Thursday, September 29, 2005

Answering a Teen's Question

So at youth group this past Sunday we started a 5 week series on "Seeking God in Harry Potter". From Harry Potter I used a clip from The Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry has to trust Hagrid about how to approach the flying creature. The theme was trust and I used the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifce Isaac as the scripture. One of the youth ( a 7th grader no less) asked me a question that really got me off guard because I was not prepared to answer it. I answered it well enough that night I suppose, but I was not satisfied with my answer. I know that she is an EXTREMELY smart girl, so I wrote out a full blown (almost) essay like answer. So all you theological types out there, how'd I do?

Your Question:
Your question had two parts. First, how did Abraham know that it was God telling him to do this seemingly awful act and second why would God ever make a demand like that?

My Answer:
To answer the first part of your question, “how did Abraham know that it was God telling him” can simply be answered, he just did. Now the reason why he did is because Abraham and God were really tight. God first calls Abraham in Genesis Chapter 12. God tells Abraham to “leave your country, your people, and your family to go the land I will show you.” Abraham has no idea where God is taking him, but he leaves. God guides him by literally telling him where to go. In Genesis chapter 18, Abraham actually talks to God face to face and argues with him about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. So in Genesis 22 When God calls to Abraham in the middle of the night and tells him to sacrifice his son, it is obvious that Abraham clearly knows the voice of God. Now, the question this raises is how can we know the voice of God, because we have not heard a booming voice from the sky telling us what to do. There are two answers to this. First in John 10:14-16 Jesus teaches: 14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16. . . They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
If one truly knows Jesus (who is One with God the Father) then when he talks to them, they will just know it is him. In addition to that, we also have the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells his disciples in the upper room that “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I said to you. (John 14:26)” This means that the Holy Spirit will communicate to us when God is talking to us. When you become a Christian and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then the Holy Spirit dwells in you. The Holy Spirit lets you know when God is trying to communicate to us and how. Once again it is hard to say how this happens, one just needs to be attentive and expectant and when the Holy Spirit leads someone, they will just know.
The second part of your question, “why would God ask that of Abraham” is a much harder one to answer. What makes this even harder to answer is the fact of how important Isaac was to Abraham. Abraham and his wife Sarah were very, very old when they had their first son. Sarah had been unable to have children her entire life, but God promised them a child when they were old and Isaac was the fulfillment of that promise. It makes absolutely no sense why God would give something so precious and then take it away. It put Abraham in a gut wrenching decision where he had to decide of spearing his beloved son or doing what he knew God, his creator and sustainer, had ordered. That is what makes this story so great for talking about trust, because Abraham had to trust God with what was most dear to him. I believe that God asked Abraham to do this to create a point that Jesus would preach about thousands of years later. In Matthew 16:24-26 it states: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save his life[h] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Jesus is teaching that a person’s Faith and devotion to Him must be the most important thing in their life. God was asking Abraham to sacrifice his son in order to test and see if his faith in Him was the most important thing in his life. It is important to note that God never once intended for Isaac to die that day. God will occasionally test our faith, but in doing so he will never cause us to do something that is sinful. Personally, I can tell you of a time when God tested me. At the University of Evansville they have a program called Harlixton College. This is a campus the school owns in England and students can spend a semester taking classes there. I had assumed that I would not be able to because it was to expensive, but beginning my sophomore year, my parents told me it would be possible to go that Spring semester. What made this better was that Abigail, my then girlfriend and now wife was going to be there then to. it was like a dream come true, and I began making plans. I realized that I had not prayed about it, and I did so as a mere formality. However, I quite literally heard God tell me NO I could not go. In prayer I asked again and again, and every time the answer was the same: NO. I had two choices 1. Fulfill my dreams and do what I wanted or 2. Do what God said and trust Him. I chose to trust God, and I won’t lie it was hard. There were many days that I regretted my decision, but slowly I discovered why God told me No. That semester when I could have been England, God had me become a student leader in a Christian group on campus. I also led a Bible study for the first time, and I went on a mission trip to Mexico, where I know with all my heart God used me to make a real and huge difference for His Kingdom. All of that would not have happened if I had not listened to God and trusted in Him. I hope these answers help you out a little bit. If you have anymore questions, of if this answer does not fully satisfy your questions then please keep asking, and I will do my best to help.


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