As the rays of dawn broke over the horizon, a figure of a man loomed in the shadowy light. He saddled his donkey and loaded it down with wood, preparing for the three days of travel that lie ahead.
In the stillness of the morning, he took his son, his only son, and two servants and set off on the journey. His gait was confident. Not that of someone who had a distressing task ahead.
This mans’ name was Abraham.
That dawn-lit morning, he started out on a journey to one of the greatest acts of faith and obedience ever recorded in history.
Earlier the day before, God handed Abraham a test, not to trip him up and watch him fall, but to deepen his capacity to obey God and consequently develop his character.
God called him, “Abraham!”
Oh, Abraham knew that voice well. Over time, he had cultivated his heart to listen for it.
“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”
Then the test was presented.
“Take your son, your only son – yes, Isaac, whom you love so much – and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering…” (Genesis 22:1-2)
It doesn’t give us a glimpse of what goes on in Abraham’s heart after that, but I can only imagine.
Or maybe not.
His faith seemed much greater than mine.
Sacrifice my son?
My only son?
Obviously, I did not just hear that right.
This son, who through a miracle was born unto them in their old age.
They loved him. So much.
Surely the Lord would not have me then sacrifice him!
But you see, in times past his faith had faltered.
He had been weaker.
But not now. He knew the God he served. He knew exactly what the Lord had promised to him. He now had faith. A faith that could not be shaken.
It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. (Hebrews 11:17-19 a)
Weary from the journey, they arrive a little ways from their destination.
The man and his boy walk together to where God had told him to go.
As they walk alone together, the boy wonders out-loud where the lamb is for the sacrifice?
The man confidently reassures him that the Lord will provide.
They continued on in silence.
Once there, Abraham builds an alter of stone. He places the wood upon it.
Then with a heart full of faith and obedience, he ties his sons’ hands and places him on top of the alter.
That moment as he held the knife high above his head, ready to plunge it into his son, the familiar voice shouted to him. An angel of the Lord.
“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”
“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.”
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.
God came through for him. He didn’t doubt for even a moment.
But why did God direct Abraham to carry out an act of human sacrifice?
Heathen nations practiced human sacrifice, but God condemned this as a terrible sin. (Leviticus 20:1-5)
God did not want Isaac to die, but he longed for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in his heart so it would be apparent that Abraham loved God more than his promised and long-awaited son.
To give up. Let go.
God showed me this with my own son.
I had him held in my hand with such a vice-like grip.
Afraid to let go.
Then a message my husband preached, spoke words I needed to hear yet again.
God could give to Abraham because he had made such a wide opening into his life. God can only give into an open hand. This hand was open wide.
Let this be your rule. Give all He asks, then take all He gives, and then the cup will be joyously spilling over the brim.
Beware of every hesitation to abandon everything to God.
I stretched out my trembling hand.
Tears forming in corner of my eyes.
Slowly my fingers unfolded revealing to God my open hand.
And there on that day in my heart of hearts, I sacrificed my son.
We all have ‘things’ we need to sacrifice on the alter of our heart.
And believe me, that hasn’t been the only alter I’ve ever built.
I can become so sentimental and attached.
But God is patiently teaching me to loosen my tight grip.
To live my life with an open hand.