And God said unto Abraham… ‘This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.’ And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him. Genesis 17:9-10, 23 (Emphasis mine. Please read also Genesis 12:1-4; 21:9-14 and 22:1-3).
We live in a world of instant everything. It began with Instant coffee, but now there is instant internet, instant laundry, instant chicken (I hate it!), instant everything!
Well, how about instant obedience?
What strikes me most in the life of Abraham is the alacrity at which he answered or responded to any instruction that the Lord gave to him. (Another word for alacrity would be ‘swiftness’, or ‘speedy’). The minute God told Abraham to do something, the man immediately and swiftly moved to execute it.
Have you wondered how we often struggle to do the things that the Lord requires of us? And I am talking deep here. I am talking about when God talks to us about the things of our hearts. When He says, “Forgive that sister” or, “Let go that bitterness” or, “Release so-and-so or such-and-such a situation from your heart” or “Rise up and go and ask forgiveness from that brother” or, “Swallow your pride and admit you are wrong there”.
God does not say “Do it right now”, because He is not a dictator; He just shows us the direction we should take then leaves the rest for us to accomplish according to the readiness of our hearts.
And these very attitudes are the ones blocking us from living a victorious Christian life. Oh, that we would release them instantly! We would be free men and women.
That is what makes Abraham such a great man. Abraham obeyed God instantly. If we want to arrive at the stature of Abraham, let us not waste time trying to crank up enough faith to own the herds of camels or the gold that he owned. God is simply not there. God is no longer in those things. God is in our hearts. I know I am going really deep now, but I must.
When the Bible talks about Abraham, the father of faith, it is no joking matter. You see, there are people who think of Abraham’s faith in terms of the herds of camels and the caskets of gold that he had! But I can assure you that in order for Abraham to earn the title ‘Father of faith’, it had to go deeper than his skin. It had to touch on the condition of his heart.
Remember God told the Prophet Samuel, “I look upon the heart”. People think so many things about God. But our God is a God of the heart. Abraham knew this and he therefore served God with his heart.
What does it mean to say that Abraham served God with his heart? It means that he was tested in the very things that we are tested in, the things of our hearts. And the very word circumcision here talks of the heart. We might not realize it, but Abraham got circumcised in his heart. That was the only way he could please God.
Anybody can jump up and have themselves immediately circumcised in their flesh if it suits their needs. But Abraham lived for God and this required him to be tested in the very things that we, too, are being tested in today. He had to have his heart tested.
But Abraham went beyond there. He did not just say, “OK, Lord, I am willing to obey You”, no; he ran to obey God. He prepared his heart to be ready to respond to God’s call “at the click of a button”!
You see, you can have religion up to your nose and still be a rebel. You can memorize the entire Bible forwards and backwards, but you still might not be speedy in obeying God. In other words, in order for us to be considered men or women of faith, God is interested with the speed at which we move to obey Him.
Leaders and pastors particularly have a problem here.
Can you imagine this grown man (God began dealing with Abraham when he was 75 years old), can you picture such a man trotting like a small boy as he ran to obey God? Can you picture Abraham every day looking into his heart and praying David’s prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psa 139:23-24
As a result of his obedience to God, Abraham developed a unique character. You won’t find many people like Abraham today.
He told Lot, “Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” Gen 13:9
And all the land was legally Abraham’s! That is not for many of the Christians that I know of today!