"The Lord will provide," Abraham assured his anxious son, Isaac. If you have been following the lectionary readings, you would realize that we have been reading about Abraham and his family over the past several weeks. Last week, Abraham was to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Two weeks ago, Sarah asked Abraham to send Hager and her son, Ishmael, away because Sarah saw Ishmael and Isaac playing together.
The tragedy in that story is that it was Sarah who asked Abraham to have Hagar because she herself couldn’t give birth. But when she gave birth to Isaac and realized the potential competition over Abraham’s inheritance, it made sense for her to ask Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away.
With Ishmael gone and out of the picture, Abraham received a strange request from God. He didn’t know that God was testing his faith. God asked him to offer his beloved son, Isaac, as a sacrifice.
Why in the world would God ask him to do that? I am sure that if you had seen your wife go through several miscarriages and unsuccessfully tried IVF, you would have serious problems with this request.
Indeed, God was aware of the challenges that Sarah had to endure before she got pregnant and delivered. Remember, she even laughed at the two angels who promised her she will bear a child because she was past her age.
Similar to how we also interpret God’s promises with our limited human minds, Sarah found herself surprised by the gift of Isaac. The miracle of Isaac’s birth was enough assurance that nothing is impossible to God and that God always provides.
Being keenly aware of the promise God had made to him, why would God be asking him to sacrifice the seed of the very promise? But Abraham didn’t relent, nor did he question God. He set out with his beloved Isaac to offer him as sacrifice.
But as they went, the smart Isaac asked his father this logistical question: "Father, we have all that we need for the sacrifice, but there’s one thing that we lack, we do not have the animal for the sacrifice."
I am not exactly sure if Abraham spent a moment thinking about Isaac’s question. He responded to Isaac with words grounded in faith. Faith is that one gift that surrounds us and assures us of God’s abiding presence and sustenance in good times and the not-so-good times when we don’t know where to turn to, when we don’t know where to go, when we feel helpless and rudderless when the floor upon which we stand begins to cave, but we can yet mouth these words:
“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
The Lord will provide - because the Lord always provides.
The Lord began to provide for Abraham when the Lord asked him to depart from his ancestral home to a different land that the Lord will show him. Abraham listened to God, and with faith left his homeland and from that day, he had always trusted in the Lord who provides more than we need and more than we can ever imagine.
I do not think Abraham arrived at the conclusion that the Lord provides in a vacuum. He made this confession because he had this unique relationship with God, and was therefore convinced that the Lord will provide, because the Lord always provides.
I lost my father when I was 10 days away from enrolling in boarding school with my brother. We had always thought that life was good because that was what life was to us. We didn’t lack. We had everything we wanted and more. And then one Tuesday morning, we woke up to the news that our father had passed away. Life suddenly changed for us. We had to rely on the benevolence of others to get by.
My mother, who is such a deep person of faith never gave up on prayer and the idea that the Lord will provide. She would wake us up every morning to pray. Sometimes she will make the point during prayer that she doesn’t have money to buy food for us. But someway somehow, we never went to bed hungry.
In fact, there were times when during prayer, someone would knock on our door with either food or money for us. The Lord always provided, and because the Lord provided and continues to provide, we never lack.
Abraham and Isaac sure got to the place where God directed Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. They prepared the altar and then he bound his son Isaac. I can only imagine the emotions that went through Abraham. I can only imagine the pain that he had to endure seeing that he is literally binding his son to offer him. You and I can only imagine the adrenaline that flowed from within Abraham. You and I can only imagine his anxiety and his shaking hands as he tied the poor boy up.
But he didn’t let any of these stop him from following through with what God had asked of him. He believed that someway, somehow the Lord would provide, and if it is in the offering of his son, God will provide because God always provides.
A couple of days ago, we celebrated our country’s independence fought by an army of ragtag patriots with limited resources facing the strongest army in the world. These patriots didn’t let their lack of resources and questionable military experience stop them from fighting for the freedoms that you and I cherish today. They believed that the Lord provides, and the Lord did provide for them because the Lord always provides.
And so, after tying the boy up and laying him on the altar he had prepared with him, he lifted up his knife to offer his son as a sacrifice. But just at that moment, he heard the same familiar voice that called him out of Ur, his ancestral home, the same familiar voice that asked him to listen to Sara his wife, the same familiar voice that asked him to offer his son as a sacrifice.
This time the voice confirmed his faith in God. The voice vindicated his faith and affirmed what he had held on to all along - that the Lord will provide. Because the Lord always, always provides.
Last week, the Supreme Court took back some of the freedoms that the patriots fought for. You wonder why? I read a USA Today article titled White Women Benefit Most from Affirmative Action. So Why Do They Oppose It?
According to the article, affirmative action has benefitted White women more than people of color. But for the court to roll back this policy, despite the benefits that it has offered to all minorities, including women, makes you ask the same question Isaac asked his father: “Father, we have everything we need for the sacrifice but where is the animal?"
African Americans, women, and our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are all wondering if they are the animals that would be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.
But remember this: as unsettling as our faith may be, the Lord provides. As incredulous as faith’s request may be, the Lord provides. As uncertain as life’s direction may be, the Lord provides. As challenging as life may be, the Lord provides because the Lord has always provided.
Our reality is one where God takes it upon God’s self to vindicate the faith that we place in God. And although like Abraham, we may have little to no control over what God may ask us to do, may we always remember that it is the Lord who provides.
Reverend Theodore Parker, a Unitarian Minister in the middle of a sermon, said this: “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.”
Dr. King loosely translated Parker’s words with this: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
The psalmist therefore assures us with these words: “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.”
That joy which comes in the morning is the justice that God provides. It may take much longer than we expect, but God still provides.
I have never doubted that the Lord provides. My life is a testament of the Lord who provides. And I am so anchored in that God that nothing - absolutely nothing - ever shakes my faith in the Lord who provides.