Text: Genesis 22:1-22, John 3:16-17, 1 John 4:7-9
I sat with arms folded in the back row, watching as the speaker stood in the front of the room. His voice rose with intensity as his fingers flipped through the translucent pages of his Bible, which opened from the left, the verses printed top to bottom and right to left. I couldn’t understand a word he said. Then a silent hush came over the room as he stopped speaking, his eyes scanning the room of Japanese college students. I looked down at my folded arms to avoid eye contact. In the silent space of that moment I understood perfectly the question God had impressed on my heart:
“Are you willing to sell your house in Southern California, uproot the kids from their friends and schools to move to another continent, learn the language, and serve Me here if I say so?”
After a month immersed in the culture, our summer mission team still had another two weeks before returning home. In the coming days, I walked the streets of Japan, wrestling long and hard with those questions and wondering: would I be willing to sacrifice the things I held most dear if the Lord asked me to?
What I love most about today’s reading from Genesis is the painfully beautiful dance of love, surrender, and trust displayed in Abraham and Isaac. Abraham’s son was a miracle—a living and breathing, walking and talking impossibility. Isaac was a tangible, daily reminder to Abraham of God’s faithfulness, perfect provision, and ultimate sovereignty. Still, after making good on His covenant promise, God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the son he loved. In faith, Abraham obeyed, thinking God would somehow raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).
Abraham surrendered to God, and Isaac did as well. As a strong young man, he likely could have overpowered his older, frail father, but he allowed Abraham to tie him down and watched as his loving father lifted his knife to kill him as the burnt offering. Isaac loved and trusted both his father, Abraham, and his God, Yahweh.
Jesus, too, could have sought to preserve His life by leaving His sleeping friends in the garden and running away to a distant country. But instead, He wrestled and finally surrendered, praying, “not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Both Isaac and Jesus demonstrated trust in their fathers. Both knew they could rest secure in God the Father’s hands because they were deeply loved by Him. When Abraham demonstrated his love for God by offering up his only son, God spared the son and provided the sacrifice. But, because of His great love for you and me, God did not spare His only Son. Jesus is the true and better Isaac—the perfect sacrifice—lovingly offered by both the Father and the Son.
The near-sacrifice of Isaac points to the ultimate sacrifice given of pure love and unbounded mercy. And that, dear friends, is the underlying message of Advent: God loves you.
GOD loves you.
God LOVES you.
God loves YOU.
No sacrifice we make, no matter how dear, will ever trump the sacrifice made on the cross by our Savior. Our response to this great love is to simply give ourselves, to offer up our lives as a living and holy sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). We will come to this crossroads of trust over and over, but in the midst of the unknown—the unanswered questions, the bewildering circumstances—we can safely surrender and rest in God’s great love.
“We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety. This is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.”
—A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God