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Sunday, 12 August 2012

Will you Sacrifice 'Isaac'?... Laying what you love most upon the Altar.

‘Take your son, your beloved son whom you love more than life itself and go and sacrifice him upon a mountain which I will show you.’

These words, which would strike total dread in the heart of any parent, are told by GOD to Abraham - the Father of Faith. The Friend of GOD. The Patriarch of Patriarchs. The one whom was given the promise to be Father of ALL those of faith.

For those of us who do not know the story of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac – Abraham is made a promise by GOD – He will become the father of GOD’s people and his descendants will be more numerous than the stars and the sand on the sea-shore. However, when GOD makes Abraham this promise, Abraham is 75yrs old, happily married but childless. But hey, that’s no big deal – GOD has promised, hasn’t He? So, Abraham listens to GOD, obeys him and sets out to the promised land GOD promises to show him and give him. So, 1st year passes, no child, 5th year passes, no child, 10th year passes, no child, 12th year passes, no child – by this time, Papa Abraham is 87, and his still extremely beautiful but barren wife,, Sarah, is 77. So, Sarah comes up with the extremely 'smart' plan for them to have a child by her slave girl. Pappy does the ‘business’ with young beautiful slave girl and Ishmael is born. Now clearly, Ishmael is the promised child? Since GOD keeps quiet and says nothing, it must be all right. However, out of the blue, 12 years later when Abraham is 99 and Sarah is 89, GOD casually strolls in again and repeats His promise of a ‘promised child’. Abraham is convinced GOD must have become a lil senile in his ‘dotage’ and has not quite noticed Ismael is a strapping 12 year old boy – so he tells GOD ‘Ummm, may Ishmael live before you'. GOD says ‘Yeah, I know Ishmael (I named him, remember). Ishmael is a wonderful young man and I will bless him for your sake; however he is not the child I am talking about. The child of promise will come through Sarah.’

Long story short; despite disbelief from both Abraham and Sarah, Isaac is born a year later. While it might have taken 25 years, the promise has arrived and all is fine, right??? Abraham has both Ishmael, the child that is the work of his hands, and also, Isaac the miracle child of promise. Clearly, all is well that ends well. WRONG! 

GOD will always test to us to find out whether we value the gift more than Him, the Giver. Is our focus the promise He has given us, or is our focus GOD for Himself alone? Will we turn away from GOD if He does not give us what we want? Do we love Him only for what He gives us? If He asks us to give up what is dearest to us for His sake, will we do so? And before we grumble about how unfair this sounds, and how 'mean' GOD is, let us be clear - GOD will never ask us for what He Himself is not prepared to give and has already given. He gave up His own beloved son, Jesus, to save us. GOD loves us passionately and would die for us (He actually did die for us), and in return, He asks for only one thing – our love for Him. He does NOT demand it – it is a request. No-one has to love GOD. GOD will not force any man,woman or child into a relationship with Him. However, if you choose a relationship with GOD, then remember, He gives all of Himself freely but in return, He asks for all of you.

So, first GOD strips Abraham of Ishmael when Ishmael is 16 - and Hagar and Ishmael are sent away. Abraham now has only 3 yr old Isaac to cling to as the fulfilment of the ‘promise’. But, then GOD turns up again a few years later, and says the dreaded words I began this post with – ‘Take your son, your only son, and sacrifice him upon a mountain which I will show you’.

We know how the story unfolds and ends. Abraham is obedient, takes Isaac to this mountain, lays him upon the altar, raises the knife, and then a voice from heaven stops him. GOD tells Abraham – 'Do not lay a hand upon the boy. 
Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly love and fear Me. You have not withheld from Me even your son, your only son.'

Would GOD ever have allowed Abraham to kill Isaac? Of course not. The bible says, that Abraham obeyed GOD’s request in complete faith, believing that even if Isaac was killed, GOD would raise him from the dead. That is mind-boggling faith. Abraham knew the promise was from GOD and GOD is big enough and powerful enough and trustworthy enough to uphold His own promises.

What is our personal 'Isaac'? We all have cherished dreams that if we choose to walk with GOD, we will one day have to lay down upon the altar. GOD will come to us to find out whether we love the gift more than the Giver. What promise is it you think GOD has finally given you that He then has the ‘temerity’ to ask you to sacrifice? Is it a dream job? Is it a marriage that seems to be falling apart? Is it rebellious kids you seemingly cannot reach? Is it good health that has been taken away from you? Is it a great relationship that is snatched out of your hands? Is it prayers that do NOT seem to ever be answered? Is it your rights when another person has wronged your terribly? What is it GOD is asking you to place upon the altar of sacrifice?

