3765 BC (inaccurate…)
He had a tough time sleeping that night, Abraham, thinking of the tremendous task that lay ahead of him the next day. He turned around and looked at his son, sleeping in such calm and innocently letting out soft snores, unaware that his future was about to be shortened, and that, by his own father. His arms were reaching out to embrace even as he slept. Abraham wiped off that tear from his own eye.
Memories flashed across his mind of Isaac’s first words. It was a bright morning on the first day of the week. He was tending his cattle when all of a sudden a squeaky voice called out ‘Abba’ from behind the tent. How Abraham had run to lift him up in his arms and cuddle him close to himself. He had thought of the promise God had made about making him a great nation. Abraham overcome with joy repeated that promise to Isaac that day. Sure the kid could understand no word his dad spoke, but smiled gleefully just looking at the welcoming smile on his “abba’s” face. And yet all of a sudden today God had given him a completely different command. Abraham could not comprehend it. He lay there struggling to come to terms with his commitment to obey God and this extremely emotional bond that he had developed with his son over these few years.
The conflict was getting the better of him. He stepped out of his tent and decided to take a stroll. Darkness had settled in. Only a couple of tents had their lamps lit inside them. Most of his kinsmen had gone to sleep. He walked around, the thought still bothering his mind. He couldn’t understand why God would give and take. The promise God gave him was no small joke. The magnitude of what He had said would become of him and his generation was tremendous. I will make you a great nation. Your offspring will increase and multiply and occupy all these lands. Surely God had made him prosperous in all the wealth he possessed, but great nation… really? The only possibility of that happening was this child Isaac and now God wants to take him away. What does this mean? Sarah is beyond her days of child bearing. She had laughed even the first time he had told her about her bearing a child. Now when she knows that God had asked him to take Isaac and … She might just be furious.
A great nation… What could it mean?
He tried pushing the thought out of his mind… Just spend some time in prayer maybe. But he couldn’t concentrate. There was a sense of lostness and anger developing within him and he could feel it. He was unable to control it. He had questions he could not find an answer to. Why even give him a son in the first place and that too with a promise. He thought the promise was being fulfilled in Isaac. Oh he had showered all of his love on him, his loving son and now – God says ‘No this is not it’? Ah… the pain, he could feel it like a nail piercing right through his flesh.
He kept walking. He had to divert his thoughts. He knew he would never get over this situation if he kept focusing on the act. He reflected on his own relationship with God. How it had shaped over the years. God had been faithful to him at every step in his life. Oh even in places like Egypt where he had literally given Sarai away saying she was his sister, fearing death; God had protected Sarai and him and what was more, he had added to his number. He had made him wealthy and his cattle had grown in size. True… Oh but why couldn’t he just take away all of this land and wealth and cattle. Why Isaac? Why the one thing he loved the most? God’s plan seemed elusive to him.
But… he must obey. After all, Isaac himself was a gift from God. There was no way Sarai could have borne him this son unless the Lord had sown the seed in her womb. With a heavy heart he told himself, “My love for my Lord is above all… I must obey him, whatever be the cost. I must not allow my love for my son hinder my worship. It must not become an idol… Tomorrow I shall sacrifice to Him my most beloved.”
1908 AD (accurate…)
In the solitude of his cabin, aboard the ship, C T Studd was writing a letter to his wife. He had bid her farewell only three hours ago. But they had exchanged very few words the last two days they were together. For a minute he hung his head low and stared at the ground beneath… Scilla had been such a companion to him and together they had worked their lives out for His glory. “We must never make our love for each other an idol before the Lord”, CT had written to her, during their days in China. Passion for His work had brought them together, and passion for His work had driven him to this point today…
He was on board a ship sailing to a land which the Lord had set his heart upon, one very few had ventured to go to before him. He was writing a farewell note to Priscilla, his wife – “… You little dream of how I know you pay the greatest price… but I do admire you, darling and shall ever do so and God will give us his hundredfold and the result and honor must ever be according to the magnitude of the sacrifice…” he paused for a moment. He read what he had just written to himself. His eyes had become moist. But he would not give in to his emotions, lest the evil one would take the better of him. He continued writing… “Don’t be anxious. The Lord will be victor and He will bring us into a wealthy place. I have never felt the power of God more since the Shanghai Days. Truly this has been like the seven going out…” That last line brought a smile to his face and a sudden surge of hope to his being. ‘This is the Lord’s doing’, He said to himself, ‘and it is marvelous in our eyes…’
She was whistling a tune the previous night as she was packing up for him. CT tried recollecting the tune. It was a familiar hymn. Ah yes… ‘Onward Christian Soldiers Marching as to war… ‘. He chuckled to himself. Trust Priscilla to hum a tune of such valor at such an emotionally pressing time. But now he was confident, in his heart he felt God’s comfort. He quickly penned down the last few words of his letter… “Good bye my darling Priscilla… We began risking all for God and we will end as we began, loving each other utterly and only less than we love Jesus.” He thought to himself, I shall make no idol of anything on earth, nor in heaven, before you, My God.
– Present day
One man was ready to give up his own son while another, his wife. I cannot imagine anything dearer to a man than his wife and children. To many of us these relationships are the only meaning we have in life. But these men were ready to give up everything because they loved Him more who loved them first.
I wonder how many idols we hold on to in our lives. Material objects, our ego, our attitudes and relationships – all these can so easily hinder our worship. He says – ‘you shall have NO other gods before me.’ And elsewhere Paul writes – ‘Those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.’
Now if the spirit is divided, worship can never be wholesome.
I ask the question, therefore, of us… What idols must we give up… to make our worship more perfect?