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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sacrifice to Purity

Genesis 22:1-12

1AFTER THESE events, God tested and proved Abraham and said to him, Abraham! And he said, Here I am. 2[God] said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I will tell you. 3So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and his son Isaac; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and then began the trip to the place of which God had told him. 4On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5And Abraham said to his servants, Settle down and stay here with the donkey, and I and the young man will go yonder and worship and [a]come again to you. 6Then Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on [the shoulders of ] Isaac his son, and he took the fire (the firepot) in his own hand, and a knife; and the two of them went on together. 7And Isaac said to Abraham, My father! And he said, Here I am, my son. [Isaac] said, See, here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt sacrifice? 8Abraham said, My son, [b]God Himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering. So the two went on together. 9When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there; then he laid the wood in order and [c]bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar on the wood. 10And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took hold of the knife to slay his son. 11But the [d]Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, Abraham, Abraham! He answered, Here I am. 12And He said, Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear and revere God, since you have not held back from Me or begrudged giving Me your son, your only son


It seems so easy to read this as if it is obvious that, of course, Abraham would do as God asked.  I mean, look, he listened as God told him to leave his home, his family, and his country and walk to where God leads him; why wouldn’t he follow this?  But is actually so obvious; we have just heard the story so many times that we don’t doubt Abraham’s faith. 

The first verse states that God tested and proved Abraham.  God gave Abraham the option of bowing out from this sacrifice.  Abraham walked for three days.  He had plenty of time to think of what God wanted to do.  He had lots of time to come up with a reason for not doing it.  (Wouldn’t we?)  He had people to talk to about it and get their opinion and surely they would agree with Abraham that he shouldn’t offer Isaac.  Why would God promise you descendents through your seed if He was going to ask for him as a sacrifice?  I can hear the servants’ reasoning and Abraham’s thoughts.  Yet, Abraham continued on in following God’s command to him.  Even Isaac asked where was the ram or ewe.  I am sure that Isaac was scared, too.  Look, even though he was probably frightened, the passage does not show that Isaac was fighting God’s command.  Did Abraham teach him to trust God so much that he obeyed willingly?  Would that we taught our children so well that they trusted the Father as much.

Abraham and Isaac reach Mt. Moriah and prepare the altar, probably of earth and rocks.  Abraham places the wood he personally chopped in order on the altar to be Isaac’s funeral pyre.  Nothing from God yet; God seems to really want him to offer up his last hope.  He binds Isaac’s feet and hands and places him on the altar.  Still God does not stop him.  Could we do this or would we be pleading to God with tears and continued prayer and reluctance that God not let this happen?  We do not see Abraham doing that.  We see him continuing with the process of preparing the sacrifice.  There is only one further step in the process, the killing of the offering.  Abraham pulls out his knife and poises it above Isaac to kill him.  And then…a voice from heaven, a voice that Abraham recognizes, not something that he wonders if it is God.  It is God, the God who called him out of Ur and the God he worships every day. 

The question, would we have wondered if we interpreted God’s telling us to offer our child as a sacrifice and questioned again?  Or, would we have known his voice and followed His command?  Even further, would we actually know God’s voice?  Abraham loved this child that God had given him in his old age.  He would not have thought he heard wrong if the Lord told him to offer him as a sacrifice; look, he proceeded immediately to offer the sacrifice.  Abraham did not question if it was God speaking to him; he knew God’s voice.  Now our question, do you know God’s voice intimately enough to know God speaking and not doubting his calling you to action?  Would you prepare to do what He told you to do or would you question it?  (Moses questioned God and then he was not allowed entrance to the promised land.)  A person’s character determines how he or she interprets God’s will.

God wanted to purify Abraham’s faith.  Based on Abraham’s belief, he interpreted that he had to sacrifice Isaac.  For the point Abraham was at, God could only purify Abraham’s faith in this way.  Maybe this was the one big thing, at this time, that stood between Abraham and God.  Likewise, God purifies us for Him.  God will take us through an ordeal that will serve to bring us into a better knowledge of Himself.  Are we like Abraham, are we willing to do anything for God?  He was willing to obey God in this even though it was not a belief he held from his background.  If his God required it, he would do it.  If you will remain true to God, God will lead you directly through every barrier and right into the inner chamber of the knowledge of Himself but you must be willing to give up all of your own convictions and beliefs to embrace God.  Abraham remained true to God and He purified him.  We must remain true to God, even when the thing He asks is not in our beliefs.  If we do that, God will purify us beyond our selves and our thinking.  He will bring us closer to Himself and we will know Him better and we will become more like Him.  Now the question, what has God asked you to do today; have you heard His voice?

(Thanks to Oswald Chamber for some of the commentary.)