When you’ve ‘got nothin’

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Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God,because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

– Genesis 22:6-14

Day Lily | Missouri Botanical Garden | July 2021

“I got nothin.” Have you ever felt that way? No excuse. No strength. No resources. No answer. Final Jeopardy answer: Blank. 

It’s either a feeling of grave deficiency, embarrassment, or…relief. You’re off the hook one way or another.  The path forward is out of your hands. You may be held responsible for no answer, but you will not be blamed for the wrong answer. 

Abraham is on the way to the burnt offering sacrifice. He has wood and fire. He has no lamb. He has Isaac. And when asked about the lamb, he has something better than “nothing.” He has faith. “God will provide the lamb for the sacrifice,” is his answer.

God will provide. What a powerful testimony of faith. And look at how it will unfold. At the last minute. In the middle of the unimaginably horrific act. As the knife is ready to plunge into his son, Isaac. The child of the promise. His only son. The son he loves. Laid on the wood. Frightened. Unbelieving. Terrorized. How do you even get over that? 

God will provide. What a powerful promise. Isaac saw that up close and more personally than any of us could ever imagine. He saw it at the last moment. When there was no way of escape. Except God provided. It was a dramatic show of God’s providential care and faithfulness – even as it was a test of faith and obedience for Abraham.

But we don’t call this mountain The Mountain of Obedient Faith, we call it the Lord will provide. We remember Abraham’s faith. But we are pointed toward God’s faithfulness. We are reminded of God’s grace. We are grounded in God’s provision of a lamb.

That reminds me of another mountain – a hill really. Nothing majestic. Certainly nothing glorious. Not quaint or evocative in the manner of the Mount of Olives. But the hill called the Place of the Skull. On that hill God provided the lamb, his own Son. But he did not hold back the hands of those who would pierce his flesh and crucify him. He did not save his Son at the last minute. In fact, he forsook him. And his Son remained faithfully obedient. The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

God provided him. And if God did not spare his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all, will he not freely give us all things we need (Romans 8:32)? Maybe at the last minute. Maybe when we’ve “got nothin.” Maybe today. Certainly when the end comes. He will provide. You need nothing but him.

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