The Light of Christ Journey

Encouraging people on their journey with Christ

We see the sovereign timing of God as Jacob meets Rachel. Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, had sent Jacob away from his angry brother on the pretense of finding a wife. Jacob was going back to Rebekah’s family. Years before, Abraham had sent a servant to find a wife for Isaac, and the servant brought back Rebekah for Isaac.

Two Similar Searches for a Wife

Abraham’s servant had prayed for specific signs to find the right wife for Isaac. Rebekah unknowingly fulfilled each of these requests. Scripture does not record that Jacob prayed in his search for a wife. Yet, God was working in each case.

Both times the future wife was at a well. Rebekah drew water for Abraham’s servant while Jacob opened the well so Rachel could water her flock. Water was essential in the arid land and considered a blessing from God.

Rebekah’s brother Laban was involved in both meetings. In Rebekah’s case, Laban came out to the well to greet Abraham’s servant and invite him to their home. In Rachel’s case, Jacob knew she was Laban’s daughter, so Jacob helped her. Then Rachel ran home to tell her father. Again, Laban hurries out to the well, although this may not have been the same well.

God Works to Fulfill His Plans

God worked in both the case of Rebekah and Rachel. These two ladies married into the promises of God’s covenant. Scripture tells us that God continued to work in His sovereign timing. Isaiah predicted the coming of the Messiah.

Isaiah 60: This is what the Lord says: “At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation, I will help you. I will protect you and give you to the people as my covenant with them. Through you, I will reestablish the land of Israel and assign it to its own people again.   9 I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out in freedom,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Come into the light.’ They will be my sheep, grazing in green pastures and on hills that were previously bare.[1]

Jesus did come in God’s time to restore humanity. Romans 5: When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners[2] We may wonder at the timing, but God knows more than we do. And we can trust that God is good and cares for us.

2 Peter 3: But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed but wants everyone to repent. [3]

To hear more about the sovereign timing of God, listen here:

[1-3] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.

We see God’s mercy in covenant as God makes His promises from father to son to grandson. God had made a covenant with Abraham. Genesis 12: I (God) will make you (Abraham) into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”[1]

God renews this same covenant with Abraham’s son Isaac in Genesis 26:1-5. Then Isaac’s son, Jacob, stole a blessing from his older brother, Esau. The stolen blessing is Isaac’s desire for Esau. When Isaac realized it was God’s will for Jacob to be blessed, he blessed Jacob with the same covenantal items as Abraham. Then Jacob left home to escape his angry brother.

Jacob Meets God in a Dream

Jacob had some character issues that showed in the actions of deception. He could not borrow the faith of his father or grandfather; instead, he needed faith of his own. God, in His mercy, would renew the covenant with Jacob in a dream of a staircase to heaven.

Genesis 38: 13 At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. 14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. 15 What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”[2]

Jacob’s Response to God’s Mercy

One would think that Jacob would give heartfelt devotion to God after this fantastic dream. Not so. Jacob only declared a conditional promise to follow the Lord. Genesis 38:20b “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. [3] God continued to work against Jacob’s rebellion and unbelief. It would take over twenty years of struggle, but Jacob would come to trust God. This covenantal blessing continued to Jacob’s sons.

How Do We Respond to God’s Call?

God continues to give promises to us today through Scripture. We have free will to respond. We can refuse God’s offer, be conditional as Jacob was, or choose to trust. How is God working in your life? Where does God want to deepen your relationship with Him?

To learn more about God’s mercy in covenant, listen here:

[1-3] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.

The blessing of passing God’s test are different for everyone. These blessings depend on how God works out His plan. Just as the Lord’s plans are unique, so are His tests. God gave Abraham a challenging test when He asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. God had previously tested Abraham. At times Abraham failed; other times, he passed the test before him.

In God’s mercy, when we fail a test, He helps us learn and grow from that experience to continue to move forward in life. I know I have failed before and have experienced God’s hand of mercy, and you may have had a similar experience.

Passing God’s Tests Affects Us and Others

As we pass the test God has for us, it positively affects us and those around us because God’s plans always build His Kingdom. Soon after Abraham passed this test, the Lord spoke to him again.

Genesis 22:15 Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. 18 And through your descendants, all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.” [1]  

In our story, we first notice the necessity of obedience to pass God’s test. Abraham would be blessed as Jesus our Savior would come through the line of Abraham. It would be through Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, that the world would be blessed.

