“What you believe about God is the most important thing about you.” – A.W. Tozer
This is true because we filter everything we experience through our belief system – whether we “believe” in God or not, and what we believe to be true about Him.
For me this had some serious repercussions. I’ll tell you about one of them here.
The story of Abraham and Isaac always bugged me. Why on earth would God finally give Abraham and Sarah a child when he was 100, and she was 90 – only to demand that this son be taken to a hill and killed by his father. Since when has God been big on human sacrifice?
Now, I get the “foreshadowing” thing. I understand that on another day in the distant future, God would sacrifice His own Son on that very mountain – a substitute for us (which is why a ram was provided for Abraham). I get that. On the other hand, this story made no sense to me whatsoever.
It didn’t help that in my youth, a preacher taught on this topic and used it to demonstrate that Abraham was required to do this so he would get his priorities straight. He “loved” Isaac more than the Lord, and that was “bad.” This little exercise was to divorce Abraham from his “idolatrous” attachment to his son.
This well-meaning preacher went on to say that if there was something in our lives that we loved more than God, that we must also sacrifice it, thereby “getting our hearts right” with God.
I was young, impressionable, and eager to please the god I “knew.”
Back then, I imagined Him to be (as most people do) very similar to my earthly father. (If you knew what he was like, you’d know that wasn’t going to go very well for God.) I didn’t know any better, and unfortunately attended a church that was big on religion and very short on relationship with God. It was all about the rules, baby, and you’d better keep them or God’s gonna’ get you real good.
Here’s an example of what I believed to be true about Him:
God would “invite” me to sit down and play a game with Him.
“Ooh! I like to play games. How do we begin?”
“I’m not going to tell you. Just do whatever you think is right. Let’s play. It will be fun,” he said with a grin.
I glanced at the board and game pieces – then spotted some dice. That looks likely, I thought. I picked them up, shook them, and dropped them onto the game board.
Anger filled his face. Reaching across the board, he slapped me hard – knocking me to the floor.
“That wasn’t right,” he said through gritted teeth.
All sunshine and smiles, he said brightly, “Try something else. This will be fun.”
Yes. That was the “god” I knew and did my best to love. Love Him or go to hell. What else could I do?
[As a result, when someone tells me they don’t believe in God, I ask, “Tell me about him; I probably don’t believe in that god either!” ]
Back to the Abraham story: I meditated on that message for several years. I “knew” what God wanted me to sacrifice, and it took time to be willing to obey.
Music has been my greatest passion since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. By the time I was 12 I was writing songs to sing to Jesus. By the time I graduated high school, I sang, wrote music, and played 10 instruments. I was “First Chair” in most of them. I’d only ever had lessons in clarinet, so I’d have to say that God gave me this beautiful gift.
It was this I had to sacrifice. Feeling like part of me died, I gave it up.
– And I hated Him for it.
– For almost 30 years.
God is so patient with us, His adopted children, who don’t trust Him – who believe Him to be like the fathers or authority figures they’ve known. Really patient.
Knowing when the time is right for “teachable moments,” He slowly transforms us by renewing our minds. He wants to teach us the truth about what He is like. He promises that this will make us free. My Lord did this for me just this morning.
The reason God called Abe to sacrifice his son is this: Abraham’s culture worshiped gods that demanded the sacrifice of one’s children. Isaac was no little tyke though – he was old enough and big enough to refuse: “Old man, you’re whacked. I’m out of here.” But he didn’t.
Why was that?
Religion. That’s how it “worked.”
The beauty of the story is that Abraham obeyed God and took Isaac up the mountain. Abe went against what his religious beliefs, though and put down the knife when the angel told him not to harm his son. He believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
Had Abe been a religious fanatic, he would have believed that voice to be from the devil – and killed his son, despite the command to stop…
…then lived out his life as a heartbroken, miserable wretch – all the while he would have blamed God and believed Him to be a cruel deity – no different from any other.
This is my story.
Unfortunately, I didn’t hear the voice of the angel, and “killed” my heart’s desire – music. I did it to “prove” my love to God.
I believe He cried that day.
Happily, He resurrected my “Isaac” this morning – gave him back. Although I began singing again seven years ago, I secretly believed that God was not pleased – that something terrible was going to happen if I got “good” at music again (which is why I’ve been merely mediocre). I was so wrong – and maligned Him terribly in my ignorance. Thank You, Lord, for Your mercy that is new every day!
He has promised to give back the years the locusts have eaten. I can’t wait to see what this is going to look like in my life.
Our “Isaacs” are meant to correct our beliefs about God. They are NOT to be “murdered” in the name of God. God never wanted me to sacrifice music, never asked this of me. Music was His gift to me…and His gifts are without repentance.
“You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51:16-17