Reflections for Lent
From the beginning of time, God has desired a relationship with his people. In the garden, he took morning and evening walks with Adam and Eve. Wouldn’t you love to have listened in on their conversations? Did they discuss the animals and plant life? Did God teach them how to honor and respect one another? Or, did they just enjoy the holy presence in peaceful silence?
When Adam and Eve went missing early one morning, God knew they had broken covenant with him. The sweet fellowship had been shattered. When God found them and questioned their actions, the conversation became awkward and uncomfortable. Attempting to justify their actions, Adam and Eve no longer felt at ease in God’s presence. Guilt replaced the trust and unity–the sense of belonging. How that loss of fellowship must have grieved the heart of God!
For the next few years, only a few of their decendents received honorable mention in the Bible. Among those was Noah whom God considered worth saving when he flooded the earth. But even Noah didn’t have the kind of relationship with God as Adam and Eve.
A few hundred years later, God found a man living in Ur whom he thought he could trust. He told Abraham to leave his family, along with their idolatry and go where he would lead him. Abraham became God’s friend. One day God paid him a visit, bringing with him a couple of his warrior angels. While enjoying a meal together they discussed problems of mutual concern, including Abraham’s nephew, Lot.
Before the visitors left, God made a lasting covenant with Abraham. Though his friend was up in years, God knew how much he desired a son to carry on his name. He promised him that his wife, Sarah, would soon have a son and that his descendants would be as numerous as the sand on the beach.
After Isaac was born, Abraham taught his young prince the skills of a wealthy nomad. As they walked the hills, overseeing the herdsmen, Abraham must have told his son about his friend, God, who had blessed him with great wealth that Isaac would one day inherit.
When Isaac was still a young boy, God asked Abraham to do the impossible. God had already forbidden child sacrifice when he called Abraham out of Ur and away from the people whose worship included such despicable practices. Why would God ask Abraham to take his son Isaac up the mountain and offer him as a human sacrifice?
Regardless of the disturbing request, Abraham knew God as a friend he could trust, even with the life of his son. When Isaac questioned his father about the absence of an animal to sacrifice, Abraham responded. “God will provide a sheep for the brunt offering, my son.” Genesis 22:8a (NLT) Surely his friend would not ask him to give up his child of promise without providing an alternative.
Most commentaries suggest that God was testing Abraham’s heart. Did he worship God’s gift rather than the giver? But I believe God already knew his friend’s heart. God wanted Abraham to know what was in God’s heart–to look towards a time in the future when God, compelled by love, would give up his own son as a sacrifice for the whole world.
Because of sin, God’s people were unable to fellowship with a holy, righteous God. God longed for the perfect unity that he had with Adam and Eve in the garden. His son, Jesus, would become the Redeemer–the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Every person who came to him, would be welcomed into God’s family and fellowship would be restored.
I love the old song, “In the Garden.” According to Wikipedia, the song was written by American songwriter, C. Austin Miles (1868-1946), a former pharmacist. His granddaughter recalls that he wrote the song “in a cold, dreary and leaky basement in Pitman, New Jersey that didn’t even have a window in it, let alone a view of a garden.” But Mr. Miles had a view that surpassed the natural–he was a friend of God. (I encourage you to find links and listen to this stirring song. Alan Jackson and Elvis Presley each have good renditions.)
And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and he tells me I am His own, And the JOY we share as we tarry there–None other has ever known.
Have you walked with your “friend” in the garden lately? During this season of Lent, may we all draw closer to the one who loves us and longs for our fellowship. Like Abraham, may he consider each of us his friend.
A Prayer for Lent: Lord God, friend of Abraham, search our hearts and show us how to confidently walk with you through this garden of life. Help us to trust your faithfulness and love. We want to be your friend. Amen.