As any mum or dad will tell you, parenting can be a bundle of pretty ‘extreme’ feelings. From the weariness that comes with constant diaper changes to the sheer joy when your baby smiles at you, the patience as you answer your two-year-old’s seemingly never-ending stream of questions to the protective desire to swiftly run and cuddle them at the sight of a single teardrop — parenting gives you the opportunity to experience all of these feelings, at times in a single day! And yet — despite the hardships that come with child-rearing — many greatly desire to have children for the incomparable happiness that such deep bonds bring.
I’ve often wondered how much Abraham and Sarah must have longed to experience these emotions too, during those long years of childlessness. Being blessed with children was a promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 15. Yet, several years on, even as they marched steadfastly into old age, there was no sign of the promised heir (let alone heirs). By the time Isaac was born, Abraham had lived through a lifetime of God’s faithfulness. But just when he might’ve thought he’d seen it all, God had one more important lesson for him to learn.
If a mother’s love is said to be unconditional, then a father’s love is sacrificial. Through Abraham, Scripture tells of a literal sacrifice that was meant to test a father’s love for his child and his God. This wasn’t any ordinary child either. Isaac was the promised child born to an aged father, the one in whom this father was expected to see the fulfilment of future generations, the one who was meant to bring him unimaginable joy after such a long wait. Why would God test his faithful servant by asking him to sacrifice his most precious gift, Isaac?
You see, over the years, Abraham, in the words of AW Tozer, was an “eager love slave of his son”, because what he was now experiencing in fatherhood was truly God’s promise being fulfilled right in front of his eyes. Nothing wrong with that, right? But God wanted to test the depth of Abraham’s love, because it had begun bordering upon the idolatrous — and there would be serious consequences on account of such uncleansed love.
God wanted to test the depth of Abraham’s love, because it had begun bordering upon the idolatrous
Here are three lessons we can learn from this test of sacrifice described in Genesis 22:
1. God tests us to reveal our hearts — God’s intention, in asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, was never to destroy Abraham’s promised seed. Rather, He wanted to remove this seed of uncleansed love from the temple of Abraham’s heart — to ensure that this father’s great love for his son would not compete with his ultimate love for God. If there are elements in our lives that take predominance over God, chances are those things are probably our true loves.
Fathers, the love we have for our children can, at times, blind and cause us to compromise on several important God-given instructions we are called to impart to them. Honouring God and His instructions is critical, however, because our children observe our actions far more than our words. Case in point: even though it meant he was on the altar, Isaac clearly saw Abraham’s love for his God. May the tests in our lives — both simple and complex — be a source of learning for us, as fathers, to truly understand what lies within the chambers of our hearts — because, sooner than later, these will be the testaments our children lean on as they grow up.
Fathers, the love we have for our children can, at times, cause us to compromise on the God-given instructions we are called to impart to them
2. Trusting God can lead to eternal blessings for many – Abraham had already seen much blessing in his lifetime because of his faith in God. This particular experience only raised the bar to a whole new level. Not only was he blessed with an ever-multiplying seed, but God blessed the future generations of this world through him too (Gentiles included). Fathers, our children are a responsibility given to us for proper nurturing and upbringing. However, in order for them to have a truly blessed life, we have the added responsibility to show them how things ought to be done in life.
I imagine that Abraham would have been constantly praying and seeking counsel from God the night before the sacrifice. He had learnt so much about God’s ways over the past many decades, yet this experience forced him to completely rely on God like never before. He did not depend on his earthly possessions or his wisdom to find a way around this great trial — he simply put his faith in the living God. This faith resulted in him being blessed like no other man mentioned in Scripture. It showed him that he truly did not possess anything in this world — not even his beloved son. And in finally renouncing all things dear to him, he was able to enjoy God’s abundant provisions.
3. Testing times will enrich your understanding of God in new ways — Raising children brings on new challenges every day. Like any experience, you never know how it’s going to turn out until you’ve gone through it yourself. Chances are, most of our experiences have taught us something or the other — in some cases, they are lessons for life. But the most important fact about these experiences is that they are meant to show us His faithfulness, sovereignty, mercy and love — not how skilled we are at problem-solving.
Though Abraham had experienced so many life-changing lessons over the years, this particular experience involving his son was unique — and it, no doubt, changed his entire perspective towards how he loved God. It was also when he realised that there was nothing and no one else other than God whom he could rely on in his time of utter despair.
Fathers, be prepared for something new each day with your child — some experiences will be sweet and some painful. But, like Abraham, remember to rely upon Him each day for your needs, because He’s really all we have — and need — on this journey called Fatherhood.
Without doubt, Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son points us to the greatest sacrifice recorded in Scripture — when God the Father gave up His Son, Christ Jesus, to die for sinners. Many authors have tried, in vain, to capture why such love was bestowed upon such wretched people, so I’m not going to try. But it’s a love so humbling, it demands — as the songwriter says — our souls, our lives, our all.
The more we reflect God’s love through our lives, the sooner we are able to set our children on the right path and preparing them for their renewed lives
Fathers, we are called upon a great sacrificial mission. Psalm 127:4 reminds us to train and nurture our children as though they are arrows in a quiver. The more we reflect God’s love through our lives, the sooner we are able to set our children on the right path to meeting their Saviour and preparing them for their renewed lives.
Once you’ve got the right perspective about your child and God’s love, those long, tiring nights, those difficult conversations about how to behave in public or with friends, those sleepless nights worrying about what will become of your children, will all suddenly fade, because you realise that relying on God is all that really matters — just like Abraham did on that old mount.
The next time you’re on a similar mount that seems unconquerable, will you train your eyes upon the Creator of that mount for your needs? He was Jehovah Jireh then (Genesis 22:14) — and He remains the same faithful God today.
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