Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"Here I am"

Sacrifice is forfeiting something that is rightfully yours, it is offering something to someone else that you have claim over, it is relinquishing something you possess. To understand sacrifice you have to understand ownership, possession, even love. For sacrifice is not an empty act of appeasement or fulfillment of a command. It is a response of obedience in love. Sacrifice is never without cost, and sometimes the cost seems greater than we can think to bear. We don’t sacrifice our worst, we don’t sacrifice our unwanted. No, we sacrifice what is greatest to us, what is dearest to our hearts, what is real and tangible and desperately wanted. This is what makes sacrifice so real.

To sacrifice a dream, a friendship, a love, a hope. They are things we want, we have, we love; things we pour ourselves into; things we spend time cultivating and growing. These are the things that sacrifices are made of.

I’m studying Genesis in my Bible study and it has been a process of self-examination as well as absolute awe for the Lord I love. This last week we covered the story of Abraham and the offering of Isaac. I was going to give you the cliff notes version but why paraphrase a story when I can show it to you.

1 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."
2 He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you."
3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance.
5 Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you."
6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.
7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"
8 Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together.
9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."
12 He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."
13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.
14 Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the LORD it will be provided."


There is so much in this text that leaps out at me so I’m just going to narrate my thoughts:

Abraham’s readiness to answer the Lord with a response of “Here I am”; what a heart primed to respond when God calls his name. God knows exactly what He is asking and how much it will cost, “your son, your only son, whom you love”, this wasn’t the prized lamb of the flock, it wasn’t his best of harvest, this was his son, the son born of a promise, the only heir of Abraham. And yet, Abraham doesn’t question God’s command, he only rises early the next day, gathers everything he needs and sets out to do what must be done. Then he sees his future, he sees the mountain top that he must climb, the task that awaits him and he goes alone in faithful obedience, trusting that he will return with his son. Isaac has amazing faith in his father, he questions where the lamb for the offering is and upon hearing Abraham’s response that the Lord will provide, he trusts and continues on. Then there is no mention of Isaac fighting his father as he is bound to the alter, as he is prepared as the offering. And then the most haunting verse to me in this narrative, “Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.” No hesitation, no second thoughts, his obedience was steeped in faith, his faith steeped in obedience. I would hesitate, I would question, I would try and reason away what God had asked of me, but Abraham stretched out his hand, lifted it above his head and was ready to act. Then God cried out to stop Abraham, notice his name is said twice. I think of a voice in urgency stopping him from acting. And again Abraham is ready to hear the voice of his Lord, “Here I am.” And God praises Abraham for his faith, for his love for his God, and He offers what He alone can, a substitute offering. Notice his eyes were fixed on Isaac, on what God had called him to, his eyes had not strayed from this call of obedience. And so he looks up and sees behind him God’s provision. I wonder that it wasn’t in Abraham’s line of sight, in the way to tempt him from the act of obedience, but behind him, in a place that he never would look but for God’s voice to direct him there. And so in the place of the son he loved, the son of promise, there is another, a substitute who fulfills the call for an offering. And so, just as Abraham believed that God would provide the offering, he names this place after a Lord that not only can but will provide.

These verses, the truth of this story, they haunt me. The foreshadowing of another Father, one who has only one Son, a beloved son, who will offer Him as a sacrifice, but there will be no substitute, for He is the substitute for all.

One of the questions in my study asked about the joy that came with Abraham’s offering of Isaac, with his sacrifice. It struck me as so odd to speak of joy in the same breath as sacrifice. And yet there is joy in sacrifice, because there is the presence of God in sacrifice. And there was joy at the ultimate sacrifice, joy not in those who would benefit from it, not in those who were spared, but in the one who was sacrificed for all. His joy.
. . . . Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross . . . . Hebrews 12:2. And I shake at the knowledge that the “joy set before Him” was us, was all those who would be saved by His sacrifice. We were His joy.

One thing I love about the Word of God is that it is not a static book. It moves within our lives, it teaches us in the moments we live, and it strengthens and straightens us every time we come to it.

