1Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”2“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
7Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”8“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.
11At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”12“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.”Genesis 22 NLT
I have read this story many times over the years and it always strikes me slightly differently each time, depending on where I am in my faith journey. However, there are questions that always come to mind. It just seems like there is so much more I want to know here. Things like:
- What was Abraham’s initial reaction to sacrificing his only son and the one he was promised by God himself?
- Did Abraham think he was nuts when he heard God’s voice on this matter?
- What was Isaac thinking even after Abraham answered about God providing the sacrifice? Did he keep wondering what was really going on here? Was he suspicious?
- Was Isaac willingly restrained or was there a fight to get this done?
- What was actually running through Abraham’s mind when he picked up the knife?
As a father of two boys, I always struggle through this passage. I couldn’t imagine God asking me or any of us to sacrifice our children. It seems so out of character. Maybe Abraham was more in tune with God’s ways than I am. Maybe (almost certainly) he had greater faith than I do.
However, I DO think God asks us to sacrifice things that are highly important to us at times in our lives. These are things that may be prized by us a little too much, almost to idol status. I can think of a time like this in my life. It was 2015. I had been in Saint Augustine, FL for just over a year after 25 years in Memphis (and 15 for Kristina). We had moved into a beautiful home in a great neighborhood in a wonderful area of the country. I had been promoted to “Strategic Account Manager” and was making way more money than I ever had (150% of the highest I had ever earned), yet my earnings target for this position was another $100k on top of what I was earning. I loved what I did and believed in the product and company I was working for. I literally thought I had “made it” and that I would spend 5-10 years in this job, get the house paid off, save enough to put the boys in college, and maybe enough to start something on my own one day.
Then, David happened. David became my boss in February of 2015, my third boss in less than 2 years. My first two bosses believed in me. David didn’t. We didn’t agree on how to sell things. He was pushy, ruthless, focused on the almighty dollar. I was focused on relationships and doing the right thing by customers and I knew the money would come. I went from being honored as the “rookie of the year” in January of 2015 to on a “performance improvement plan (we are going to fire you plan)” by May. I was miserable, broken, stressed. I had no idea what I was going to do next that would even earn us close to what I was making – not without more stress and without feeling like I was selling my soul.
I remember my Abraham moment. It was the Friday before Memorial Day. My resignation letter was written. I had peace. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I was leaving with no other job lined up. We didn’t have enough money saved. I didn’t have enough connections here to help in finding another job here. But, God would provide. Somehow. Then, a customer called while I was cutting grass and left a glowing message about how things were progressing toward a very large deal that I believed in and would be very lucrative for me. I remember looking up and saying “Really, God? You really want me to lay this down?”
There was no audible voice, but God clearly spoke to me.
“Jim, do you trust me?”
“Yes, Lord, I trust you.”
“Jim, do you REALLY trust me?”
“Yes, Lord, of course I do!!”
“Then, let this go.”
That was that. I resigned that day. I had no idea how I was going to provide for my family. I thought we might lose everything, but I also knew that God could and would provide. He did. I am sure I will weave that story in another post later this year. This was one of the greatest moments of faith in my life, looking back.
I do think that this was a bit of an Abraham moment for me. Here was this great thing I had achieved (well, not really me as God had done all of it and I knew that) and yet I was being asked to sacrifice it. It wasn’t a son, but it was our family’s monetary security, which is pretty darn important. It was my career, that I had always thought I had handed over to God, but had I REALLY handed it over? I did on this day. I laid down a very lucrative job, the one that God had used to move us to an area we had been wanting to live for a while, and an area that he had showed us many times that he would move us to (maybe another story for a later day).
I had doubts – many doubts. I wrestled with God many times before and after I quit that job. I just wonder if Abraham did the same, or if he just marched on with no doubts. I have to think he struggled mightily, but those struggles just weren’t documented for us to see in the Bible. I think we all struggle and wrestle with God when He asks us to do something that seems difficult or impossible. However, when we actually show the faith to do it, we are rewarded mightily.