God Wants to Bless You

As followers of Jesus, we want to be blessed by the Lord, so we should expect Him to test us. God uses our stewardship of resources and relationships to test us. How will we treat those around us? What do we do with the resources God gives us?  Each test we pass helps us grow in faith and impacts others for the Kingdom of God. When we help others for the Kingdom of God, this is a real treasure that no one can ever take away.

Matthew 6:19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. [2] Putting life in perspective gives new meaning to desiring to follow wherever the Lord leads you. As we do, we can expect the Lord to bless us.

To hear about the blessings of passing God’s test, listen here:

[1] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 22:15–18). Tyndale House Publishers.

[2] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Mt 6:19–21). Tyndale House Publishers.

The first Biblical usage of the word “obey” occurs in this week’s story. Genesis 22: 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you. [1] God tested Abraham’s faith by requesting that Abraham sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham’s obedience helped him pass the test.

The Hebrew word for obey is shama which means to listen with the intent to give heed to. [2] Thus, Abraham listened to God’s command and did what God asked. It is always easy to hear the teacher’s assignments but much more challenging to do the task. It is much the same when we listen to what God would want us to do but then choose if we will obey or not.

How Could Abraham Obey God in the Test?

God had asked Abraham to give up his son. This son was part of the promise of future generations that God would use to bless the world. The command to offer Isaac as a sacrifice must have seemed unreasonable. How could Abraham reconcile God’s promise and this command? Most likely, he couldn’t, yet he responded with unquestioning obedience. I believe this is due to the other two first usage words in this story: love and worship.

Abraham had a relationship with God and trusted that God would work out the future. That is faith that results from a love relationship. Abraham was willing to put aside his desires and obey God’s will. Essentially, Abraham was bowing low spiritually to God or worshiping Him. He would not hold back his son but trusted God. He knew that everything belonged to God, including Isaac.

Abraham is Our Model

Abraham provides a model for our obedience to God. It is through a love relationship that is willing to worship God that Abraham can obey. It is the same for us. We serve a God that loves us. Romans 8: 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.[3]

Even when we don’t understand the circumstances, we can trust God loves us and can provide for us. This faith allows us to worship God when others may question Him. Love and worship result in obedient faith. Where is God asking you to obey Him today?

To hear more about the first Biblical usage of the word obey, listen here:

[1,3] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. 

[2] Strong, J. (1995). In Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship, H8055.

The first time the phrase “the Lord will provide” is first mentioned in the story of Abraham and Isaac. But will the Lord provide for me in the same way? We somehow think that people of the Bible are unique, and the Lord would not do the same for us. This is the message our enemy satan speaks into our ears. But it is just another lie to mislead us and turn us away from God.

As we grow in our relationship with the Lord, we find that the Lord can be trusted. God provides for us in ways that seem impossible to humanity. I read a story about a family running out of food, and they prayed somehow the Lord would provide. A knock came on the door, and a man they did not know showed up with a bag of groceries. The person indicated he felt the Lord leading him to their house. Through this act of kindness, both parties’ faith grew.  

The Lord Provides Uniquely for Abraham and Isaac

As they traveled to the land of Moriah to worship, Isaac asked his father where the sacrifice was, and Abraham gave him a profound response. Genesis 22:“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together. [1] Abraham did not know how God would provide but trusted somehow that He would.

As Abraham was about to thrust the knife into his son to sacrifice him, the Lord called to him. Genesis 22:12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now, I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” 13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” [2]

The Lord Will Provide for You

Of all that the Lord could provide for us, our greatest need is forgiveness of our sins. There is no question that food, shelter, and companionship are necessary, but only forgiveness is essential to enter heaven. As sinners, we need a Savior, and in the fullness of time, the Father sent His Son to die for our sins on the cross. Jesus would be the final sacrifice and is called the lamb of God who takes away the world’s sin in John 1:29.

In addition, the Lord provides daily for us in many other ways. Take time to list all the things that God has provided for you. The Lord is very generous because He is responsible for all our provisions. Philippians 4:19And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. [3]

To hear how the Lord will provide, listen here:

[1-3] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation . Tyndale House Publishers.

The first Biblical usage of the word worship occurs in Genesis 22. There Abraham tells his servant that he and Isaac are going farther up the mountain to worship. The Hebrew word used for worship here is shachah.[1] This word means to “bow down.” It is used in Genesis 18 when Abraham bows in front of the Lord, who has come to tell him that Sarah will have a child. Here this word connotates that Abraham was physically bowing low.