Whatever it is, be obedient and trust GOD. Hand your promise over to GOD. Take your dreams, your hopes, your wishes, your rights and lay them down upon that altar of sacrifice. This is not easy. It HURTS! You might do so with bitter tears – but let’s face it, no sacrifice wants to be sacrificed! Getting sacrificed is extremely painful. (Go ask the Thanksgiving Turkey, Ileya Ram and Christmas Chickens and Turkeys!). If however, that dream, the plan, the vision, the hope is of GOD, He will intervene and provide a replacement Ram before the ‘sacrifice’ is butchered. Like Abraham, have total faith that as you place your ‘sacrifice’ upon the altar, GOD will give you back your ‘Isaac’ even from the dead. Believe GOD will provide a replacement Ram to be sacrificed in place of Isaac. If the dream seemingly dies, GOD will give you something far better. If however, GOD gives you back your ‘Isaac’, it will be a better, more blessed, more fruitful Isaac. Isaac was a goodly child and an upright man. Even after Abraham died, Isaac never swerved from following GOD. He continued to carry out the promise given to Abraham and passed GOD’s promise down to his own sons. It is said of Isaac, that he was a man who loved, feared and respected GOD. Wow – what an amazing testimony.

How do you know if your dream/promise/vision is an ‘Isaac’ or an ‘Ishmael’? Both are seemingly well-formed, beloved, healthy ‘children’. However, the test is simple: is your promise/dream/vision given solely by GOD or has it come about from your own efforts? There’s one simple answer – if you lay it down when GOD asks you to, AND it then comes back to you, it is an Isaac – (GOD will uphold, fulfil, and bring about His own promises). If however, you give it up, and it continues walking, doesn’t look back and flourishes somewhere else, then it is an ‘Ishmael’. Don’t worry though - if you can trust and believe GOD enough to give up your Ishmael in obedience to Him, then He will send you an Isaac that will not be taken away from you.

The hallmark of our faith is our willingness to give up everything for GOD. Every-one who seeks to follow GOD will find the day comes when like Jesus and Abraham, you or I will either bow the knee in tears and pain, submit and say 'Not my will but Your will alone, here is my Isaac' or you or I will walk away from GOD because we cannot go to the 'cross' or the 'altar of sacrifice' that He asks us to.

But in closing, I say - remember the glorious end of the story of JESUS and Abraham. Trust GOD. He can be trusted with your 'Isaac'. It is impossible for GOD to let you down. Hold on in faith always.

Biblical References:

Genesis 22: 9 - 18.  "When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 
10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 
11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”
12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”
13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son.
14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
15 Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven.
16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that
17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants[a] beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies.
18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”

Hebrews 11: 17-19. By faith, Abraham, at the time of testing, offered Isaac back to God. Acting in faith, he was as ready to give up the promised son Isaac, his only son, as he had been to receive him—and this after he had already been told, "Your descendants shall come from Isaac." Abraham figured that if God wanted to, He could raise the dead. And, in a sense, that's what happened when Abraham received Isaac back, alive from off the altar.


luv_lyfe93 said...

Reminds me of the song 'Put it on the alter' by Jessica Reedy :D

Noir said...

I'll try to listen to that. Don't think I've heard it before. Thanks for the tip .. :-)

DesperateNaijaWoman said...

This is one of my bestest and most favourite stories about incredible faith. I always wonder what on earth Isaac must have been thinking?

Noir said...

Hmmmmm DNW... now that's a great question. I've wondered about that too & kinda always thought it was a sign of the love and faith and tangible presence of GOD in the Abraham household. I can imagine Abraham saying to the puzzled terrified Isaac 'Don't fear son, trust GOD' even as his heart cried out to GOD for divine deliverance. Above all, I've always wondered what Sarah thought. Even if Abraham did not discuss it with her, I am a mom, and I know nothing major happens with 'sonshine' that GOD doesn't warn/tell/reveal to me me beforehand. I see the heart of a mom praying/fasting/reminding GOD of His promises re Isaac and falling to her knees in thanksgiving when her son came back home safely... Like you've saod, totally beautiful story of faith and obedience... xx