I’ve been guilty of grumbling over the “long” wait I have had for answers to my prayers. I’ve also complained that the journey has been “so hard” and “no one else” can understand how hard it has been. No, certainly there isn’t anyone who could possibly understand this road. Having to go from place to place, learn languages, use tents for our churches, wondering how things will get done. Then I remember Abraham and his life and am immediately reminded that this journey in obedience has been taken many times before I was even born.
Abraham is one of the greatest human examples we can draw from on the subject because of his deep “humanness” in the middle of great obedience to God and sacrifice. As well as being a great man of faith, he was a man with great flaws just like the rest of us – and this gives the rest of us hope! Despite being flawed, human, God can and will use us if we dare to believe.
Let’s pick up Abraham’s story in the latter part of Genesis 11 when he was known as Abram (God later renamed him Abraham). Initially, Abraham was an idol maker, his family made their wealth off of making idols. They were quite well off, I imagine if Abraham lived at this stage of his life today we would find him somewhere on Palm Beach or in Los Angeles or some other expensive area with a large mansion, owning some posh business and involved in the “jet set” of society.
In the opening of chapter 12 of Genesis, God speaks to Abraham and tells him to “Get out of your country, from your family, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you…” (vs. 1) in subsequent verses, God promises Abraham that he would be blessed and through him all nations of the world would be blessed.
In verse 4 of chapter 12 it reads, “So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him…” He went with his whole family. It’s mind-boggling that there was no record of Abraham asking God questions like: how? why? where? He simply obeyed immediately. Where was he going? He didn’t know but he went. He knew the plan of God in part, that he would be a blessing – but all he knew to do was to go so he did. He left the “how” it would get done to God.
Throughout Genesis, if you take the time to read through it, you’ll see how Abraham basically kept his course and somehow kept going toward the goal that God had set for him. Throughout the process, we see moments where his humanness shows, like when he tried to pass off his wife as his sister (though somehow there was some truth to that statement, maybe that was his justification for his error in judgment??), when he tried to bring about the promise of having a son through Hagar instead of Sarah, and so on. Finally, though, we see God come through and Abraham’s son of promise, Isaac, is born. What a great day of celebration that must have been for Abraham!
But the journey of sacrifice that had already taken many years for Abraham, was not yet complete. God had another hurdle set before Abraham, not to test him so that God Himself would know what was in Abraham’s heart, for God knows what’s in the hearts of all people (2 Chron. 6:30). God tested Abraham so Abraham could see what was in his own heart. Sound familiar? How many times have we all gone through things and later on thought, “Wow, how did I get through that?” God knew it was in you to get through – so you did, you just needed to see it.
I want us to pick up the story in Genesis chapter 22 where we see one of the greatest (if not the greatest) parallels to the offering of Christ in the Bible, where Abraham was told to offer his son Isaac to God as a burnt offering.
Isaac, the son of promise, was the demand that God placed on Abraham. He told Abraham in Genesis 22:2, “offer him to Me.” I believe Abraham reasoned that God had given him Isaac, God had the right to ask for him. He also knew God had promised to raise up a nation from Isaac so if he offered his son, he knew God would have to raise him from the dead in order to keep His promise – for God is a God of His Word (Titus 1:2).
What I find astounding about Abraham and his life is seen at this juncture when, in the next verse 3, we read, “so Abraham arose 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 (Mount Moriah).” His decision to obey wasn’t one that he laboured over; this father who loved his son and had waited for his birth immediately obeyed a command he certainly couldn’t understand. How many times have I agonised over God’s call? His demand on my life? Why has my obedience been delayed? To be reasonable? To get prepared? The scriptures don’t give us much insight into Abraham’s thought processes but I’m sure he struggled as we do now. The difference we see between our agonising obedience and his was that his obedience was immediate.
We don’t see Sarah being consulted here; this doesn’t mean she didn’t know. This simply means that Abraham was commanded to do something and he obeyed. I tend to think that Abraham must have told Sarah, after all they had been through and she supported him, but who knows? Nevertheless, whether or not she knew wasn’t what was being driven home here. What is important for us to note is that whether or not she approved or disapproved of what Abraham was doing had nothing to do with Abraham’s obedience. This was a command given to him by God; this was his journey to take whether or not others, even those closest to him, understood or approved. When we obey God, we have to be ready for resistance and even rejection for God’s ways, as we know, are far beyond human understanding.
Imagine what this man went through for this act of obedience, he not only had to endure his own thoughts, but he prepared everything he needed for the sacrifice. Just like God when He prepared everything on that first Christmas night for His sacrifice (he prepared a family for Him, a home to grow in until the time came for Him to move on to His offering of His own sacrifice). Abraham prepared for sacrificing his son: he split the wood for the sacrifice, loaded it all together with his son and his servants, and off he went.
