Whenever we encounter significant, complex, and burdensome problems, we often cry out, “Why God?! Why God?!” It’s a common response, sometimes driven more by a desire to protest against what we feel God has allowed to happen to us, rather than a genuine desire to understand the reason for our suffering.
Abraham and Isaac
When God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 22:2-3, He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” The next early morning Abraham got up. He saddled his donkey and called his two men and his son Isaac. He also split the wood for the burnt offering and departed, went to the place God had spoken to him. The next morning, Abraham rose early, saddled his donkey, and set out with his son Isaac and two other men. He also prepared the wood for the burnt offering. After walking for three days, they arrived at the place designated by God for the sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah, as described in verse 4.
It is possible that the depiction of Abraham crying out “Why God?!” in the movie was intended to highlight his human side, but this sentiment is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible. Rather, the Bible states that Abraham got up early in the morning and set out with Isaac and his men to Mount Moriah, as instructed by God in Genesis 22:2-3. In fact, the journey took them three days, as mentioned in verse 4, indicating that Abraham was resolute and steadfast in his obedience to God’s command. From the beginning of this test in Genesis 22:1, Abraham demonstrated that he had the right heart and was willing to trust and obey God, even in the face of extreme difficulty.
It is true that many people are interested in God’s blessings, power, and miracles, but may not have a genuine interest in who God is, His character, and His presence in their lives. However, Abraham’s example shows us that he desired to pursue God for who He is, not just for what God could do for him. He was willing to pay the ultimate price, even sacrificing his own son, in order to pursue a deeper relationship with God. Abraham recognized that having God was worth everything, even if it meant losing everything else. He understood the power and authority of God, as the One who raises the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist, as described in Romans 4:17.
David, The Lord is my shepherd
In Psalm 23:1, David declares that the Lord is his shepherd and he shall not lack anything. David recognized that he had needs and lacked certain things, but he understood that having God was far more important than having those needs fulfilled. For David, having God was enough. The question for us is, do we also find God to be enough or do we run after other things besides Him? If we find ourselves chasing after other things, then perhaps God is not truly the Lord of our lives, but rather, we are trying to use Him to get what we want. We may think that we already have God, so there is nothing wrong with chasing after other things as well. However, the truth is that God wants us to choose Him above all else, even if it means giving up everything else when He tests us. When we face trials, they reveal who or what we are truly chasing after. Therefore, we must be willing to choose God above all else, even when everything else is taken away from us.
The interesting thing about Genesis 22 is that Sarah, Abraham’s wife, is not mentioned at all, and her name only appears later in Genesis 23, where it is mentioned only in the context of her death. Genesis 23:1-2, Sarah lived 127 years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.
In several commentaries, it is stated that when Sarah learned what had happened to her husband Abraham and her son Isaac, she roared in such a way that she died. However, the Bible does not provide any indication of how many years had passed between Genesis 22 and 23. Only in the last part of Genesis 23:2, it is mentioned that Abraham came to mourn and weep over her. It is unclear where he was when Sarah passed away, where he came from, or if they were living separately, divorced, or what had happened. The Bible does not provide clarity on these details. What is clear, however, is that Abraham came from Mount Moriah, or more precisely from Beersheba, as mentioned in the last part of Genesis 22:19.
Before Abraham was tested, the last few verses of Genesis 21 show that he lived in the area of Philistine as a foreigner in Beersheba. After the incident where he was going to sacrifice Isaac, he returned to Beersheba again, as stated in Genesis 22:19. Beersheba was his home. However, when Sarah died, she passed away in Kirjath Arba, which is Hebron, in the land of Canaan, as mentioned in Genesis 23:2. Beersheba and Hebron are located at a distance of about 25 miles (or about 40 km) or more. So what is going on here? It is clear that when Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah, Sarah was completely left out of the story. This may have been the reason why Abraham got up early in the morning, packed his things, and immediately departed for Mount Moriah from Beersheba. He did not want Sarah to intervene in his decision on how to respond to God’s test. If she did, there was a chance that the entire thing would be put to a stop. Sarah’s name was only mentioned later in Genesis 23 when she passed away.
