Promise On the Altar

Message: In Genesis 22 God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son. This is such a widely known story and I have heard this story unpacked with more angles than I can count. It’s uncomfortable and it’s inconceivable and I believe that is the intended point. Since we don’t like the discomfort, I feel like our tendency is to want to read this in such a way that softens the edges. I have heard many narratives that point out the conversations that happened before he took his son up the mountain. Abraham told the men that were with him that he and his son were going up to the mountain to worship and that “they” would both return. He also had the conversation going up the hill when his son noticed that they had everything they needed for the sacrifice…but he asked his father  “where is the sacrifice?” To that, Abraham responded that the Lord would provide. Many have concluded that Abraham had the faith to believe God would provide another way and that he knew God was going to provide a sacrifice. While I believe that is true, the point of this whole thing is that Abraham was also 100% prepared to sacrifice his son. If he wasn’t, then this story is nothing but theatrics. As difficult as that is to accept, and as uncomfortable as that is to ponder, we can’t explain it away to pacify our own discomfort. God had made Abraham a promise that he would make him the father of nations and multiply his seed like the stars in the sky and the sands of the earth. When it didn’t happen in a timely manner, he had already made the disastrous mistake of listening to his wife by trying to make it happen through Hagaar and he paid the price for it when he later lost that son after God told him to send him away. He had endured the very long wait for their promised son to come through Sarah, and now God was testing Abraham once again. This test was beyond just proving whether he loved his son more than God. This test was directly related to the promise God made to Abraham. They were old, and after that long to get Isaac, he knew he couldn’t just have another child. This child WAS the promise and God was testing it. Abraham got all the way to the point where he bound his son to the altar and reached for the sacrificial knife. At this point Isaac was fully aware and I can only imagine the fear and the horror coming from Isaac as he lay bound to that altar before the angel stopped Abraham and provided the ram in the thicket.

Command: Every promise God has made to me has to be released back to Him.

Promise: God is faithful to fulfill his promises.

Warning: I can’t make the promises happen by trying to control them, or by hanging onto them with a death grip.

Application: I have heard many people try to relate to this story by trying to imagine sacrificing their own child. We simply can’t relate to it. God made that promise to Abraham and Abraham only and a promise that great required an obedience and a trust even greater that God would do it his way. To me this story reminds me that for whatever promise I firmly believe that God has made, I have to also be willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice of that very promise to completely release it. Do I want eternal life? I have to be willing to offer my life as a sacrifice no matter how much it screams to be lifted off of that altar. I think we tend to get in the habit of trying to “help” God fulfill his promises so we try to preserve things that God is flat out telling us to give up and release. Once I give it up, he is able to trust us that I will do it his way. What dreams and plans or ideas am I holding onto with a death grip? What things in my life have I been clinging to so hard that God is waiting for me to put on the altar of sacrifice?

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