Abraham understood that this was a job he had to tend to personally. Just like God understood that the redemption of mankind was a personal journey He had to take. No one else could do it for him, none of his paid servants could offer Isaac for him – this was his sacrifice, his journey. He stopped life to make it happen.
It took 4 days for Abraham to get to the mountain of Moriah (Genesis 22:4) with his entourage. Imagine those 4 days and what they were like. 4 days to think about what he was going to do. Just like God Who had 33 years to think about what Jesus was going to do when He faced the cross – but He (like Abraham) never backed down. No words in either case of re-thinking the issue or finding a bartering tool – a way of escape. Simple silence, no words were given to express feeling.
As a parent, I can tell you at least from my perspective what Abraham must have been feeling. You could do the same, those of you who are parents. That baby that he had prayed decades for, giving up as an offering? No bitterness spewing from his father’s mouth, just courage and endurance. It must have been a long 4 days to Moriah.
At the bottom of the mountain of Moriah, the story goes on to say (Genesis 22:5) that Abraham left the donkey and the young men. He had to leave anything that might have slowed him down or influenced him in any way so he could go and “worship.” Notice he says at the end of the verse that “we will come back to you.” He must have clung to the promise, just like Jesus did as He looked at the “joy” (you and me) set before Him so He could endure, knowing that Isaac was the door to God’s promise. But all he could think as he climbed that mountain must have been, “My son. Isaac! My only son!” Obedience, I’ve learned, comes from the heart, not the mind. Abraham knew that his mind couldn’t understand what his heart knew: he had to obey God.
Historians have noted that Moriah is one and the same as the mountain in Jerusalem or Calvary. When Jesus climbed that same mountain as Abraham and Isaac, His reaction to His offering required by God was the same –
Isaiah 53:7 “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter.”
Isaac, once arriving at the top of the mountain, asks his father, “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7) In wisdom, Abraham clings to God’s promise saying “God will provide a lamb…”
The difference between Abraham’s offering and God’s is this: Abraham’s obedience was full and God provided a sacrifice for Abraham in the form of a ram at the top of the mountain – Isaac was spared. God had no substitute when He gave us Jesus. And Jesus’ offering was complete all the way to death.
This is what obedience means to me: it is the ascent to Moriah, to Calvary. It is the giving up so that others may live. It is proving to myself the level of my commitment to God.
The parallel of Abraham’s & God’s offerings doesn’t end with the sacrifice. Perhaps the greatest parallel exists in why they offered their offerings:
Genesis 22:18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
Galatians 3:13, 14 “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”) that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
This is what our lifetime sacrifice means to me: it is the ascent to Moriah, to Calvary. It is the giving up so that others may live. God calls all of us to Moriah so that He can use us for the sake of others.
All of us are called to this place of sacrifice; everyone has their own sacrifice. For me, Moriah brought me to a place of sacrificing my family. I have known the sacrifice of leaving my parents, my siblings, my nation, which was difficult enough. I have known the sacrifice of being misunderstood and having to learn languages and new cultures. Yes, those were hard. But now I have come to the greatest mountain of sacrifice when I had to leave my children. All I thought about as I climbed that mountain was “how can I do this?” But God somehow gave me grace so others could hear, so others could know. I had to trust Him with my sacrifice, my children.
That sacrifice brought great pain to me, to us, but in our offering, came much joy. God provided for all their needs and He is using us to plant more churches, feed more children – and in the offering we still have child #4 filling our home with joy. Yes, God thinks of everything.
The new climb He has asked of us is to trust our offering to Him. If I’ve offered my children, living near them, helping them when they need help and enjoying my grandchildren, I must truly leave it with Him without complaint. After all, it’s a very small offering in comparison to what the Father offered for me.
Are these people, these people that surround us every day worth what God is asking us to climb and offer at Moriah for Him? Yes it is. You might not feel it, I might not feel it, you might not feel like it, but it is worth it because there was a day that our Saviour climbed that same mountain for us – and He didn’t say a word.
We’re now in Day 3! How are you doing? I’m appreciating the personal messages that are coming through to me via email and messenger. I’d love for others to read your faith-filled comments. It’s a great encouragement during times like a fast to read what God is saying to fellow believers. Click in the comment section of the blog and leave your comments there and we can get encouragement to the whole group.
I was also asked about Bible reading and what plan to follow by several readers. I want to encourage you to go to YouVersion (if you have access to a computer) and there you will find many Bible reading plans. I prefer the One Year Bible myself but there are some other interesting options there. I’ll include the link here for you to take a look.
Of course you can purchase the One Year Bible at your local bookstore or online if you prefer pages to computer screens!