the point of temptation or sin, we are only truly tested at the point of no return.
Intention and action are two separate things.
Praise God that Abraham’s heart was intent to fully obey his Lord, and that his actions matched his intentions.
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 22v13-14 NIV)
When tested, it is not our place to look around for a ‘ram’. It is our job to obey.
Whether God delivers us of our sacrifice or not, we should always commit to follow through all the way with what God has asked of us, eyes fixed ahead, not looking back or around for a way out.
Half-hearted obedience is not obedience any more than delayed obedience is. If we truly trust in the heart of our God who has plans to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future (see Jeremiah 29v11) then we will know that whatever He is asking of us is ultimately for our good and for the glory of the Kingdom.
Let us be a people who, when we hear the voice of God, do not harden our hearts, but remain supple and pliable, ready and willing to show a heart of obedience.