Sometimes God calls us to do crazy things. Things that don’t make any sense to us. Things that seem too radical or too far out left field.
Just ask Abraham.
This guy waited 25 years for his promised son Isaac. From the moment he was called away from his family (Genesis 12:1-3) through Sarah’s ill-conceived plan of his son Ishmael (Genesis 16) through the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19) until finally, at age 100, Isaac is born (Genesis 21:1-7). He has now had the opportunity to watch him grow up. To enjoy the child God promised him.
And then God asks him to do something totally off the wall. Something no parent I know would even consider doing. God asks him to sacrifice his son in Genesis 22:2 – “Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’”
God knows Abraham loves the boy. God knows Abraham waited 25 years for the boy. God knows Abraham is a man of great faith, since he believed in the promise of the boy for a quarter of a century.
And now they are at a time in Isaac’s life for them to have a relationship and have fun. When God steps in and asks Abraham to give it all up. To take his promised son and offer him to God. To lead him to a place where he must be tied to the altar and burned.
God asks him to give up everything he waited for.
And what’s even crazier to our human mind is that Abraham does it! He doesn’t hesitate but spends the afternoon preparing. “So Abraham rose early in the morning” (Genesis 22:3a), being obedient promptly to God’s request. He takes Isaac up onto the mountain, journeying three days to God’s chosen place. What happened in those three days? Did Abraham tell Isaac what was going to happen? How often did he pray for a different outcome?
The last three days with his son. Journeying toward this precious boy’s death. God almost seems cruel in these moments, doesn’t He?
But He isn’t. God always has a plan.
So Abraham builds the altar and ties Isaac to it (Genesis 22:9). He has the knife poised to plunge into his son’s body (Genesis 22:10). The whole time he has been confessing that God is good and God will provide another way (Genesis 22:8 – “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering”). But now it looks bleak. He starts to move the knife.
And God shows up. An angel appears and stops Abraham. He has proven he loves God more than anything else, and God honors his faith by giving him back his beloved son (Genesis 22:12-13).
His faith was more radical then actions. And because of that, God comes through for him.
So the story has a happy ending. But we have to wonder – Why did God ask him to do something so outrageous? Did Isaac become more important to Abraham that God was? Or was God wondering if Abraham was still totally sold out to Him? On so many levels it just doesn’t make sense.
But God calls us to do the same thing. He asks us to take that thing that’s most important to us, our Isaac, and lay it down at his feet. To surrender it to Him to use for His purposes. To give up something we cherish just because He asks us to. And it won’t be something easy or forgettable. It won’t be something we just have laying around. It will be something valuable to us. Something precious to us. Something we love or appreciate greatly.
Because if we won’t give it up to Him, how can we live fully sold out for Him? Because if we won’t lay it down at His feet, how can we truly worship Him? Because if we won’t surrender it to Him, how can we sincerely love Him?
For it is our Isaac that will stand between us and a wholehearted relationship with God. Isaac keeps us from fully experiencing the promises of God. Isaac keeps us from walking completely in the plans of God. Isaac keeps us from growing and changing as God wants us to. Isaac prevents us from fully surrendering to God and His will.
It is our love of our Isaac that interferes with our love for God. And that is why God commands us to lay our Isaac on the altar, just as He did to Abraham. Because God knows that only when we are willing to let go completely of our Isaac, to turn it over and possibly burn it up, that we show our devotion to Him. Because God isn’t satisfied with part of our heart – He wants it all. So we have to relocate and reassign our Isaac to give God room to invade us fully. And in doing so, He will bless us just as He blessed Abraham – and He may even give us our Isaac back.
Marie Fremin, 1/18/16