Genesis 22:2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
This has got to be one of the most horrible things God has ever said to someone who was not in rebellion against Him. It’s hard even to imagine it happening, but because it prefigured God giving His own Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, it is a vital part of the Biblical record. From today the theme of the readings is Love, and that word appears unambiguously in this verse. Who would doubt the sincerity of the love of a father for his only child? Such love is entirely appropriate, and even essential for the proper functioning of society. However, there is a higher love that is even more important, and that is our love for God. As Jesus stated clearly, such love is expressed through obedience. (John 14:15) God is in no way saying to Abraham that he is wrong in loving his son, but He is making it very clear that he must love God more. It speaks volumes about Abraham that the next verse starts out with, “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey.” There was no hesitation, despite the turmoil that was doubtless taking place in his mind and heart. God didn’t stop the test there, but let them travel on for three days, allowing Abraham to go so far as to tie Isaac up and place him on the wood on the altar. (I find myself amazed at Isaac here, because he was a teenager, able to carry a load of wood, and his father was quite old. He had to cooperate, climbing onto the altar himself! The level of trust on his part is quite remarkable.) God of course stopped Abraham at this point, providing a ram as a substitute sacrifice, but this incident certainly demonstrated that Abraham was a fit progenitor for the people of faith that God was desiring out of the whole world. (Romans 4) For us today, it is a strong lesson that other loves are not wrong, and are often very desirable, but they must always be subject to our love for God. Kanzo Uchimura, a well-known, and generally very admirable, Japanese Christian of the Meiji period, said something very dangerous. “I love two Js, Jesus and Japan, and I don’t know which I love more.” He should have had no hesitation in declaring that Jesus was primary.
This applies to me as much as it does to anyone. My love for Japan and my love for my wife are fairly obvious to all, I think, but all other loves together must not equal the love I have for my Lord. A couple of days ago He spoke to my heart that I serve the Lord of Glory, and it really clicked. He is never going to tell me to do anything that is inconsistent with His character, so I need have no worries there, but He must have absolute first place in my priorities. That doesn’t mean I am to neglect my wife or others, as sadly some people in ministry have done, but it does mean that my ministry to them must be an outgrowth of my service to my Lord. Otherwise, they can become idols to me, and I could find myself not serving God at all, regardless of how pious and admirable I might seem to others. As an heir to the promises made to Abraham, I need to exercise the faith of Abraham, knowing that nothing is impossible for God and so hold nothing back from Him at all.
Father, thank You for this clear reminder. Help me indeed love You above everything else, and as a result love my neighbor as myself, so that Your name may be acknowledged as holy and Your kingdom come as Your will is done, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!