“You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, training them up in God’s fear, minding the house, and making your household a church for God as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of hosts.” Charles Spurgeon
Abraham was not a perfect man as is evidenced again in Gen. chapter 20 when Abraham lies again about Sarah being his wife out of fear of harm from Abimelelch – King of Gerar. But I’m impressed with his obedience when God speaks to him as can be seen in a number of ways in the next two chapters. First Abraham names his newborn son of promise – Isaac – in obedience to God’s command as seen in Genesis 17:19. Second Abraham “..circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.” Genesis 21:4 Men have a strong tendency to want to get back to their job/work/calling soon after a baby is born to them. Abraham by God’s grace knew this son’s care and discipling was his job/work/calling. Thus again in obedience to God’s command as seen in Genesis 17:12, Abraham circumcised his son.
Well Isaac grew and developed as a young child and somewhere between the age of 2 and 5 he was weaned from his nursing mother and Abraham threw a “great feast” to celebrate that accomplishment (vs. 8). The greatness of that feast evidently was such that Hagar (Sarah’s maid) was offended/jealous and thus was caught mocking by Sarah. We are not told who Hagar was mocking, but Sarah saw it as a threat to Isaac’s well being and commanded Abraham to drive her and Ishmael (Abraham’s son) off their expansive property/kick them out of their lives. Abraham was very grieved at such a thought and most likely initially was hoping Sarah would change her mind or perhaps he and she could have some kind of compromise. “But God said to Abraham, Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named.” (vs.12). We learn in vs. 14 that Abraham rose up early the next morning and took care of business though probably still with somewhat of a broken heart. Abraham again obeyed God by heeding his wife’s concerns about the potential harm or danger to their son from Hagar and her son Ishmael, who was somewhere between 16 and 18 years old at that time.
I cannot emphasize enough how crucial Abraham’s relationship with God was in his fathering of Isaac. If fathering is as important to the fulfilling of God’s promises and purposes on the earth as we have been saying it is, then we must believe that God wants to be integrally involved in the day-to-day decisions we fathers make. He alone knows what is coming. He alone can see all of the dynamics and angles and contingencies surrounding the day-to-day care and discipling of our children. Only as we learn to walk with Him, obey His word, listen to His voice, and trust Him for the difficult things He tells us to do from time to time can we effectively and successfully parent the children He gives us. Helping them to achieve their God determined destiny just cannot be accomplished without this.
There are going to be times where God’s instructions or God’s way of doing things in terms of parenting our children are not going to be politically correct or socially acceptable. But if we Dads are investing time to know and walk with Him and are learning to trust Him, we will be able to successfully navigate those times. And if we can successfully navigate those times, our children be greatly blessed as a result. I can’t think of any example in scripture more pertinent to our discussion than Abraham’s almost sacrificing of Isaac. In chapter 22 God commands Abraham to take Isaac to a mountain in the land of Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. While Sunday School lesson pictures tend to portray Isaac as a child at that time, he was more likely in his late teens or early twenties. And thus when God describes Isaac in vs. 22 as “…your son, your only son, whom you love…”, God knew exactly how precious this young man was to his father Isaac. Abraham and Isaac had shared a lot of life together by then. Prophecies had been fulfilled. Many prayers answered. Many wonderful memories had taken place. But shockingly Abraham rose early the next morning and set out to obey God’s command. What enabled him to obey such a seemingly crazy and cruel command was the relationship he had cultivated with God. A relationship we must remember that was initiated and sustained by God by His matchless grace. As is and will be the case for all of us.
That Abraham, no questions asked, would take his son of promise and great destiny on this journey into Moriah and up this mountain, lay the wood down for a burnt sacrifice, bind his son with ropes and place Isaac on top of the wood that Isaac had carried up there, take out his sharp knife used for burnt offerings of his livestock, raise the knife pointed at his son’s heart, ready to ram it into his heart - is an act of obedience very hard to imagine. But what about Isaac? He had probably participated with his father many times in offering burnt sacrifices of their livestock. There was no animal to sacrifice as he pointed out to his father in vs. 7. He then willingly allowed his father to place him instead on that wood with knife raised above him. He was old and strong enough to resist or try to run away.
Friends, fathers, this young man had been discipled by his father (per Gen. 18:19). Not perfectly. But consistently, and with a fairly (not perfect) consistent example for up to 20 years lived out before him in his father Abraham of a lifestyle of worship and obedience. This kind of obedience does not come out of thin air. It is cultivated over years.
So what do we make of all of this? Or better, how can we cultivate this kind of unquestioned immediate and full obedience to even the hardest of God’s commands or instructions?
Well let me first say I am as humbled and as sobered by this story as anyone else, being very aware that my obedience is not complete or mature as it should be by now. With that said, allow me to make a handful of suggestions:
1. Keep pursuing knowing your God, which produces strong faith, which produces strong obedience over time. Abraham was 75 years old when God told him to leave his country, relatives, etc. He was approximately 125 years or older when God told him to sacrifice Isaac. So he had been walking with God for at least 50 years when this happened. The apostle Paul speaks of Abraham’s growth in faith in Rom. 4:20, 21 “yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.” (my emphasis). This strong faith evidenced in Abraham’s reply in Gen. 22:8, “….God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son…” developed over time as Abraham got to know God as the utterly faithful God that He is. Our obedience is often weak because our knowledge of God is weak. Father, please reveal Yourself to us and show us how to pursue knowing You better, which builds trust, which then builds obedience, in Jesus’s name, Amen!
2. Do not give an inch to the accuser of the brethren and remember: The enemy of our souls reminds us of the past to condemn us; The Holy Spirit reminds us of our past to cleanse us and set us free. The latter leads to godly sorrow that leads to repentance that leads to life and growth and hope. The former leads to depression, condemnation, hopelessness, wanting to throw in the towel, etc. I’ve been greatly helped by Paul’s statement of how he dealt with the realization that he needed to grow and change, “For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.” Galatians 5:5 That’s the only way ultimately we obtain the righteousness of Christ in real every day life = “through the Spirit, by faith - waiting" for the fulfillment of His promises!
3. Cry out every day for the things we new covenant believers can agree with from Psalm 51 such as: “Purify me with (the blood of Christ), and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Vs. 7 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Vs. 10 “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.” vs. 12 Or in your own words just ask Him for a more trusting obedient heart. If you are theologically stumbling or wrestling with the fact that “….His divine power has (already) granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness (in Christ)” II Peter 1:3 thus why should we pray for what we already have, then ask Him to help you walk out and experience what you already have. Praise God we are new creatures in Christ with a wonderful new capacity to know and walk with Him and become like Him, but experientially in the kingdom of God – we get what we ask for. So ask!!
Well I think we will stop here as we will learn much more from other scriptures as we continue this series. God bless you with an ever greater passion to know and obey Him for His glory in these last days.