FAITH: 'Love' is not a noun — it's an action verb
Valentine’s Day came and went only two weeks ago and, with ‘love’ still in the air, a sobering facet of real love, namely sacrificial love, could spur us on to some deeper reflection.
The Old Testament story of Abraham’s call to sacrifice his only son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19) is well-known to Jewish, Christian and Muslim minds. Over the ages, it has been illustrated in many sermons as lessons in loving God over families.
Abraham’s love for God was sorely tried, but when God said, “Take your only son Isaac, whom you love,” He was proving the patriarch’s love at its deepest level.
When Abraham had reached a lofty theological position in life, it was now to be expected that his love to God would be commensurate with his confession.
But, this had to be proved.
It is one thing to give expression to lofty theological conceptions, but quite another matter to prove correspondingly our love to the God we profess to name.
I am persuaded that love to God, in proportion to our knowledge of doctrine, is the missing factor in the evangelical circles today. Paul warned of it when he wrote, “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”
With Abraham, however, it was quite different.
His love to God corresponded with knowledge of God. Grace and truth were beautifully blended.
When God proved Abraham, there was obedience of love. God could say of Abraham, “You have obeyed my voice.”
That was a great commendation at any time, but even greater when considered against the background of this story.
God told him, “Take now your son, your only son whom you love . . . and offer him for a burnt offering.” What would we have done in the face of such a command?
Only true love to God could respond to such a test. That is why Jesus closed his ministry with a statement that will always stand as the proof of love — “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
I wonder if we have ever thought our way through to the obedience of love. How have we treated the teachings of God’s Word which has been brought to bear upon our mind?
The proof of love goes even further than this, because from the narrative we find it was manifested by the offering of love: “Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from me,” said God.
God declared, “Now I know.”
Abraham’s love has never been proved in this fashion before. The love was there, no doubt, and if there, God knew it.
But, the valuable point here is that God expected a practical evidence of it.
No wonder James exclaimed, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar?” (James 2:21).
What about our own self-surrender to God? Can we stand with Abraham and say, “Lo, everything is on the altar — what I am or what I have. Take this offering of unspeakable costliness as a proof of my love to you.”
In relation to the offering of Isaac, it is important to recognize that for Abraham the act of giving not only involved unspeakable costliness, but it implied unshakable confidence.
There was no unintelligent resignation or blind surrender. On the contrary, the offering of love was the expression of what Paul calls “the faith which works by love” (Gal. 5:6).
The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that “By faith Abraham when he was tried, offered up Isaac . . . accounting that God was able to raise him up” (Heb. 11:17-19).
Isaac without God was nothing; but God without Isaac was everything.
Abraham knew that to surrender his costliest offering to God was not to lose it, but to receive it back in resurrection power and richness.
Such unshakable confidence in God must surely condemn our shameful reluctance to offer our all to God.
How often we have thought of surrender as something unpleasant and unrewarding, instead of the act by which we prove the perfect will of God and enter into the fullness of joy.
May God forgive us for our unresponsiveness and bring us to our Mount Moriahs where “it shall be seen” whether or not we do love God with all our heart, mind, and strength.
We would then find that the proof of our love will be rewarded with a new vision of God’s substitute Ram — Jesus — giving His life in sacrifice.
And, as we gaze upon that bleeding sacrifice of Calvary, we will be reminded afresh that the only reason why we can say, “I love God,” is because He first loved us.
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