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The Day Abraham Died
By David A. DePra
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. (Heb 11:17-19)
God had promised Abraham a son. Abraham waited 26 years for that promise to come to pass. Of course along the way Abraham made a few mistakes Ė big ones. Chief among these was his attempt to bring to pass Godís promise for God.
It isnít that Abraham doubted that God would keep His promise. Rather, Abraham doubted his own interpretation of the WAY God would keep the promise. Yet through all of this, God still got His way, in His time, through Isaac.
But then one day, long after God had fulfilled His promise to Abraham for a son, God told Abraham to offer Isaac back to Him. Now get that. It is one thing to receive a promise from God, and then to surrender to Him by faith, and then to see Him bring the promise to pass. But in Abrahamís case, this had already happened. What was going on here, many years later, was not Abraham believing God for the fulfillment of a promise. No. This was Abraham surrendering to God the fulfilled promise.
Get that. Abraham received the promise. He received it directly from God. God waited until it was absolutely impossible for Abraham to bring the promise to pass through his own strength. Isaac was the product of a miracle. But once Abraham received the miracle promise of God, God required more. In telling Abraham to offer Isaac, God was basically saying, "You are to have no ownership over this promise. You are to surrender even that which I have already given you back into My hands."
The lesson here is that even the fulfilled promises of God do not belong to us. They belong to God. The lesson is that we cannot take ownership over even the things Ė the great promises Ė that God Himself gives us.
God was not being mean or unreasonable to Abraham. He was not depriving Abraham of anything. He was freeing Abraham. And He was making sure that no flesh would put a hand to that which had to be accomplished by His Spirit.
Death and Resurrection
There is a principle in all of this. That principle is that EVERYTHING that is of value to God must pass through death and resurrection. This is not because God decided one day to make things hard, or just made up a bunch of rule that He thought would be good ideas. No. Only if something passes through the relinquishment of death into Godís hands, will it come to be everything that God desires through a resurrection.
This is because we have no way of doing Godís will for Him. We so have a big part in it, not because God needs us, but because God wants it that way. But our part is never to take ownership, or direct traffic for God. It is never to do Godís will manís way. It is never to serve our own interest. That which is born of flesh WILL BE flesh. Only that which is born of Spirit will be Spirit. And to be born of Spirit, death first must come to the flesh, so that the Spirit can govern. We have to relinquish things into the hands of God.
So often we try to do things for God. Or we try to bring to pass Godís promises for Him. Or once we receive the promise, we try to grab it and run. We try to protect it Ė keep it going. We try to get the ark to Jerusalem by having oxen haul it on a new cart. Down through Christian history, God has started much that man Ė saved people Ė have ruined. At the top of the list is the church itself. Read the book of Acts. In less than a generation, the whole thing was off the track.
Of course, none of this took God by surprise. I think we might be amazed that God expected it to happen that way, and that He really never intended Ė in this age Ė for things to go the way He commanded. Not to suggest, of course, that God ever causes things to go bad. But God is proving something by letting Christian people create a mess. We have yet to see the outcome of that, or the purpose of it. In the meantime, God is salvaging those who will turn to Him with their whole heart.
Death and resurrection is a principle all through the Bible. Through death and resurrection we are saved. But it is also through death and resurrection that all things take on value for God. Death to manís way of doing things Ė so that God can have His way and will. And in the end, God gets all the glory, and man gets the benefit.
But the Devil will do anything he can to get us to skip the death, and deceive us into thinking we can still have the resurrection. This is, of course, a denial of the Cross. It is the preservation of the old man Ė except dressed up in his Sunday best, looking religious. This is the gospel of self-esteem, and the notion that we can possess all the things of God on our terms.
Jesus Christ came to this earth with one mission: The redemption of the world. This would result in a body of believers Ė the church. But He too was faced with the temptation of trying to bring to pass Godís purpose through a means other than death and resurrection.
The first recorded time this was offered to Christ was in the temptation in the wilderness. Satan tried to get Him to publicly prove Himself to be the Messiah by throwing Himself off the pinnacle of the temple. When that didnít work, Satan offered Him all the kingdoms of the world right then and there Ė in exchange for worship. Christ could have reasoned that the Cross was not necessary, and after all, He would save mankind two thousand years of sufferings and confusion. He could start reigning and ruling right NOW.
The second time was through His own mother. She wanted Him to turn water into wine and in doing so prove Himself Messiah. He told her, "My hour has not yet come." Now we know what He meant: His hour for glory had to first pass through Calvary.
The third time was through his disciples. When Jesus told His disciples that He must be arrested, crucified, and raised, Peter said, "Far be it from You!" Jesus said, "Get you behind Me, Satan! You have in mind the interests of man, and not God." This was again the same ruse Ė to get Jesus to bring to pass everything in Godís plan, but without the Cross. Without the death and resurrection which would result in a NEW CREATION.
