What should we learn from the friend of God?

What Mount Moriah Can Teach Us about God's Providence

There is an important lesson for us about life with God from a man who was called “the friend of God” (James 2:23).

This man was promised more posterity than can be numbered. He was also promised land. He had neither children nor land at the time. And, his friend (God), made him wait.

Frustrated, at one point, he began to give up on God’s promise, or at least propose a revision to it. So God “took him out side, and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be’” (Genesis 15:5).

More waiting – until it looked impossible

Once again, when he “was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers’” (genesis 17:1-2).

Abram, (God’s friend), “fell facedown, and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. (Genesis 17:3-6).

More waiting but finally, in God’s timing, Abraham’s wife “became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age” (Genesis 21:2). Imagine the joy! Renewed confidence and hope must have given Abraham more strength for his journey.

God tested His friend

Not much later, God tested His friend. Did Abraham become so focused on the gift that he forget the Giver? Did his blessing become an idol? Something was wrong. Something needed clarification.

“’Abraham!’ God called. ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘Here I am.’ ‘Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.'”

How could it be? He is God’s friend. The late A. W. Tozer offers the best description I’ve read of this scene.

Abraham’s harsh and bitter experiences

“Abraham was old when Isaac was born, old enough to have been his grandfather, and the child became at once the delight and idol of his heart. From the moment he first stooped to take the tiny form awkwardly in his arms, he was an eager love slave to his son. God went out of his way to comment on the strength of this affection. And it is not hard to understand. The baby represented everything sacred to his father’s heart– the promises of God, the covenants, the hopes of the year and the long messianic dreams. As he watched him grow from babyhood to young manhood, the heart of the old man was knit closer and closer with the life of his son, till at last the relationship bordered upon the perilous.” 

“It was then that God stepped in to save both father and son from the consequences of an uncleansed love. ‘Take now your son,’ said God to Abraham, ‘Your only son Isaac, whom you love, and get into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell you of’ (Genesis 22:2). The sacred writer spares us a close-up of the agony that night on the slopes near Beersheba when the aged man had it out with his God, but respectful imagination may view in awe the bent form wrestling convulsively alone under the stars.”

“Possibly not again until One greater than Abraham wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane did such mortal pain visit a human soul. If only the man himself might have been allowed to die. That would have been a thousand times easier, for he was old now, and to die would have been no great ordeal for one who had walked so long with God. Besides, it would have been a last, sweet pleasure to let his dimming vision rest upon the figure of his stalwart son who would live to carry on the Abrahamic line and fulfill in himself the promises of God made long before in Ur of the Chaldees.”

“How could he slay the lad! Even if he could get the consent of his wounded and protesting heart, how could he reconcile the act with the promise, ‘In Isaac shall your seed be called?’ This was Abraham’s trial by fire, and he did not fail in the crucible. While the stars still shone like sharp white points above the tent where the sleeping Isaac lay, and long before the gray dawn had begun to lighten the east, the old saint had made up his mind. He would offer his son as God had directed him to do, and then trust God to raise him from the dead. This, says the writer to the Hebrews, was the solution his aching heart found sometime in the dark night, and he rose ‘early in the morning’ to carry out the plan. It is beautiful to see that, while he erred as to God’s method, he had correctly sensed the secret of God’s great heart. And the solution accords well with the New Testament Scripture, ‘whosoever will lose for my sake shall find’ (Matthew 16:25).”

Remove him from the temple of your heart 

“God let the suffering old man go through with it up to the point where he knew there would be no retreat and then forbade him to lay a hand upon the boy. To the wondering patriarch He now says in effect, ‘It’s all right, Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there. I wanted to correct the perversion that existed in your love. Now you may have the boy, sound and well. Take him and go back to your tent. Now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’”

“Then heaven opened and a voice was heard saying to him, ‘by myself have I sworn, says the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice’” (Genesis 22:16-18).

“The old man of God lifted his head to respond to the Voice, and stood there on the mount strong and pure and grand, a man marked out by the Lord for special treatment, a friend and favorite of the Most High. Now he was a man wholly surrendered, a man utterly obedient, a man who possessed nothing. He had concentrated his all in the person of his dear son, and God had taken it from him. God could have begun out on the margin of Abraham’s life and worked inward to the center. He chose rather to cut quickly to the heart and have it over in one sharp act of separation. In hurt cruelly, but it was effective.”

“I have said that Abraham possessed nothing. Yet was not this poor man rich? Everything he had owned before was his still to enjoy: sheep, camels, heads, and goods of every sort. He had also his wife and his friends, and best of all he had his son Isaac safe by his side. He had everything, but he possessed nothing. There is the spiritual secret. There is the sweet theology of the heart which can be learned only in the school of renunciation.”

The tough, old miser within us will not lie down and die

“Let us never forget that truths such as these cannot be learned by rote as one would learn the facts of physical science. They must be experienced before we can really know them. We must, in our hearts, live through Abraham’s harsh and bitter experiences if we would know the blessedness which follows them.”

“The ancient curse will not go out painlessly; the tough, old miser within us will not lie down and die in obedience to our command. He must be pulled out of our heart like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in agony and blood like a tooth from the jaw. He must be expelled from our soul by violence, as Christ expelled the moneychangers from the temple. And we shall need to steel ourselves against his piteous begging, and to recognize it as springing out of self-pity, one of the most reprehensible sins of the human heart.” (The pursuit of God)

The ways of God

God desires to draw us into a deeper knowledge and stronger love for our Creator! He wants us to be fully devoted with undivided allegiance!

Full devotion and total surrender to God should be understood as (what Jesus called) the greatest commandment – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38). This is an all-consuming love for God. It is what God is producing in our hearts (Philippians 2:13).

Developing this fully devoted love for God is an adventuresome, joyful and challenging journey. Sometimes it will come through God’s loving discipline. Scripture says, “The Lord disciplines those he loves.” Although God’s discipline at times is painful, it is designed by God to draw us closer to Him, and to remove from our lives obstacles to deeper devotion.

Lonely valleys of the soul

“The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things. The blessed ones who possess the kingdom are those who have repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing. These are the ‘poor in spirit.’ They have reached an inward state paralleling the outward circumstances of the common beggar in the streets of Jerusalem—that is what the word poor as Christ used it actually means. These blessed poor are no longer slaves to the tyranny of things. They have broken the yoke of the oppressor; and this they have done not by fighting but by surrendering.” (A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)

Following hard after God, “… is a path chiseled against the steep sides of the mount of God. We dare not try to bypass it if we would follow on in this holy pursuit.” (Tozer)

Further reflection

  • “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Romans 4:19-21).
  • “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Prayer for the journey,

Steve Cornell

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Doubt, Questioning God, Suffering, Walking with God, Wisdom and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to What should we learn from the friend of God?

  1. Reblogged this on Wisdomforlife and commented:

    The tough, old miser within us will not lie down and die in obedience to our command. He must be pulled out of our heart like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in agony and blood like a tooth from the jaw. He must be expelled from our soul by violence, as Christ expelled the moneychangers from the temple.


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