“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You. Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us. Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.” ― Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
Why does it still happen to us, who call ourselves Christ-followers? Why do we shy away from this disciplined, more refined lifestyle? God is calling us to something deeper, something far better than what we experiencing in the here and now. Why do we fight it? Could it be that we have something more to surrender? Could it be that we have held back a part of us from Him?
God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. He did what? It’s true. God told Abraham to take Isaac up into the mountains, build an altar and shed his only son’s blood as an offering and as a sign of allegiance to the Almighty. Scripture doesn’t say that Abraham refused, yet I struggle with this passage. How could a father follow through with a request like this? Abraham doesn’t refuse and he does what God asks of him, he goes up into the mountains and takes his son with him. Everything is premeditated, including the murder weapon. Yet I know that Abraham must have dreaded what was to come. He must have mourned and waged within himself over this request from God. Isaac’s name means “He laughs” and that is certainly what Abraham and Sarah did when they received the news that they would have a son. After all, Abraham was nearly a hundred years old when they received this divine news. But Isaac’s name meant much more then their initial response. He would bring joy into their lives. They would laugh until tears ran from their eyes! He was their answer to so many years of barrenness and familial emptiness. Isaac was Abraham and Sarah’s pride and joy…even to the point of replacing God.
We do this sometimes. People and even things have a tendency of replacing God as top priority in our lives. We don’t intentionally run from God, but little by little we find ourselves unwilling to surrender everything before Him. This is a very real danger in our ministries and in our spiritual journey and Christ-followers! We utter the chorus “I surrender all” with our lips and yet in our hearts we’re holding onto something that needs to sacrificed at the altar of self!
Abraham didn’t hold back. He was obedient to God. Perhaps he understood the message that God was trying to send to him way before he held the sharp blade over his bound son on that stone altar. He certainly displayed his obedience in his response to Isaac’s questions about where the lamb was going come from when Abraham replied, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22:8) Though Isaac had become his pride and joy, and perhaps, for a time replaced God on his priority list, Abraham had faith! His faith was indeed rewarded when an Angel appeared and stopped him from completing costly sacrifice. The angel said, ““Do not lay a hand on the boy,…Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12)
If, today, we find ourselves far away from God because we have run may we return to Him! If, today, we find that we have placed others of things before God may we be willing to lay them all at His feet in total surrender. God is faithful and longs for us to return to Him! He also longs to make us holy people, the very image of Christ for all the world to see. But that image cannot remain on us if we are unwilling to surrender everything and return to Him!
Lord in my returning, make me holy.
Lord in my renewal, send the fire!
May my life and heart be ever for you
restore me from sin-sick muck and mire!