Friend

Day 12

Friend 

“But you, Israel, my servant,

    Jacob, whom I have chosen,

    you descendants of Abraham my friend”

Isaiah 41:8

“ Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.”

James 2:21-24

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

John 15:13

Found in Genesis 22

It’s easy for a word to go unnoticed on a page, overlooked in a sentence or brushed by in a paragraph. But this word is one we cannot overlook. It’s startling. Striking. Like cold water splashed on a face. Not because the word itself is confronting, but because of He who says it.

“But you, Israel, my servant,

    Jacob, whom I have chosen,

    you descendants of Abraham my friend”

Isaiah 41:8

Friend.

‘My friend’! God said this.  Of a human being.

Let that hang on the air for a moment and settle into the stillness of your heart. This God who made the whole spinning Universe of exploding stars, all the miracles of life, the minuscule details in the tiniest creatures of creation, this God speaks of humans as His friends. He wants us to walk with Him as Abraham learned to. To call on His name confidently as friends call on one another. He wants to be known by us. As a friend.

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Author A.W. Tozer describes this heart of God…

“God’s love tells us that He is friendly and His Word assures us that He is our friend and wants us to be His friends. No man with a trace of humility would first think that he is a friend of God; but the idea did not originate with men. Abraham would never have said, “I am God’s friend,” but God Himself said that Abraham was His friend…”

“..It is a strange and beautiful eccentricity of the free God that He has allowed His heart to be emotionally identified with men. Self-sufficient as He is, He wants our love and will not be satisfied till He gets it. Free as He is, He has let His heart be bound to us forever…”

“…The love of God is one of the great realities of the universe, a pillar upon which the hope of the world rests. But it is a personal, intimate thing, too. God does not love populations, He loves people. He loves not masses, but men. He loves us all with a mighty love that has no beginning and can have no end.”1

This God is a God who wants to be known, to be in personal relationship with human beings. And the whole Bible, the Old Testament and the New, is really a letter from God to us revealing who He is. Personally. The long story of the lengths He’s gone to to make Himself known to us.

This book with all its endless stories is not just revelation of information about God, it is revelation of the shape of His beating heart and an invitation to join His heart on an adventure. This God wants to be known.

And this is what His journey with Abraham has been all along, an intentional scattering of promises, blessings and interactions all revealing step by step the shape of God’s love for Abraham, for humankind, like bread crumbs leading Abraham (and us) straight to His heart.

All these years of God walking alongside Abraham are like years of a friendship deepening and a committed partnership strengthening. Moment by moment God invites Abraham to know Him more, to walk closer, to commit more of himself. And step by step as Abraham comes closer, God reveals to him more of His heart.

And for Abraham, all these years of deepening friendship are deepening his trust in this God. He used to hustle to save his own skin at the expense of his family, but there has been a change. God’s faithfulness to Abraham has produced faith within Abraham’s heart. Unwavering faith. (Romans 4:20)

And then this one day arrives in Abrahams life. A day after decades of learning who this God is and learning to trust His heart.

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’

‘Here I am,’ he replied.

Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will show you.” Genesis 22:1-2

God’s words sound like a statement, but in this moment God was effectively asking Abraham a question: How committed is this friendship? How deeply do you love and trust me? Is it just for what I give you? Is it just for all my promises, my blessing, my protection, my provision? Or is it for me? Is this thing personal to you? Personal enough for you to give up everything else, your own son on whose shoulders every promise I ever made you rests? Is this as personal for you as it is for me?

When temptation and testing came, Eve and Adam gave up God in a moment, Cain gave up God in His jealousy and apathy, and a whole Babel world had given up on God for whatever identity drivenness their hearts were drawn to.

But this new family line, Seth’s family line that called on the name of the Lord and walked closely with Him, Noah, Enoch, now Abraham, this new family God was establishing, they needed to be different.

They were different.

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac.” Genesis 22:3a

And the first born son of Israel is led up a mountain by his father to be sacrificed.

Jesus God

Unlike Adam and Eve who hid from God in the garden when He called to them, Abraham had answered “‘Here I am”. Abraham had such full trust in the loving and faithful nature of God that He did not waver, did not argue, did not run, even when it seemed God was taking away the very thing that all His promises relied on: Abraham’s own son.

Abraham was being tested. God was testing his friendship with Abraham, but ultimately what Abraham was really being tested on was how well he knew God’s heart; how much he trusted God’s heart.

Abraham himself reveals this in his words to Isaac as they travel together to Moriah,

As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.” Genesis 22:6b-8

The two of them went on together, trusting Gods heart. Abraham knew that God could not be other than Himself. He trusted God because he knew Him. Personally. He knew God’s heart was shaped like faithfulness. Righteousness. Justice. Love.

