The Unthinkable Sacrifice That Never Actually Happened

The Bible tells many stories about sacrifice and redemption, and one of the most striking occurs early in God’s interaction with Abraham. The Genesis account says this:
“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” (Genesis 22:1-2 NIV)

This request from the Lord was surprising to say the least. There were pagan cultures that sacrificed children to deities, but YHWH never endorsed such activity. In fact, when the law was written later He called it an abomination in Deuteronomy 12:30-31: “for every abomination to YHWH, which he hates, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt (sacrificed) in the fire to their gods.”

Abram had left Ur and been obedient to God, following Him geographically to a distant place; but the Lord apparently wanted to take Abram further still, and so He asked Abram to do the unthinkable. Abram and Sara had waited all of their lives in hopes of having a son, and it seemed the opportunity had passed them by. They were overjoyed (and yes, a little skeptical) to receive the promise of an heir when they were seventy-five years old. Then they waited TWENTY FIVE YEARS to conceive and have a son. It is impossible for us to underestimate the depth of their love for Isaac. Just imagine the attachment these old folks must have had! Isaac was their true heir, their legacy, and their promised child.

sacrifice

Surely they enjoyed watching Isaac the toddler develop and become a healthy boy in their old age, assured now that God keeps his promises… Surely as they sang songs with him or watched him grow up in their household with unrivaled love and affection, they treasured him as much as any parents had ever treasured any child. And yet God told Abraham to go and sacrifice his only son. In light of these new instructions, Abraham’s response was amazing. It’s hard to put yourself into Abram’s shoes; it’s even harder to believe he could do such a thing.

He immediately took Isaac, his only son, and prepared to sacrifice him as God instructed. So many questions come to mind when you read about the way God tested Abraham in Genesis 22. Why on earth did God do that? How could God be so cruel and heartless? What was the Lord thinking? What kind of God would require you to offer up your only son as a sacrifice? Wasn’t this the child of the Promise, the one through whom the covenant would be fulfilled? Was this a fair test? These are all legitimate questions to ask about this sacrifice, but really, aren’t those questions all between God and Abraham?

There’s really only ONE question, perhaps, that YOU should ask about this: what is it that you love more than anything, that you are withholding from God, that you refuse to offer him? “Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV)

Abraham denied himself and offered God the one thing in his life that he treasured the most. His relationship changed the way men perceived God, and it changed history from that moment on. God fulfilled the covenant of redemption through Abraham because he had faith and because he was willing to offer everything as a sacrifice to God. What will be different about history when your life is done? Think. Offer. Move to a new place. Find a new blessing.

What things went through Abram's mind? How could God be so inclined,
To make him give his only son? How could such a thing be done?
He had to hold up once or twice as he prepared the sacrifice;
Did God go back on promises made? And yet, old Abraham obeyed...
Isaac's birth and all the rest had led him to the toughest test
A man would ever think to face! And what did Abram know of grace?
God said, "Take him to the place that I will surely show you."
Abram had to think, "Oh Yahweh, do I really KNOW you?
Would you have me offer up my one and only son?
Why, Lord, would you sacrifice the only Promised One?"
Looking back now, Abram knows the answers to his plea;
Yahweh's test foretold a sacrifice he'd yet to see:
For God allowed His only Son to go to Calvary,
Offered as a sacrifice for them. For you. For me.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

If You Get Call From God, Make Sure You Answer the Phone!

Have you ever gotten “that call”? The one which required an answer from you that could change your whole future? I once received a phone call about a job offer in Chicago, which I decided not to take; I often thought, in later years, that the simple yes or no answer literally affected the direction our family ended up going. Perhaps Abraham felt the same way: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should receive after for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” (Hebrews 11:8 KJV)

I wonder if Abram had ever really dreamed of leaving Ur? He was a family man who may have had roots and obligations in his community. As a nomad herdsman, he may not have had a big house, but answering God’s call represented a big change for him. Even if you only have a few possessions, we all know it’s a pain in the neck to move. And did Abram really WANT to move? Was God’s call the fulfillment of his dreams, or an interruption to his status quo? I wonder what the people in his household thought, and whether anybody complained. Were all of them as sold on God’s call as Abram was?

Genesis 12:5 says “He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan.” It doesn’t say whether they were enthusiastic or happy about it. But they all answered the call and went with Abram to an unknown promised land. Abram was seventy-five years old and he received a call from God, and he believed it was legitimate enough to bet the house on it.

