We’re wired to make plans, to expect results, to accomplish goals. (I think it’s a Western thing, actually.) Our wiring makes it difficult for us to obey God.

God says, “Jump.” We say, “How far?”

God says, “Go.” We say, “Where?”

God says, “Be still.” We say, “Why?”

In every command from Him, there’s an unspoken affirmation: “Trust Me.” But we don’t trust.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us of a guy named Abraham (Hebrews 11:8-19). Maybe you’ve heard of him? If I were in Abraham’s shoes…

God said,

“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”  –Genesis 12:1-3

Despite all those incredible promises, I would have responded, “Yeah, but, go where? And how far is it? Who should I take with me? How long will it take to get there? What am I going to do there where I don’t know anyone? What about my family back here?” And a thousand other questions along the way.

Maybe Abraham had questions, but he chose to focus on the
promises God offered rather than the details He withheld.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  –Hebrews 11:8

Even though he did not know where he was going.

Would you move like that? Would you pack up everything and head off toward a country you’d never seen. Would you live “like a stranger in a foreign country” (Hebrews 11:9)? Abraham didn’t know the outcome of his obedience, but he obeyed anyway. God doesn’t call every believer to move to another country, but he does call some. Not just missionaries—He calls doctors, businesspeople, entrepreneurs, and others to live cross-culturally while working a “secular” job for His glory.

It’s possible God is calling you to cross borders of a different sort: across the street, across the cubicle walls, across the bleachers. When it’s me He’s calling, I have lots of questions for those seemingly smaller excursions too. Questions like, “What if they slam the door in my face (literally or figuratively)?” Sometimes all those unanswered questions freeze me in my seat.

Maybe Abraham had questions, but he knew better
than to let his questions hinder his obedience.

God blessed Abraham throughout his life, but I think Abraham would say his biggest blessing was his son, Isaac. Then God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on an altar (Genesis 22:1-2).

Wait. What?

His biggest blessing, the child of his old-age, the long-promised progeny…and God told Abraham to kill him. With his own hands. (That’s what happens to sacrifices. They die. We don’t like to phrase it like that, but it’s true.) This command made leaving his home country look like child’s play!

I am sure Abraham had lots of questions. The writer of Hebrews gives us a peak into Abraham’s mind as he reasons with himself that maybe this wasn’t the end for Isaac, “that God could even raise the dead” (Hebrews 11:19). He couldn’t see any good outcomes from his situation, but He knew through faith and experience that God always has a plan.

Maybe Abraham had questions, but he trusted God to provide
the proper outcome even when Abraham couldn’t see the plan.

God fulfilled all the promises He made to Abraham, including Isaac’s role as the first of a great nation, the Hebrew people. But Abraham didn’t get to see the promises answered.

  • Sure, he met Isaac’s bride, Rebecca (Genesis 24), but he didn’t see the twelve tribes of Jacob or the Nation of Israel.
  • Sure, he lived in Canaan, but he didn’t see it become the “land flowing with milk and honey” that Joshua enter and possess it with all the people of Israel.
  • He didn’t see his own name become known around the world.
  • He didn’t see Jesus, who continues to bless “all people on earth.”
  • He didn’t see the way God continues to bless the Jews and curse those who curse them.

Abraham chose to obey even when he couldn’t foresee the outcome. Why? Because he trusted God.

Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.  –Genesis 15:6

In our personal lives, it’s good to make plans, to expect results, to accomplish goals. Make plans to mow the yard. Make plans to spend time with friends. Set goals for fitness, Bible reading, or anything else.

Sometimes, however, God calls us practice some uncommon sense (a familiar phrase to my long-time readers). He calls us to obey even when we can’t anticipate the result of our obedience, when we can’t plan out all the consequences.

He calls us to live by faith.

Maybe Abraham had #questions about some of the things God told him to do, but he didn’t let his questions stall his obedience. My #obedience is #NotAboutMe via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Do you hesitate to obey because you don’t already know the result? I do. What helps you be obedient in those moments? We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Want to read more about Abraham? BibleGateway.com is super-easy to use. His story starts here and goes through Genesis 25:11. Also, here’s the full section in Hebrews, or you can read Paul’s perspective on Abraham’s life. Click on the icon that looks like two combs back-to-back if you want to see multiple translations at the same time.

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4 thoughts on “Abraham: Obedience Over Outcome

  1. YES – me! So many questions pop into my head when I feel God is asking me to be obedient. I once shared in my Sunday School class that the Bible says “Abraham got up early in the morning” for more than just to show his obedience – I think he left before Sarai woke up because I believe she would’ve said, “God told you to do WHAT with my son?” (Just a bit of humor – I hope Sarai would have been as obedient as Abraham!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve actually written the story from Sarah’s point of view! She MUST have resisted, at least in her heart. I think Abraham probably told her the same thing he told Isaac: “God will provide.”

      Like

  2. This is such a challenging topic–obedience–but, you’ve done such a wonderful job. I really like your assertion that perhaps Abraham wanted to question God, but “he knew better.” I wish I was a better listener (so that I knew what God is calling me to do) and that I was more obedient (so that I would do it without question). The toughest thing for Abraham, though, had to be the issue of how far to go in obedience to God’s command. Oh, what an awesome faith Abraham had!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Katherine, I think it was through Abraham’s many experiences of God’s faithfulness that he came to “know better.” Surely, the more we practice obedience, the easier it will become! I’m counting on it.
      I addressed the question of “how far” in another post about Abraham called Past the Expiration Date. You might like it.

      Like

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