The Father's Sacrifice Part 1

We were becoming very tired of visiting doctors and specialists to figure out why our son Tommy was weak in his legs and muscles and could barely walk. Now my wife and I were instructed, by a doctor who was very concerned and wanted to get to the bottom of his condition right away, to go overnight to the hospital and have him get an MRI. When the moment finally came for me to take Tommy into the room where the team was preparing for his MRI, which involved putting him to sleep, he began to cry loudly in anticipation of me leaving him alone with these strangers from the medical profession. I stood in the room holding him close to me, gently swaying, wiping away his tears and reassuring him, while they encircled us and gave him the injection to put him to sleep. Yet nothing could have prepared me for that moment, for my only, first-born son, whom I love deeply, and who was just crying out for me, just immediately fell back limb, as if lifeless, in my arms. I stood there in shock, not wanting to leave. As they laid him there on the machine, with his mouth partly open, they kindly, but firmly invited me to leave the room. A man from their team started to escort me to the waiting area. As we walked he talked about what they do and the MRI procedure, which to me was seemingly indifferent to my emotional state. I twice interrupted him, asking if he saw how Tommy just quickly fell out in my arms. It was only after the second time that his humanity kicked back in and he began to empathize with me.

This experience only gives me a small glimpse into the thoughts and emotions Abraham must have felt as he imagined holding his son’s lifeless body. His old heart was racing as he’d just gotten through hearing the voice of the God he loved and who had faithfully kept His promises to him thus far. As God first began to talk, He spoke to him of taking Isaac, his only son whom he loved, to the land of Moriah. Well, if Abraham was anything like me, he’d love a good road trip, especially when he’d have the good company of his beloved son Isaac. He was familiar with the area since that was where he met and gave tithe to the priest-king Melchizedek of Salem, a city which would later be known as Jerusalem. But then came the bombshell that rocked his world! God asked him to offer up his son as a burnt offering on a mountain He’d specify to him. Wait a minute! Is this really the voice of Yahweh or the lamb chops he had the night before? Only the false pagan gods demanded the sacrifice of children. Isaac was the miracle child Abraham had waited so long for. Plus, Isaac was the son of the promise, with the birthright of the “firstborn.” Author & pastor, Ty Gibson explains this well, in his ground breaking book “The Sonship of Christ”, when he says,

The firstborn son is the channel through which the covenant promise is to be passed on from generation to generation. But… in a narrative twist that emphasizes the spiritual nature of the plan, we soon see that the genetic firstborn isn’t always the covenant firstborn. Isaac is the second born son of Abraham, after Ishmael, but Isaac is the firstborn son of promise.
— Ty Gibson, The Sonship of Christ p. 35

Abraham not only loves his son, but also knows that Isaac is the son of the covenant promise through whom “all nations of the earth would be blessed” by the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Through him and his descendants the salvation of the nations was at stake and he could not fathom loosing him.

  So what was this, some kind of sick joke? Was Abraham’s love for his son going to superseded his love for God? As a parent, or more specifically as a father, what would you do? I had to wrestle with this question myself. What could God possibly be trying to teach us as fathers through the experience of this journey with Abraham and Isaac, by a request that seems so cruel? Let’s see what we discover as we take the journey with them beginning in Genesis 22:3…

So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.
— Genesis 22:3-5 NKJV

Well, on the surface, it just seems like Abraham just got up the next morning and by faith, began to obey God without question or emotional upheaval. However Abraham is human and I can’t imagine him getting much sleep the night before. And he may have gotten up early, not only because there was a long journey ahead, but possibly before Sarah got up, for if she knew what he was going to do, Abraham and Isaac probably wouldn’t have gotten 4 feet on their journey. Now the journey to the land of Moriah was a 50 mile journey which took 3 days. Now the reason the 3rd day is emphasized here is because a theme is developing here that will be repeated throughout the rest of the unfolding story in Scripture. The 3rd day represents a decisive moment which ultimately brings us to the 3rd day of Jesus’ resurrection. Also notice that worship is closely associated with and primarily focused on the sacrifice. And what we’ve scene in Abraham’s story up until this point is that this worship of sacrifice was prepared for, an apparently regular, known occurrence that was modeled by Abraham and joined in by Isaac and the entire household. Therefore it would not have been surprising to the young men to hear Abraham say he is going to go with Isaac to worship, because Abraham was discipling his son to love and follow Yahweh. So the first thing we discover is that as fathers, we disciple our children into followers of Jesus, when we…

WORSHIP WITH THEM. 

This, of course, applies equally to both mothers and fathers in the discipling of your children into followers of Jesus, however, in light of the upcoming Father’s Day, I’d like us to focus in on the fathers.

When I was growing up and my step father came into the picture, he, along with my mother, were very intentional about, at minimum, bringing in the Sabbath experience with worship. Either of them would get on the piano in the living room and start playing songs to indicate that it was time for the household to gather for worship. They loved to sing and harmonize with us as kids, however when it came time to have the devotional thought it tended to get long, especially when my step father wanted to engage in splitting theological hairs that had the potential to turn into a tangental sermon. Sometimes the prayers would be a bit too long and one of us would fall asleep. And apparently that’s nothing, because my wife says that her father would wake her and her sister up on a Sunday morning at 6am, and after breakfast, have worship with them for up to 2 hours! However, in our home, we each took part in participating in the worship experience in some way and somehow in my mind was left the deep impression that God’s presence was very near when our parents worshipped with us. Now that Deedre and I have kids of our own, we enjoy having a short but meaningful worship with our kids each morning and evening. Tommy is now even praying all by himself. We’re still learning, but we want to disciple our kids to know, love and follow Jesus. 

Abraham has been on a long journey of faith with God and did not get to this moment of worship overnight. He has made mistakes along the way that revealed his lack of faith, yet God continued to develop Abraham’s faith in Him by drawing him by His love. Because worship reveals who or what we love supremely. So when Abraham tells the young men that he and Isaac will go and worship and then they will both return to them, we are already seeing his worship revealed in this incredible statement of faith!  Abraham basically reasoned that God had been faithful to keep His promises to him thus far, therefore He has to fulfill His promise through Isaac, even if it means, as Hebrews 19:11 tells us, that God must resurrect Isaac from the dead! Oh, hear me my friends! Even though Abraham didn’t know what God was up to or why He would make such a testing request of him, he’d had enough of an experience with God’s character of love, that he trusted His heart even when he couldn’t trace His hand! And it’s with this incredible legacy of faith that Abraham brings Isaac along on this journey so they can worship together!

Fathers, we are called by God into this same kind of maturing faith and worship experience. It first has to flow out of you spending alone time with Jesus in worship through prayer, reading, meditating and applying His word, and seeking the daily reception of the Holy Spirit, or else when you try to worship with your children it will come off as inauthentic. Let them see you praying. Let them see you reading your Bible. Let them see you singing joyfully and lifting up holy hands unto God! Most importantly, let them see how you live your life to the glory of God, for this is worship in it’s fullest sense! Like Abraham, let your worship with them be an intentional, regular, known occurrence that is short, fun and meaningful. And please, parents and teachers, do not multitask while worship is happening among children. It models that you’re not interested, engaged or that it’s not important to you and reeks of hypocrisy. 

Remember discipleship is primarily modeling your experience with Jesus in order to replicate it in others. And this is exactly what Abraham will continue to do as we enter back into his journey with Isaac in verse 6…