In Genesis 22 it speaks of Abraham's heart and his obedience to God. Here he is, God promised that nations would come from him (Genesis 15:5), and in this chapter we see God asking Abraham to take his one and only son, Isaac, and sacrifice him. Kill him! If God had said that to me, I would be questioning whether or not that was His voice. I'd hem and haw and find some excuse not to...cause really...God couldn't possibly be asking me to sacrifice something He promised to me! Especially since He is the God who doesn't change his mind (Numbers 23:19-20, Malachi 3:6, 1 Samuel 15:29).
Yet Abraham didn't question. Didn't procrastinate. In verse 3 it says...
"Early the next morning..."
Not late in the day, but 4am kind of early...THE VERY NEXT DAY!!! He took Isaac and began a journey that would, in his mind, end in the death of a promise. It took three days to get there. Three, long, tedious days of walking. I wonder what went through his mind. What agonizing pain he must have felt as he spent the last moments with his cherished son! And yet, you don't hear any doubt, anger or bitterness from him. In fact in verse 5 it even says...
"We will worship"
Really?! Worship the God who is asking you to kill your only child? But that's exactly what he did.
And afterwards he binds his son...who is now questioning the sanity of his father since there isn't an animal to sacrifice on this altar they built. Somehow though, Isaac trusts Abraham and lays himself down on the altar and allows his dad to bind him to it. And I'm sure with tears streaming down both of their faces, with the knife shining from the glare of the sun, Abraham raises the knife in the air to kill his promise from God.
Instead of questions and doubts, Abraham trusts. Not only trusts, but obeys.
Thankfully the Lord sees the heart of Abraham and his willingness to slay the promise and obey God above all else, and He intervenes. He sends an angel at just the right moment, when that knife is about to come down and end Isaac's life, and stops Abraham.
"Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."
It is in that moment when Abraham probably allows the knife to clatter to the dirt, when he looks up and sees a ram in the thicket and realizes the magnitude of God's mercy and grace in obedience. Now with grateful tears streaming down his face, he releases his one and only son from the altar and instead binds the ram for the sacrifice. The Lord will Provide (Genesis 22:14).
"I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."
Instead of pitching a fit, arguing, questioning and doubting God (like I'm prone to do), Abraham in faith, simply obeyed - all the way, right away. And because of his immediate obedience (even if it meant killing the promise God had given him) God rewarded him...because his heart loved God more than his son.
How many times do I put other things before God? Even good things like serving others, worship music, devotion to a scheduled quiet time, people...if I put any of this before loving God first in my heart, then they become idols. And idols need to be sacrificed on His altar.
I am tested daily in this. Will I place God first and foremost in my heart, mind and life? Or will I let other things creep in? Each day God is asking me to lay those things - those idols - upon His altar and to let them burn to ashes so that I may seek Him above all else. This is not an easy task sometimes. But what it comes down to is...do I want my will or His? And deep from within I hear the cry of 'Thy will be done, Lord'.
No matter the pain, loneliness, obscurity of the task - His will be done.
Some things he may save from the fire and some things He may let burn into a pile of nothingness. But His will be done for holiness in my life.
After all, He let His Son die upon the cross for me.
"A sinless Savior died, so my sinful soul could be counted free"
Paraphrase from Before the Throne
My desires must die upon His altar so that my life and heart serve Him above all else. And through His transforming work, my desires are changed to match His...and will lead to a life of radical obedience to Him.