“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.” (Hebrews 11:8)
From The Second Half of the Cross
When God in the Old Testament spoke to Abraham, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee,” from that moment forward Abraham was no longer in complete control of his life. Here begins the mysterious blend of God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free-will choice, combined within the dynamics of an individually tailored, God-composed life-script that requires subordination of our ways to God’s higher plans for our lives, entirely unique to the Bible.
In choosing to obey God, some of Abraham’s self-in-charge nature was left behind as he headed off toward Canaan. Abraham’s own plans, schemes, and ideas for his life were displaced by God’s plan that was much larger and grander than anything Abraham could have imagined. With each step toward Canaan and away from Haran, Abraham left behind the other life he would have lived had he not met God, and walked toward the new life being offered to Abraham by God. For this it is said of Abraham that “he believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6).
At the time of his departure from Haran, Abraham was a wealthy man, and had the means to support a large family. We can imagine that when Abraham excitedly told his wife Sarah about God’s promise that their descendants would be in number as the stars of the night sky, as they traveled together toward Canaan they both began to think with future expectations about the joys of a family life with lots of children. Abraham could see himself teaching his sons to ride horses, hunt wild animals, tend their herds of sheep, and to worship the one true God who had spoken to him in Haran. Sarah thought about the joys of raising young children, seeing them grow up into fine adults, and providing her husband with male heirs to continue his name. The information that God left out of this promise was the long wait in years before Isaac their only son would be born.
Here lies one of the stumbling blocks that the human race generally has with the cross of Christ. Matthew 16:24-25 reads:
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
If we offer up our self-made plans to be crucified on the cross of Jesus Christ, will God’s plan for our lives be better than the plan we would choose for ourselves? Will God’s plan have more meaning and purpose in relation to our individual gifts and talents, than the life we otherwise would create? If we give our all to God, including our goals and dreams, will God take our lives and come up with something that is better than what we would come up with ourselves? Will we be able to look back on our lives and be glad that we chose God’s way instead of our own? Will the benefits of following God outweigh the costs of giving up control?
This is one of the fundamental issues in allowing God to take over the course and direction of our lives. This is a basic, narrow-gate question that confronts every Spirit-led Christian along their individual journey of faith following Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14).
Can Abraham become the father of faith, and achieve his highest and best life as recorded in the Bible, without walking in God’s uniquely imaginative plan for him? Is there some compromised, less difficult, middle-ground course of life that would combine Abraham’s will-and-way with God’s plan that might still produce the same result? Can’t Abraham and Sarah go to Canaan and have Isaac right away, along with a lot of other children, without the years of waiting and believing that God will perform His promise? Can’t Abraham skip the whole part about sacrificing his 13-year old son Isaac on Mount Moriah as a burnt offering to God, and do something else for God like going on a spiritual pilgrimage or sitting alone on top of a rock in meditation for a month or two?
Through the benefit of four thousand years of hindsight, each one of us can make a judgment as to whether Abraham made the right choice in believing and following God. I believe that if Abraham could go back and do it all over again, that he would not change a thing, even the major mistakes he made involving Lot, Hagar, and Ishmael. I think Abraham would stand in awe and amazement at what God has accomplished and is currently accomplishing in our world, using the simple ingredients of cooperation, trust, and faith. I think that both Abraham and Sarah, despite their major lapse of faith regarding Hagar, would say that their one great personal sacrifice in waiting for Isaac, though difficult at the time, in hindsight was miniscule in comparison to the enormous good that was accomplished through the creation of the nation of Israel and the future Christian church.