Monday, February 10, 2014

Sacrificial Faith - Abraham and Isaac

This post was originally written as a guest post for my friend, Beth Zimmerman's site, ButterflyMasterpiece. Myself, and quite a few other bloggers were contributing the the series on her site, Walk By Faith.  Beth is taking a break from blogging and her site is no longer available for viewing, so I have posted the article that I wrote in its entirety here.

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When I saw that one of the topics for her series was to be Sacrificial Faith and revolve around the story of Abraham and Isaac, I knew that I needed to share what God has shown me through a very difficult time in the life of our family.  My hope and prayer is that this will encourage you in your faith journey.


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Abraham was a man who knew the true meaning of the words sacrificial faith. In Genesis 22: 1-18 you can read the full account of Abraham and his son, Isaac. Isaac was the son Abraham and Sarah had connived in their old. In Hebrews 11:17-19, we read a recap of Abraham and Isaac's encounter with God.
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. 
Can you imagine that kind of obedience?  God had asked Abraham to take his son to the land of Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on a mountain that God would show him.  So Abraham got up early the next morning and made the preparations necessary for the journey. Taking his son and two of his young servants he set out …not even knowing the final destination, yet knowing what was required of him when he arrived.  Scripture says, on the third day he looked up and saw the place in the distance. On the third day. I cannot imagine being in his place…knowing what was to come, what was required of me, and yet keep it together and keep going for three days.  Can you?  The whole scenario is just surreal.  
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to Isaac his son to carry. He carried the flint and the knife. The two of them went off together. Isaac said to Abraham his father, “Father?”   “Yes, my son.” “We have flint and wood, but where’s the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “Son, God will see to it that there’s a sheep for the burnt offering?”  And they kept on walking together. They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son.(Genesis 22:6-10, MSG)
So there he was dagger in hand, about to do the unthinkable. Sacrifice his own son…the very avenue by which God had promised the blessing…through which all peoples on earth were to be blessed.  How could he even think of such a thing? I am so thankful for the explanation in Hebrews 11:19. He knew that God would still provide the blessing through Isaac’s offspring, yet to be born. How? Well…he believed God. Period. In his mind, the only explanation would be that God would raise his son from the dead…because he believed beyond the shadow of a doubt that God kept His promises. Wow!! You need to know that this is no small thing. As far as we know, this had never happened any where in the world up to this point in history. What faith! To be willing to commit such an act…the most horrific thing a parent could do to his own child, believing that God would make it right by raising that child from the dead. 
This was a test for Abraham and he passed with flying colors. Abraham acted on his belief.  He believed in God’s faithfulness so fully that he was willing to give up his son. Abraham could not fulfill God’s purpose for his own life without Isaac, yet he was willing to lay his Isaac down on the altar. He was completely willing to surrender his own preconceived notions of how God was going to accomplish His promises.  True belief puts action to the words we confess.  True faith requires a full surrender to God. Because Abraham believed God, He blessed him. He provided the ‘scape goat’…literally and stopped Abraham from plunging that dagger into his son’s heart. 
Whew!  I remember breathing a sigh of relief the first time I ever read this account in God’s word. I was so focused on the fact that the angel of the LORD stopped him that I didn’t realize the full meaning of this event…or how it might one day resonate within my heart.
That day came when I found myself sitting beside my son’s bed in the ICU of St Vincent’s Hospital. He was only 13 years old…yet he was going through what we were to later discover was a stroke brought about by a very rare migraine disorder.  At this point Brad’s brain had begun to swell from the relentless pain of the migraine and after seeing his CAT scan the doctor ordered Brad to be taken by ambulance to St. Vincent’s Hospital’s ICU…STAT. In the ICU both sides of the brain had begun to swell creating a life and death scenario for our son. 
I can only think of one other situation that I could imagine as terrifying as seeing your child laying in an ICU with his life hanging on by a thread…teetering on the edge of death; to lose a child who had reached the age of accountability and yet had not yet trusted in Christ as His Lord and Savior. I am so thankful that I did not have to face that scenario as Brad had accepted Christ and had faithfully followed Him several years earlier. Still, there I sat. In an ICU by my sons side as he lay there helplessly, wires connected to his head…the EEG monitoring his brain waves…and then it happened. He began to have a full-scale seizure as the swelling continued into both sides of his brain.  His arms flailed wildly and his eyes began to mimic the motion of the carriage return cylinder on an old fashion typewriter, jerking as they moved from side to side, over and over.  I instinctively reached out and took hold of his arms to hold them down and I knew that this was the moment that God was going to take my son home to heaven…but I wasn’t prepared for this. I had just spent the past two weeks managing every minute of my son’s life in the hospital, overseeing every aspect of his medical care…only leaving his side when my husband was able to be with him. I slept by his side every night…even in the ICU. I had been in control! 
In that moment I knew it was time to let go of my son and let God take over and do His good will…whatever that may be. I began to pray, but instead of begging God, “Please, don’t take my son,” I found myself praying, “Father, you know I don’t want to lose my son. I want to see him grown into a man. But he belongs to you…so…if you need to take him; I give him back to you.”  In saying those words, a tremendous peace settled into my heart and I began to sing songs of praise, Brad’s favorites. As I sang, the seizure began to slow down…his arms stopped flailing, his eyes closed, and he slept. 
That was a defining moment in my life as a mother and in my journey with God. In surrendering my will, and my heart…my son…to God, I had put my full trust in Him, knowing full well that He was under no obligation to give me the desire of my heart. I fully expected God was going to take Brad home to be in Heaven with Him. I wanted to have a heart fully surrendered to the will of my Father in Heaven, even as I wanted to have my son fully restored to me. The peace that passes understanding fell over me as I turned it all over to the one who holds eternity in His hands.
In a way, I felt somewhat like I would imagine Abraham must have felt standing over his child, dagger in hand. He was willing to do God’s will even when it didn’t make sense. Here he was about to sacrifice his son, his own heart, when miraculously God provided the necessary sacrifice and spared his son’s life.  Abraham had shown through his willing heart and actions that he believed God. And likewise, because I was willing to surrender my son into God’s hands, I believe God gave my son back to me. Not so that I could take the reigns of control back over my son’s life (although I continued to struggle off and on with that desire through the following months of rehabilitation), but to continue raising him with the understanding that God was still in control. Even more than that, as hard as it was to accept, I knew the truth. God loves my son more than I do. He knows what is best for his life. I had laid my Isaac down and God had restored him to me.  
I have found that God requires us to sometimes lay down that which is most precious to us. He asks us to place our treasure before Him on the altar. We have to lessen the grip; open our arms… in order to surrender it back to God. It may not be as traumatic as laying down your son or daughter. It might be your career. It might be your life’s purpose. 
 Are you willing to lay your Isaac down?
Just maybe as you stand there fully surrendered, arms extended…God will restore that which you have given up. If that happens, hold it loosely, but run with it…for His glory!