“The way a book is read — which is to say, the qualities a reader brings to a book — can have as much to do with its worth as anything the author puts into it…. Anyone who can read can learn how to read deeply and thus live more fully.”
~Norman Cousins

Writing is where we truly learn. Join the Journey.

I read from my scriptures (book), but you can find scripture reference here.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Genesis 22 A Lamb for an offering

When God asks us to sacrifice, he always provides a lamb in the bushes.
It's been a long week for me. A week of second guessing myself and choosing direction.  A week of travel, meetings, and family time that has caused me to wonder why I read and ponder and study the scriptures the way I do.  Why am I on this scripture journey? And that led me to consider if Abraham ever wondered why his love for God had brought him to the place where he was willing to listen to obedience and love for God over ethical reason, over family security?  His faith was so sure that he didn't know how God would answer his pleas, but he knew he had to obey, and that his answer would come in and through his obedience. In practicing obedience he would find the answers and understanding of God's law that he longed for.  God had kept his promise before, why would God forsake him now? He didn't know where the Lamb for an offering would come from, but surely as he prepared and did all that God required of him, he knew that the lamb would be there. He trusted God. And in trusting God, he learned to trust himself. God knew how Abraham would respond. The test was for Abraham to learn how Abraham would respond. 

Concerning Abraham, President Hugh B. Brown said,  

"God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac because "Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham" (in Truman G. Madsen, The Highest in Us [1978], 49). 
Elder George Q. Cannon spoke about Abraham in the April 1899 Conference. He said: 

“Why did the Lord ask such things of Abraham? Because, knowing what his future would be and that he would be the father of an innumerable posterity, he was determined to test him. God did not do this for His own sake; for He knew by His foreknowledge what Abraham would do; but the purpose was to impress upon Abraham a lesson, and to enable him to attain unto knowledge that he could not obtain in any other way. That is why God tries all of us. It is not for His own knowledge; for He knows all things beforehand. He knows all your lives and everything you will do. But He tries us for our own good, that we may know ourselves. ... He required Abraham to submit to this trial because He intended to give him glory, exaltation and honor; He intended to make him a king and a priest, to share with Himself the glory, power and dominion which He exercised” (GeorgeQ. Cannon, in Conference Report, Apr. 1899, 66).

Sometimes it feels like when I sit down to write I am listening to obedience over reason. I don't have a clue how many people I am reaching?   Do my words matter? Is it a wise use of my time, my faith? But I know, like Abraham,  that God is reaching me: one person, one mother, one daughter, one sister, one grandmother, one handmaiden of the Lord, one family.  When there are so many other things I can with my time I wonder why I write so deeply about what I learn? The beauty is that every time I write... every time I am obedient to the promptings to analyze and present my thoughts on the scriptures, I find "a lamb" in the bushes, some surprise that God has prepared for me that I would not have seen if I had chosen to disobey. Usually it comes in a learned principal that raises my spirit up, or stabilizes the ground I stand on. Or it might teach me a new perspective that becomes imperative in my own families peril of survival, but not always. Sometimes it merely brings me peace. A peace that I am certain Abraham felt when he realized where his loyalties lay and the rewards that his faith would bring him and all of his likewise obedient progeny. 
The sister missionaries in my daughters mission

I have a daughter who is currently on a mission for our church. Her leaders have kept a mission blog and I read it from time to time. Tonight when I read through it I was amazed at how much sacrifice is given by each missionary and by each leader. There is one photo of the mission president and his wife washing dishes. Mission Presidents come from all walks of life: wealthy, poor, educated, not so educated, successful businessmen, farmers, sportsmen, educators, etc. When they come to serve the Lord they come to serve. The only prerequisite they need is a willing heart to sacrifice what or whom they love so that others can learn and feel of God's love.  Fortunately the law of blood sacrifice passed with the atonement by Jesus Christ. God now proves us by asking us to present our willingness to serve and love one another. It starts in our family with our spouse, our children, our parents and then moves to our neighbors our church community, our school or city of residence. We are asked to forsake selfish pleasures and desires for the welfare of something larger than ourself.  When we do this we find .... our own joys.  But mostly.. we find ourself. We discover what we hold dear. Each choice to serve and obey defines us. It draws us into the circle of God's love. 

It's not because God needs to know who we are and what we are capable of, it's because like Abraham who was given a commandment to sacrifice the very thing he had lived his entire life for, the very promise that God had given him, we are brought to our own personal trials so that we too might know where our loyalties and our joys lie. 

I have found that when I read and contemplate the scriptures each week, I am able to make my relationship with him more active. No longer am I a passive receiver of words.  By writing what I learn the lessons become imprinted on my heart and act as a guiding star in my daily decisions. How often have I considered Sarah and Abraham and their love for one another, their epic story of love, fidelity, faith, and what they sacrificed for me so that I might have a higher understanding of God's law. How grateful I am to my friend who challenged me a year ago to read Genesis. Never in my wild imaginations could I have conceived how profoundly this book of holy scripture would forever change me. By making a consistent effort to commit to feast on his words I have found great peace and comfort in my trials. I have learned to let anxiety pass me by and understood better what it means to trust in the Lord with all my heart, might, mind and strength. I have not known fewer trials, but I have had the strength to use my trials as stepping stones. And isn't it true that with each trial we face if we don't make it into a stepping stone, it becomes a stumbling stone that stresses us and causes us to loose our way. 

Concerning the stress and trials that Abraham went through to discover these truths Elder Neal A. Maxwell  said our lives “cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free....
“Therefore, how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 117; or Ensign, May 1991, 88 ).
Most focus in Genesis 22 is on  the fact that he is offering his son, that he has ignored the moral law of not killing your own, that it goes against everything God had taught him, or that it is just so horrible to consider that he would give his son. We focus on Isaac and his grief and pain. Abraham's sacrifice is hard to consider because Abraham's trial is our own. It is why we have a hard time pondering it. It is the sacrifice we forsake to serve another, to stand as a witness, to show God and ourself that the love within us is the love we believe it is. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Linda, you've done it again. You sent chills down my spine. I was just telling my husband something similar. But you've put it so much better! Whom the Lord loves, He also chastens. We need these experiences to mold us into what we have the potential to be. We need to learn our own strength.


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