One of the most difficult experiences in life has to be losing a child. Even though I’ve never had to walk through that valley, the thought that something tragic might befall one of my boys is almost more than I can handle. I just can’t let my mind wander that way or I’d never let them leave the house or ride their bikes.
When I read the account of God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, I wince.
“Please take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom I know you dearly love, and go to the land of Moriah. Offer him up to me as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will show you”.Genesis 22:2 TPT
Not only did God tell Abraham his precious son was going to die, he also commanded Abraham to be his executioner. I can’t fathom the emotions Abraham must have processed as he considered all that Yahweh was asking him to do. I find it absolutely remarkable that, in the end, Abraham trusted God to the point that he was willing to give him his son.
In the natural, the command God gave to Abraham didn’t make much sense. Abraham knew the pagans sacrificed their children to the demon gods, but Yahweh was supposed to be different. Besides that, Isaac was the long-awaited miracle child God had promised him. How could the Lord take him away now? Plus, God had said Abraham would become the father of a great nation, but with Isaac gone, how could that come to pass?
Like I said, Abraham’s trust is almost beyond belief. You see, he didn’t trust the facts. He didn’t follow the logic trail. He didn’t know how it would all work out, only that it would. He had faith in God and his goodness. Millenia later, the Holy Spirit would let the author of Hebrews in on a little secret. Abraham actually did have a bit of a prophetic imagination when it came to the sacrifice of Isaac:
“Abraham’s faith made it logical to him that God could raise Isaac from the dead”.Hebrews 11:19 TPT
In other words, Abraham knew God’s heart to be that good. He was on the lookout for a miracle, a divine action that would break everything he understood about how this world works. The one absolute in the equation for Abraham was not the sharpness of his blade or the heat of the flames but the goodness of the God he served.
Even with that kind of faith, Abraham was still faced with the reality that he was meant to plunge a knife deep into his beautiful son. It paralyzes me to even contemplate having to do such a thing. And yet, as Abraham left with Isaac to find the spot God would reveal to him, he turned to his servants and said, “Stay here with the donkey.…Isaac and I will go up and worship; then we will return to you” (Genesis 22:5 TPT).
We talk a lot about worship in the church today. Mostly, we mean singing songs on Sunday morning. But Abraham lived out the biblical definition of worship. Abraham was willing to lay down anything and everything before the Lord. Nothing was too precious, and nothing was off-limits. He was completely surrendered. Sacrificing Isaac in obedience to God was his act of worship.
And it wasn’t just his act of worship. Isaac was not a kid at this point. He was a teenager or perhaps a young man, old enough to carry the wood for the altar. If he had wanted to overpower his centenarian father, he could have done so. Abraham was right when he said, “Isaac and I will go up and worship” (v. 5, emphasis added). Before it was all over, Isaac would need to submit to his Father and to the Lord, allowing himself to be bound and placed on the altar, laying down his life in accordance with God’s strange decree.
A lot of people think God has moved past this sort of thing. They believe he would never ask Christians to sacrifice what they love or lay down their own lives. After all, even with Abraham and Isaac, the Lord stayed Abraham’s hand before the deed was done. But Jesus’ own teachings show us nothing has changed. Not really anyway.
Each one of us is Abraham when we read these words from our Lord:
“Whoever loves father or mother or son or daughter more than me is not fit to be my disciple”.Matthew 10:37 TPT
We are all Isaac when we read, “And whoever comes to me must follow in my steps and be willing to share my cross and experience it as his own, or he is not worthy of me” (v. 38). Like Isaac before us, we are to carry on our backs the wood that will be used for our own execution.
Worship, then, is our offering to God. Yes, we give God our whole lives—our time, our energy, our work, and our leisure. Yes, we give him everything we hold dear—our spouse, our children, our family, our friends. But when we praise, our bodies, our hearts, and our minds should be given completely over to him as well.
Think about David for a minute. When the ark was being brought into Jerusalem, “David was dancing before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14 NIV), so much so that it horrified his wife (see v. 16). Yet David was not dancing for her or for anyone else—not even for his own enjoyment—he was giving himself over to God in an act of pure worship. In fact, he lost himself in the dance.
“David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes'”.2 Samuel 6:21–22 NIV
So, the next time you worship with song, push from your mind everyone and everything except the Lord. Give yourself wholly and completely over to the God who loves you. Like Abraham, surrender all that you love on the altar to Yahweh. Like Isaac, lay yourself down in obedience; present yourself as a living sacrifice to him (see Romans 12:1). And like David, be undignified as you praise the King.
Remember: He is your audience of one.