Our pastor has been going through a series he dubbed "Foundations", and as it suggests the messages have been about the foundations of the Christian faith found in Genesis. If I've gained nothing else from the messages, I certainly have realized that 6 years of Bible class and chapel in junior high and high school, 9 years of attending Christian colleges with chapel and Bible classes, and 20 years of being pastored by Lester Sumrall....I have a pretty good knowledge of those little used passages of scripture. Like the bald prophet whose dignity was under attack until a hungry bear came along.
Often my application of Sunday sermons are rather tangential, much like the first part of this post. Last Sunday pastor preached on the passage concerning Abraham being called to sacrifice Isaac. And as we know, Abraham's faith was tested by God when he was called to sacrifice the son God promised and as he drew his hand back to thrust the knife into this sacrifice God intervened and then provided a ram. I think the sermon's charge was to have faith like Abraham...or something along those lines....I'm not sure because my mind had already wandered away on a tangent by the time pastor got to that part of his message.
What is sacrifice anyway? A short Webster definition is "devote with loss". He also calls the sacrificed "a victim". It seems the Christian community today has a twisted view of sacrifice. Sacrificial giving doesn't equate to real loss. Our sacrifices could rarely be described as victims. And far too often, as we think of offering a sacrifice, we hold out for the miracle ram that conveniently took Isaac's place.......or we hold out for a 3 day resurrection guarantee. But those are the exceptions to the rule-not the law of sacrifice itself.
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what in this life can you look back at and truly say it was a sacrifice to God? Is there a blood stained altar somewhere in your past, that was the result of "devotion with loss"? Can you point your finger back to a "victim" in your past?
I have to admit that as I listened to the message on Sunday, about how Isaac represented a promise of God-something in which Abraham's hopes and dreams were being realized-I looked back at the one true sacrifice I have made in my life and wondered why God didn't provide a ram. I thrust the dagger deep into the throat of my dream because I believed that's what God was asking of me.....to give the very best I had, the dreams that He formed in my heart. It's dead, and not coming back.
I think it is important to consider that Isaac wasn't a child when Abraham took him to the mountain. It is widely accepted by scholars that he was at least 20 years of age. Abraham was no doubt looking to Isaac as being on the cusp of producing the grandchildren that would be as numerous as the stars in the heaven. Twenty years of moving toward the fullfillment of what God promised-the hope formed in Abraham's heart-and now, that dream in its prime, was about to be put to death.
What if God's intent was truly to have Isaac as a sacrifice? Do you think when Abraham looked out upon the blood-stained mountain called Moriah he would have questioned what God was thinking? Would it have been a constant source of unrest? I'm sure Christians who have it together better than I do would say that looking back at a sacrifice with some degree of questioning, or unrest, shows a lack of faith in God. We probably all measure sacrifice differently, but I don't see how "devote with loss" or "victim" wouldn't produce some sleepless nights and angst when you pass by your Moriah. If it doesn't, I question whether or not there was a real victim involved.
God and I have had an interesting dialogue going over the last year.....I have to admit it's been pretty one-sided. Moriah stares me in the face every day.