Abraham had no Scriptures, no Sunday school lessons, no church teaching on faith, no theological text books. All he had was his personal relationship with YHWH.  And it was enough.

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced 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.’ Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death’ Hebrews 11:17-19

Babel grasped the whole world and gained only emptiness (Matthew 16:26). Abraham gave up everything, first his homeland, his familiar surroundings, his family ties, his stable existence, and now here finally he gives up his own son. The son on whom all the promised blessings rest. Abraham gave up everything, but gained a personal relationship with the God who created everything.

It’s often when a relationship survives the crucible fire of challenge that the strength of that relationship is finally revealed. Real relationship, real love costs. If love has no cost, no burden, no investment, no cross, it is simply empty sentiment susceptible to the changeable winds of passion and emotion. We truly love to the extent that we sacrifice for and invest in the relationship with the one we love, ‘forsaking all others’ as the marriage vow says.

“When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.” Genesis 22:9-10

Forsaking all others, Abraham chose God.  Just as forsaking His own son, God chose us. This test for Abraham, it communicated more about God’s heart, God’s intention, God’s purpose and grace planned for us from before all time began (2 Timothy 1:9) than Abraham (or even the author of Genesis) could possibly comprehend in that moment.

A silent message, an unspoken intention is woven right there within every word of YHWH’s first command to Abraham…

Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love …” Genesis 22:2

And then now, here in the moment as God stops Abraham’s hand from doing what He, centuries later, won’t stop Himself from doing. For us.

“..But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’

‘Here I am,’ he replied.

‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”’ Genesis 22:11-14

You have not withheld from me your son, your only son…

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”John 3:16

That day long ago, that moment alongside Abraham His friend, on the mountain named Moriah, which means simultaneously “God sees’ and ‘God provides’, God silently revealed the plan He’d been carrying all along, a truth held deep in the beating rhythm of His heart, a story written from before the world began (Revelation 13:8).

This is my plan to set this world right. This is the blessing this family will one-day bring. Walk it out with me for just a little while, comprehend for just a moment, understand from the inside what this means. What Great love means. What great love costs.

 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”(John 15:13-15)

God had seen our Imago Dei wisping threadbare thin, torn threads pulling apart, fraying at the edges, floating on the breeze of history. A broken world unraveling, weft by weft, strand by strand, life by life; the grace that once was us.

God saw and God provided.

Himself.

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“The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”’ Genesis 22:15-18

Years later Abraham’s calling to bless the whole world through his family line will find final fulfilment in one son. One son from Abraham’s family line: the first born son of God. The son of whom God will say,

And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ Matthew 3:17

Just as God wove His name into Abraham’s name, He then wove Himself into Abraham’s family line. Just as Isaac, the firstborn son of Israel was led up a mountain in the region of Moriah by his father to be sacrificed, the first born son of God will be led up another mountain in the region of Moriah by His Father to be sacrificed. But this time there will be no exchange. No ram in a thicket, no voice thundering “Do not lay a hand on him”. No holding back the knife.

Jesus is the ram in the thicket, He is the sacrifice, He is the lamb given in exchange for Isaac, for Abraham, for every human being that ever walks this earth. Abraham said it long ago echoing through the ages like a truth waiting silently to fulfil itself in time…

“God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Genesis 22:8

And He did.

God made it personal. Binding His beating heart to ours, wrapping His love around our shredded threads, reweaving them, restoring them, renewing our fraying Imago Dei, the grace that first was us.  His palms now carry the eternal scar of our existence on them. Scars He chose when He chose us, from before the world was made (Ephesians 1:4) Because it was always personal. To Him.

This God made it personal because He wants to be known personally. As a friend. 

God wants to walk with us, partner with us, bless us and care for us, threading together the tapestry of all the thousand ways He loves us, a tapestry woven in gold and goodness, grace and givenness, justice and righteousness. All the patterns of grace in a life.

God is a master craftsman, always at work, re-weaving, repairing, restoring, re-creating this pattern repeating through time. A beautiful tapestry revealing the story of a family tree, a renewed family line ‘calling on the name of the Lord’, a lineage of faith formed of His children who are certain of what they cannot see and sure of what they hope for in Him (Hebrews 11:1). A family of people not striving to make their own names great but striving in humility for true greatness; greatness shaped like justice, greatness shaped like righteousness. Greatness shaped like love.

Great love.

Like His.

‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ John 15:13

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Journey Further 

‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ John 15:13

God wants to be your friend. To walk with you personally. To share life with you. He’s done all that is necessary to make that possible. 

Where would you say your friendship is at?

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References, Notes and Credits

1 The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer

2 thoughts on “Friend

Add yours

    1. Yes… the test of trusting God, knowing God, obeying God. And yet there’s a mystery here also in that none of us can truly pass the test… so Jesus does for us… Thanks Yvonne.

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