Laying Our Isaacs Down

Laying Our Isaacs Down

Our previous topic dealt with an element of worship and surrender termed “poured out.” It is a state of personal emptying for the purpose of Divine filling. But worship took a different form in the case of Abraham, as he was called not just to surrender himself, but something he held perhaps even dearer than his own life.

Abraham was both a special and a common man. His specialness was derived from the fact that God chose him to begin a walk of faith that resulted in the eventual birth of the Messiah and the redemption of the sin of man. But Abraham was common in that he possessed the same weaknesses and faced the same temptations that we do. He didn’t pass every test with flying colors. He tried to manipulate circumstances to fit God’s plan into his vision of how it should work out, instead of letting God’s plan unfold before him.

Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). Yet he misrepresented the truth on more than one occasion, not trusting God to protect him. He went along with a doomed scheme of flawed human understanding to force the advent of the promised son. As a result, Ishmael’s birth ended up having consequences that we are still dealing with to this very day.

When we look at Abraham’s history, it is plain that the test of faith he endured when asked to sacrifice Isaac was not a slam-dunk for him. The narrative recorded in Genesis 22 and the commentary on it in Hebrews 11:17 show that Abraham, although obedient, reasoned through the process just how God could possibly pull this off and still keep His promise that the covenant would be fulfilled in Isaac. He believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead, or something like that. He tells his servants, “We will return to you after the sacrifice,” but how or in what form, he didn’t know. Abraham went into this sacrifice with the full expectation that God would restore, somehow, the offering he was making, but also with full surrender to God’s sovereign ways to make it happen (finally).

There are times when we are called to make poured out offerings, which are irretrievable, but there are times when we give Isaac offerings. These are still fully offered, but we expect restoration in some form, because of some promise of God. But we also realize that the restored “Isaac” will be greatly altered.

Christ set the example in this. He left behind the glory and authority of Heaven to suffer shame, vulnerability, the weight of our sins, and death. However, by doing so He receives from God even greater glory and authority. He had to fully submit and lay these aside to receive them back anew—again, in full faith in God’s promises—that He has the truth, power, and full intention to fulfill His word.

Jesus promised His disciples that what they had given up for Him, whether it was home or relationships, would be abundantly restored. Paul, too, talks about the great exchange. He was a man of much knowledge and religious/social prestige, yet he considered it all rubbish in comparison to the excellence of the knowledge of God. He exchanged being highly thought of by the religious establishment for being loved by God.

There are times when we are called to lay down our Isaacs, and even the thought of receiving them back in another form is not much earthly comfort. God emphasized to Abraham that Isaac was the son he loved—his only son (the only one of the promise). Abraham believed God would somehow keep the promise through Isaac, but he also knew God well enough to know His ways are not our ways and His timing defies our timing. That is why laying Isaac down is a fully a sacrifice as a poured out or burnt offering. We are giving up our perceived control and placing something dear to us fully into God’s hands, trusting Him to fulfill His purpose in the way He sees fit.

Isaacs may be relationships, talents, ambitions, or desires—the possibilities are broad. They may even be direct answers to prayer and promises of God, like Isaac was. What do we do when something we perceive as a direct answer to prayer is demanded of us by God? We do what Abraham did, and we lay it down. But we may think, “God, You promised this, and provided it. I don’t understand.” Still we know what is demanded of us is to lay it down in worship. It will be restored to us, but perhaps in a different form. It will be a holier form, because now it is truly God’s and not ours.

Whatever it is in our lives, when we lay our Isaac down, we are saying that we love God more than we love what He has given us. We say that our faith is in God, not in His apparent provision. We say that we trust God’s ways to fulfill His promise more than we trust what we can see in our limited understanding. God wants us to love the Giver more than the gifts, and trust His ways more than our own understanding.

God has promised to do things abundantly beyond all we can ask or imagine. Do we believe it? Or do we believe only what we can see and fathom? 1 Corinthians 2:4 declares, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” There is so much that we cannot know from our limited, time-bound perspective. So, we must walk in obedient trust when the call comes to lay down our Isaac. It’s incredibly difficult in the process, but wonderful on the other side of that altar.