“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:” (Hebrews 11:17–18, AV)
Sometimes in life we hit situations that make us scratch our heads. These are things that cause us to ask God, “Why?” In 1987, I encountered one of these situations. I worked for a Swiss company and never anticipating being laid off as I just completed part of a project for a machine going to France. Suddenly, I found myself looking for work.
I truly wanted to stay in the Chicago area. There were several reasons for this, but one had to do with my church and ministry. I was a relatively new believer, four years in the Lord. Yet, what the Lord did in my life was no less than miraculous. Our family had our best friends in the little church. I had a ministry of teaching and evangelism, and served as an elder in the church. I was known in the denomination and had filled the pulpit in our congregation during a pastoral transition. Why move now?
I knew that God was in control. When I received the notice of termination from my boss. By God’s grace, I even quoted Romans 8:28 to him. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, AV). But why, if the Lord God was on the throne, would He move me to a place where no one knew me and I would have to start all over again?
At the time, I did not understand this, but later I saw God’s hand at work. After moving to Savannah GA, rather quickly, I reengaged in the ministry at a local church. In short order I served as an elder there. I had many ministry opportunities and ultimately surrendered to God’s call to vocational ministry. I grew in the ability to trust God’s providence there in a way that would not have happened if I had stayed in the Chicago area.
I do not believe that Abraham struggled with God’s providence as much as I did. Yet, when God told him to sacrifice his own son Isaac, there must have been some distress. However, the author of Hebrews points out that Abraham trusted in divine providence. The key to understanding this is seen in the phrase, “he that had received the promises.” When many consider this account, they forget that God formerly and specifically told Abraham that Isaac would be the progenitor, the ancestor to carry forth the covenant promise to his offspring (Gen 17:17-19). Thus, the author of Hebrews tells us that Abraham believed that God would somehow raise up Isaac from death after being sacrificed.
Abraham had confidence in God’s promise. It is interesting that when he went to the place to make the sacrifice, he took an entourage of his men, but told them to stay far from the place. He specifically tells the men, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you” (Genesis 22:5, AV). Note he states that he and the boy would return to them. Abraham did not know how God was going to work things out, but he believed that He would.
God works providentially in our lives. When we find ourselves in situations that we do not understand, we will often ask, “Why?” However, as a child of God we can rest assured that God does have a plan and that He works providentially to carry it out for His great sovereign purposes and for our benefit as His children.