Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 9 August 2017

 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.  He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.  Hebrews 11, verses 17-19.

So much to unpack here.

Devotion.  Are you amazed by Abraham’s devotion to God?  And even his devotion to Isaac?   Our modern interpretation of the Bible can pain Abraham in an unkind picture.   “He was willing to murder his own son.”  Admit it:   you’ve thought that; so have I.   How could Abraham MURDER his child?  Our society (rightfully) looks at that as heinous.  Here comes the part you won’t like (because it’s uncomfortably true):   Abraham wasn’t told to murder, nor did he try to murder Isaac, nor did he have the heart for murder.   God commanded Abraham to SACRIFICE Isaac to Him.  God was saying to Abraham “commit to Me everything about what you love most.   Be willing to give even your son’s life to Me because you trust Me.”  A murderer thinks otherwise (if he thinks at all).   Abraham was willing to kill his son, his most precious family member, if it meant dedicating that person’s life and his own to his Father.   Devotion like that is rare even in the Bible.   Would you or I be that devoted?

Foreshadowing:  “He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son” could have been written about the Father Himself.   From the moment of man’s fall, God had promised to redeem mankind from the sin we accepted and made our own.   This included Abraham and Isaac, who were sinful people not unlike you or I.  Abraham had trusted that God would keep His promise to give him a son and God kept that promise.   God then commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, that firstborn son and the heir of all Abraham had or would be.  Can you see how, in all of this, God was foreshadowing to Abraham (and us) what He Himself would do with Jesus?   What’s more, God promised that it was through Isaac that all this would happen, that Abraham’s offspring “would be reckoned.”

Reason.  Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead.  He didn’t just FEEL it:   Abraham REASONED.  He thought it through.   He quickly but logically, cogently deducted that God had kept His prior promises and that God was powerful enough to do anything He wanted.   Abraham reasoned that, if God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, God would bring Isaac back from death.   It wasn’t an emotion, and it wasn’t being caught up in the moment, though both of those probably happened.  Instead, Abraham intellectually deduced this honest conclusion about God.

That brings us to our final point:   resurrection.   Abraham deduced that God could resurrect Isaac, so he prepared to end his son’s life.   It was the action of faith that Abraham took in response to the action of faith God had already offered to him.   God foreshadowed yet again that Isaac’s death could be overcome by God.  He promised Abraham that the sacrifice would be worthwhile because it was to God Himself.   That sacrifice could only be completed in resurrection, which was how God ultimately completed the even greater sacrifice of faith that took place on Calvary.  Death could only be reasoned, only be accepted, only be tolerated, only be made right through resurrection, through Divinely restoring life to lifelessness because spiritual death was true lifelessness.   Abraham grasped that thought as he held a knife to his son’s throat.   And that’s when God stayed the knife.

Like you and I, Abraham and Isaac wandered in this world.   Abraham perhaps more than any of us because he lived as a nomad, residing most of his life in tents as he traveled from place to place.   He knew that God would bring him home, and he knew that God would always abide with him no matter where he wandered.   Yet in this greatest test of his life (and perhaps ours), God called him to account and asked him “what do you REALLY believe?”   It was for Abraham’s benefit, not God’s.  Abraham wasn’t a super-human:   he was just a man, albeit one of good character.   But he was simply a man, like you or me.  How amazing is it that God chose to reveal these things about His character and ours through the life of this ancient patriarch.

For further reading:  Genesis 22:1-10, James 2:21, Geneses 21:12, Romans 9:7, Romans 4:21, John 5:21.

Lord, thank You for the willingness of Abraham to commit everything to You.  

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 20 April 2017

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:  “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.  I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”  Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”  And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.  Hebrews 10, verses 15-18.

There is so much to unpack here.   These verses quote Jeremiah 31, and if you haven’t read the words of that lamenting prophet, next time you are in a place of need, read Jeremiah.   He, too, knew desperate soul-crushing hurt yet clung to God no matter what befell him (and he lived in terrible times).

Perhaps the best thing that Jeremiah recorded was that quote: “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”   In remembering our lawless acts no more, God blots out the consequences of our sins and sees us perfectly through Jesus.   When Jeremiah was alive, men did not know of a man named Jesus; it was hundreds of years before Christ.  Instead, the time after Jesus is what Jeremiah was talking about in chapter 31, specifically the time when Jesus was no longer physically present as a man yet would always be omnipresent as Spirit.   He would live in our souls and reason with us through our intellects.

You and I are living in that time now.   When you say you believe in Jesus, you’re lining up with Jeremiah.   You’re choosing sides, and you’re acknowledging that you desire for Jesus Christ to live in your soul, reason with your mind, and work through your hands.   When you choose sides and choose Jesus, you’re acknowledging that all your wrongs have been forgiven.   Everything that you’ve ever done in sin is forgiven, washed away.   No longer do you need some stranger priest to sacrifice an animal in your stead so that you might make atonement for what you’ve done.

Most of all, you aren’t guilty any more.   You’ve been declared ‘not guilty’ and you are permanently not guilty.  Jesus took ALL of your guilt and negated the need for you to carry it around.   This is perhaps my toughest sin; it’s the one I all too frequently commit.   Years ago I laid the guilt of my sins at the cross, yet I seem to constantly walk back there every now and then and pick up the writhing, nasty sack that contains that guilt.   I throw it over my shoulder and walk away.   With each step it feels heavier, smells worse, threatens more.  All the while, it feels like Jesus is looking at me from His cross, staring down at me, imploring me to put the bag down again and walk away from it.  It’s like He’s saying to me “I’m forgiving all that.   It doesn’t define you any more.   I define you now.   You can put it down.”

Years of faith, years of study, years of therapy, years of prayer confirm this truth to me, that Jesus fully, freely declares me not guilty of even the worst things I’ve ever done.   Yet I still commit the sin of trying to carry around that guilt again and again, long after he’s forgiven it.   It lures me back, welling up feelings of remorse, inadequacy, hurt.  The harsh truth is that it is a sin to keep picking it up.   It’s a form of idolatry, and it’s like saying to Jesus “I don’t believe You really can do this.”

He forgives that sin too.   That’s the point where my head is blown.   I’m completely befuddled at how He does that, how He forgives me when I mess up the first time, then how He reminds me that He’s forgiven those later sins too.   It’s because of His sacrifice that He reminds me of how He loves me, how He’s forgiven me, how He’s written that love on my heart and in my mind.   How that divine love defines me now.

We’re living in the time when that is the norm.  It has been the norm for over two thousand years since the days when Jesus walked the earth.   These days, He still walks it, but does so through the feet of a billion believing souls.   We are living in the time Jeremiah prophesied, and before the time when Jesus will return to walk again on His own feet.  The same feet the Romans nailed to the cross…the same cross where we daily lay down our sins and work to walk away from them knowing all the work we really need has already been completed.   Somewhere in my head I hear that song from “Frozen,” trilling me to ‘let it go.’   How I wish it felt that easy.

For further reading:  Hebrews 3:7m, Jeremiah 31:33-34, Hebrews 8:10.

Lord Jesus, forgive me when I constantly relive, re-carry the guilt of all the sins You’ve forgiven.   You did it completely, fully.   Help my unbelief.