After a particularly difficult morning, I called Josh at work to ask him to pray for us. The kids were in their rooms and I was somewhere between desperate and a slight oncoming twitch. They were not listening to any of my instructions and I might as well have been talking to a brick wall. Except, in my case, this “wall” had just thrown something right at my face! So, I did what any wise, mature woman with a bachelor’s degree in Child and Youth Development would have done…I called their Dad!
As I began telling him the situation, my son realized that I was on the phone. Flying into the room, he frantically says: “Is that Daddy? Are you talking to Daddy? Don’t tell him!! PLEASE don’t tell him I’m in trouble!” At this particular moment, he could have cared less about what I thought! The thought of disappointing me with his behavior was of no concern. But, the moment he thought I was going to share information with his Daddy, he was very remorseful! He wanted Daddy to believe that he was perfect.
Josh knows very well that AJ will fall short of perfection. He would have known there were issues of disobedience even if I had not called him at work that day. The love that Josh has for our son is not based on his behavior. Perfection is not expected.
While our family has a very limited perspective of love and relationships are tainted by our sinful nature, God the Father is perfect. His holiness is the foundation for everything and without the institution of sacrifices, relationship with us would have been impossible. There had to be payment for the debt of sin, before restoration could take place.
God wanted to show a man named Abraham about what He would do, long before it was to take place. Although Jesus had not yet been born, God would create a situation for Abraham to witness the depth of what it means to have a substitutionary sacrifice for one’s debt. After a lifetime of waiting and utter desperation, Abraham and Sarah were given a son. An only son, whom they loved very much. Then, after God provided Isaac as an answer to their cries, He commanded Abraham to offer him as a sacrifice. Say what?!
Even when God provides our deepest needs or our greatest desires, He will still make it very clear that everything belongs to Him. He may put something (someone) in our hands while allowing circumstances in our life to keep our hands open to His will. He will never let something (someone) remain, if they are taking His place. Testing may come for a time because His authority is eternal. His love for us is greater than life itself.
As we continue reading in Genesis 22, Abraham obeys God. He worships and then he prepares the altar. Only after Abraham obeys does God provide the substitutionary ram. If God had provided before Abraham had gone through the steps of preparing the sacrifice, he would not have developed the holy fear of God. He would not have understood the depth of what it meant to be in relationship with God. The sacrifice of the ram would not have meant nearly as much, if Abraham had not been fully prepared to give Isaac back to God.
“And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in the thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided” (Genesis 22:13-14).
God providing a sacrifice in Isaac’s place, in our place, does not minimize His holiness. It should increase the depth of our thankfulness. The weight of God’s holiness puts the ugliness of our sin in its rightful place. It shows just how far God had to go for our relationship with Him. To sacrifice His Son. His only Son. Whom He loved so very much.
Just like Josh knowing AJ, our Heavenly Father knows more than anyone how we are so far from perfect. His love for us is not based on our behavior. That is why He created sacrifices. That is why He sent Jesus. Earthly sacrifices prepared the way for the one sacrifice that would come, once for all.
His holiness for our shame. Greater than life itself.