We had our first real snowfall on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, a few inches, certainly enough to make driving a pain. My 9:45 a.m. drive into work took almost as long as it would have taken at 9 on a normal day. So by my Wednesday morning it wasn't too bad though the night before was definitely unpleasant. I think the governor must have snuck a bill through the legislature requiring at least one heavy snowfall during the first week of December for the Chicago area. Anyway because of snow we had a very light turnout for our LIFEgroup Tuesday night. It ended up being an impromptu guys night. There was talk of Risk and Settlers but we were good and actually studied the Bible, worshipped, and prayed before Jason and Steve shot off a quick game of chess while Troy, Aaron, and I looked on.
We studied Genesis chapter 22, the story of God testing Abraham by requiring that he sacrifice his son Isaac. It's a passage that raised a lot of interesting issues but the one that really stuck out to me this time around has to do with Abraham's crisis and God's provision. I prepared by reading the passage and then reading John Walton's comments on it in his commentary on Genesis in the NIV Application Commentary Series. I really like the NIVAC series. Walton pointed out that at the end of chapter 21 Abraham's story seems to have come to a clean resolution. He has followed God away from his father and home and gone into a strange land with the promise of land, being a blessing, and a line of ancestors. Abraham has wandered around Canaan and Egypt seeking a place and has now settled down in Beersheba. He seems to have resolved any difficulties with his neighbours, and after much anxiety he and Sarah at last have a son of their own through whom God's promises about his line can be fulfilled. Abraham joins with his neighbours and worships God as the Everlasting, or Enduring God. God has been faithful to his covenants with Abraham and will continue that faithfulness.
At the start of chapter 22 that is all thrown into doubt as God demands that Abraham sacrifice his son, the son through whom his descendants would be reckoned by God's own words. Abraham accepts God's demand and heads away to the mountain of Moriah (possibly the site of Jerusalem) to do the deed. On the way, Isaac asks his father where is the lamb for the sacrifice. Abraham responds, "God himself will provide the lamb." This is what happens just as Abraham is about to plunge the knife into his beloved son. The Angel of the Lord commands him to stop and Abraham sees a lamb caught in a nearby thicket which becomes the sacrifice. "So Abraham called the name of that place, "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided."
God took Abraham from a place of comfort and rest and led him to a place of crisis and then provided a way through the crisis. In the same way God led the people of Israel to the Red Sea, Jesus led the disciples onto a boat in a storm, God led Jesus to the cross and death. My church is going through a hard time right now. Three of our elders and four of our pastors (including the only senior pastor our church as ever had) have resigned since the start of September. A lot of plans and dreams have to be changed but the Faithful, Enduring God is the God who has led us to a time of crisis and He is the God who provides.
Verse of the day:
"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back." Hebrews 11:17-19 (ESV)