Faith as Taking the Third Option

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Hebrews 11:17-18

Recently I heard a wonderfully Hebraic definition of “faith” from a woman who has been a missionary in Nigeria for many years, and has picked up the Eastern way of thinking.

Remember the story of Abraham – God had promised to make a great nation of him, and had miraculously given him a son after he had waited faithfully for many years. Once Isaac was born, he must have breathed a sigh of relief when he saw how God’s promise finally had a chance to move forward. Then, shockingly, God seems to thwart the plan that took him so long to get going – he tells Abraham to offer up Isaac to him as a sacrifice!

The tension in those two options seems enormous – on the one hand, Abraham is supposed to raise up a family of faithful followers to God; on the other hand Abraham is supposed to destroy the only chance he has to do that. And on top of that, commit murder, and sacrifice a child, something God calls abhorrent later in the Bible. What in the world would you do in that situation?

The missionary woman talked about how Abraham took the third option – of simply walking in obedience, and clinging to the fact that he knows that God is good and able to do all things. He didn’t know what would happen as he and Isaac climbed the mountain together. Somehow Abraham knew that God could accomplish the seemingly impossible and give Isaac back to him, perhaps even resurrecting him from the dead. (Hebrews 11:19)

Abraham had two mutually conflicting options, and held onto both of them, and knew only God could allow him to do both. In the same way, this woman talked about how the Muslims who turn to Christ are presented with death threats and hate from their families, and they go through seemingly impossible options. Should they move away and protect their lives in order to raise their families, or stay and be witnesses? If they are persecuted, should they ask the government to punish their tormentors so that conditions will improve for Christians in their land, or should they simply turn the other cheek?

Honestly, I really struggle with taking the path of the “third option,” and I’m not always sure that God wants us to do the extremely dangerous thing, expecting him to save us. Jesus himself hid from those wanting to take his life. But I heard this woman tell story after story of deliverance, when people opt for the “third option.”

I admit that I got upset with Corrie Ten Boom’s sister Betsy (in The Hiding Place) who when asked by the Gestapo officer in her kitchen where they were hiding Jews, answered him truthfully, “under the table.” They had a potato cellar under their rug, and the Jewish man was inside it. In the story, the officer yanked the tablecloth off the table and didn’t think to look at the rug.

I actually struggle with Betsy’s need to be truthful when she was putting the life of another at risk. (I wrote about this before.) The rabbis point out that there is another commandment that she should have been aware of – “Do not stand by when your brother’s blood is being shed” (Lev. 19:16), and in their thinking, the command to save life trumps the command not to lie. And I think of the fact that by helping her family forge or steal ration cards, she hadn’t been “truthful” according to the law, but now, she insists on doing something that could cost another his life. I know it shows her integrity, but now???

And yet, the Lord honored her by not allowing her to be caught in her effort of chosing the difficult “third option” of pleasing Him. Wow.

What strikes me is that when people dare to take the “third option” of faith when all seems impossible, that is when God does the greatest miracles.

Published in: on May 16, 2007 at 7:14 am  Comments Off on Faith as Taking the Third Option  
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