Preached at Three Pillars Nursing Home in Dousman, WI on June 27th, 2008...
In today’s reading we have the story of Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac, which is probably as familiar to us as it is confusing. So what is it all about? Well, we have Abraham…whom the Bible describes as the father of all who believe: He’s our forefather in the faith. But why isn’t this special place given to say Noah, or Adam? It can all be boiled down to one word: Trust. He is the example par excellence of what it means to trust God.
All throughout Abraham’s life God gives him opportunities to trust. These start with God asking Abraham to leave everything he knows and go somewhere completely unknown. God says, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.” And I know many of you have left everything to go somewhere unknown too, like Maria and Wanda have done (Eastern European immigrants who live at the Nursing Home I'm working at), you’ve left your country and your family to come to here to America. That’s what Abraham did. And it was an incredible act of trusting God.
Abraham’s entire life was characterized by God giving him these opportunities to trust and all of these culminate in our story today. God asks him to give up Isaac, his only son. Now, this is the son Abraham had dreamed of and prayed for his entire life; when all hope seemed lost, when Abraham was 100 years old, God miraculously gives him his son Isaac. All his dreams had come true. But now God was asking Abraham to give up Isaac, the son he cherished.
And I know all of you have had to give up things that are precious when you came here to Three Pillars (the Nursing Home). You’ve had to give up careers, and homes, your old neighborhood; living near your children and grandchildren. You’ve had to say good-bye to some dear friends as they’ve passed on. And most painful of all, you’ve had to say good-bye to your husbands or wives who died. There are so many things you’ve had to surrender, those things you’ve cherished the most.
So what does this have to do with Abraham being our forefather in faith? Well, the reason God chose Abraham to be our forefather in the faith is because of his example. Abraham trusted God even when he had to give up the things he cherished most in his life: his country, his family, even his own son. Abraham is the ultimate example of trusting God when that’s the hardest thing to do.
But it’s not a blind trust. Rather, it’s a trust that is based upon the absolute reliability of God. We can trust God because He’s reliable. Just as Abraham said at the end of today’s story “The LORD will provide”…I believe that God always provides what we need. Maybe not what we think we need, or what we want; but what God knows we need. God loves us so immensely and so incredibly that he will never let us down. Now I realize that’s a daring thing to say, that God would never let us down. But I believe God proved it to us when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place and pay the penalty for our sins. God Himself knows what it’s like to surrender someone he cherishes, and loves more than anyone else. This is God’s evidence that He’ll never let us down.
And we need to follow the example of Abraham and when we’re struggling with the things we’re called to give up; when it’s scary, or lonely, or confusing, or frustrating, or painful we need to trust God. And the beautiful thing is that when we have those days where it’s difficult to trust Him we can pray and say, “Lord I’m, having trouble trusting You, please help me.” Which is what the Psalmist did today, he begins the Psalm with a lot of despair “How long O LORD, will you forget me forever? How long shall I have perplexity in my mind and grief in my heart, day after day?” Does that sound familiar? (Raise my hand). But how does he end, “But… I put my trust in your mercy, my heart is joyful because of your saving help.” The Psalmist ends by reminding himself of God’s saving help. We need to do likewise. Like the Psalmist we need to go to God and talk to him about our struggles with trusting. But then we also need to listen for His answer. And the most tangible way to listen to God is by reading His Word, the Bible. And so I’d encourage you to spend time reading the Bible and hearing God’s answers to you. And if you’d ever like someone to read the Bible with you David, or Marcus, or myself; or Sunny (the other Chaplains) would absolutely love to read the Bible or pray with you.
So may we follow the example of Abraham, and when we have to give up the things we cherish most, may we trust God.