Fearing God (5)
But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Genesis 22.11, 12
How does God know?
How does God know that we fear Him?
God commands us to fear Him. He knows that when we fear Him, we will delight in His Law and hate all manner of evil. They who live thus before the Lord position themselves for acts of courageous obedience, which only true faith can engender.
When we live by courageous faith, obeying God even when what He requires of us seems unlikely, fearful, unreasonable, or beyond anything we’ve ever experienced, then we prove to Him that we love and fear Him as we ought.
This is what God saw in Abraham, and this is what He is looking for in us. God knows we fear Him when we are courageous in obeying Him, regardless of how outrageous what He requires may seem.
We may consider it unreasonable to tithe, to share the Gospel with a neighbor or co-worker, or to be expected to have all our words be gracious and edifying. But God commands each of these, and if we fear Him, delight in His truth, and hate sin, we’ll be ready to obey Him in these and other areas as well.
Abraham’s task was neither a pleasant nor, from a human perspective, reasonable one. He loved his only son, Isaac. The thought of sacrificing him on an altar on the top of the mountain must have sent horror and disgust into his very bones.
Moreover, this was the child of promise, the one through whom God declared He would make of Abraham a great nation. How could it be reasonable to sacrifice this child? Yet this is what God commanded Abraham to do.
In our lives, we are often confronted with prompts, suggestions, instruction, and coaxing from the Lord to do things that appear to us neither pleasant nor reasonable. But God will never call on us to do anything outside the holy and righteous and good parameters of His Law. Yes, He commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son, but Abraham understood that this command was but a means to an end, and that, if it actually came to pass, God would raise him from the dead (cf. Gen. 22.5: “we will come back” and Heb. 11.19). We can trust that God will not require anything of us that He will not enable us to perform, and that He will never lead us to sin, just so that grace might abound (Rom. 6.1, 2).
But when we love the Lord we will want to know His pleasure by doing whatever He requires of us. And when we fearthe Lord – more than we fear the consequences of our obedience – we will do what He bids, even when what He bids is not what we would choose. We might fear the consequences of acting in courageous faith, but we fear incurring the displeasure of the Lord more.
How can we muster the kind of courageous faith that shows the Lord that we love and fear Him as He requires?
First, we must be certain about what the Lord is calling us to do. Don’t act impulsively. Seek the counsel of God’s Word. Listen in prayer, and wait upon the Lord to restate and reinforce His directive, as the Spirit prompts and leads you, day by day. Make sure that you’ve heard the Lord correctly, and that the path on which He would send you is clearly illuminated by His Word.
Second, envision yourself performing the thing you dread, and make preparation to carry out your obedience in faith. Abraham knew what a sacrifice required – fire, wood, a sharp knife – and he made sure to bring these with him to the mountain. Whatever God is calling us to do, we must see ourselves acting in obedience, what we will be doing as we carry out His directive; and we must make whatever preparations of prayer, setting up a meeting, writing down what we want to say, or whatever else may be involved, so that when the moment for obedience presents itself, we will be ready.
But, finally we must trust in the Lord to do His good and perfect will in this situation. God is good; He does all things well; He works all things together for good to those who love Him and are following His purposes; and He never fails nor forsakes us. If we have waited on Him faithfully, envisioned ourselves acting, and made the necessary preparations, then, at the earliest moment or opportunity, we must take by faith the steps our obedience requires.
This will require courage, it’s true, perhaps even beyond what you’ve ever had to show before. Courage comes from grace, and grace for our times of need is available through God’s Word and prayer (Heb. 4.16). Take the necessary steps, and God will meet your courage with His presence, promises, and power. For when He sees that we fear Him, then He acts according to our faith and His promises.
They who act in such courageous faith show the Lord that they fear Him. And He will surely grant them to know His pleasure.
1. Give some examples of what would be for you courageous acts of faith. When confronted with any of these, whether in your thoughts or on your daily path, how do you typically respond?
2. What God calls us to do may sometimesseem unpleasant or unreasonable. But such things may actually be the path to the pleasure of the Lord, and make perfect sense in retrospect. Explain.
3. Review the examples you gave in question 1. How should you prepare for each one of these, so that, when you have to confront them, you will be ready with courageous faith, and thus demonstrate that you both fear and love the Lord?
Next steps – Conversation: How do your Christian friends prepare for courageous acts of faith? Ask a few of them.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.