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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

sacrifice and the impossible promise

We all have things that we hold near and dear.  Parents, siblings, pets, dreams, desires.  Love and relationships are a part of life, they give us worth.  Dreams and desires give us drive, give us hope for the future.

But what happens when God asks you to give them up?

One of my mentors and I have been discussing this topic recently.  I was sharing with her how I was struggling with a passion, a dream.  I knew it was biblical.   I could testify with the Word of God that my desire was from Him, that it was something that He loves.  But I was struggling because I wasn't seeing the fulfillment of it.  It didn't make sense to me.  If it was something that I loved, and He loved it too, why would He not want to freely give it to me?

Instead, He asked me to sacrifice it to Him.  Whaaaaaat?  God, you told me this is good!  You told me this is holy!  You promised it to me!  Why can't I have it?

"Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you." (Genesis 22:2b)

God had given Abraham a promise.  He promised that He would bless Abraham and his wife Sarah with a son in their old age; an impossible promise!  Years later, a baby boy was born.  He was named Isaac.

The boy that was to be the father of a new nation.  The boy through whom God would come to dwell among men as a man.  Through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed.  The promised one.  The impossible dream come true.

And God told Abraham to sacrifice the boy.

So how did Abraham respond?

The very next verse:
So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. (Genesis 22:3)

Abraham didn't flinch.  In fact, the first sentence starts with "so"... as though of course that's what he would do!  God told him to, so he did it, right?

I can imagine myself bargaining with God, and trying to remind Him of His own promises before making any sudden moves.  "Wait a second, Lord.  Let's not be too hasty here. Remember, what You said about through him all the nations being blessed and stuff?  This kid can't be a father to anybody if he's dead!  Maybe we can strike up a deal here..."

But Abraham didn't do any such thing.  Instead he rose early in the morning--he didn't waste any time at all. Didn't just eventually "get to it"; he went above and beyond so that at the earliest he could possibly obey (without question, I might add), he did.

Once Abraham and Isaac make it to the top of the mountain,  Abraham binds him and lays him on the altar.  The knife is in Abraham's hand to slay his son, and the angel of the Lord calls out from heaven and stops him.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”  (Genesis 22:11)

Abraham answers humbly, he is in the process of killing his son, as a result of what God had commanded him.  His heart is in shreds.  His only son that he loves more than life itself, he is sacrificing on an altar. Because God told him to.  God didn't give an explanation.  He just told him to.  Now, knife in hand, poised above the beating heart of his impossible dream come true, how does Abraham respond?  With humility, "Here I am."

He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” (Genesis 22:12)

Can you imagine the relief that washed over Abraham's heart?  Can you imagine the joy?

What do you think was Abraham's secret to giving Isaac up to God?  How could he bear to hold a knife to his son's chest?  How could he put the same wood on the back of his son that would be that which would burn the very flesh off his bones?


Okay, it sounds like total "church talk", but hear me out:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type. (Hebrews 11:17-19)

Abraham had such faith, that he believed that to fulfill that which God had promised, He would raise Isaac from the dead if He had to.  Abraham knew that God does not change.  When He makes a promise, it will not be broken.  Therefore, Abraham had faith in the promises of God, that even when he was told to sacrifice his impossible dream on the altar, he knew that everything that God had promised He would bring to pass.  Abraham's was only to obey, and leave the rest up to God.

You know, it interesting to note that, up to the point of Abraham, there hadn't been any resurrections.  No one had ever been raised from the dead (from what is recorded in the Bible).  Just like Abraham believed that God would make good on His impossible promise of Isaac's birth in his and Sarah's old age, Abraham believed that God was big enough to continue His impossible work, and do something never before done.

Think about it.  We have heard stories in the New Testament about people being raised from the dead, and yet do we have enough faith to believe that if we were to sacrifice one of our children on the altar to God, that He would raise them from the dead?

Abraham obeyed God and trusted that God would bring about whatever happened for His glory, and to the advancement of His kingdom.

What about you?  What is your Isaac?  What has God called you to lay on the altar as proof of your love for Him?

As for me, I have taken my Isaac, my own impossible dream, and I have laid it on the altar.  I have faith that God will make good on His promise, that His plan will go forth through my obedience, and that His kingdom will advance as a result of my surrender.  Do I expect to have my dream back?  No.  I can't.  It's a sacrifice. I must trust that even if it were to die, He has the power to raise it from the dead for His sake, not mine.

It's a test.  Do I love Him enough to sacrifice my dream so that He can advance His kingdom?

"I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me. God is using me from His great personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him. I should never say, 'Lord, this causes me such heartache.' To talk that way makes me a stumbling block. When I stop telling God what I want, He can freely work His will in me without any hindrance. He can crush me, exalt me, or do anything else He chooses. He simply asks me to have absolute faith in Him and His goodness."

~Oswald Chambers {My Utmost for His Highest}

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