Understanding the Nature of God in Suffering: A Biblical Exploration from Genesis 22 to Easter's Living Hope.

1st Sunday in Lent - 2/18/2024 |  Genesis 22:1-18

The Age-Old Question: Who is to Blame for the World's Suffering?

In a world struggling with widespread suffering, ranging from war-torn regions like Ukraine and the Gaza Strip to the aftermath of mass shootings, questions inevitably arise about the source of this unending pain. Social media, political figures, and individuals facing personal hardships all propose their culprits, be it political leaders, societal elements, or the concept of karma. 

However, at the core of this blame game lies a timeless inquiry: is God ultimately responsible for the suffering?

Understanding the Paradoxical Nature of the God We Worship

Many assert that, as the creator, God either causes or permits these events, thus shouldering the blame. This notion of attributing culpability to Him is not new. Even Jesus' disciples attempted to link a man's blindness to divine punishment. 

Today, some depict God as an indifferent figure, seemingly favoring evildoers while reveling in the pain of the innocent. In the face of widespread suffering, questions about God's love and integrity arise, with some teetering on the edge of accusing God of being uncaring or malevolent.

This dilemma urges fundamentals question: Do we genuinely understand the nature of our God? Are we worshipping a deity of our own creation, aligning with personal agendas, or comprehending the paradoxical nature of the God presented in the Holy Bible? 

During the Lenten season, the question arises: What kind of God do we worship? On one hand, this God wields wrath against the wicked. Yet on the other hand, He willingly endures humiliation and torment on the cross for all humanity.

Understanding the Nature of God in Genesis 22 and Matthew 4:1-11: A Biblical Exploration

Genesis 22 and Matthew 4:1-11 further confront us with the question: What kind of God is this? 

The Lord God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac in Genesis 22. Later, in Matthew 4:1-11, God allowed His son, Jesus, to be tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. This raises another question: What is the nature of this God?

As a parent, comprehending the command given to Abraham, a father, to sacrifice his child is unfathomable. The emotional turmoil of losing a child is relatable, making this command even more unimaginable.

Consider the nature of the God you worship, especially in times of affliction. Our text provides a dual insight into this inquiry, beginning with God's interaction with Abraham. The term "test" takes on a positive sense, challenging one to do right and revealing character. Faith, when tested by God, serves the purpose of fortifying it rather than tempting one to stumble into transgression.

Abraham and Isaac's success in the test was not fueled by human strength or conviction. Their faith emanated from an external source—the promise God had given them. Their story illuminates the profound connection between faith, God's promises, and the endurance of trials.

The Sacrifice of Isaac: An Examination of Faith and Promise

To grasp the seriousness of Abraham's dilemma, we must understand that Isaac embodied God's promise. Despite Sarah's inability to conceive, God assured them that they would have a son in their old age, linked to the future Messiah, the savior of the world. 

The apparent contradiction arises when God requests the sacrifice of their promised son. This raises the question: What kind of God would give a promise only to take it away?

As God conveyed to St. Paul, His strength finds completeness in human weakness. In moments of vulnerability, God's strength emerges, ready to save and assist. In the Epistle of James, we are reminded that when God tests or tempts, it is to put our faith into action and trust in Him.

From this perspective, the profound truth about our God becomes evident. Abraham and Isaac's account exemplifies unwavering faith, where their strength and trust in God's promise led to triumph in the test of faith. We discover a God characterized by unfathomable grace and love.

The Lord Will Provide: Abraham's Test of Faith and Divine Provision

Abraham obediently set out for the mountain, accompanied by Isaac. It was a three-day journey, reflecting the mounting anguish in Abraham's heart. As they ascended the mountain, a strong exchange unfolded between father and son, culminating in Isaac's inquiry about the absence of a lamb for the sacrifice. Abraham's response, "God Himself will provide the lamb," reflected his trust in God's faithfulness.

Abraham, noticing a ram entangled by its horns, seized the divine provision. He sacrificed the ram in place of his son, realizing that the Lord Himself had sought to provide the sacrifice. In this moment, Abraham's faith in God's provision was validated. Isaac was set free from physical death, and Abraham was set free from emotional death. What a remarkable end to a remarkable test. Abraham called the place "The Lord Will Provide."

Parallels: God, Abraham, Isaac's Sacrifice, and Jesus' Sacrifice

Upon reflecting on the account of Abraham's testing, parallels emerge between God the Father and Abraham. The deeper meaning beneath the surface reveals that the nature of God did not demand of Abraham something He Himself was not willing to do. God the Father, with unwavering resolve, willingly offered His only begotten son.

Reflecting on Abraham and Isaac's experience reveals Isaac as a figure of Christ, submitting to his father's will, just as Jesus prayed, "Not my will, but thy will be done." Isaac's sacrifice also represents us, who, through faith in Jesus, benefit from His sacrifice. Like Isaac, we deserve death for our sins, but God provided the Lamb of God, Jesus, as a substitute.

God's love is evident in providing his son as a substitutionary sacrifice. This act unveils the nature of God we have—a God who bears the cross for us and provides the sacrifice for our sins. 

The cry of Lent and Easter is "The Lord provides," bringing joy and living hope to every Christian. This assurance enables us to continue in faith, trusting in the grace of the Lord to bless and sustain us until the end, leading to eternity with Him.

In Jesus' name and to His glory, Amen.

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