Bowing Down Describes Worship

It was common to bow before ancient kings to show respect. Since the Lord is more significant than any earthly ruler, He deserves our humble reverence. Thus, in worship, we bow down both physically and mentally. One way we humble ourselves and bow down is by laying aside our will for the will of the Lord. [2]

We see Abraham doing what God tells him to do by going to sacrifice Isaac on the mountain. Isaac was the son that Abraham waited over twenty years for and was born only through an act of God. As a good father, Abraham would not want to harm his son. Yet, we see Abraham acting on God’s instructions immediately.

We may wonder how Abraham can tell his servant that he and Isaac will worship God. How could he worship a God who required his son’s life? Abraham trusted God and could set aside his will for God’s will. His worship was a result of his love relationship with God.

True Worship Begins in the Heart

True worship begins in the heart, not with a ritual. We sing, listen to Scripture and a sermon, and pray in a Sunday morning worship service. But we must be careful not to confuse outward rituals with worship from the heart. These external rituals may result from a worshipping heart, or they may be only a ritual.

Jesus tells us that we must worship in spirit and truth. John 4: 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. [3] It is the attitude of the heart, not the external trappings of worship that the Father desires. Our hearts must be in a “bowed down” position; we must humble ourselves before the Lord.

Even the Psalmist knew this connection between worship and bowing down. Psalm 95:Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord, our maker, 7for he is our God.[4] While we don’t always physically bow down in worship today, we should always bow emotionally and spiritually. To hear more about the first Biblical usage of the word worship, listen here:

[1] Strong, J. (1995). In Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship, H7812.

[2] Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 214). Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3,4] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. 

Walking by faith is not easy because we must trust the Lord when we don’t always understand where we are going. We must have faith when the path ahead may look complicated. 2 Corinthians 5:For we live by believing and not by seeing.[1]

Is the Lord calling you today to walk by faith? Since my wife and I entered full-time ministry, God has challenged us to walk by faith, not by sight. Each time we have followed the Lord’s guidance, He did something in our lives that was good for us and others but not what we envisioned. As we have walked by faith, the Lord has unfolded plans for our lives that only He could.

Abraham Walked by Faith

Abraham had waited twenty-five years for his son Isaac to be born, and now as he was becoming a young man, the Lord asked him to sacrifice Isaac. Genesis 22: “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” The next morning, Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about.[2]

Abraham did not ask the Lord why but set off on a journey to sacrifice his son the following day. By setting off the next day, Abraham put his faith into practice by trusting the Lord and not looking at this situation through human eyes. God told Abraham his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of the sky, and somehow in a way he did not yet know, his son would return with him.

God Opens Doors as We Walk by Faith

As the Lord leads us by faith, He guides us to walk through doors we could not find or open on our own. I believe God’s plans for our lives are always much more significant than we could dream of. But we must travel the road of faith for them to unfold. As we do, the Lord continually demonstrates His faithfulness.

Each step of faith helps us take the next step because each step helps us grow in faith and trust the good shepherd. Several years ago, we took a step of faith by going on a mission trip to Honduras, not realizing that this act of faith would open many doors. This would be the first of many trips to that nation where the Gospel would touch many people.

It became clear that God’s plans were much bigger and more impactful than mine. As Abraham saddled his donkey and took his son to the land of Moriah, he had no way of knowing what God would do. His obedience would inspire millions of people he would never see this side of eternity. God blessed Abraham as he walked by faith. As we follow that example, we can be assured that as we walk by faith, the Lord will bless us.

Walking by faith is not easy. To hear more, listen here:

[1] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (2 Co 5:7). Tyndale House Publishers.

[2] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 22:2–3). Tyndale House Publishers.

God gives the first Biblical mention of love when He gives Abraham a task to perform. Genesis 22: Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”[1] The first mention of essential words of the Bible makes us sit up and notice. In what context does God introduce the concept of love?

Biblical Examples of Love

The Hebrew word translated as “love” is the word ahab. It can mean human love for another, human love for or to God, or God’s love toward man.[2] In the context of this week’s story, the love is of a father for a son. Love is an emotion found in the context of a relationship. But it also can be a deliberate choice based on the depth and duration of a relationship.

There are several nuances of love that the Bible brings to light:[3]

  • Clinging – Deuteronomy 11: 22 Be careful to obey all these commands I (God) am giving you. Show love to the Lord your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him.[4]
  • Seeking the loved one – Psalm 40:16 But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”[5]
  • Faithfulness – Jeremiah 31:Long ago, the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself.[6]
  • Being knit soul to soul in desire and purpose – 1 Samuel 18:1After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond between them, for Jonathan loved David… And Jonathan made a solemn pact with David because he loved him as he loved himself. [7]

God’s Love and Our Response

Humans can understand the love between a parent and a child. Yet, we are to understand that God’s essence is love. 1 John 4: 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. [8] This verse speaks of a relationship with God. Unfortunately, sin breaks that relationship.