The fourth time was in the garden before the crucifixion. Jesus was not praying to be spared the Cross Ė despite the fact that most of us have been told He was. This would have been contrary to His own words that night at the supper. Rather, Jesus was praying that His life be spared so that He COULD go to the Cross. He was being pressed upon by Satan that night to the point of death Ė accounting for His sweating of blood. He was asking that THIS CUP Ė the cup of dying right there at the hand of Satan Ė would pass. It did. He went to the Cross.
But notice what Jesus surrendered that night. His prayer, "Not My will, but Your will," was a relinquishment of even His mission to die for the sins of the world. Jesus was saying, "I have been born into the world for this purpose. But I relinquish even THAT to you, Father. I will not take ownership over it. Let Your will be done." In effect, Jesus was raised from a death in that garden that night so that He could die and be raised to even greater glory.
The fifth time was on the Cross. Every one was mocking Jesus and daring Him to prove Himself by coming down from the Cross. THAT would prove He was who He claimed to be. Just think how many people would then believe! But Jesus would not. He would prove Himself by coming up from the grave three days later. That was the only solution for the human race.
Again and again, Jesus was tempted to help people He loved through a means other than Godís way. He had to surrender everything into the hand of God.
The Lesson For US
Has God given you something wonderful? Keep it open to Him. Have you waited for years for God to keep a promise, and finally received it? Donít ruin it by taking possession over it. Donít try to protect if from God. It isnít YOURS. Keep it in Godís hands, indeed, keep an attitude of surrender over it. Let it go if God requires this. God will raise it up Ė He will raise YOU up Ė in a way that will make the thing that much better.
I once heard a story about a man who at a Bible study shared how God got him started in the ministry. This man has been used by God to build a huge mega church. There are thousands of people, millions of dollars, and years of ministry invested. But it all started with five dollars. The man tells of how one day, down to his last five dollars, he felt that the Lord was telling him to give it all away. He obeyed God, and gave his last five dollars to a needy person. This man claims that it was at that point that God blessed him, and that everything that has been built, was built upon a faith that began that day.
As the story goes, this man was sharing this story at this Bible study to illustrate how if you trust God with everything Ė indeed, at Godís prompting give away everything Ė how God can raise up out of that a great resurrection and blessing. But after he told his story, there was apparently a woman there who had detected something about this man that wasnít quite right. I guess she discerned that he was sort of arrogant about all of this, and that his story of giving away the five dollars in faith carried with it a bit of self-congratulation. Well, after he told the story, she said to him, "That is remarkable that you were willing to give away your last five dollars, and that out of that, God has given into your hands millions of dollars. The question I have is this: Now would you be willing to give away those millions of dollars. You say you had the faith to give away everything you had. Do you still have the faith in God to give away everything you have Ė everything that God Himself has given you?" I donít know what the man answered.
There is a lesson in this. When you have little, and surrender all, you are surrendering little. But when you have much, and surrender all, you are surrendering much. The question here, however, is not how much you possess. Neither is it a mandate that everyone always surrender their possessions. No. The question is whether what you possess possesses YOU. And in no area is this more of a temptation for Christians then with those things that God has given us.
God has given us His very life. Christ is in us. And the Bible states that not only does His life in us not belong to us, but even WE are not our own. We have been bought with a price. In addition, any ministry that God begins does not belong to us. Can we let it go if God asks us to do so? Or has it taken possession of us? Ė because we have taken possession of IT?
The key to all freedom is to be owned by nothing. That doesnít mean that we donít have possessions. It just means that all of it is open to God. Otherwise, we end up serving mammon.
Abraham had to surrender, not the promise given, but the promise fulfilled. He no longer had to surrender an Isaac that was promised. He had to surrender an Isaac that had been born. In doing so, there was a death and resurrection. But not of Isaac. The death and resurrection that day was of Abraham.
Often, God will make a promise and it will seem to die. Assuming that the promise IS of God Ė and that is a big IF Ė this death of the promise or THING we thought was of God is not necessarily the end. But either way, God requires that we relinquish it into His hands. In other words, we almost have to treat it as if it is dead. Then, and only then, is the greatest fruit possible.
Now notice something: If a hope or promise dies because we have relinquished it into Godís hands, it is already on the way towards resurrection. As long as it is in our hands, it cannot be. For it has to die. WE have yet to die to IT.
Here we see an important distinction Ė and a fundamental lesson we learn from Abraham. In the end, it is not the promise that must die, any more than Isaac died that day on the mount. No. It is WE that must die to the promise. We must die to our own self-interests even with regards to those things which God has already brought to pass. But there is nothing new about this. It is just another way of saying that we are going to take our hands off and trust God to bring to pass His own promise and Word to us.
Isaac lived that day -- but Abraham died. On that mountain, Abraham passed through a test as to whether he was going to grab Godís promise and protect it from God Himself. But no. Abraham relinquished Isaac in his heart, and consequently, when God said to let Isaac to, it was yes, Isaac, that was raised figuratively from the dead, but it was also Abraham who had a newness of life.
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