The interpretation that Sara’s death was caused by the roar of her soul cannot be confirmed with certainty. However, we do need to reconsider what happened to Sara on that fateful morning. Imagine waking up to find that her husband was not beside her and her son, Isaac, was missing too. To make matters worse, they had been gone for three days, and rumors she may have heard only added to her distress. It’s likely that she would have immediately set out to search for them, particularly for Isaac. What is clear from Genesis 23:2 is that she later died in Kirjath Arba, which is now known as Hebron, in the land of Canaan – more than 40 km north of Beersheba. Mount Moriah, if located in the Jerusalem area, would have been twice that distance from Beersheba to Hebron in the same direction.
The price Abraham paid
Genesis 22:1 makes it clear that God was testing only Abraham, not Sarah or even Abraham and Sarah as a couple. Sarah’s faith was not put to the test to the same extent as Abraham’s. In fact, Sarah was the one who caused Abraham to sin by giving him Hagar, as recounted in Genesis 22. Additionally, Sarah laughed at God’s promise of Isaac in Genesis 18:13-15. Therefore, it was only Abraham who was being tested. This may be why Abraham set out very early in the morning, as described in Genesis 22:3, to avoid any potential interference from Sarah in his obedience to God.
It’s true that Sarah would never have willingly allowed Isaac to be sacrificed. After all, she had waited 25 years for him to be born, and he was a precious miracle, born to her in her old age at 90 years old. The thought of Abraham sacrificing him would have been unimaginable to her, and she likely would have protested strongly. It’s possible that her emotions would have been so overwhelming that she could have cried out or even roared in protest. However, there is no biblical evidence to suggest that Sarah died as a result of this emotional outburst.
Another important point to consider is that if the interpretation of Genesis 22-23 is accurate, then Isaac would not have been a child or a teenager when he was presented on Mount Moriah. In fact, according to Genesis 23:1, Sarah died at the age of 127 and gave birth to Isaac when she was 90 years old. Therefore, Isaac would have been 37 years old at the time of the events described in Genesis 22. This means that he was a mature adult who would have been aware of what was happening and would have willingly submitted to his father’s will.
Why did you take Isaac back?
It’s worth noting that in addition to Sarah, Isaac also appears to have distanced himself from Abraham after the events of Genesis 22. According to Genesis 24:62, Isaac went to live in Lahai-Roi, which is located in the Negev region of Canaan, south of Beersheba by approximately 75 km. The Negev is often referred to as a descending or southward area, possibly indicating a spiritual descent. Lahai-Roi is also the place where Hagar met God and was helped when she was cast out by Sarah in Genesis 16. So, it’s possible that Abraham’s obedience and faith came at a high cost that his own family could not bear. This further emphasizes the complexity and depth of the story of Abraham and Isaac, and the profound impact that it had on the lives of those involved.
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:26-27.
God’s way and our objection to it
It’s often said that we can’t fully understand God’s ways, and it’s not our place to try. Our attempts to comprehend His ways can actually hinder our relationship with Him, as they can reflect a lack of trust and faith. God will reveal His purpose and will to us in due time, but it’s often a journey that we have to walk through, rather than a destination that we can simply arrive at. Therefore, we should avoid letting our questions and doubts get in the way of our faith and trust in Him. Ultimately, it’s through faith that we can grow closer to God, even if we don’t always understand His ways.
Many times, the phrase “Why God?!” reveals our anger and resentment towards Him, as we tend to believe that we are righteous, worthy, and spiritual. I don’t deserve to be treated this way, that is our thought. Often, we feel that God should not let certain things happen to us. The reason is that our spiritual life is based on many wrong things. We are often unaware of things before the Lord, the bigger picture. Especially when we have done a lot of good deeds and our donations and offerings are substantial, we tend to feel that we have served God well and that He owes us a lot. Moreover, when we first come to God, many of us are genuinely good people. Due to this, we like to think that we are the good people who are coming after God and that He is the one who needs us. And because of our goodness, we often fail to see what the Cross means to us. We tend to think that it’s only for sinners. We believe that we are innocent and not bad people. We think that because we are good, God owes us debt. So when we encounter problems, we tend to protest against God’s chosen way. We cry out, “Why God?! Aren’t I good? Am I not what you want? Am I not spiritual enough to please You?!”
