Lay Down Your Isaac

I was never scared of Genesis 22 until I had children.

Sure, I had read it before and sure, it was a heart-breaking story that made my stomach turn, but it didn’t seem to penetrate my heart the way it did after I returned home with my newborn babes.

I had heard all about “The Blues,” and was fully prepared to ride that roller coaster of whack-job hormones after leaving the hospital with bundle in tow, but I wasn’t (AT ALL, NOT EVEN A LITTLE) prepared to return home with what I will call, “The Abraham Fear.”

What is “The Abraham Fear?”

Glad you asked because chances are, you probably won’t read about it in a OB pamphlet, a medical journal, or even on the big ‘ol web.

See, a few months before our son arrived, I had been reading through portions of Genesis. I really have no clue how many times I have read and re-read chapter 22 in the span of my 31 years, but I remember reading that chapter with new eyes and new fears.

With a growing baby in my bulging belly, my stomach did a flip-flop.

He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains…”

Butterflies were dancing and knots were forming.

And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

I felt a lump growing in my throat and tears welling in my eyes.

Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

I couldn’t bear the thought, and so I didn’t. I closed my Bible, and I left the story there.

But when I returned home, with that firstborn son…that only son…that beloved and treasured son of ours, I got scared.

Surely, God wouldn’t ask me to do what He asked Abraham to do?

Surely, He would never ask me to lay down, give up, and let go of the very soul that we had been awaiting for the past nine months?

Surely, God wouldn’t ask that of me?

Or would He?

I was terrified that He would take him away. 

As I rocked that swaddled baby in my new, Mama arms (the ones that were both exhausted and exhilarated), I remember bargaining with God one night.

Lord, please…please don’t ask me to give you Caden. Please. I’ll do anything, and I’ll go anywhere, but please…please don’t ask for him. 

And when I brought our baby girl home, the fears were recycled.

Lord, please…please don’t ask me to give you Evie. Please. I’ll do anything, and I’ll go anywhere, but please…please don’t ask for her. 

I’m not really sure at what week, what month, or what milestone those paralyzing fears started to subside, but eventually they did…well, at least for the most part.

So when I sat down this past weekend with my devotional prayer-book in front of me and saw “Genesis 22:1-19” scrawled at the top of the page, my stomach did its usual “Genesis 22 Somersault.” It had been awhile since I had been reminded of that difficult passage.

But as I read this time (yes, I was tempted to ditch that day and skip to the next), I wasn’t necessarily struck by the scary-huge sacrifice that God was asking of Abraham. No, I was struck by the faith-filled man who was called to sacrifice.

The following are a few of my observation notes that I jotted down as I read:

“Here I am.” (v.1) 

When God called, not only was Abraham ready to listen, but he knew the voice who called. He wasn’t surprised when he heard the Lord calling his name because he had communed with Him before. He knew that voice, and he desired to heed it.

So Abraham rose early in the morning…(v.3)

Did you catch that? The night before he was asked to go to a mountain and sacrifice his one and only son (the son he had been awaiting for 100+ years) and what does he do the next morning? He wakes EARLY. With no complaints, no questions, no excuses, and absolutely no procrastinating, he loads his donkeys and heads for the mountain in utter obedience.

On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. (v. 4)

I’m not sure why I’ve never seen this before (probably because my heart has always been horrified by the requested offering, blinding my eyes to the rest of the passage), but I never realized that this journey of obedience took him THREE, WHOLE DAYS. This wasn’t a short, day trip or a quick jaunt up a mountain. No, this was a legit journey. A journey that would have probably felt like 300 years to the person who was being asked to kill his son. A journey that would have given a person like me a whole lot of time to think about my escape plan. But no, Abraham obeys despite the distance.

“I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” (v. 5)

Ummm…this father is being asked to sacrifice his beloved son, and he is calling this a “worship service???” Wait. WHAT? Oh, and don’t miss the second part. In short, he tells the other two, young men with him, “We will be back.” Did he believe that they would both return? He doesn’t say, “I will return.” No, he says, ““I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” This man’s faith is mind-blowing. 

“God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” (v.8)

When Isaac starts to wonder where the lamb is, Abraham doesn’t give his son a half-truth or a made-up story to make the lad feel better. No, he gives his boy his faith.

Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.” (v 9-10) 

Still not bailing and still not balking, this father is still faithfully obeying with knife extended over his beloved.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” (v. 11)

Abraham’s not throwing a holy hissy or giving God the stone-wall, silent treatment. No, he is still willing to commune with the Lord, to hear him out, and to respond to His call.

“I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” (v. 12)

And this is what the mighty God, maker of heaven and earth, has to say about Abraham’s heart…about his priorities. In short, God was acknowledging, “I know that though you love your beloved, I AM YOUR BELOVED.”

For the first time in a long time, I engaged with that passage in a way I never had and because I did, I left that passage in a way I never had. I didn’t leave in fear. No, I left with a bunch of soul-searching, faith-evaluating questions.

Why?

Because God isn’t just asking us to lay down the lives of our children. No, He’s asking us to lay down our EVERYTHING. 

Jessica, is your BELOVED in His rightful place, or are your beloveds usurping His rightful place and His sacred position? 

Jessica, are you quick to obey…no matter the request, no matter the cost, no matter the distance?

Jessica, are you willing to surrender ‘ownership’ of the things you have been given to serve the God who gave His beloved lamb for you? 

Jessica, do you see God’s surrender requests as an opportunity to worship, an opportunity to trust and to grow? 

Jessica, are you willing to lay down your pride, your plans, your possessions, and your people, trusting and believing that He will provide for ALL your needs?

Though I can’t say that all of the Genesis 22 fear has been erased and eliminated in my soul and in my mind, I can say that the Lord has been gracious to remind me that even if the Lord would ask me to lay down an “Isaac” in my life, He will not only give me the grace to faithfully obey His calling, but He will also faithfully provide.

So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” (v.14)

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