Faith and Fear

Struck by a verse in Genesis 22 this morning.

Genesis 22 is a pretty well-known story. God tests Abraham asking him to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. A story foreshadowing a greater redemptive story of a Heavenly Father who was willing to offer up His one and only Son as a sacrifice for others. Nevertheless, a story which records the actions of an earthly father, a flesh and blood child, and, if you pause to think about it, an obedience that transcends natural understanding. A story which, while being prophetic, I think is also meant to be instructive.

So, what’s the lesson to be learned? That’s what I’m chewing on this morning.

Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

(Genesis 22:10-12 ESV)

For now I know that you fear God. That’s the phrase I’m noodling on.

Gonna be honest, I am far more comfortable with thinking of “fearing God” as reverent fear or awe-induced trembling than I am with “to fear God is to be willing to sacrifice even your own child.” More okay with thinking that the fear of God is evidenced by bowing before an altar facedown than putting wood on an altar for a fire on which my son will be burned up. Yet, says God, I know that you fear God because you’ve withheld nothing from me, not even the miracle boy born when you 100 years old and your wife was 90 — the son I promised.

So, is that the measure? Is that the bar we need to jump in order to demonstrate we really fear God. Is that the lesson to be learned? That I need to step up my “fear factor”? Thinking not. Seems to me the fear factor comes with a faith factor.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

(Hebrews 11:17-19 ESV)

There’s a relationship, it seems to me, between our faith and our fear. Said it before, what we believe is going to impact how we behave. Though he couldn’t humanly reconcile sacrificing his son on the altar today with handing over to his son the deed to the family promises tomorrow, yet Abraham believed God was able to make it happen.

Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

(Genesis 22:5 ESV)

The boy and I are going to worship over there (code for I’ll do the burnt offering, he’ll be the burnt offering), says Abraham to his servants, and then we’ll come again to you. Both of us. Me and the boy. We’ll return. Don’t know how. But I do know Who. God has promised. God is faithful. God is able.

Thinking the lesson here this morning is less about stepping up my fear factor and resting more in the faith factor. That while without faith it’s impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6), I’m thinking that without faith it’s pretty hard, really, to fear God. Just as we were saved through faith, “and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8), we sacrifice through faith, “and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Just as we walk by faith (2Cor. 5:7), we worship by faith — even when, by the mercies of God, that worship involves presenting our bodies as living sacrifices by faith (Rom. 12:1).

Believe, by the grace of God, and behavior, by the power of God, will follow. My faith factor will fuel my fear factor.

True? Something to chew on.

By His grace. For His glory.

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3 Responses to Faith and Fear

  1. Brent says:

    Good morning Pete!
    “ My faith factor will fuel my fear factor.
    True? Something to chew on.”

    Stated this way, I’ll need to chew a little longer. When I was young, I feared the wrath of My dad when I misbehaved and he sent me to my room, to drop trou’, grab my ankles and wait for him to come in to administer my punishment. That was fear. As I grew older, I behaved (mostly) after years of my dad proving his due respect as I grew to respect the moral values he reinforced through the years.

    Fear turned into respect for my dad and his ethics, though I feared the consequences of bad behavior and not my dad himself.

    But my dad wasn’t God, and he was only human. I do believe that the faith I have in God is a gift, by no work of my own. My faith grows by seeing, reading and experiencing the continual faithfulness of my perfect Father in heaven. I KNOW, and have faith that God is to be trusted with my life, my family and my all. But that word fear….can mean different things emotionally and spiritually. I also know that I will always need Gods help in my unbelief.

    So…. Does my faith factor fuel my fear factor?
    You are right, I’ll need to chew on that😊. Thanks Pete

    • Brent says:

      Chewing more on faith and fear….It seems my gift of faith, and resultant fear of God is more about being thankful for his mercy and fearing a separation from God by hardening my heart and not doing what He requires of me (I.e. sin). It seems a healthy fear because after all, knowing His perfection, love for me even in my human condition and my desire to honor Him, fear seems a wise response. Still chewing but will end my written thoughts here. Thanks again Pete for teeing it up. I’m also in Genesis this first week of the New Year 😊

  2. Cary says:

    A real blessing this morning’s meal…thank you.

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