Summary: Learn from Abraham's Test 1) God demands dedication 2) God demonstrates dedication
As I speak, the best football players from college are being tested on how fast they can run, how high they can jump, and how far they can throw. This is happening at the NFL combine, a chance for scouts to get a close look at players they think could make a difference. Can you imagine the pressure the athletes are under? If they don’t impress the scouts, it could cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars because they would not be offered a lucrative contract. The NFL combine is a test which makes at least one thing clear: only the most dedicated athletes are going to make it. If you didn’t spend time in the gym lifting weights, if you didn’t run your sprints, if you didn’t constantly work on your throwing and catching, you’re not going to make it in the NFL.
In our sermon text today Abraham had to undergo a test which was even harder than the NFL combine. No, Abraham didn’t have to run the 40-yard dash or prove that he could throw a football – though he did have to climb a mountain and he was about 115 years old! The toughest part of his test, however, was having to give up his son – to kill him and present him as a burnt offering to the Lord. What we learn from Abraham’s test is that God demands dedication. He doesn’t want anything or anyone to be more important than our love and our trust in him. But we’ll also learn that God demonstrates dedication. In fact it was God’s dedication to Abraham that motivated and empowered the patriarch’s dedicated obedience to God.
Abraham’s test seemed to come out of the blue. Without much fanfare, God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. Isaac had been the fulfillment of a twenty-five year-old promise. He was the son who was not only to carry on the family name, Isaac was the one through whom God would carry on his promise to send a savior into this world. If Abraham was really going to follow through with this command and kill Isaac, he would have been like the mountain climber who cuts the rope which tethers him to his climbing partner and therefore to safety.
Although God’s command to sacrifice Isaac seemed to contradict God’s promise that through Isaac the savior would eventually be born, Abraham believed that resolving that conflict was God’s business. His business was simply to obey and demonstrate dedication to his God. That’s why we read that Abraham got right down to business. Since the sacrifice was supposed to take place on a mountain 90 km away, Abraham got up early the next morning and set out with Isaac and two servants. There was no questioning God. There were no delay tactics. There was only immediate obedience!
That kind of singular dedication boggles the modern mind. When our parents, teachers, and bosses tell us what to do we want them to explain why. And so when Mom tells junior to clean his room the first response is “How come?” or “Why now?” not “OK.”