This text, this lesson in my Bible study, has been so pivotal in these last few days. The truths of this scripture, of sacrifice, of joy in sacrifice, they are water to my soul at the moment. I forget sometimes that the Bible is here for that. It isn’t just a book for us to know of the history of God, or the stories of His people, it is for us to KNOW God, to be His people, and to live the life He calls us to by the very words He speaks to us.

Last night our teaching leader ended his prayer with these words and they challenged me in that moment. Can I say them with an honest heart; can I really believe these words to be true in my life? Honestly, I don’t know, but I hope that one day I will say them as truth, that I will say them with a hear that fully believes them.

Lord, I am willing to receive what you give,
Lord, I am willing to lack what you withhold,
Lord, I am willing to relinquish what you take
Lord, I am willing to suffer what you require

24 Comments:

Blogger Amstaff Mom said...

Wow. Good stuff, once again. That prayer is very powerful. And hard to offer up.

I love the foreshadowing that you pointed out with Abraham and what God would do.

Thanks for sharing K-T.

2/08/2006 3:20 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Knowing God is essential to our growth. And spending time in the word is the only way we can "water our soul." I wrote a couple of weeks ago about spending time daily with Him so I can know Him.

I like this post.

Sacrifice is such a hard thing... Right now, I find it hardest to sacrifice my time... giving him the first fruits of my time.

But I say to Him: Here I am.

2/08/2006 3:57 PM  
Blogger krisT said...

"To sacrifice a dream, a friendship, a love, a hope. They are things we want, we have, we love; things we pour ourselves into; things we spend time cultivating and growing. These are the things that sacrifices are made of."

How true is that?? Thanks KT!

2/08/2006 4:03 PM  
Blogger green said...

sacrifice. what a concept. I'm dealing with the prospect of that right now regarding my kids. Well not in such a way as what Abraham was going to do but a sacrifice all the same.

Once again an excellent post, katie. Thanks.

2/08/2006 5:18 PM  
Blogger Aim Claim said...

We were His joy... [smile comes over her face]

2/08/2006 9:09 PM  
Blogger Mark D said...

Great post, Katie! I have always found it necessary to remind myself that Abraham "rose early". Not saying we all need to be morning people, it was the promptness with which he obeyed. He didn't eat breakfast and think about if for a few hours. He didn't reason it away. He just obeyed.

One time I studied the blood covenant. It's amazing to get into. It basically meant that ALL the one party possesses belongs to the other. That means my life is 100% God's - nothing held back. But it also means it is reciprocated. 100% of everything God has available to give me just for giving Him 100% of me. Awesome trade! Yet I still try to hold back some of my life for myself. Go figure.

2/08/2006 10:59 PM  
Blogger Live, Love, Laugh said...

wow, that is amazing, I too am studying Genesis on my own though, so this was insightful!

By the way, you look amazing in that black dress, all of you look so incredibly sweet.

Eddo was telling me the other day after spending time with some of the Mavs cheerleaders, he really appreciates his christian friends, that he didn't realize how blessed he was until he was outside of his inner circle of friends.

Truly God has his hand on your life Katie, I hope you have a blessed day.

2/08/2006 11:59 PM  
Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

Hmmmmm. Now this is a very interesting post, that has caused great controversy over the centuries, and I see it from a different angle.

I see Abraham as being a very poor father, and a man who actually did not understand God whatsoever.

God was testing him, yes. But it proved how little Abraham actually knew God. So to me the test was not how well Abraham loved God, or how obedient he was. Instead, it was how well he knew Him. And he failed, miserably. God is not a god that wishes for human sacrifice. I don't think he's a god of love, either (that oversimplifies God).

I also am disturbed by how calloused Abraham was. It doesn't say he did it with a heavy heart although elsewhere in scripture we are told when a protagonist is upset about something. Additionally, Abraham lies to Isaac through evading his question. How is that behavior proper?

I think this shows us (more than anything else) that Abraham was human, and failed at times. It also shows the mercy of God that he stayed his hand.

But...Abraham was an idiot here, and entirely wrong.

I think it's a mistake to hold him up as an example of unquestioning faith.

