Years ago, my Uncle Kevin would bring me the weirdest “presents.” One year, it was an old fluorescent tube light for an RV with wires hanging out. I could make it work by sticking the wires into the electrical outlet. Another time, it was half of an old 8-mm video camera that he said I might have fun taking apart (which I did). These odd “gifts” from my uncle furthered my already-growing desire to know how things work.
That desire is even greater today. I still like knowing how things work and figuring out my role. So, when a new problem or circumstance presents itself, I begin to look at it from all angles. How will this affect me? What’s my role? What are the roles of others? What are the implications of this new situation on my life? How can I solve it? What is the who, what, why, where, when and how of this new thing, so I can try to master it?
Attempting to master a situation has worked well for me in the past. Figuring a situation out has usually protected me. It’s kept me from harm, but it’s also kept me from feeling–definitely not the greatest tool to pull from my emotional shelf. While I’ve mastered the use of that proverbial “hammer,” not every problem is a nail.
So, imagine today, where once again my family attempts to rely on God’s trustworthiness for our future in seeing what job will await my wife as she finishes her 7 years of schooling and my instantaneous reach for that worn and wonderful hammer on the shelf, all under the conventional wisdom of “let’s understand all of our options” or “once we know what the details are, then we can figure out how to go about solving it”. Rubbish.
A 5-year plan isn’t a bad thing. Knowing your options isn’t something to cast aside. But the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob works differently. Remember Abram, that childless man shepherding in the Iraqi desert that God sought out? For years—decades—Abram and his wife, Sarai, had tried to have children of their own. God reached out to them in the midst of their despair and promised that Abram would be the father of many descendants, as many as the stars in the sky.
Abram did not, like me, reach for the hammer. At this point, his hope was so dashed that he simply laughed at God’s promise. Sarai, however, was a bit more “hammer-headed,” we might say, wanting to know how it would happen. Sarai, in an age where bearing children added to both your status and achievement, wanted to figure out how it to make it happen.
So, when things didn’t work—ahem—accordingly, so to speak, Sarai presented Abram with the next best option, her maidservant Hagar. If God couldn’t bring about these descendants that would number like the stars through her, perhaps the next best person in their household would suffice.
Imagine God’s frustration and exasperation in Abram and Sarai’s lack of trust and patience. Fast forward a few years to Sarai’s conception of Isaac. A new day dawned for Abram and Sarai, who more readily learned that God did things in His own timing and in His own way. God was not like those around them. And so when Isaac was “of age,” like the other religions of the time required, God called Abraham to sacrifice his only son. The promised one called to be slaughtered on the altar.
My Western cultural lenses easily miss the implications here. Why would God call Abraham to this? In a culture where child sacrifice was en vogue, God wanted to ensure that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son while also ensuring Abraham that this was how He differed from the other gods of the age.
God reminded Abraham that He was sovereign, was trustworthy and called the shots, tackling the impatience of a man who wanted to know how things worked. In my own situation, perhaps God is using this trial of my own life to remind me Who is sovereign, Who is trustworthy, and Who calls the shots. These gentle and not-so-gentle reminders bring us back to the fold of God, where we can more readily remember the promises He has given me.
And what about you? How might God remind you today of His sovereignty, His trustworthiness and His leadership over your life? May we all more readily submit to the fact that He Who sits on the throne is indeed worthy to receive honor, power and glory, forever and ever. Amen.