There are a couple of things about Abram’s call and response that stand out to me. The well-spring of faith is not in being successful, or even in knowing the direction; it is in hearing the call, and knowing who is calling. Since your faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed, it really helps to have faith in something or someone who is reliable. You can have all the faith in the world that a chair with two broken legs will hold you up, but when you sit down you will still crash to the floor. Abram put his faith in a reliable God, and we are still reading his story thousands of years later.

Secondly, Abram was obedient, and he followed God without knowing where he would end up. Are you obedient to God? (Which begs the question, are you having enough dialog with Him so that you know what He wants you to do?) Faith is never passive, and it always results in obedience. Abram didn’t say, “I’ll follow God if He gives me a sign, or a clear direction.” He just packed up and set out, not really knowing where he was going. If God had called him to stay right where he was, I am sure he would have done that, too—but He gave up his presumptions and assumptions and did what God wanted him to do.

There’s a subtle twist to that as well. Have you ever said, “I’m available!”? I will do what God wants (as long as it fits my plans, as long as He uses me the way I always hoped He would…) I will follow God’s call (if it involves doing what I want, going somewhere I have always dreamed of going, or using my gifts the way I always wanted…) I will definitely follow God (as long as He keeps me in my comfort zone). God didn’t guarantee that to Abram, and He doesn’t guarantee that to us. But he does guarantee Himself, which ultimately should be a better promise, don’t you think?

Picture this: from out of the blue, 
A call from God just comes to you,
And tells you that it's time to roam--
To take your family, leave your home,
And everything you've ever known,
And move away to somewhere new,
Just because God told you to!
Well, Abraham got up and went--
He took his wife, he took his tent--
Not questioning why he was sent,
Believing that God's promise would
Result in something very good.
The call, you see, was Abram's test,
So he left Ur and all the rest:
And somehow all the world was blessed
Because he gave the Lord his best.
So if you get a call from God when you are all alone,
Remember Abraham's results, and please, pick up the phone!

 

To buy my latest book, Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

A Small Tweak to an Old Scripture: The Just Shall Live by ACTION

There’s a law of spiritual physics: for every smidgen of faith, there is a corresponding action. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8, NIV)

The story of Abraham is central to the story of the Bible. It is actually central to your story and mine. We don’t know much about Abram before he encountered God; he was a competent citizen of Ur, and he was descended from Shem. What we do know is that is that he settled with his father Terah in Haran, and that his wife Sarai was barren. (Because that seems so close to a rhyme, I couldn’t make myself write it any other way.) In Genesis 12:1, it says, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show you.” The amazing thing is that Abram heard and immediately obeyed God, and went out to start a new life at age 75.

He had faith in what God promised, and it motivated him to do what God instructed. I think that one of the consistent hallmarks of faith is obedience. If you believe that God has given you something to do, then you do it. True faith is never passive, but always results in ACTION. Let me repeat that: true faith ALWAYS results in ACTION. This is basically what James says about faith when he connects it to works; he never says that works produce faith, but that faith always produces works: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (James 2:17-18, NIV) A faithful life is a life of obedience that leads to adventure! So, what does the call of a Chaldean nomad from the pages of ancient history have to do with us? There is a direct connection between the way the God of relationships worked with Abram and the way He still works with us. Every single one of us is called to go out, not knowing our destination or the surety of the outcome. A quick glance through Matthew serves to remind us that Jesus said “Follow me” in 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 16:24, and 19:21. You really can’t explore the Bible very much at all without being confronted by a call from the Lord of the universe. God asks every single one of us to leave the earthly things which make us feel secure and to follow where He calls us to go. We have several options: we can refuse to hear that call; we can ignore the call; we have the option to disobey and go our own way; or we can place all of our trust in the Lord’s leadership and travel in obedience with the God of action and adventure. Based on his decision to obey, Abram’s name ended up of the roll call of the heroes of the faith. If you are wondering, God is still calling, and that list is still being written. Have faith. Obey. Take action.

Abram, son of Terah, was comfortably settled in Haran.
His life was good,  and he did what he should,
Though his lovely wife Sarai was barren.
But then there was that conversation
When God told him, "Leave your relations,
Obey my command and go find a new land
And I'll turn you into a great nation."
Well Abram believed this command he received;
And though he could have stayed, he went out and obeyed!
He changed his whole life, took his goods and his wife
And achieved satisfaction because he took action.
If you believe God, then get to it,
Since faith isn't faith 'til you DO it.

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread