God asks his servants to do hard things, to live difficult lives, sometimes experience pain and heartache, he asks us to swim through affliction. We all know this as Christians. He uses these things to change us, like a carving knife changes a sculpture. But what we sometimes forget is that God often brings us to suffering for the purpose of revealing a greater joy beyond, greater than we ever could have imagined, because ultimately the joy is HIM. He reveals himself in our greatest heartaches. And even so a greater revelation of himself than what we already had. Noah in the midst of an evil generation, Moses in the wilderness, Paul in chains, Elijah on a lonely mountain top, Stephen as he was being stoned. Hagar while watching her son die of thirst, for Samson it was after having both his eyes and his heart gouged out, its as if we can’t see God until we die a little, the flesh part needs to be shaved down. Look at what the slave ship owner, John Newton went through before he came to the realization of God’s amazing grace. He said, “now that I am blind I can see.” Our Creator always brings us joy alongside the grief, in the midst of and despite the grief. Countless men and women of faith see God while in the furnace.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
There is always something that gets burned away while in the fires of affliction, perhaps it’s the veil that lays over our eyes like a scaly cloak, preventing us from truly seeing God.
Abraham’s affliction was Moriah, Abraham watched his son carry his own grave to the tope. Broken hearted at the sight of his boy struggling with the heavy burden strapped to his back, knowing that he himself had laden him, knowing he himself had agreed to lead Isaac to his death. Abraham knew he split the wood to offer his son. He carried the knife and prepared to surrender the boy to death.
When the two arrived on the mount, Abraham arranged the wood and laid his son down. Isaac was Abraham’s foreskin, the scales covering his eyes preventing him from walking fully devoted before the Lord, but also from fully seeing Messiah. I can almost hear God say, ‘lay him down Abraham, He is the one I promised you, but he’s not the promised One.’ Abraham’s sorrow came at the expense of letting go of someone he believed to be the promised One? Isaac, after all, God did promise Isaac to Abraham and Sarah. But in that moment Abraham knew that his son was not the Messiah because the true lamb of God would have to die, and Isaacs life was spared. God’s one and only son would save the world, not Abrahams, God’s son would die, God’s son was the promised One. Abraham couldn’t see God properly until he stopped looking at his his own flesh and blood to fulfill Gods plan of redemption.
An angel stopped Abraham and Abraham saw. What did he see. A ram caught in a thicket, God’s provision, a replacement for his son, an opportunity for life, the lamb of God to come?
“And Abraham called the name of that place, Jehovah Jireh, as it is said this day, on the mountain Jehovah will be seen.” Abrahams greatest sadness in life resulted in his most significant revelation of God.
Mountaintops are never easy to get to physically or spiritually. The call and the climb test the endurance of the faithful, but the view at the top changes our religion.
It is in these most trying moments we see the Lord anew and his purposes clearer. God uses the fires of affliction to burn away the dross, and the mountains to test our faith and the Abrahams knife to circumcise our hearts. The psalmist writes, “the Lord is close to the broken hearted, and near to those crushed in spirit.” Ps. 34.
I believe the Lord intentionally dislodges our securities in order to draw close to us in our moments of despair and struggles? In the difficulties our tendency is to grasp for that thing that always comforted us, the idea, the idol, the person, the sin. God lets that thing let us down. Falling is actually not the worst thing, it is unbelief which has the worst result. And like Abraham if we are going to see God, we need to trust him in the midst of our storms and mountains.
It’s on the mountaintops of life we visit God, but how difficult to get there? Why should we think that the mountaintops are void of mourning and sorrow? The world might teach us that mountains symbolize euphoric scenes of triumph and power? Yet God teaches us mountaintops are reserved for powerful change. It was a mount where Christ hung afflicted, crushed, slain and rejected, “in the mount Jehovah will be seen.”
God asks us to do difficult tasks which break our hearts, which bring us to the very brink of demise. The life of faith is not a life of ease. Jesus said, “if anyone wishes to save his life, he must lose it.” And Paul said, if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. “Abraham had set his hopes on his seed, his flesh and he needed to shift his focus, if he was going to lead the nation of Israel to a position of faith and trust in the one True God. Abraham needed to see God so he could teach his children who God was. In order for Abraham to see who God was he needed to see who Isaac was not.
Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts . romans 5:4
Our journey towards God can be a tough climb. God doesn’t ask us to just hurry and get through these moments he calls us to these moments. I believe these times of angst are the mount Moriah’s God leads us to in order to see him, know him and experience a greater revelation of who he is. The pinnacle of our faith is where we feel the weight and consequence of trusting God.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime’s
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.