Genesis 22:9-14. 9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
Why are advents so hard?
The truth is that sorrow is the very nature of our waiting. We are waiting for what we want but don’t have. And that will always be difficult. Sad even.
Abraham and Sarah waited for decades for the advent of their son Isaac. Often they waited in fear and doubt. At other times with great faith. The advent of Isaac was the advent of hope. Not just for Abraham and Sarah, but hope for the world. “Through your son all the nations on the earth will be blessed.”
Advents are so hard because they require us to have faith. They require us to look beyond what we can see to what we can’t see. Abraham and Sarah waited in faith for the arrival of their son. And now that Isaac is finally here God will test Abraham’s faith yet again. Does Abraham love and trust the God he cannot see even more than the son that he can see? His one and only beloved son? And so to find out God asks Abraham to do something that seems crazy to us, even obscene. Kill your son.
Why are advents so hard? Because not only are we waiting in longing for the arrival of God, but while we wait God is asking us to do something that requires great faith. He’s asking us to sacrifice the things we love the most in order to gain the One we actually need the most.
He’s asking us to trust the Angel of the Lord – The Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven…
The Angel of the Lord is no ordinary angel. Most scholars agree that this angel is God himself. In scripture the Angel of the Lord speaks as God, receives worship as God, and is called God by those who see him. Beyond this, many see the Angel of the Lord as the pre-incarnate Christ.
The Sacrifice of Isaac (1635), Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1689).
Why are advents so hard? The answer is that in our waiting we fail to hear the call of the Angel of the Lord. We fail to place our hope in God’s ultimate salvation, instead of the temporary salvations that we create, usually out of God’s “blessings.” Our “Isaacs.”
You see what Abraham and Sarah needed most was not a son. They needed a substitute. One that only the Lord could provide. And in trusting the substitute they gained a life giving relationship with God – for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.
Two thousand years later on this same mountain the Angel of the Lord wouldn’t just provide a substitute, he would BE the substitute. The incarnate Christ, the greater Isaac, would give his life for us. The joy of every longing heart.
What we need most in this life is God himself. We need to know him and trust him. And we need him to experientially know us – now I know that you fear God. This is what our union with Christ offers us. Not only a savior but a God who knows us and a God who can be fully known. Only in this are we truly satisfied.
Can you hear the Angel of the Lord calling to you this advent? Can you see his provision for you in the life of Christ? Can you trust him with your life while you wait?
What does your heart long for the most in your waiting? Have you placed your hope in a God substitute (an Isaac), or is your hope in the Lord who has provided through your union with Christ?