God First (Genesis 22:1-5)
“Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 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.”
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 the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day, Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off.
And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” (NKJV)
This is a story that could make any parent cringe! Sarah and Abraham had been childless for many years, waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a child. When the baby was finally born, they were so filled with joy and thanksgiving that they named him “Isaac”, which means “The one who laughs” or “laughter”. Abraham had waited many years to hold little Isaac in his arms. Although God Himself had given Abraham the assurance that he would be the father of nations, he must have had many questions in his heart each time he looked up into the starry night sky and prayed. This man was deemed “righteous” by God (Romans 4:3) when he believed God’s promise to him. It took faith to believe the Word of God, but it took greater faith to wait it out and see it finally fulfilled.
When Isaac came, he became the little king of the castle. It is possible to imagine how much the family and household revolved around this tiny person who had brought such joy to all. Without even realizing it, Abraham, Sarah and all their staff were worshipping little Isaac, waiting on his every need! Each night when Sarah and Abraham watched their baby smile in his sleep, and roll over on his little bed, they probably had no idea that they were constantly breaking a commandment – the one that said: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). It is possible that as the years went by, the fond parents were so focused on loving, nurturing and teaching their child that they had ever decreasing time for God. It is quite likely that Abraham hardly sat outside under the night sky to pray. Sometimes our attention can be so absorbed by the very thing God blesses us with that it takes the first place in our lives, which is due to Him. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He said (Luke 10:27) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” He calls us to get our priorities right!
When God called to Abraham, he said “here I am”. He was fully yielded to the voice of God. He may have grown a little distant from His Lord and Blessor since the birth of his child, but his commitment to God had never waned. When God asked him to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering, many things probably passed through his mind, especially when God said “your son” and emphasized further “your only son”, and “Isaac, whom you love”. God was showing him the extent of the sacrifice that was being required of him. This was the son he had longed for and loved with all his heart. This was the center of his existence, and the one who filled his life with joy. This was his whole meaning and purpose for living, and God was asking him to give him up! Abraham may have wondered if he was just dreaming the whole thing, but it was all too painfully true. It was like a bad dream!
This account in Genesis gives us the impression that Abraham obeyed without any hesitation, and that he calmly and clinically went to sleep that night knowing that he would take his son to the mountain of sacrifice in the morning (the same mountain where Jesus was crucified) and lay him on an altar to God. Some Bible scholars write about the mental and emotional battle he experienced, while Biblical movies show Abraham screaming at God, and struggling to obey.
Abraham must have experienced some shock and confusion when God made His request, but as he processed the thoughts that raced through his mind, I believe he began to realize that the One who gave this precious boy to him was never going to take him away again like some perverse bully would do. He understood in the depths of his heart that he served the Creator, the life giver, the Blessor. His God would take no delight in the death of Isaac, or the potential pain this could bring to his parents. He knew his God would never take his son away and that it is against the nature of God to bring evil to His creation. How can we know this? From the fact that Abraham said to his servants at the bottom of the mountain, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” He told his helpers what he believed and knew to be true, that he and Isaac would be coming back down the mountain together once they had worshipped.
This father of faith heard the voice of God and obeyed. Despite any confusion and conflict within him, we are told that he woke up early in the morning and began to make preparations to leave for Mount Moriah. He was not shuffling his feet or hesitating. On the contrary, he was very purposeful about what he had to do. However, it is likely that Abraham’s faith took a pounding as they journeyed out. His heart probably smote him each time Isaac looked at him, but he did not waver. As the first day and then the second drew to a close, he may have had feelings of discouragement and wondered if he was crazy to do what he was doing! He probably asked himself if he had just imagined the whole thing, and whether he ever heard the voice of God in the first place! But Abraham knew his God. He knew the One he worshipped was faithful. He knew the gifts of God were for him to keep (Romans 11:29) and that His promises were always fulfilled. He acknowledged Almighty God as his source and his provision. He could not question the Almighty. He plodded on regardless of his many different feelings because he had no doubt in his mind that he served a good God, who had good plans for him. He was sure that if he simply obeyed, all would be well. This was, in fact, how things turned out for Abraham, which is what we will look at in next week’s eWord.
Friend, whatever situation you are facing in your life right now, remember that God is good! Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us of God’s heart for His kids: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope”. God has good plans for us. He has the best in store for us. Abraham trusted God against all odds. He knew there was no way that God could fail him. As he stepped up that mountain with his only son by his side, he went willingly to give him up, because he knew by now that whatever he released into the hands of God came back to him multiplied! Abraham had learnt one of the Kingdom secrets of walking in the blessing – giving to God! And with each step he took towards the top of the mountain, he became increasingly more certain that God had long life and satisfaction, and great blessing for his son (Psalm 91: 16).
Friend, John 10:10 tells us that the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came/comes to give us abundant life. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, (John 14:6) and He is the light of the world (John 8:12). Whatever brings destruction, death, pain or hopelessness is not from God but from the darkness. We are beset with challenges and problems from every side, but we need to know the Lord we serve, and know that He is good, and He has the best for us. Daniel wrote (Daniel 11:32) “The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” James 1:17 tells us that “every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” When we know beyond any doubt that God only desires what is good for us and has good gifts and plans to prosper us, then it is easy to lift up our hearts and hands and surrender every difficulty and every need to Him, knowing that the bad stuff never came from Him, and that it is His will to take it away!
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31 & 32).
God is calling us today to acknowledge and believe in Him for who He is – a good and gracious God who blesses His kids. The One who holds nothing back from the ones He loves, and who like Abraham, readily gave His only Son to die on Mount Moriah, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life (John 3:16). Whatever you feel you have lost in your life, begin to seek it back knowing that Daddy God never took it away. God is almighty and all powerful, and there is nothing impossible with Him. He may not turn up too early, but He is never too late! He has a miracle for you. He has a blessing in store for you!
According to Matthew 6:33, when we give God the first place in our lives, He takes care of everything else, and there is nothing we can lack. I pray that the Holy Spirit will enable you to release every aspect of your life to Jesus and hold nothing back from Him. Whatever has slipped out of your hand or He has asked you to lay on the altar, is coming back to you multiplied, pressed down, shaken together and running over (Luke 6:38). Your blessing is on its way!
Minoli Haththotuwa, 29 August 2011
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