“I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24
Why is it that our own minds fail us- we somehow draw the conclusion that we can make the outcome better if we do it our way- instead of God’s. I’ve been reading a fantastic book entitled Dry Bones Dancing by Tony Evans. It has inspired me to learn from Abraham. I’ve been stuck on Genesis 22; where Abraham is tested.
“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 22:2
The Lord had already promised Abraham that his offspring would be “as numerous as the stars” (Genesis 15:4-5) Isaac was the answer to his prayers, yet for some reason; The Lord was asking Abraham to sacrifice the very seed of promise. This command was a contradiction to everything the Lord had said would surely come to pass. I wonder if most of us would have been able to go through with it.
Surely, it would have been easier to have ignored the gentle whisper. Since after all- it contradicted everything he was promised. I can’t imagine giving up the only answer to all of the questions; the answered prayer we thought was His perfect will. The Lord was testing not only his willingness to sacrifice, but his faith as well.
Here is where a lot of us would have called it quits. I can almost see the alternative response from Abraham; “Really God? I left my family, my mansion, my job, my livelihood, my religion- and traded it for what? Thieves, camels, tents, and the desert? You’ve demanded everything, and yet, You still have the audacity to ask me to sacrifice my only son; that is where I draw the line.”
But, Abraham puts us to shame with his instant reaction: “But early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey.” Genesis 22:3
Apparently, Abraham had the impression that delayed obedience was disobedience. He didn’t take a few days to spend some quality time with his son. That was it; he was going through with it. He didn’t delay taking several weeks putting it off or explaining it to others- he simply obeyed. He didn’t even have exact instructions yet “on one of the mountains I will tell you about” -that seems fairly vague to me. But it was enough direction for Abraham to pack his saddle, son, servants, and head out.
The fact that he was able to surrender it all so quickly truly gives us a picture as to how devout he was the Lord. He realized from where his blessings came. He must have kept this in mind daily in order for his decision to have been so easy. Lord help us. Are we at a place where we can sacrifice everything we’ve been promised because He simply requests it of us?
We complain about letting the things go that hurt us; the things that cheapen our worth, the things that shouldn’t have been there to begin with. How much more so if we were put in Abraham’s position? Are we strong enough to sacrifice the very things the Lord has destined and willed into our lives which bring us joy?
Still not convinced that Abraham was pretty straight up faithFULL; “When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an alter there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the alter, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.” Genesis 22:9-10
Through his actions, Abraham proved that nothing God could ever give him was worth keeping from Him. He was confident that regardless whether God’s plans had changed or not- the benefits of His blessings would far outweigh his sacrifice. Abraham knew it was impossible to ever find favor with the Lord if he was withholding anything from Him. He went past the point of no return; he was willing to lay it all down. Everything he had been promised; the answer to all of his prayers; everything he loved and held dear; he decided to let it all go.
What a beautifully painted picture. This was a life altering decision to make. The choice was his alone, and in one instant; he was the epitome of complete and total surrender.
“‘Do not lay a hand on the boy…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.’” Genesis 22:12
This is so powerful, here we see that Abraham completely let go of what he deeply loved- Only then did God intervene. He had stepped past the point of no return. In his heart, Isaac was already completely surrendered to the Lord. Abraham had faithfully transferred any rights of ownership to God. He had given up full custody. He truly “died to himself”.
It’s amazing to me that even though Isaac wasn’t a “worldly or fleshly” desire; the Lord still requested that he completely surrender him. God doesn’t require just the bad from us- He demands it all. But it is here where we see that the Lord provided- only AFTER he offered Isaac compeltely.
“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 burn offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will Provide’ (Jehovah Jirah) And to this day it is said ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided’” Genesis 22:13-14
God set before Abraham a test, I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t obeyed. Many times promises come with prerequisites which we haven’t been informed with at the beginning. God didn’t tell Abraham that he would have a son which whom he would have to sacrifice before the promise could fully come to pass. He just let him in on it when He saw fit. We can’t assume just because we have a promise, everything will play out without any tests. There are usually underlying prerequisites that we must meet.
Why does God test us? I love what Evans says; “Tests reveal to us where we stand. They let us know whether we really love Him as much as we say we do in our songs and our prayers.” Is there something that God is asking you to put on the alter? Are you in the middle of a test and can’t figure it out? God’s command wasn’t to only take his son up the mountain or build an alter- He commanded Abraham to offer his son Isaac up as a sacrifice. “If you have approached God in worship, but you’re still waiting for Him to come through. The reason may well be that you haven’t finished the test.” Are looking for an out before following through- stop thinking or trying to make sense of it- simply follow directions and follow through!
You have to go all the way. When you let it all go, that’s when it’s difficult. Worship the Lord all the way, even when it’s difficult! And there at the alter God will show you His way, He will come through for you!
I’m not saying that God will allow you take your sacrifice back- but He will ALWAYS bless your effort to please Him with everything.
I think we could learn a thing or two from Abraham. And possibly think twice the next time we whine about surrendering our petty, simple things in life that make our self-consumed worlds go around. Nomatter how big or small; the blessing will always outweigh the sacrifice! You can count on it.