Yet, God provides a way for a restored relationship in His love. And just like our story, it requires a Father to sacrifice His Son. God provided a ram to be the substitute for Isaac. In contrast, God provided His Son to be the substitute for us and to pay the price for our sins.

John 3: 16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world but to save the world through him.[9] We need only to trust Jesus to forgive our sins and restore our relationship with God.

To hear more about the first Biblical mention of love, listen here:

[1,4-9 ] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. 

[2] Strong, J. (1995). In Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship, H157.

[3] Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 120). Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Why would the Lord test me when He is all-knowing? Although God is all-knowing, we are not, and tests of life reveal positive things and growth areas in our lives. God has unique plans for our life that He wants us to fulfill while on this earth. He prepares us along our journey with experiences and tests to accomplish that.

Paul tells us there is a connection between spiritual transformation and seeking the Lord’s will.  Romans 12:Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. [1] When I seek God’s will for my life, I successfully pass the test of being more interested in God’s plan than mine. Where has the Lord tested you as you reflect on your own life? How did the Lord use that for your benefit?

God Uses Tests to Refine Us

Trials in life reveal things about our lives and refine us. Abraham experienced many tests by God in his life, and there was no greater one than when God asked him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Genesis 22:1Sometime later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” [2]

In our story of Abraham, God tested his faith because the Lord wanted to unfold more extraordinary things in his life. This is also true in our lives. Like many of us, Abraham had some failures along the way. But this test would prove to Abraham that he had matured in the faith. Passing this test would allow Abraham to move forward in God’s plan for his life.

Trial or Temptation?

What is the difference between a trial and a temptation? Temptations are desires that come from inside our sinful nature. Our enemy, satan, uses these temptations to drag us down so we can’t fulfill what God wants to do in our life. Trials come from the Lord to help refine us and prepare us for God’s plans to unfold in our lives.

In addition, God uses tests to build us up while our enemy satan uses temptations to tear us down. While we face similar temptations to sin, God’s trials for each person are unique to what the Lord is trying to accomplish in our lives. Scripture gives us insight into the benefit of trials.  James 1:Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. [3]

Why would the Lord test me? Learn more here:

[1-3] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation . Tyndale House Publishers.

When we encounter Jesus and come to faith, we join with others that share the blessings of restoration. During the ministry of Jesus, many faithful women followed him, including Mary Magdalene. Although she was a devoted follower of Jesus, there was a time in her life when she was demon-possessed and a tool of the enemy. Jesus delivered many from demonic possession as He ministered through the countryside.  Mary Magdalene was included in that group.

Luke 8:1Soon afterward, Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.[1]

Jesus came to set the captives free, and one of those captives was Mary Magdalene, who, through this transformation, became an amazing woman of faith. Just as Jesus set Mary Magdalene free, He can also set you free if you are captive to sin.

Mary Magdalene was at the Cross of Jesus

Mary Magdalene watched Jesus crucified despite the gory process. Ironically, Jesus was present at creation and created blood. Now His lifeblood dripped to the ground. When Jesus spoke seven times from the cross, Mary Magdalene would have heard Jesus, including His first words. Luke 23:34“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”[2] Jesus’ last words were, John 19:30“It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. [3]

After Jesus had died, Mary followed Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea as they buried Jesus. After observing the Sabbath, Mary went to the tomb early Sunday morning. There she discovered that someone had rolled the stone away. An Angel told Mary that Jesus had risen and instructed her to tell the disciples that Jesus was going ahead of them in Galilee. After telling the disciples, she returned to the tomb with Peter and John. Soon after that, Mary Magdalene met Jesus by the grave. John 20:15She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” 16 “Mary!” Jesus said. [4]

Jesus Loves to Restore Sinners to Himself

Mary Magdalene is an example of what people can become when they give their lives to Jesus. The past doesn’t matter; no one is too far from God to receive salvation. Even if you have served satan, God wants to save you. Mary Magdalene received God’s amazing grace, which changed her life in this world and the next. This was possible because Jesus was willing to give His life to all humankind to pay for our sins. What an amazing Savior. 

To hear more about the blessings of restoration, listen here:

[1-4] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation . Tyndale House Publishers.

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