Genesis 22:1-14

Journey Through The Wall, 22 January 2012


“Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This series is based upon the biblical themes of Scazzero’s book in an effort to help us better understand ourselves in order to better love God and others.

The Big Idea

The third pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality is to journey through the Wall.


Life is a journey. We are all at different places in the journey. It matters not where you are, but where you are headed.

The Bible is full of journeys. The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land. Jesus spent three years journeying with his disciples. Life is not a simple straight line. We have detours, curves...and obstacles or Walls.


What is the greatest obstacle in your life? It might be your job, finances, physical health, shattered dream, betrayal, a wayward child, being single, your marriage, etc. The Wall is not a traffic jam or getting the flu. It’s a season of testing or a severe trial.

If you’re honest, there are moments in our lives when we just don’t understand. Our faith does not appear to work. God seems distant or absent. We have more questions than answers. St. John of the Cross called it the dark night of the soul.

On Monday nights at the greenroom we’ve been talking about being real with God with our anger, fear, and even doubt. For reasons sometimes known only by God, we just don’t understand. We ask why. We cry out for help.

I’ve done that countless times—especially over the past several years. I’ve faced walls, I’ve searched for God, I’ve struggled with pain, uncertainty, and stress.

If you’ve ever felt like the door of heaven was closing when you prayed, you’re not alone. If you’ve ever felt helpless, empty, dry, or defeated, you’re in good company. Today we’re going to look at the story of a man who faced an incredible wall. In his case it wasn’t the absence of God, but God’s presence and outrageous command that challenged his faith and reality.

The Bible...and church history is filled with people who have faced walls.

Ignatius Loyola, John Wesley, Augustine, Teresa of Avila, Evelyn Underhill, and countless others have experienced stages of their faith.

David cried out to God for years when Saul and his men pursued him, and he
was forced to hide in caves.

Psalms 69, 70, 71 and others are filled with cries for help from God. In fact, the largest category of psalms—about 1/3 of them—are psalms of lament.

Consider Job. Satan challenged God to take away Job’s wealth, animals, children, and good health, all as a way to see if Job would continue to be upright. At first, Job cries out to God, but God does not answer right away (Job 13: 20-26). Eventually, God speaks up and Job repents and relents (Job 42:1-6).


Abraham had his share of Walls in his life. He was asked to leave his family and travel to an unknown land. He arrived and encountered a famine, had a conflict with his nephew Lot, his wife was unable to have children, he bounced off that wall and had a son with his wife’s servant.

At age 110 he hit another wall. His promised son was finally born and then God asks him to do the unthinkable.

Genesis 22...

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, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (Genesis 22:1-2)

God does not tempt, but tests Abraham to confirm his faith and prove his commitment.

This seems so bizarre to us, yet in that day child sacrifices were commonly offered to pagan gods.

Tragically, 1/3 of my generation has been killed, but that’s another issue for another time.

Mount Moriah is now the covered with the Dome of the Rock in Israel, a Muslim structure.

Abraham faces a Wall, a test that he causes a crisis of faith.

Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” (Genesis 22:3-5)

Imagine that journey!

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. 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?”
(Genesis 22:6-7)

Good question!

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

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. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied. (Genesis 22:8-11)

“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 22:12-14)

Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich developed a model in their work
The Critical Journey: States in the Life of Faith that looks something like this...

Stage 1: the beginning; we recognize our need for God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness

Stage 2: we learn about God and what it means to follow Jesus.

Stage 3: we get involved, serving God and His people with our gifts and passions

We encounter the Wall which turns our world upside down. Our faith doesn’t seem to work.

Many people get stuck at the Wall and refuse to do the hard work necessary to journey through it. They give up their faith, mask their true heart, or self-medicate.

How do we get through the Wall?

- by the grace and timing of God
- on our hands and knees
- through deep introspection
- by releasing the trappings of this world
- with prayer and help from others
- with determined faith
- by not giving up hope or giving in to temptation
- by not losing sight of God

Stage 4: The Wall compels us to the inward journey. Sometimes the inward journey leads us to the Wall. It is ultimately God that brings us to the Wall.

Stage 5: after passing through our crisis of faith, we begin to serve God, but this time we give out of a new, grounded center of ourselves in God. We have a deep, inner stillness and an awareness of God’s deep, unconditional love for us.

Stage 6: the brokenness we have experienced coupled with the healing of the Holy Spirit brings us to a place where we surrender to God, His will, and His power.

There are several things that the Wall roots out in our lives.

- pride
- greed

luxury (using God for your own pleasure)
wrath (easily irritated)
spiritual gluttony
spiritual envy

The Wall changes everything!

You may not know exactly when you begin to go through the Wall, or when you reach the other side. Ultimately God moves us through the Wall and there is a mystery to it, but you are making progress if you experience shifts in your life.

From Pride To Brokenness

Years ago there was a young preacher that was attracting huge crowds of people. An older, wise pastor was asked about him and said, “He’s gifted, but he’s not broken yet.”

When we journey through the Wall, we are forever changed. We are broken. We endure pain, but experience transformation in the process. Our affections and passions are purged.

Richard Rohr has written five realities that we must recognize if we are to grow into maturity.

- Life is hard.
- You are not that important.
- Your life is not about you.
- You are not in control.
- You are going to die.

From Pleasure To Appreciation

Rather than focusing on our own pleasures, we have an awareness of ourselves, God, and the world around us. We begin to seek His pleasure.

We don’t take things for granted.

We also have a greater awareness and appreciation of the mystery of God. We know He does not fit into a tidy box. As the classic line from the Narnia book says, we realize that He is not safe, but He’s good.

The more I know about God, the less I know about Him. That may sound like a bad thing, but actually it’s wonderful to have a child-like faith filled with awe and wonder, resting in the truth that God is in control...and I’m not!

From Impatience To Patience

I hate to wait, but I’m slowly—pun intended!—learning that God’s timing is perfect. He is never late, but rarely early.

I want things now, God knows best.
Look at Psalm 130.

A song of ascents.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their
(Psalm 130)

Here’s a man facing the Wall, yet aware of God’s perfect timing. He’s been through the wall previously.

Abraham learned to wait. He was 75 when he was told he would be a dad. Eleven years later, he got tired of waiting and birthed Ishmael through his maidservant Hagar. He waited another fourteen years for Isaac. Then he had to wait until the very last moment for God to provide a sacrifice in place of Isaac, his cherished son.

There are so many similar examples throughout the Bible, yet we literally read years or decades in a sentence or two.

From More To Enough

The purpose of the Wall is not to harm us, but to help us detach from certain selfish actions and desires and experience a more intimate, loving attachment to God.

Those who are most detached on the journey are best able to taste the purest joy in the beauty of created things.

They are able to experience contentment. They look to Jesus to be enough.

They are able to fully surrender to God and worship Him with all we are.

You can listen to the podcast

Note: many ideas derived from Peter Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituailty.