December 5th – Poison Ivy Stories

By: Pastor Jarren Rogers

There are quite a few stories in the Bible that make us squirm in our seats. Like spotting poison ivy while hiking through the forest, we give these stories a wide berth, for we know the discomfort that would lie in the future should we creep too close. 

Sunday school teachers, bible study leaders, and even pastors feel a wrenching in their gut when they find themselves met with the unavoidable task of teaching on such passages, for they know the questions that may be asked, but they know not the answers.

In my opinion, the “poison ivy” stories of the Bible are the very stories that we must leap into. It’s in the midst of exploring these stories and experiencing the itch and irritation of the inconceivable and unknowable that God’s presence presents His healing balm of peace and wisdom. Though His Word may, at times, be “itchy,” it is very much alive!

One of my favorite “poison ivy” stories is found in Genesis 22, when Abraham is asked to do something unthinkable. 

For so long had Abraham and Sarah desired a son, and finally, God had answered their prayer and given them Isaac.

But in the very next chapter, God calls out Abraham’s name. And anytime God calls our name, a mission is sure to follow.

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 I will show you’” (v. 2).

What a horrendous mission! How could God ask Abraham to do such a thing!? And like the twisting of a knife, God refers to Isaac as “your only son, whom you love.” What kind of God is this?

What fear must have consumed Abraham at God’s request. What doubt. But like any good father, he did not let it show in his face. Instead, he gathered up the necessities for travel, grabbed Isaac’s hand, and went to the region of Moriah.

I wonder, did they talk as they traveled? Did Abraham keep his mind busy by consuming himself in conversation with his boy? Upon the way, did Abraham have to discretely wipe a tear from the corner of his eye? Did Isaac ever catch his father staring at him, as if for the last time?

I can’t imagine how difficult that journey was for Abraham. But his “poison ivy” story presents for us an essential message:

Obedience matters to God.

As a Christ-follower, God will call out your name. He will make a very specific mission clear to you. And do not mistake this: it may not be easy. You may be called to walk the solitary road of obedience, where every footstep is like a stab through the heart. Fulfilling the mission may mean tears and hurt. 

But obedience–in spite of our fears and doubts–is what we are called to. 

When God calls your name and gives you a mission, only two choices lie before you in that moment: to stay or to go. And your entire future will be affected by the choice you make. 

This Christmas season, I’m reminded of a young teenage girl who had the same choice as Abraham–the decision of obedience. Her obedience caused her pain and hurt and sadness. Unlike Isaac, her Child did die. 

But out of her obedience and from his death came Life for all!

Read more of this Advent Devotional and other Daily Pursuits at

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