Summary: I could still see the remnants of faith, tested but still intact and with a depth that only occurs in the fires of experience.
Part 4 - Genesis 22:1-19 - CHRISTMAS IN THE FIRE!
His weather worn face looked like ancient parchment stretched over a wire mesh skeleton and his eyes, haunted with memories, looked straight through me into my soul. As I gave my devotion that day I could tell that he understood the anguish Abraham must have felt as God said, "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." (Genesis 22:2 NLT)
I asked him later if he was spending time with his family this Christmas. He pointed to the two drawings above his chair on the wall. Simply framed crayon drawings, pastel colours, a boy and girl. He said simply and in a half whispered voice which only slightly betrayed the emotion he held at bay "My children. Both of them died of cancer." He had outlived his family and somehow in the aftermath of his loss and grief, I could still see the remnants of faith, tested but still intact and with a depth that only occurs in the fires of experience.
Why would God ask Abraham to do such a gruesome thing and why did Abraham obey right up to the moment that God stops him from carrying this through? Is this a picture of absolute surrender to God or the kind of RELIGIOUS FANATICISM that has no emotions and just obeys with robotic obedience? This passage is graphic and startling in it’s implications for me! There’s no Christmas sleighbells and FEELGOOD music accompanying this scene.
Remarkably, Abraham’s faith is still intact. He still believes the promise of God. It must have seemed like Christmas when God had said, "... for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir." (Genesis 15:4 NLT) and that "... All the families on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:3 NLT). And Hebrews 11:19 (NLT) says "Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again ..."
With the noises of the world around me, my problem is hearing God speak in the first place, let alone audibly, but if He said this to me I don’t think I could have done it? I would still be asking, "Lord, is that really You?" I would put it down to an exegesis problem. "You don’t really mean sacrifice. You mean bless, not sacrifice, don’t You, Lord? Lord, what are you thinking?" Where would I draw the line? Would I begin to water down what God is saying rather than come under His authority?
The test this Christmas is to love God and put Him FIRST in my life today. And I’m not talking about gooing and garing over the baby in the manger. The invitation this Christmas is not only to come let us ADORE Him, but also to ask the all important question "Why did He come?" My mind sweeps down through the corridors of time and I see not only a MANGER but a CROSS.
Isaac couldn’t be a sacrifice for my sin! No-one can pay the penalty of my sin but Christ alone, the innocent Lamb of God. Christmas declares that "... He (Jesus) will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21 NLT). The challenge this Christmas is to accept the gift He offers of forgiveness and salvation.
When God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of Isaac they must have understood another awesome truth. As they stood by the fire that day Abraham saw Isaac as a LIVING SACRIFICE. Life for both Abraham and Isaac would always be seen through the eyes of that sacrifice. CHRISTMAS IN THE FIRE!
Isaac tells me that I am to live my life as a LIVING SACRIFICE, not willing to allow my circumstances and the things I treasure most to dictate what it means to live under the authority and direction of Jesus Christ. It involves a choice to see life through the eyes of the Cross rather than through the shrunken, distorted lenses of my circumstances and the cultural pressures around me. Dying to the influences of the world and intentionally coming under the authority of God.
Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) explains "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a LIVING AND HOLY SACRIFICE-the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."