Previously God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation (Gen.12.1-3). This after, as Paul eloquently put it, Abraham was as good as dead (Rom. 4.19). The promise would not come through Eliezer, his present heir (Gen. 15.1-4) but his own son. Nearing 100 years of age Isaac is born and the word of the promise is confirmed. However, now, several years later, God tells Abraham to go and sacrifice his son on the mountain.
We know how the story ends. God mercifully stops Abraham and provides the ram. The promise does indeed come through Isaac. God is faithful.
When we read the story we see that Abraham was able to bank on this. He did not have all the details and that was ok with him. He had the bookends but the not the individual pages. As a believer, all you really need are the bookends to interpret the data points on the pages.
For example, let me point out three things from that narrative:
- Abraham arose early in the morning to get after what needed to be done. He did not waste time; God spoke and he hastily obeyed (Gen. 22.3).
- Abraham told his servants that he and the boy would go and worship and then return to him. He trusted God that he would still fulfill his promise (Gen. 22.5)
- Abraham told Isaac that God would provide the lamb for the offering (Gen 22.8)
I don’t believe Abraham had an advanced copy of the plan. I don’t think he knew what was going to happen in detail. However, I do believe that he believed that God would fulfill his promise to him to make him a great nation, a father with countless descendants.
This is a perfect example of interpreting his circumstances in light of God’s character and promises. Everything that happens is processed through who God is and what he has said.
Too often we do this in reverse. We interpret God’s character and promises through the lenses of our circumstances.
- A husband and wife are going through a spell of arguments and disagreements. Instead of clinging to God’s promise to sanctify one another, even through trials, they begin to doubt God’s word and character by questioning if the marriage will even work.
- Someone loses their job and suffers a major financial trial. They begin to doubt the promise that God will provide for his people. They become anxious and increasingly distressed.
- A single woman who seeks to be married cannot find a suitable prospect within the church so she begins to check out the club scene. She knows that God would only have her marry another Christian but doubts that he will provide in her timing and according to her preference.
- A Christian is evangelizing a neighbor but meets resistance. They decide that the gospel seems a bit off-putting so they decide to employ other means to reach them then actually explaining the gospel. They doubt the sufficiency of the gospel and God’s promise to use it to bring about faith.
We could go on and on with the lists. In the midst of the data, the day to day, we can justify nearly anything if we are working things through the paradigm of our circumstances. Instead, we have to run every circumstance, like thread, through the needle of God’s promises and his character. Let God’s character interpret your circumstances not your circumstances interpret God’s character.
Someone might say, “That’s good for Abraham. After all, he had some remarkable demonstrations of God’s character and promises to him.”
This is true. But it is even more true for those living on this side of the cross. Listen to Romans 8:
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
Do you see this? The ultimate expression of validation for God’s character and promises, indeed his love for you, is the cross. You do not need any other demonstration of his approval of or commitment to you. The cross is it.
Therefore, whenever you are dealing with the day-to-day grind, the data points of life, remember the bookends of God’s character and his promise. See everything in light of the cross of Christ! Let his character interpret your circumstances and not the other way around.
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