Friday, 5 December 2014

There is pain in the offering. Advent Day 5


1Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’
‘Here I am,’ he replied.
2 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 that I will show you.’…

9 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. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’
‘Here I am,’ he replied.
12 ‘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.’
13 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. 14 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 22

Name of Jesus: Unspeakable [indescribable] Gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)
Symbol: RAM


Three days Abraham travelled to Mount Moriah, to the place where God had commanded him to sacrifice Isaac. It was a road of suffering: for three days Abraham had to ponder the devastating sacrifice God had requested. Isaac was the only son of Abraham and Sarah; and he was a child of promise. The first of many descendants God had said, and now…

But God is true – He would never renege on His promises. Abraham reasoned that if he offered his son to God then surely God would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). And so Abraham took his greatest, most precious, longed for gift – the gift he had waited a lifetime to receive - and was willing to give him up to God in absolute trust. We know what happened, God had not intended to take Abraham’s only son, God never required human sacrifice like the pagans. What God was doing through Abraham was a foreshadowing – a living prophecy – of the ultimate sacrifice of God’s only Son. “On the mountain of the Lord, it will be provided”. Then He provided a young ram for the sacrifice…the foreshadowing of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

But when Abraham set off for that mountain, he didn’t know what God was going to do…he just knew that God would not destroy his son because God’s promises are always true and so he went to offer up his most precious gift to God.

And I ask myself, am I willing to offer up to God the gifts He has given me? The talents I hold precious, the calling that burns in my heart, would I be willing to give up all that I am and hold dear and trust God that He will return that to me in abundance? When I start to grasp a gift to myself and not sacrifice it at God’s altar daily – it will eat me up.

I have seen it. The devastation that a gift from God can cause if the gifted glories in their gift and not the One Who gave it. I have seen an amazing healing ministry turn sour because the ministry and the minister became bigger in the church than the God Who provided the gift. When the gifted grasp their gift greedily and parade it like a trophy...

And they are then blind leading the blinded.

No. May it not be. I pray the words of the Matt Redman song…

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord

I'm not talking now about giving up on a ministry or a calling, but about offering it to God.  Many times we ache to do what we believe God has called us to do and we are prevented from doing so by circumstances.  Can I then offer that gift up to God and trust that He will bring the life it needs?  I ask myself, is this gifting from God or is it about me?  Can I truly lay it down on his altar and know that He will resurrect it when needed?  Can I actually wait upon the Lord?  Can I set aside pushyness, praise-seeking?

It's hard not being in control...

This Advent, as we remember the Greatest Gift ever given – the gift that was given knowing that pain and suffering was ahead.  The indescribable Unspeakable Gift. When God gave His most precious Son; Gave Himself – that we might be saved. How can we not be willing to give those things that we hold most precious into the hands of a God Who will provide…and has?

For He will. Whatever we give to Him He returns to us ten-fold…a hundred-fold. Whatever we trust Him with, He blesses abundantly. Because our God is a God of resurrection – of resurrection to new LIFE…not just living and breathing life - Life without boundaries. Our offerings do not lay like seed husks in the dry soil, but they grow, they fruit, they seed, they multiply, they grow, they fruit, they seed they multiply…they bring blessing upon blessing upon blessing – not just to us and for us, but overflow to others in abundance.

The sacrificial gift of Jesus didn’t just bless those He met and discipled in the flesh, but that blessing overflowed and overflowed and overflowed…and it will never, ever, ever stop overflowing. He blesses us, we return that blessing to Him in praise, He blesses us more, we return that blessing to Him in praise…sacrifice begets life, sacrifice begets more life, sacrifice, begets even more life…until we are surrounded and filled and filled and surrounded and it flows and it flows…til those blessings to God’s kingdom are like Abraham’s descendants - greater than the stars in the universe.

It’s not easy. How my flesh screams at the thought. I want the blessing, but I do not want the sacrifice.  I want the mountain-top but not the valley.  The oasis but not the wilderness. But in His strength…

God offered Christ to us, a sacrificial gift…and Christ offered Himself to God in absolute trust, arms open wide to the pain and the suffering - “Into Your hands…” - knowing that He Who is Faithful will always provide and will always resurrect to new life.

Every blessing you pour out,
I’ll turn back to praise…

On the mountain of the Lord, it was provided. It IS provided.


Happy Advent!

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