Jump Start # 2445
Genesis 22:10 “Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.”
This is one of the most remarkable acts of faith and trusts found in the Bible. God tested Abraham. He was told to take Isaac, the son of promise and sacrifice him. It was a three days journey to get to the place where God wanted this done. For three days Abraham had this rolling around in his mind. For three days Abraham looked at his son and wondered how all of this was going to work out. For three days Abraham thought about how a human sacrifice fits in with God’s plans. God didn’t just ask Abraham to kill Isaac. It was more than a sacrifice. The text tells us that Isaac was to be a burnt offering. When Israel would offer burnt offerings, a live lamb was tied up, it’s throat was slit and as the animal was gasping for air, the blood was collected. Then a fire was lit and the animal was burned. There wasn’t much left after a burnt offering. And, now God expected Abraham to do this to his son, Isaac. How could there be a resurrection if Isaac was burned up? What if there was nothing left? There are enough questions there for most of us to pause and reconsider all of this. But not Abraham. He got up early and with Isaac, headed to the mountain to do what God said.
There are two immediate things we must remember. This wasn’t theory. This wasn’t a table talk before the Lord’s Supper where someone talks about how hard it would be to sacrifice a child. This wasn’t a discussion in a Bible class. This wasn’t words written in a Jump Start. Abraham got up early and went, knowing this is what God wanted to do.
Second, God didn’t stop Abraham that first day. He didn’t say, “Wow, you got up early and you really mean business. That’s good enough for me.” No, that didn’t happen. Nor, did God stop Abraham on the second day. Even, on the third day, when Abraham and Isaac left the servants and went to the place of worship. God didn’t stop him. Not even when he built the altar, nor when he put the wood under it. God didn’t stop him when he tied Isaac up and laid him on the altar. Each of these moments, I would have thought, God is going to speak. But He didn’t. Abraham picked up the knife, and nothing from Heaven. He stretched out his hand, which likely meant, he was holding Isaac’s head back to expose the throat. The next thing to do was to slice the throat and it was at that final moment that Heaven spoke and God told Abraham to stop. Abraham stayed with it until the very end.
From all of this I wonder if we sometimes stop too early in a challenge. Things are hard. Things are uncomfortable. We feel that we’ve done our part. We think we’ve gone far enough. For us, just leaving the house with Isaac may be enough. But it wasn’t in the Biblical story. For us, going to the mountain would be enough. That’s three days out of our schedule, surely that’s enough. Surely, that shows God we are serious. But with Abraham it wasn’t until his hand was stretched out and a knife was ready to cut Isaac’s throat, that God spoke.
It’s not up to us to determine when a challenge is over. It’s not up to us to declare, we’ve shown enough faith. It’s not up to us to reason things out and justify why we do not have to do what God expects. Here’s some examples:
Withdrawing yourselves from brethren who do not walk with the Lord is not easy. This can be awkward, hurt friendships and much too often, it’s just ignored. For the purity and unity of the church this needs to be practiced, but we don’t want to because we don’t like it. Some may think we are uppity or they may point fingers at our own failures, so, we just pretend all is fine. And, what we have done is not even left our house, gone to the mountain, built an altar and bound up Isaac and stretched out our hand. No, none of that stuff. We just ignored God on this one. It’ll be ok, we try to convince ourselves. We try to hide behind love, but if we really loved, we’d do what God says.
Hating father and mother more than Jesus. That’s another tough one. Now, we are talking about family. The family is getting together on Sunday and they expect me to be there. I can influence them by being there and if I’m not, they may all believe that I’m part of some weird cult. With family, I may laugh at things that are not funny, I may engage in activities that I should not, but it’s ok, it’s family. I keep telling myself these things. Did I go to the mountain with Isaac? Did I build an altar as God said? Did I tie up Isaac? Did I stretch out my hand? No, I didn’t do any of those things, but God understands. Does He? God knows I love Him? Does He?
Take up your cross and follow Me. Can’t be a disciple until we do that. However, crosses are heavy, and I have a bad back. Crosses are rough and they might snag my clothes. And, there is no hiding a cross. It’s so obvious. And, crosses meant death. No one came home from the cross alive, not even Jesus. Can’t I carry a little metal cross in my pocket? Isn’t that the same thing? Isn’t it enough that I sometimes go to church on Sunday if nothing else is going on? And, what have we done? We’ve stayed home, picked up a knife, stretched out our hand over some jelly and spread it on some bread as we sit in a comfortable chair.
Challenges are just that, challenges. They are mountains that must be climbed. They are moments alone in a lion’s den. They are fiery furnaces. They are impassible seas with the enemy closing in. They are nights in prison after being beaten. They are taking your Isaac to an altar, tying him up, stretching out your hand, and with a knife in the other hand, preparing to do what God says.
The account of Abraham ends with God declaring, “Now I know you fear God.” Not only did God know, Abraham knew. Isaac knew. Satan knew. When they got home, Sarah knew. And, today, you and I know. You’ll have tough challenges in your life. The hardest may still be ahead of you. Trust God, even with it seems too hard and you don’t think you can go on. Trust God when it’s easier to quit and disobey Him. Trust God when you don’t think you can, because you can.
Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife…