When we consider Abraham binding his son with ropes and placing him on an altar to sacrifice him to God, many think: “Bad father!” This moment between Abraham and Isaac, however, was perhaps the greatest lesson a father has ever taught a son. Isaac doesn’t go away from this event angry at God but goes on to live a faithful life. This may be because of some of the lessons he was taught that day by his father’s powerful example. That day, Isaac received a powerful lesson on what it means to be a man of God. Let’s consider some of the lessons Abraham taught Isaac that day.
First, Abraham taught Isaac that God was first in his life. Isaac knew for sure who was most important in his father’s life when that knife began to be plunged toward his heart. Today, many parents seem to feel horrified at the thought of their children even thinking they might not be the most important thing in their parents’ lives. They feel this will scar their children for life. If religion is the cause, they believe it will cause them to hate God or the Church. So, rather than put God first, they compromise their faith. Instead of teaching them lessons on obedience, they teach their children there is something more important than God. This is detrimental to children’s spiritual health; it gives them habits and attitudes they will have to overcome in order to serve God with all their heart. Learning that his father truly loved God more than anything else including himself did not shake Isaac’s faith; it strengthened it.
While God does not command us to sacrifice our children, He does demand to be first in our lives. In Luke 14:25-27, Jesus turned to the multitudes following Him and demanded that they place Him first in their lives, above parents, above siblings, and even above children. To those who will not do this, He says, “You cannot be My disciple.” Our children need to learn this lesson, and they need to learn it from our lives. They need to know that serving God doesn’t revolve around our jobs, that our jobs revolve around serving God. They need to know that Bible class is more important than sports practices and even games. They need to know that devotionals and Bible study are more important than homework. Our children need to know that God comes first in life no matter who or what tries to interfere.
Second, Abraham taught Isaac that sometimes serving God is difficult, challenging, and uncomfortable. I’m sure Isaac knew that his father loved him and knew that his father did not really want to offer him up to God. His father was given a tough choice: disobey God and keep your son, or sacrifice your son and obey your God. Can you imagine being faced with such a choice? The easier choice would be to disobey, but that isn’t what Abraham did, he took the hard route and did what he knew was most important.
Today, many people rail and rant against those who feel entitled in our society. Those that think they ought to be able to coast through life without working, getting free food and housing, mooching off the rest of us. The fact of the matter is, however, they are not the only ones who feel entitled. Many Christians today feel entitled. They feel like they ought to be able to coast through their spiritual lives without working or doing anything different, without struggling to remove sin, without really changing their lives at all. They feel like they shouldn’t have to do anything uncomfortable or truly challenging in their spiritual lives. This is why many Christians are okay with railing against the sins of society and famous people, but are unwilling to confront a brother or sister that is slipping into sin or practice church discipline.
God demands that we make hard choices. Jesus told us this was they way it would be in Matthew 7:13-14. There is a way that is easy and a way that is difficult. If you haven’t had to do anything difficult, you are on the wrong path. Our children need to know that while following Jesus is difficult, it can be challenging and hard. They need to see us step out of our comfort zones. They need to see us lead songs and teach lessons even if we are nervous or don’t feel talented in those areas. Our children need to know that we will still serve God even when it is challenging.
Third, Abraham taught Isaac that sacrifice is required to serve God. Isaac had seen Abraham offer who knows how many sacrifices before. While these did cost Abraham something, Abraham was very wealthy. Abraham could have easily sacrificed hundreds of animals. Sacrificing his son, however, is one of the greatest sacrifices Abraham could give. Isaac learned that day what it truly means to offer a sacrifice to God.
The concept of sacrifice is lost on many today. A sacrifice is something that costs you something. If it doesn’t cost you anything or the cost is insignificant, it isn’t really a sacrifice. The amount many put into the plate on Sunday morning doesn’t truly cost them much. It might mean they can’t go to a movie or they have to eat out one less time. Many waste more time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram every week than they give to God. There is no true sacrifice in any of this.
Throughout the Bible, worship has always been an offering of gifts and sacrifices and it is still true today. 1 Peter 2:5 tells us that we have spiritual sacrifices to offer. We need to give God the gift of submissiveness to His will and attentiveness to His word. We need to offer up prayers to Him (Revelation 5:8) and sing His praises (Hebrews 13:15). We need to give a portion of our money cheerfully to Him (1 Corinthians 16:2, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15). In addition, our lives themselves must be a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1-2). Our children need to learn from us what it truly means to be devoted to God and serve Him from the heart.
Fourth, Abraham taught Isaac what believing God really means. Abraham was confident in the promises of God. In Genesis 17:19, God tells Abraham that He will establish a covenant with Isaac and his descendants after him. The command in Genesis 22:2 seems like God has changed His mind and isn’t going to fulfill His promises. Abraham, however, knows that God cannot lie and will fulfill His promises. Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us that Abraham considered that God could raise someone from the dead. Notice what Abraham said to the men that accompanied him for part of the journey in Genesis 22:5, “I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” Abraham went fully convinced that he was going to kill his son, but they would both come back. Somehow, some way, God’s promises would be fulfilled. He knew that God would provide (Genesis 22:8). That is faith and his son Isaac saw and witnessed Abraham’s words and faith.
It is sad when men who call themselves Christians look at the Word of God and say things like “I don’t think that will work today.” When God’s commands seem doesn’t seem to be working, they quickly abandon it. They don’t seem to think that honesty and humility will work in the business world. They don’t see any problem with telling “white lies” or cursing. Really, they are only following God when it is convenient to them and they agree with God. That isn’t obedience or faith. God’s Word does not have to make sense to us for us to follow it (usually it does, but it doesn’t have to). It probably didn’t make sense to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but he trusted God. Our children must see that we will not compromise God’s word but will follow it fully believing in its value.
The day Abraham went to offer up Isaac was probably the greatest test of his faith, but it was also one of the greatest opportunity to teach his son about the importance of serving God with your whole heart. Our children need to see in our lives that we really believe God’s word and will follow it no matter what. Even when it is difficult and uncomfortable. Even when it means changing our lives or our plans. Our children must see that God comes first in our lives.
by Jeremy Sprouse