I was riding in the car yesterday on my way home from work, and I happened to turn the radio to a station I don't normally listen to. There was a preacher giving a sermon that was so compelling that I couldn't turn it. In fact, I didn't want to turn the station.
He was talking about Abraham and Isaac. He was talking about how Sarah had Isaac when she was 90 years old, as a fulfillment of a promise that they had long since grown weary in believing would come true. But little by little, as God fulfills His promises to us, He shows himself faithful. This is what teaches our hearts to trust Him.
So Abraham and Sarah were over the moon about this little guy. They had waited 90 years and they were beginning to think they would never be parents! But then, God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. God gave them this incredible gift that He had promised- and then He asked for it back!
How could God do that? Why would God do that? This is where the sermon began to hit me square in the chest. Sometimes God gives us great gifts, but then He asks for them back. Sometimes He just wants to know if we are willing to give it back to Him, and other times He takes the gift.
God wants to know what is more important to us; the gift, or the Giver.
If we are unwilling to give back to God what was His to begin with, then we really were in love with the gift He gave. God wants us, He wants our hearts. He likes to give good gifts to His children, but not at the expense of that relationship.
Now...some of you have probably experienced this in some form or fashion in your life. I am not saying that if God chose to take that gift back that you were valuing the gift more than Him. I am not the one who judges hearts. I can say that if you have experienced that loss, I am so sorry. Recently, I was given a gift that I was so excited about. It was the fulfillment of a promise in my life. But He took it back. And that's ok because He is God. But I can honestly say at this time in my life (sadly I can't say this about all the moments in my life) I was more in love with the Giver than the gift. And that's the only thing that has brought me through to the other side of that loss.
Here's the cool part of all that sermon though. First of all, Abraham didn't hesitate to obey God. In Genesis 22:3 it says that Abraham got up early and loaded his donkey. If that were me, I would have waited 3 days and hoped God forgot about the whole "sacrifice your son" thing. Second, in verse 4, Abraham and his son and servants reached the mountain where sacrifices were made. He tells the servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you". The part that most people see in that verse is that Abraham had faith that they were both going to come back. He knew God had promised to make him the father of a great nation, and he knew that was impossible without his son.
But the part I want you to notice is that Abraham said they were going to go worship. He considered the sacrifice an act of worship. Isn't that how we are to see it? That's exactly what I have been learning this year as part of my resolution to draw near and know Him. It's in the sacrifice, it's in the darkest moments, that He longs for us to adore Him. Because adoration is a gateway that leads straight to Him. It's those dark moments that He longs to use to bring us closer to Him.
I will say this; there have been many many moments in the last few weeks when my flesh has not wanted to praise Him. There have been moments when all I wanted to do was hold on to the bitterness and the self-pity and the anger. But in praising Him, all that stuff fades away. It's those moments when I don't want to praise and I do it anyway, that God is showing Himself to me in new and amazing ways.