These are the wrong foundations of our Christianity that become apparent when we face God’s trials. The pressures of life reveal who we really are. When we ask, “Why God?!” it shows our pride as we think we are more righteous and better than God. It’s a selfish and self-centered thought, and very self-righteous. It’s no wonder that many of us as Christians become very judgmental of others.
First, we should acknowledge that when we come to God for the first time, even if we are good people, we must come through repentance. If we think we have no reason to repent just because we were good, then that very mindset is the reason for repentance: to turn away from self-righteousness. We don’t have to be wicked to understand the concept of repentance. Self-righteousness is a sin, a state of mind that initially makes us feel justified and corrected, but ultimately leads us to judge others. No amount of self-righteousness can justify us before God, because no matter how righteous we are, there will always be sin within us that comes from our inherently sinful nature. We cannot deny or escape it, we can only try to balance it with our righteousness and cover it up, but we know we cannot fully redeem it. The worst part is that self-righteousness can deceive us into thinking we do not need to repent or a redeemer. This was the mistake of the Pharisees; it was not that they had a greater understanding of the Word, but that they believed themselves to be more righteous than others. This feeling of spiritual superiority is inevitable when we begin our journey with God without repentance. Therefore, we must repent, turning away from our own righteousness. Only the Cross, the death, and the resurrection of Christ can justify us. All our righteousness is like filthy rags before Him, as stated in Isaiah 64:6. The term “filthy rags” used in the original language refers to the cloth used by women during their menstrual cycle to clean themselves.
Next, our journey in life should always lead us back to the Cross – it should start with the Cross and be based on the Cross. As Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Therefore, if we walk with Him, we must also grow in Him through His own Cross, not by our own efforts. Our motives can often become wrong, as we may want Him to love us more or to become more pleasing and acceptable to Him. However, we do not serve Him to gain merit or to receive more from Him. Rather, we love and serve Him because He loved us first and served us. We can only repay Him, not gain anything from Him. He loved us completely on the Cross and was faithful until death, giving it all for us without missing anything. There is nothing else we can do to earn more of His favor, which comes only from the Cross itself. We owe Him our lives, and we must love Him more, serve Him, and give Him everything because we owe our lives in full to Him who died in our place on the Cross. He reconciled us to the Father by His own blood, and it is not the other way around, where we expect a reward from Him because of our righteousness and good deeds. We should not expect anything from Him because all we can do is pay a debt that we can never fully pay in our lifetime. So, think about this: do you love God? And why do you love God?
He who gives, also takes
So, instead of protesting and questioning God’s plans, we should humble ourselves before Him and seek repentance. We should turn to Him and recognize that our righteousness comes only from the Cross, where He died and rose for us. Stop protesting, because God is testing us. It’s not that He’s taking something you think He should not take. As Christians, we should understand that our lives belong to God, as He created us and redeemed us through His death on the Cross. Therefore, we should submit ourselves to His will and trust in His plans, even if they don’t align with our own. Let us focus on serving and loving God, not for our own benefit, but because of His infinite love and grace towards us.
Look at Sarah’s life. God’s test on Abraham was also an indirect test on Sarah. If we respond properly, we will pass the test and move up to higher levels of life. However, if we react wrongly, our response will be to look for an escape route instead of attempting to pass the test. Often, our response to a problem will act as a filter that either makes us better or bitter.
If Sarah had actually died because of her reaction to God’s test, it would have been a great tragedy. It would have shown that she was not ready to be Abraham’s partner and that she had only been focused on having a child, Isaac. Sarah had become so fixated on God’s promises being fulfilled that she forgot that God wanted her to know Him more deeply. Great faith is not just about believing in God’s power to move mountains, but also about being willing to leave everything behind for Him.
Many times all we could see is ourselves as the most important thing in life. We love ourselves so much, our children, our families, our health, and our possessions. We realize we don’t put God as number 1 in our life, but we forget that we do not even put Him as number 2 on the list. He turned out to be just somewhere down the line and we would turn to Him only when we need Him. When we don’t, we would keep ignoring Him in this life. We only used Him for our benefit. We must repent and truly place Him as number 1.
Job and his trials
Sarah should have realized that God is the giver and the taker. Nothing remains eternal in this world, not even a son. And if God finds us loving something or someone more than Him, we must know that He is a jealous God who will not exchange His glory for anything else. We must understand that only God is eternal, and unless we have Him, there will be nothing eternal within us.