2/09/2006 8:56 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

Saur we're just going to have to be on different sides of the fence on this one, because we're coming from two completely opposite views. I'm ok with that though.

2/09/2006 8:59 AM  
Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

Katie, I understand. All I ask is that you actually consider my opinions.

I'm a rather unorthodox born-again Christian in that I don't always take the party line when it comes to scripture. That doesn't necessarily make me right, but I've pondered these things for many, many years.

2/09/2006 9:07 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

Saur, I will consider it, honestly I don't think I'll change my view of this passage but I appreciate you bringing a differing opinion

2/09/2006 9:10 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Saur-

What does verse 12 mean then?

He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."

If the intent was to see if Abraham feared God as this is what scripture says, then how does this make Abraham an idiot? I believe that it shows that he did KNOW God in that he knew the character of God was never changing. The Lord had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations... I think Abraham believed in a God so powerful, that even if he requested him to sacrifice his only son that the Lord would keep his promises. Did Abraham know how it would end... I don't think so. But I think that's where true wisdom lies... following the Lord no matter what the cost or what he asks... knowing that he will provide. THIS is exactly why Abraham's actions were credited to him as righteousness. If that's being an idiot... then I hope I am extremely unitelligent.

My 2 Cents.

2/09/2006 9:25 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

That said...

I don't mean to cause conflict here... just a difference of opinion.

Also, I love a good debate. ;)

2/09/2006 9:28 AM  
Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2/09/2006 10:12 AM  
Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

Ben, an excellent point. But I think that even though (as we know) the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, Abraham was only beginning to get a little wisdom, here.

I think God could certainly have been testing for more than one thing, and He's acknowleging that Abraham feared Him (rightly so!) but I don't think it excludes Him from testing to see how well he knew Him (which wasn't well at all).

Of course, it's easy to write this smugly, from the perspective of the 21st century, I admit. And it's harder to know someone in the early stages of a relationship (and goodness knows that Abraham was in the early stages). Still, there is much I take exception to in this story. As I said, I feel he was deceptive to his son, and I feel that he was unnecessarily tormented (if he cared much at all) because he didn't realize God's character, which wouldn't allow for such an atrocity. Was it God's fault? No, it was Abrahams.

2/09/2006 10:17 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Saur-

I can't imagine what it would have felt like to be Isaac as his father's knife was coming down on him... I wonder if God's voice was audible and his hand visible when he told Abraham to stop.

But I am not sure I agree with you that he was being deceptive to his son... he was stepping out in an act of faith and I am sure that he was hoping against hope that the Lord would provide.

I am not sure how old Abraham was at this age... 100+ years... I think a 100+ years is a long time to know God... much longer than you or I have had... yet you make the statement that "God is not a god that wishes for human sacrifice. I don't think he's a god of love, either (that oversimplifies God)."

I agree with you... but do you think this was God's intent? Or was it to test Abraham's faithfulness? Even if we know God is not One who wishes for human sacrifice, If that's what he told Abraham... I think it was not Abraham's place to question God... but to follow His commands regardless of whether it makes sense. Because of this exact reason, I believe that he was being honest to Isaac when he said the Lord would provide. But even if he didn't, and it didn't make any sense, he would do what God asked him to do. I think Abraham knew God very well.

2/09/2006 10:29 AM  
Blogger Amstaff Mom said...

I believe that Abraham had the trust and faith to believe that God would either provide a substitute or a miracle of some sort in his life, whether it was to heal Isaac and bring him back or whatever it was that God wished.

I don't think he was testing him just to test him or to misconstrue ideas of child sacrifice (which is what the pagans were doing). I think it was a test of what really was most important to Abraham - his gifts or his God? Abraham withstood the test just as Job did. Job did have to lose his family and all of this possessions in order to pass his test, but he accepted the will of God and was blessed for it. Did he get his children back? No. But God knew what was best for him.

I am so thankful that we have their examples for us. In the words of Jim Eliot, who was willing to give his own life..."He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

2/09/2006 10:53 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

stepping in my my two cents . . . .

