“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Today we speak of sacrifice in many ways. “I sacrificed family time for this job and no one appreciates it.” “I sacrificed my hard-earned savings so I could help him start over in his life.” “I sacrificed lunch so I could come home earlier from work.” “I sacrificed sleep to watch that movie last night.” We use the word sacrifice loosely without thinking about the seriousness or depth of the word.
A sacrifice is a loss or something you give up, usually for the sake of a better cause. In today’s thinking, parents sacrifice time and sleep to take care of their children, while kids might sacrifice TV time to hang out with mom and dad. That would be amazing wouldn’t it—for kids to sacrifice time to be with parents?!
Though no longer used only in a religious context, sacrifice comes from the Latin sacra and facere, meaning “to perform sacred rites.” If you’ve studied ancient cultures like the Incas, you’ve probably heard of “human sacrifice,” where a person is killed in a sacred ceremony to please the gods. But thankfully those kinds of sacrifices don’t happen anymore.
Only one time has God asked one of His people to sacrifice a human in obedience to Him. In today’s passage of God’s Story, this is the time. But relax, it was only a test. Abraham passed with flying colors! Abraham has lived long enough to know that what God says he will do. God promised a son to Abraham. God delivered Isaac to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, even when they laughed at the news! Now God is asking Abraham to give up that very promised son, Isaac, who is precious to him for what is precious to God—a relentless, unconditional, nothing held back, relationship with God.
Will Abraham love God enough to do what God asks? Is Abraham willing to sacrifice his son who he loves with all his heart in obedience to God who He also loves? Will be bargain with God? Yes, he does exactly what God told him to do. No, he did not bargain for Isaac’s life. He was willing to lose his son to please God in obedience. Abraham’s obedience was driven by his relentless, abiding faith. He obeyed God completely in every detail of the request without question. For Abraham so loved God that he was willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Sound familiar? This is the kind of loving relationship that God wants with us. For God so loved He gave, as a sacrifice, his One and Only Son, Jesus to die for all our sins so that our relationship with Him could be possible. Jesus, Son of God, was sacrificed for the sins of the world. Debt paid in full.
Lose to Gain
What can we possible give God in return? He wants us to love Him back! “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) He wants our love—all of it—heart, mind and soul, nothing held back. God loves faithful obedience motivated by our love for Him more than sacrifice as we will learn later. (1 Samuel 15:22) But the willingness to sacrifice whatever stands between ourselves and God is always gain for us. “Lose your life to gain eternal life”, Jesus teaches us. Willingness to give up what is precious to you for a real, living and growing, intimate relationship with God is priceless. God blesses obedience and faithfulness to Him.
Genesis 22, The Message
After all this, God tested Abraham. God said, “Abraham!”
“Yes?” answered Abraham. “I’m listening.”
2 He said, “Take your dear son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I’ll point out to you.”
3-5 Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants and his son Isaac. He had split wood for the burnt offering. He set out for the place God had directed him. On the third day he looked up and saw the place in the distance. Abraham told his two young servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I are going over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to Isaac his son to carry. He carried the flint and the knife. The two of them went off together.
7 Isaac said to Abraham his father, “Father?”
“Yes, my son.”
“We have flint and wood, but where’s the sheep for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham said, “Son, God will see to it that there’s a sheep for the burnt offering.” And they kept on walking together.
9-10 They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son.
11 Just then an angel of God called to him out of Heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes, I’m listening.”
12 “Don’t lay a hand on that boy! Don’t touch him! Now I know how fearlessly you fear God; you didn’t hesitate to place your son, your dear son, on the altar for me.”
13 Abraham looked up. He saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.
14 Abraham named that place God-Yireh (God-Sees-to-It). That’s where we get the saying, “On the mountain of God, he sees to it.”
15-18 The angel of God spoke from Heaven a second time to Abraham: “I swear—God’s sure word!—because you have gone through with this, and have not refused to give me your son, your dear, dear son, I’ll bless you—oh, how I’ll bless you! And I’ll make sure that your children flourish—like stars in the sky! like sand on the beaches! And your descendants will defeat their enemies. All nations on Earth will find themselves blessed through your descendants because you obeyed me.”
19 Then Abraham went back to his young servants. They got things together and returned to Beersheba. Abraham settled down in Beersheba.
* * *
20-23 After all this, Abraham got the news: “Your brother Nahor is a father! Milcah has given him children: Uz, his firstborn, his brother Buz, Kemuel (he was the father of Aram), Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” (Bethuel was the father of Rebekah.) Milcah gave these eight sons to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.
24 His concubine, Reumah, gave him four more children: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESOND?
When God spoke, Abraham not only listened, he responded to God, “Yes, I’m listening.” When God speaks to us, do we put him off for later when we think we have more time? I hope not. God’s timing is perfect. To do what He says at the time He says it produces blessing from God that might be missed. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss a thing!
Abraham wasted no time to respond in obedience in doing the hardest, life-altering task of his life! He got up early the next morning, gathered the supplies needed and took off for the mountain to meet God to fulfill what He told Abraham to do.
How do we respond to the hard tasks God asks us to do? Do we jump right on it, or put off the hard stuff of life? Yikes, I know I hit a nerve. How do we respond today to tasks from God we know will require a “sacrifice” of our precious time? Today’s dilemma and focus seems to be more on our time sacrificed than anything else.
Abraham didn’t try to strike a bargain with God for his son! Do we catch ourselves bargaining with God? “God, I give you Sunday morning if you’ll give me a raise in pay on my job.” “God, I’ll give to the poor, if you’ll give me more time to vacation.” Abraham had bargained before when God decided to destroy the city where Lot, his nephew resided. But not this time. Abraham as asking for someone else, not for him.
Abraham has to be wondering how God can give and then take away, but he still walks forward on that hard, bumpy path to obedience with his son. But Abraham’s heart is so focused on God’s faithfulness and love for him that he does not argue with God. He is driven to obey God.
How driven and focused are we to obey what God says in every detail?
Paul tells us how and what to sacrifice to please God that results in knowing His perfect will. Ready for the secret sauce?
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2, NIV
Need further clarification? Read The Message paraphrase of the same verses.
Place Your Life Before God
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:1-2, The Message
My prayer this morning,
In Jesus Name, For His Glory, Amen