Abraham and Isaac, part two

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” said the angel of the Lord. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12)

Last week I wrote about how, in his relationship with Abraham, God does not withhold anything.  And Abraham goes on to demonstrate to God, that in being willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac, he will not let anything come between himself and God.

The Sacrifice of Isaac, Caravaggio, 1605

Yet God does not allow Abraham to go though with this sacrifice.  Instead, as Abraham foresaw, “God provides himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (v. 8.14) – and God does so, not only for Abraham and Isaac, but much later for Abraham’s many descendents.   For as the evangelist John tells us, God sacrifices his own beloved Son, Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (1:29).  At a place called, Calvary, not far from that ancient land of Moriah, God demonstrates he will withhold nothing from those who are children of Abraham – the literal ones as well as the spiritual ones.

And through his beloved Son, God invites us into the kind of relationship he had with Abraham. We, too, can enter into dialogue with God about the things that are important to us.  We, too, get to press God on what he has promised. Yet, as with Abraham, we, too, must not withhold anything from God.  If we cannot place everything we hold dear, including our hopes and dreams, the people we love most, even the very circumstances of our lives before God, and say, “Thy will be done,” then we do great damage to our relationship with God.  We commit the sin of idolatry.  Intimacy and trust, the most important elements in any relationship of significance, are only possible when both parties withhold nothing.

This is the point at which our text shines a light on our own lives.  This is where we are to ask ourselves whether there is something we’re holding back from God.

Could there be a special person in your life, or something you own or hope to possess, or something that has to do with your livelihood or your future which you don’t want to surrender to God?  I think most of us have at least one thing we really would rather not place on God’s altar; something we think we cannot live without.  But even if we do not now, then at some point in life, we are bound to have something over which we struggle to say, “Thy will be done,” because we may not get it back.

Yet, the God who so loved the world that he “delivered up” his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16) will not withhold from us what is right and good for us to have.  The sacrifice of his own Son assures us of God’s intentions toward us.

A life of faith is all about trusting God with every aspect of our lives.  We must always be willing to surrender not only what we would like to have but also what God has already given us: such as a job, family, friends, talents and blessings.  And, we must even surrender those things which may seem too frightening to bring before him: anger, unforgiveness, or self-hatred.

Anything we declare to be off-limits from God’s sovereignty instantly becomes an idol.  And idols always place barriers between us and God.  They dull our appetite for intimacy with God and deaden our communication with him.  They rob us of the joy of God’s friendship.  So, if you’ve noticed that you’re not praying as often as you used to, or if you haven’t had a sense of God’s presence in some time, or if the Bible doesn’t interest you anymore it may be because you are withholding something from God.  Doing so always leads to spiritual darkness.

I’ve learned over the years that if God doesn’t want me to have something — if I surrender it to him and he doesn’t give it back — then it will never, under any circumstances, be good for me, no matter  how much I think I can’t live without it.  Because the one and only thing in life you or I cannot live without is God.

If there is something you need to surrender, present that before God in worship. When it comes time for the Confession of Sin, silently name it before God and ask for his forgiveness.  And later, as you prepare to receive Communion, in your mind’s eye see yourself laying on the altar what you’ve been keeping from God, and then, open your hands to receive the body and blood of his Son.  Let the resurrected life of Jesus fill the place in your heart that was occupied by what you surrendered; replace what you’ve been “worshiping” with Jesus.

In conclusion, the great patriarch of the Old Testament, Abraham, teaches us that a life of faith is about a trusting relationship with God in which we withhold nothing.  Keeping something apart from God will only cause us to sin and destroy our sweet fellowship with him.  So, if there’s something that has come between you and the Lord do not fear surrendering it because, He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will also give us all [good] things with him (Romans 8:32, emphasis mine).

Next week: Some thoughts on Matthew 14 and the prayer of ‘humble access.’

If you would like to hear this sermon on Genesis 22: 1-14, please click the pulpit icon, below: 

About Claudia Dickson Greggs

I am an Anglican priest, author, wife and mother. Writing and teaching about Christian life and faith are passions of mine.
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