The devil posed the question in Job 1:9, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Oftentimes, we only fear and worship God because we want something from Him. And many times, once we receive what we desire, we stop seeking Him. Job 1:11 in The Message version reads, “But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He’d curse you right to your face, that’s what.“
Our protest to God, “Why God?!” is a slightly more polite form of cursing Him. We get angry because we think God shouldn’t have treated us that way. The question is, why can’t we allow God to allow what He allows to happen to us? Why do we get angry when He takes something from us? Why can’t we humble ourselves to Him and let Him work out His purposes in our lives? Why?
When various types of suffering and calamities began to befall Job, he humbly and with great spirit continued to praise and glorify God (Job 1:20-22). In verse 21, he declared, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” At this point, he had just lost both his property and his children.
But the next wave of suffering was even heavier. This time, Job’s health was under attack. His own life was at stake as he fell ill with ulcers, boils, blisters like leprosy, and a persistent itch, as described in Job 2:5. His wife even suggested that he curse God, but Job rebuked her and continued to humbly accept what God had allowed to happen to him. In Job 2:10, it is clear that Job did not sin with his lips. However, when his three friends arrived to comfort him, Job began to protest and deny their accusations.
Job protested, feeling that God had been unfair to him despite his godly life. His suffering was so severe that he began to curse the day he was born in Job 3:3, saying, “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’” In verse 11, he wondered why he didn’t die at birth, and in verse 25, “or the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me.” He felt that his worship had failed to protect his property, family, and health, and realized that his worship had a different purpose than it should have had. Job 1:5 shows “and when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.“
Job apparently was very afraid that God would bring all the plagues and suffering because of the party his children were having. He thought, maybe my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts. His worship was based on his fear of his children might have cursed God in their hearts during the parties they had the night before. There are people who worship for something, like Sara’s worship was for Isaac. There are people who worship to take care of what they have like Job worshipped to protect his children and property and even to maintain his health. But Abraham still worshipped even though his son was to be taken from him, his obedience was more than faith to gain (to take) something. Abraham’s faith has come to this challenge, will you leave everything and follow Me? Matthew 19:21. Job was now being taught by God to remain faithful to worship Him even though everything is taken forcefully from him.
Yes, many of us would hesitate to leave behind our possessions to follow God. However, it’s also true that God sometimes allows us to experience disasters to test our hearts and reveal our true desires in life. Like Job, who didn’t understand the events in Heaven in Job 1 & 2, but God used this experience to lead him to know Him better. Job later acknowledged his mistake in speaking about God’s wonders without understanding them in Job 42:3. He confessed that he had only known God through others’ words, but now my eye sees you. Job 42:5.
If we can only worship and serve Him faithfully when God blesses us and answers our prayers, we just arrive to a point where most of us would be able to do it. Yes, like Sarah, who rejoiced when she received Isaac. And like Job who rejoiced to see his children having fun in their life.
But if we can continue to worship and serve Him faithfully even when God begins to take away one thing after another or even everything from us, and even when our prayers go unanswered, then we will truly come to know who Christ is for us. Philippians 2:6-8. He who left everything in Heaven to come to serve us, became a sacrifice to redeem our lives.
A testimony of healing, a blessing, or a tremendous breakthrough is certainly pleasant to hear, and anyone can testify to such experiences. However, a testimony of faithfulness in the face of death, a heart that continues to praise God during disasters, and the right attitude of gratitude in the midst of loss are extraordinary testimonies that can change many hearts. Who can testify in this way?
Hebrews 11:35, The Passion translation said, faith-filled women saw their dead children raised in resurrection power. Yet it was faith that enabled others to endure great atrocities. They were stretched out on the wheel and tortured, and didn’t deny their faith in order to be freed, because they longed for a more honorable and glorious resurrection!
The question remains the same until now, Matthew 19:21. Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” If you want to be perfect…, yes, our spirituality is determined not by how much we can gain and accumulate all kinds of wealth in this world, but by how much we dare to leave behind to follow Him. Do you dare? Or does God have to test you? And if God tests you, will you also protest, “Why God?!” God’s test is simple: do you choose Him or another?
1 John 2:15-16, Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Juni 30th 2020
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