If one has grown up in or spent much time in church, chances are they know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Just in case you don’t, here’s an overview.
In Genesis 12, God called Abraham from his home to go to a land that God would show him. He also said that He would make a great nation from His descendants and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through them. Abraham packed his things and obeyed.
At this time, he was 75 years old and he and his wife, Sarah, had no children. He trusted God to fulfill the promises He had made even though it seemed impossible.
There were times when Abraham slipped and his faith faltered, but God lovingly reminded him of His promises, and He is a God who keeps His promises.
“And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” ~Genesis 15:5, 6
In Genesis 21, the promised son, Isaac, arrived. By this time, Abraham is 100 and Sarah is 90.
God performed the impossible in their lives and delivered the child they always wanted.
They waited 25 years from the time the promise was made until they held the promise in their arms. I’m sure they would say it was worth every minute of the wait.
The very next chapter holds the topic of this post: God instructs Abraham to take Isaac up to the land of Moriah and there offer him as a sacrifice unto the Lord.
How could God do that?
He had promised this child for 25 years and now that he has arrived, God is asking his father to kill him?
Let me just pause for a moment and say that God does nothing flippantly. He doesn’t ‘shoot from the hip’ or make decisions ‘on the fly.’
Everything He does has been mapped out in eternity and it is always ultimately for the good of His child and will get glory to Himself.
Abraham takes Isaac (who is by this time old enough to carry wood on his back) up to the mountain as God instructed. Isaac even questions Abraham about the missing sacrifice, and Abraham tells him, “…My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering:” ~Genesis 22:8
When they arrive at the top of the mountain, they prepare the altar and Isaac is placed on top. As Abraham raises the knife to kill his son, he is stopped by the Lord.
“And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” ~Genesis 22:12
God provided a ram that was caught in the thicket to be offered as the sacrifice in worship to the One who can always be trusted.
After the sacrifice was made, God spoke again.
“And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,
And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” ~Genesis 22:15-18
Here, God reiterates His promise to make a great nation from Abraham and Isaac…and He also shows the reason behind this test.
God never wanted Isaac. He wanted Abraham.
He wanted to prove that Abraham loved God more than the most precious thing he possessed, so He asked him to lay it down.
I used to wonder how Abraham was able to do this. Knowing the promises God had made about his descendants, how could he offer up his son?
The answer is found in Hebrews 11.
“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead;” ~Hebrews 11:17-19a
He believed that if God required him to kill his son that God would raise him from the dead because He is a God that cannot lie.
That’s the faith of Abraham.
How weak and pitiful is my faith compared to this!!
I think we as a generation, especially as Americans, hold the blessings God has given us in a death grip, refusing to let go of even the smallest of them.
We feel entitled to them and how dare God ask us to give anything up!
Even if He did give them to us, they are ours now and we will not let them go.
Friend, what would happen if God asked you to lay your Isaac on the altar?
The most precious thing to your heart.
What if He said, “I want that?”
He will, you know.
Perhaps He hasn’t done it yet, but if you are His child, you can rest assured the day will come when your love and faith in God will be tested.
When that day comes, how will you respond?
Will you have faith like Abraham and obey immediately?
I must admit, I have struggled over my Isaac.
My faith has paled in comparison to Abraham’s.
When God put His finger on my Isaac and said, “That,” I argued.
“No! Not that! Anything but that!”
God said, “That.”
I had my hand closed so tightly that it hurt when God had to pry it open, and it hurt worse when He pointed out the thing He wanted.
The thing that was dearest and most precious to my heart.
I didn’t realize it at the moment, but He was asking me if I loved Him more than my Isaac.
Did I love him more than this dream of how I wanted things to be?
More than a nice home?
More than my husband?
More than children?
I feel the sting all over again just typing the words.
Did I, Do I, want God more than these things?
I used to take the attitude that this was a good thing that I wanted and how could God ask me to be okay with never having it?
Why was He wanting to take this from me?
I didn’t understand.
It was such a good day in my life when I realized God didn’t want to take my dream of children away from me.
He just wanted me.
He wants me to love Him more than my dreams.
He wants me to desire Him more than I desire a home full of messy handprints, nighttime cuddles, and children’s love.
He just wants me.
All of me.
Every single part.
So, He asks for my Isaac.
And He will ask for your Isaac too.
It may be something totally different for you, but trust me, when He puts His finger on it and says, “That,” you’ll know.
Oh, It won’t be easy or painless.
Even with Abraham’s faith that God would raise Isaac from the dead, I’m sure he didn’t relish the thought of killing his son.
God wants to prove whether or not you and I will keep serving Him without our Issacs.
The important tests in life are always hard.
I won’t tell you that God will always spare our Isaacs.
Sometimes He chooses to take them anyway, but once we are willing to offer them up, it won’t matter to us if God takes them or not.
Learning to hold all of our possessions with an open hand is a vital lesson we all must learn…the easy way or the hard way.
I don’t know who said it, but I heard this quote the other day, and while it is talking about women, it is applicable for us all.
“The woman with a Kingdom heart may have a duffel bag full of possessions or enough treasures to fill a mansion, but she has learned to hold them with an open hand.
Hold everything with open hands. I don’t think we are ever allowed to grab hold of anything or anyone as though they matter more than the Kingdom of Heaven. When you hold relationships with open hands, then people come in and out of your life as gifts of grace to be cherished and enjoyed, not objects to be owned and manipulated. And then, when you hold your dreams with open hands, you get to watch God resurrect what seemed dead and multiply what seemed small.”
Only God is able to take our Isaacs and fulfill their potential. Who knows what would have happened had Abraham refused to offer his precious son?
Because he obeyed the voice of God and had a heart that desired to please Him, God used Abraham and Isaac to begin the nation of Israel, and through their descendants would come Jesus Christ.
I know it’s much easier said than done, but when God points out and asks for our Isaacs, we should open our hands, willingly lay them down, and trust God to handle the result.
He specializes in the impossible.