Genesis 22 tells of the account of Abraham journeying with his son and a few servants to the mountain where the Lord had instructed him to go – and sacrifice Isaac.
Most of us are familiar with the promise God made Abraham, that his descendants would number the sand, and here Abraham receives the test from God to sacrifice his son Isaac! Can you imagine what might have been going through his mind? God has promised many descendants would come from me, and I know He won’t use Ishmael because that was our plan, so if I sacrifice Isaac…then…how will this come to pass?
Isaac was said to be between the ages of 17 and 30 at the time his father went up the mountain to sacrifice. Isaac must have been wondering “we are heading up to the altar, the servants are back down the hill, and there is no offering in our possession…”
Sure we have heard of how the event played out – Isaac hopped on the altar, his Dad tied him down, prepared the wood, and was about to sacrifice his son, when in v11 the Angel of the Lord called out to Abraham and in v12 instructed him to not lay a hand on the lad. Abraham had passed the test, in fearing God, and was willing even to that point of sacrifice to offer his son to God.
I am drawing attention to the event that took place in v13 – Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son Isaac.
How often have we failed this test? To be taken by God into a place in our lives where it would seem that He is requiring of us to, in effect, lay down everything we have on that altar, even to the extent that we feel by way of the circumstances we are faced with, that our own lives end up on the altar? We have climbed the mountain, we have gathered the wood, we have built an altar, and we have begun preparing the sacrifice, and as painful as it seems, as unquestionable as it is, we find ourselves in this place of extreme anxiety, wondering “if I surrender everything, especially this ‘thing’ on the altar – will I be able to make it, will I be able to go on?”
I believe there are moments in each of our lives that we come upon these crucial faith defining times. We have to examine our lives, and the faith we have in the Lord, and if need be lay whatever it is on that altar in order to pass the test He is putting across our path.
What does your sacrifice look like? Has God asked you to come away with Him to a quiet place and build an altar? Do you have the wherewithal to hear His voice, listen to His instruction, build that altar, place your sacrifice on it, and carry out what He is calling you to do? Tough questions…!
How gracious is God? Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. My dear brother and sister, as uncomfortable as your test might be, right now “look up, and there in a thicket you will see a ram”, prepared by the Lord for you, to take that place on your altar in your life. You have not come this far for the Lord to abandon or even push you over the edge without providing a way of escape through His love and mercy that draws us closer to Him.
Many life lessons are difficult pills to swallow, but as Ecclesiastes 1v9 says “…there is nothing new under the sun“, by this we are comforted, as we read how Abraham navigated a difficult task, how Isaac humbled himself, and how God brought a ram into the middle of the sacrifice and provided Isaac a way of freedom to live…this brings me great comfort! Comfort because I can take God at His word, apply Him to my life, in that altar situation, and not back down, or shy away from proceeding with what He requires of me right at that moment…
You may be in a difficult spot right now, perhaps even laying on the altar about to lose everything (or so you think) but remember three key facts…there is nothing new under the sun, this will end the way God intends it to end, and He has prepared a ram in the thicket which I will sacrifice to God, and thus the test will be passed, and we can grow one more step closer to Him, and be one more effective witness to others navigating their hill and altar experience.