Saur I really looked at what you had to say and then I went back to the verses and looked at them, and I'm still where i was at the beginning.

The verses say that God spoke to Abraham and spoke those specific words calling for Abraham to offer up Isaac, and I do think that God was calling Abraham to do just that. But I agree that God will never act outside his character and I believe that He never desired for Abraham to kill Isaac but to offer him up, to sacrifice him to God, to act on the faith that was inside of Abraham and to raise his eyes to the Lord and make the decision to love Him more than his son Isaac, that was the sacrifice, not Isaac's life, but the choice of this son or his Lord.

I do think that Abraham knew God, he was called a friend of God, God spoke to him, revealed to him the future He planned for Abraham's descendants, there was a close relationship that scripture details beautifully.

I also believe that God does not honor human sacrifice and He didn't in this case. God stopped Abraham, He did not allow something that was not honoring to Him to occur, but He did call Abraham to get to that point, to sacrifice Isaac in his heart. We see the mercy of God in this story, the desire of Him for His children to love no other above Him, and again His amazing provision.

To me this story shows the greatest picture of faith, faith of a father that God is good and soverign, faith of a son in his father's faith, and faith that God will not act outside of His character so if he asks for sacrifice He will provide one that honors Him.

2/09/2006 1:27 PM  
Blogger Kristi said...

Katie, this is a well-done Bible study, and some important things to ponder. Thanks for the challenge to be willing to sacrifice whatever the Lord may ask of us!

2/09/2006 2:05 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

thanks kristi, you're always so sweet

2/09/2006 2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Katie, I was moved in Bible Study and then again with your recap of the study. I always love hearing your insight. MS

2/09/2006 2:31 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

MARGARET - it's you isn't it? Awwww sweet girl, thanks, I like hearing your insight too.

2/09/2006 2:39 PM  
Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

Well, I know I'm outnumbered. And you guys could be right. I don't see that we can easily prove either viewpoint. I admit that there were many things Abraham COULD have been thinking, and that there were numerous things Isaac may have been thinking. We were given so little to go on.

Was it possible that Abraham thought God would provide? Maybe. Did he love his son? The Bible says that God acknowleged he did. But I will quibble with anyone who wants to discuss love any day. Because I know that there are degrees of love (I've seen it myself) and we don't love all people equally. Perhaps Abraham's love didn't amount to much. Perhaps it did.

Perhaps Abraham did it out of fear of God (as God acknowleges) because his fear outweighed anything else. I think Abraham could've questioned God closer than he did (I know, who are we to question God - but others have questioned AND argued with Him in the Bible - look at Gideon! Look at how Abraham tries to bargain with God later on!)

I do think that Abraham knew God, he was called a friend of God, God spoke to him, revealed to him the future He planned for Abraham's descendants, there was a close relationship that scripture details beautifully.

I agree, but that was later.

And... if God doesn't condone Human Sacrifice, and we consider murder a sin, wouldn't his tempting Abraham to do it really mean that he was tempting Abraham to sin? And if Abraham contemplated it, wasn't he sinning in his heart, if not in deed?

I know I'm asking you all to really look at this from different angles, and if I'm challenging your faith in any way, I am truly apologetic. I don't wish to do that. I just wish to discuss something that always has fascinated and confused me.

2/09/2006 4:55 PM  
Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

P.S. I mentioned how Abraham tried to bargain w/ God later on, but I meant earlier on, when he was trying to save Sodom.

And yes, by the point Abraham was asked to kill Isaac, he had a slightly more established relationship w/ God than he initially had (his name and Sarah's name had been changed).

Still, Abraham & Sarah both were often caught doing the wrong thing: offering Sarah to the Pharoah and claiming she was his sister, questioning God's judgement with Sodom, taking Hagar on as a wife because they didn't believe God's promise to provide an heir, Sarah's laughing at the angels and later lying about it...

I just think that we need to be more careful about summing up these stories as nice, neat little homilies. They're more complex than that.

Again, please understand that I'm not trying to argue for the sake of arguing. These are things that I've pondered for a long time.

2/09/2006 6:53 PM  

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