This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from the heart of Ferenc Visky (Mr. Visky and his wife, both Romanian, write in a moving way about their life with the Lord despite heavy persecution), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Take your son...and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. (Genesis 22:2)
God speaks to Abraham and requires something from him. Abraham thinks of everything, except the fact that he has a God who asks something from him. Nobody is aware that God can also ask for things. People like to ask for things and they like God to give. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his own beloved son and with it, He asked everything from him.
When I was deported together with my seven little children, the eldest of whom was eleven years old and the youngest only two, my biggest concern was not that all our possessions had to be left behind, that the door was closed behind us and that we would not return. The one thing I worried about was the seven little ones. What would become of them? Who would feed them and look after them?
Abraham obeyed and laid his son on the altar, though he did not know God's purpose. He only knew God Himself, for he believed Him and loved Him. Before Abraham sacrificed Isaac, he laid himself on the altar--by obeying God. Because he sacrificed himself first, he prevented the sacrifice of Isaac.
I knew I had to do the same thing. I cried for my children, but I had to lay myself on the altar first. And there, in that fateful situation, I experienced a miraculous surprise. Jesus had been there before. He did His Father's will and so I found that He was there when I prepared to sacrifice myself and it meant salvation for me and my children.
Don't try to find an excuse when God takes you to the altar, for it is there that He Himself is waiting for you--in His beloved Son.
A moment of introspection: If we were in Mr. Visky's position, would we have learned the lesson he did, from the account of Abraham and Isaac? Ferenc likened his being deported and having to take his children, also persona non grata in his land, into exile with him, as a choice of sacrificing of his children--not knowing what would become of them in their new life. Ah, but that is not the full crux of the matter, as Ferenc points out. He saw in the allusion to Abraham's story, the crucial sacrificial decision to obey God even with such an unthinkable command--as Abraham first needing to sacrifice himself, his own will, to God's perfect will. We also see such accession to God's will in the experience of our Savior in the talk He had with His Father, in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:41-44); even as Jesus said, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done" Luke 22:42 (ESV) , Mr. Visky had to lay himself on the table first. As Abraham did what God asked; as Jesus Christ did what God asked; so Ferenc Visky obeyed God in leaving his beloved Romania with his children. As Abraham didn't know what lay in store for his son or him on the mountain, neither did Ferenc know what lay ahead for his family and him. Just this week, a Sudanese pastor was deported from Sudan, Pastor Koat Akot would miss his 500-member congregation in the Khartoum area, as he was exiled to a third country. Such deportations of Christians are not infrequent, these days, around the world.
But, one might say, "I have not been deported" or exiled as in the experience of those aforementioned believers. What does this mean to me?" A cogent response. Let's take a look at what God's Word says to those of us who have not been called upon to sacrifice as Abraham did, as Ferenc did, or Koat did. In 1 Chronicles 21:18-30 we read of another altar, but one that David wished to erect for God. In verse 24, David offered to pay for the plot of land on which the altar was to be built. The owner offered to give it to David, but David objected, with his famous utterance: King David said to Ornan, "No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing." King David said he would not offer burnt offerings to the Lord "that cost me nothing". David was intentional in his decision to sacrifice to do God's will. In several places in the New Testament, we are instructed to count the cost of being followers of Jesus (Matthew 14:25-33, and Luke 9:57-62). There is a good Bible study titled Being a Disciple: Counting the Real Cost and a helpful resource in being and making followers of Christ: The Complete Book of Discipleship. In Matthew 14:28-29, Jesus describes the decisions involved in constructing a tower, and in Matthew 14:31-33 He speaks of decisions a king might go through in planning a war.
In King David's actions, as in the examples provided to us by Jesus Christ, we are asked to be willing to sacrifice our plans and our dreams on the altar of God's will--to count the cost in whatever we do or plan to do. Are we willing to sacrifice our _____________ ? [You fill in the blank.] Willingness. "Not my will but Thine be done." (Luke 22:39-46) "Nevertheless..." "What person...?" It doesn't take a King David. It doesn't require a martyr. It doesn't depend on great strength, immutable will, robust self-confidence. It really doesn't. What is required or needful, is humbleness and a desire above all else, to do God's will instead of our own. Absolute surrender such as that of Ahab, king of Israel, who pledged "As you say, my lord, O king, I am yours, and all that I have." (1 Kings 20:4)--everything was offered on the "altar". Nothing was held back. Abraham, Ahab, Ferenc, David, and Koat offered what each of us may proffer that the founding fathers pledged to each other, in the Declaration of Independence; but we offer, we pledge to God our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. Ferenc Visky was a wise man. He concluded his brief writing with the words: Jesus has been there before. "He did His Father's will and so I found that He was there when I prepared to sacrifice myself and it meant salvation for me and my children."
Sacrificing ourselves on the altar of God’s will is a good goal; how do we know the will of God? Consider a resource that I have found helpful: Decision Making and the Will of God. If we are called to sacrifice our decisions, thoughts, actions, plans, etc., it would be wise to come to trust God’s will, to know God’s will and to accept God’s will. Ferenc reminds us: "Don't try to find an excuse when God takes you to the altar of His will, for it is there that He Himself is waiting for you--in His beloved Son."