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Who can be against us? That seems like a loaded question, doesn’t it?
Who can be against us? Maybe the first thing that comes to our minds today is a crazy guy with a gun shooting up a school. He seems to be against us, and against everything good.
Who can be against us? It sure must have seemed to Abraham that God was against him when he asked him to sacrifice Isaac. It sure must have seemed to Job that God was against him when, in one day, he lost almost everything he had, including his children. Then he lost his health, and his wife turned against him and told him to curse God and die.
Who can be against us? Satan wasn’t afraid to take on Jesus, the son of God. If he’s not afraid to take on Jesus, well, we are certainly in the cross hairs of his temptations. He is a prowling lion always on the lookout for an opportunity to devour us. And our own sinful nature is working against us because it is always eager to go along with whatever Satan suggests.
Who can be against us? Life. There’s illness, and car trouble, and relationship troubles, and job loss, and people who say and do hurtful things, and too much month at the end of the paycheck. There might be persecution, famine, danger or sword. There are a lot of things that are constantly working against us; working to keep us away from God and out of heaven.
But if God is for us, whatever is against us doesn’t stand a chance. God, by definition, is all powerful. He created things simply by speaking a word. “Let there be light and there was light.” “Let the earth produce plants and trees.” “Let the waters team with fish.” With God, nothing is impossible, there is nothing that is too difficult for him. There isn’t a problem he can’t solve. There isn’t a sickness he can’t cure. Satan is powerful but he’s not almighty. God’s power is infinitely greater.
So the question is, is God for us? How do we know he is for us when there seem to be so many things that are against us, when it seems that sometimes even God is against us?
The first answer to the question “is God for us” is that he tells us he is. He says that he loves us with an everlasting love. He says that he has engraved us on the palm of his hand. He never slumbers or sleeps as he watches over us. He has plans to prosper us, to give us hope and a future. He wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. He tells us that he is for us in his word.
Paul reminds us that the best answer to the question, is God for us, is shown us by his actions. God doesn’t just say that he is for us, he proves it in a most convincing way. How can we doubt that God is for us when he did not spare his son but gave him up for us all?
There is no more powerful story in the Bible than our Old Testament lesson today. God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the son he loved, the son he prayed for, the son he waited for until he was 100 years old, the son that was born by a miracle of God. Abraham obeyed. He took Isaac, the wood and the fire, and set out for the mountain God told him about.
Imagine the stress Abraham must have experienced, wondering why God would ask him to do such a thing, praying that God would not have him go through with it, maybe even questioning if it was really God who had spoken to him.
They arrived at the mountain and he and Isaac climbed alone. Then the question came. Parents, you might dread questions about the proverbial birds and the bees, but those are nothing compared to this one. “Father, we are missing something aren’t we? We have the wood and the fire, but we don’t have a lamb to offer as a sacrifice. What do you say knowing that God says the one asking the question is the sacrifice! Abraham’s heart must have seemed like it was being ripped in two, but in faith, he answered that the Lord would provide.
When they get to the top of the mountain they build the altar together. They arrange the wood. Everything is ready. Still no message from God that he has changed his mind. So Abraham ties up his son, puts him on the altar and raises the knife to sacrifice him. Probably none of us can imagine the fear and disbelief Isaac must have felt or the faith mixed with dread that Abraham must have felt at that moment. Then, at the last second, the angel of the Lord stopped him. And God provided a ram to be sacrificed in place of Isaac.
Now imagine God being in that same situation. His son, his perfect son whom he loves has come to earth. He is about to be nailed to a cross and suffer excruciating pain. He can step in and save him. He can send legions of angels to rescue him. But if he does, then he has to send every human to suffer for all eternity with Satan and his angels in hell. So, not only did he allow his son to suffer crucifixion, he added to his suffering by letting him suffer hell in our place. He gave Jesus, who was perfect and didn’t deserve it, the punishment all of us deserve. What Abraham didn’t have to do, God did. He provided Jesus as the sacrificial lamb in our place so that we might live.
Is God for us? Paul says, if he did that, if he sacrificed his own son in our place, how could we ever doubt that he is for us. How could we not trust that he would graciously along with him give us everything we need, especially eternal life?
So what about those times when everything seems to be against us? How is it that God is still for us?
Abraham knew. In faith he was able to answer Isaac that God would provide a lamb. In faith, the Bible says, he believed that even if God did let him go through with it, he would raise Isaac from the dead. He trusted that even when things seemed against him God was still for him. And God proved himself worthy of that trust.
Job had a lot of things that were against him. There were times when he thought God must be using him for target practice. He struggled. He questioned. But God showed Job that he was for him, limiting what the devil was allowed to do, defending him against the unloving accusations of his friends, and blessing him with more at the end than he had at the beginning.
In those times when we face seemingly impossible decisions, when it seems that there are no good choices; when we hear about another terrible school shooting; when we face a debilitating illness; when we lose a loved one, or a child; when it seems that everything is against you remember, despite outward appearances, God is for you. When doubts rise in your mind, remember, God sacrificed his only son for you. He only wants what is best for you. He is working in whatever is happening with his almighty power and his infinite wisdom to make sure that whatever it is turns out for your good. That doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen. It doesn’t mean every sickness will be healed. It means that he is working for you to make sure that nothing separates you from his love and that you get to spend eternity with him in the place where nothing will ever be against you again.
Sometimes, when things seem to be against us, we waver in our faith, we question whether God is really for us, we give in to doubt and fear. When you find that happening in your life, confess your sin, your faithless doubts and fears. Remember that God sacrificed his Son Jesus to pay for those faithless doubts and fears. Remember that Christ Jesus, who died and, more than that, was raised to life, is the one who is at God’s right hand and who is also interceding for you. That there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Remember that because he sacrificed Jesus in your place, you have no reason to doubt that he is for you.
As long as we are in this sinful world we will have trouble, but Jesus has overcome the world. Because God has shown his love for us in Jesus we are convinced with Paul that neither death nor life, neither angels nor rulers, neither things present nor things to come, nor powerful forces, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The troubles of this life aren’t worth comparing to the glory that Jesus has won for us.
If God is for us, and he has proven that he is by sacrificing Jesus in our place, who can be against us?