The Fear of 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 if we truly fear Him? Put another way, what can we do which will enable us to express our fear of God, so that we enter into His pleasure as He intends?
After all, 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 are positioning themselves to enter His pleasure. But they are also setting their hearts for acts of courageous obedience, which only true faith can engender.
When we live by such 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, so that we might know His pleasure in seeing that we fear Him as we should.
Abraham’s was neither a pleasant nor a reasonable task. 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?
In our daily lives with the Lord, we may be confronted with prompts, suggestions, or the coaxing of the Lord to do things that appear to us as neither pleasant nor reasonable. Get up earlier to spend more time in the Word and prayer. Tell the Good News of Jesus to that angry colleague at work. Forgive this one who has so egregiously sinned against you. Confront a sinning believer with the wickedness of His ways. Heed the call to serve the poor and needy at the local rescue mission. Stop robbing the Lord by withholding the tithe from Him. Confess that secret sin which you have been harboring against your spouse. And so on.
In our souls, we have managed to suppress such acts of obedience, because we find them unpleasant, risky, or inconvenient. But the Lord continues to poke, prod, and pique us to take the step of obedient faith and do the thing we hate or fear, because we fear Him and hate disobeying.
None of the challenges we must confront even approaches what Abraham was called to do, but they may all seem as unpleasant and unreasonable to us as that task which he took up in courageous faith.
But when we love the Lord, we will want to please Him by doing whatever He clearly shows us to do. And when we fear the Lord we will do what He bids, to avoid His discipline against our hardness of heart. How can we muster the kind of courageous faith that can show the Lord that we love and fear Him as we ought?
First, we must be certain about what the Lord is calling us to do. Don’t act impulsively. Listen in prayer and wait upon the Lord to restate and reinforce His directive, as the Spirit prompts and leads you day by day.
Second, envision yourself performing the thing you dread, and then 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 and 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 courageous obedience presents itself, we will be ready.
But, finally we must trust in the Lord to do what He intends to do 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. It may be that we can only envision more sorrow, inconvenience, or worse from doing what we perceive the Lord is prompting us to do. 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. We must leave the results of our obedience in the hands of God, giving Him thanks and praise for whatever the outcome may be.
They who act in such courageous faith show the Lord that they fear Him. And He will surely grant them the blessing of His pleasure as a result.
1. Has the Lord ever nagged you about some situation or action you should take? How did you respond?
2. How do you suppose Abraham felt as he was walking up that mountain with Isaac? But did he allow those affections to override his fear of God? How does Abraham’s obedience illustrate Psalm 86.11?
3. If we fail to act in courageous obedience to what God is urging us to do, can we expect our hearts to grow more in love with Him, or more hardened against Him? Explain.
Next steps: What act of “courageous faith” came to mind as you were reading this article? What is God calling you to do which will require you to step out of your comfort zone and show Him that you love and fear Him? Make preparations now to take up that act of “courageous faith” at the earliest possible opportunity.
T. M. Moore
This is part 2 of a multi-part series on Keeping the Heart. To download this week’s study as a free PDF, click here.
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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.