God is on Our Side
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go …” God says to Abraham. I imagine parents holding their kids a little more closely when they hear the words of our First Reading today? How could God ask such a thing from His friend, Abraham? Maybe He didn’t realize exactly how precious Isaac was to the old Man? No. God is very clear about what He knows about Abraham’s relationship with Isaac: he is his only son, whom he loves. God knows exactly what He is asking Abraham to do, and He still does it.
Wow! Perhaps we have a problem with God over this particular point in Scripture? I have.
But what is the lesson? What is God teaching us through this Word? I think the point is that, yes, God knows very well the value of the things He asks us to sacrifice. They are not insignificant to Him, even as they are not insignificant to us. And that is the point: God still asks us to sacrifice things that are precious to us.
But… God also knows very well what He is doing with us. He knows well what He is going to do. God is in total control, even when things seem absolutely terrifying. We’ve been there. We have felt that certain sacrifices that we are asked to make are not possible; that they will totally destroy us; that we simply cannot do it. That is when we need to remember the power that God has over all of time, space, and life. He is in total control.
And not only is God in total control; He is on our side! Paul cheers, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” What a boast! And it is true! God is on the journey of sacrifice with us – not as an adversary, not as some trickster or antagonist, but as a friend, as a Father who understands us and our struggles. Paul goes on, “He who did not spare His only Son but handed him over for us all, how will He not give us everything else along with him?” God is on our side, sacrificing with us, giving the most precious things with us; and it is that same sacrifice that acquits us.
Friends, what is God asking you and me to sacrifice? That’s the tough question this second Sunday in Lent. What is so valuable to us that it could illicit doubt in giving, challenge our generosity? Is it our job? Our home? Future plans? Money or savings? Possessions? Relationships? God knows well the grip that these things – even these goodthings – can have on us. But He still asks – precisely because they are precious to us. They are offerings with true value, true cost.
And God asks them of us not to deprive us, but to bless.
The Transfiguration that we see in today’s gospel is a glimpse of the glory that Jesus had with the Father from before the world was made. Again, the Father speaks today: “This is my beloved Son [my only one, like Abraham’s Isaac] …. Listen to him.” God will not ask anything He is not willing to give Himself; and in Jesus we have the model of all our giving, all our sacrifice. Christ reveals a path of sacrifice and suffering, yes, but that path also leads to this glory that we witness today. A glory, friends, that Jesus has already won for us! “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Again, what is the sacrifice that God is calling forth from you today? Along with that question is this: What blessing is God preparing you to experience tomorrow? The Transfiguration is a promise – a promise that every darkness has a dawn; that every struggle has a victory; that every death has a resurrection. This is the way of Jesus, and we are His disciples.
Abraham’s trust and faith brought not only salvation for Isaac on that day, but also the new promise of countless descendants and blessings for eternity. Paul knew that God is here, on our side, supporting us in every possible trial. Jesus showed that even through the path of suffering and sacrifice, there is glory to be had. Our task today is to learn these lessons – the lesson that God is in control, and that He is for us. There is no victory without sacrifice, and even God Himself experiences this. But He experiences it with us.