This past year, we all experienced a great deal of loss. And it’s not just the president; we all find it very hard to lose. Do you ever tell God, “Lord, I feel like I can’t hang on much longer”?
I read a wonderful story about a boy named Karl, who took a shortcut home over a train trestle in the dark. When surprised by an oncoming train, he dropped between the railroad ties and hung from the trestle. The train passed, and then he couldn’t pull himself up. He hung in the dark over a black void, yelling for help, praying to God, and thinking, “I can’t hang on much longer.”
How do you have faith when you feel like you just can’t hang on much longer?
In Scripture Abraham is called “the father of all who have faith,” because of something he did in Genesis 22.
“After these things,” God said to Abraham, “take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
Many of my friends argue that God would never ask such a thing.
But unless you’re willing to throw out massive portions of Scripture, it appears that he did, “after these things.”
After what things? Well… after he called Abraham, and after he promised to bless Abraham and through his seed, to bless all the nations of the world. And after Abraham left his home, fought battles, basically pimped his wife, and moved all over the middle east trying to secure the blessing. And after trying to finagle the blessing by impregnating his wife’s servant. And after twenty-five years of waiting, having fathered Isaac, when Abraham was one hundred years old. After all that work, having witnessed a miracle, and having watched Isaac (which means “Laughter”) grow up, God says, “Now sacrifice him to me.”
Because we are biblically illiterate, we tend to think that sacrificed things are hated things.
But when Abraham lifted the knife to sacrifice Isaac, he was sacrificing everything he judged to be good, his life, even his soul. He was sacrificing the very thing he most wanted to hold on to… Is that insanity?
Soren Kierkegaard taught that each person exists in one of three spheres and that Abraham was the model of the third sphere.
In the aesthetic sphere, people try to save their soul by consuming the good; they see that it’s “good for food and a delight to the eyes,” so they take it and consume it.
In the ethical sphere, people try to save their soul by using knowledge of the good to make themselves good; they see that the good is “to be desired to make one wise,” so they take it, use it, and in this way crucify it… or him.
In the third sphere, a person surrenders the good to the one who is Good; it may look like insanity, but Kierkegaard called it “faith.” Abraham was “justified (made right) by faith.”
But what about Isaac?
It’s clear that Isaac was not a little boy—he carried the wood (“ates” in Hebrew) up the mountain—most likely, he was about 33 and Abraham 133.
There is no way that Abraham could have bound Isaac and placed him on the wood if Isaac hadn’t agreed to be bound; no one took his life from him, but he freely laid it down.
Their life—father and son—was a communion of faith.
At the last instant, the Angel of Yahweh stopped Abraham’s hand. And God provided a ram—that’s a full-grown lamb…probably about 33.
“It is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord, it shall be provided.’”
According to Orthodox Jews, Moriah is also Eden.
And according to Scripture, Mount Moriah is also Mount Zion and Mount Calvary.
And on the Mountain in the garden, there are two trees (ates, in Hebrew) that look like one, or one tree that functions as two, depending on how you take it… or receive it.
If you ask, “How could God ask Abraham to do such a thing,” it’s helpful to remember that, “from the foundation of the world,” God had already done such a thing for Abraham and all humanity. Abraham knew God’s heart and “God alone is good.”
So, what was provided on the Mountain of the Lord?
(1.) Knowledge of the Good.
Adam took “the fruit of the knowledge of Good,” the Good in flesh, from the tree, and in doing so, he took “the life,” and everything died.
Abraham is now returning the Good in flesh, the Blessing, the Promised Seed, and—lo and behold—it’s Resurrection and the Life; and that’s the Good.
Faith is the decision to lose your life and find it, for you know that God is Good.
Faith is sacrifice, and “in this is Love.”
Faith is the logic (Logos) of Love, the Sanity of Love, Jesus.
Where does it come from? The Tree in the middle of the Garden.
When one sacrifices, it looks like a man crucified on a tree.
When two sacrifice for each other, it’s called marriage and produces life.
When all sacrifice for each other, it is a body that is alive; it’s the Kingdom of Heaven.
So, what is provided on the Mountain of the Lord?
(1.) Knowledge of the Good. (2.) The Life. (3.) Faith in Love. (4.) Everything.
Abraham inherits you and you inherit Abraham. But make no mistake, it’s just as Jesus said before he took the wood on his back and walked up Mount Moriah: “If anyone would be my disciple, let him pick up his [ates] and follow. For whoever would save his soul, will lose it, but whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”
I hope you pray for our president and all those in power: that we would learn to lose.
You cannot win unless you lose, because Life is not a possession; it’s a communion.
Nothing good is a possession, and now you know—you know that you cannot live until you come to trust the One that possesses you, the One that is Good, the Life.
So, would God ask you to sacrifice your child? Well… NO.
Jesus Christ was sacrificed once and for all. But… maybe YES.
Faith in you is Christ Jesus in you.
Every loss you experience is your Father asking you to trust him.
Abraham received Isaac back, but he still had to let Isaac go, to receive him back for good. Abraham still had to die. One day you will die. That could be today… and every day.
Isn’t that why we come to worship: to lose our lives and find them? To let go.
One last thing that Abraham received on the Mount of the Lord: (5.) Laughter.
“Isaac” means “Laughter.”
Karl hung from the trestle a long time. Then he saw a light. A voice said, “What are you doing hanging here and making all this noise?” A man shown his lantern at Karl’s feet. The light revealed that the distance between Karl’s feet and the ground was ten inches.
Karl let go. And decades later he was still laughing.
Your Father in Heaven is the “Ground of All Being,” and the distance between you and him is less than ten inches. He’s given you Jesus and all things with him. You can let go.