Life is so peculiar. The way it ebbs and flows and keeps moving forward is both incredible and terrifying. All we can do is hope to have a good grip on where we are when it decides to take us for a ride. It can come in an instant and before we know it, we’re off course; desperately trying to figure out what happened to the oath we were following. What’s this new place we are in? Where is the place I used to be? How did I get from there to here? How can I get back there? How can I stay here forever? These emotions can be both positive and negative for us. Let’s take a deeper look at this.
Human beings resent change. It’s truly an interesting subject to study. More times than not, we would rather stick with the path we are on – even if that path is scary, screwed up, dark, and leads to eminent failure. We can see this time-and-time again in relationships, co-dependencies, or just history itself. Any great historian would be called a fool if he didn’t agree that history inevitably repeats itself. We can speculate why this is all day long. In fact, that is all we seem to do today. We sit around and discuss ways of moving forward, being different, learning from the previous generations mistakes… but then we fall right back into the same trap that we’ve seen over, and over again. How can we learn from man kind’s mistakes and their history if we can not learn from where we have been?
Psychologists call it a peak experience, ministers call it the mountain top, some may just call it a good day. We’ve all had them. The game winning touchdown. Getting the promotion. Nailing that solo. Graduating law school. Paying your last student loan or making it through a 12-step program with every fiber in your being bent on pursing a new lifestyle. These high moments in life are what give us hope for tomorrow. Don’t you sometimes wonder why all of life can’t be like those days? That’s a question for another time. However, those days are a blessing simply because not every day is like that. That’s what makes them special. It’s what makes us long for them to come and then once they do it’s like we blink and they are just gone. We wake up the next day still living in awe of what happened to us prior. Reminiscing with our friends and family. Oh, the conversations it will start; but, as good as those days are, they aren’t the days that define us. That which defines us is, as Miley Cyrus would say, the climb.
I want you to think about your lowest of the low’s moment. The time when the whole world was against you and you just couldn’t take it anymore.
I’ve got mine.
I want you to put yourself in that moment. Were you in the car? What were you listening to? How old were you? Was it your friends or your family? Was it both? Was it something you did? Was it something that you had no control over and everything just decided to take you down with it?
Now I want you to keep that in your mind. Replay it a few times if you have to. Now, I want to talk to you about a man who made a climb of his own…
In Genesis 22, we have one of the most morbid, dark, and barbaric stories in all of the Bible. It tells the story of a man named Abraham. Abraham has had.. an interesting life to say the least. However, this part of his life is the one I want to focus on, but there is one part of his back story you need to know: he has a son named Isaac. Isaac is a pretty big deal for several reasons, the main reason being that he is the son that God promised Abraham would be given to him by his wife, Sarah. But, Abraham got a little impatient and decided to have a son, named Ishmael, with one of his concubines. I know, this is a strange story, but stick with me. We will get there.
All you should take from this is that Abraham has this son, named Isaac, that he loves dearly. Now, one day Abraham is just hanging out, doing his thing, when God calls out and decides he is going to test Abraham. So he tells Abraham to take his son, whom he loves, and go to the land of Moriah and there to sacrifice him as a burnt offering.
I know what you’re thinking.. what the heck, God? I’m sure that Abraham was probably thinking the same thing, but he goes anyway.
So Abraham grabs his son, Isaac, two of his servants, and a donkey and traveled for Moriah. Three days later, they arrive there. THREE DAYS. I don’t have a son, but I’m sure it would not take me more than three seconds to say “Wait, wait, wait… that’s not gonna fly.” The closest thing I have to that is my dog and I don’t even want to think about that, but I digress…
Three days have passed and Abraham tells his two servants to wait while he and Isaac go forward. Now, Isaac is a young man. Probably in his early 20’s. He had to carry all of the firewood that his dad had prepared for a sacrifice — enough wood to burn a human body. That’s a lot of wood. It’s important to remember that Isaac knows a thing or two about sacrifices. He knows about how much wood is required for different animals and he starts thinking ‘This is a lot of wood.. this must be for a bull or something. Wait.. where is the bull?’ So he asks his dad. ‘Hey, dad. Uh, this is a lot of wood. I mean, it’s heavy and I’m carrying it up this mountain.. so I have to ask: where is the thing we are supposed to be burning anyway?’ And Abraham’s response is both poetic and prophetic. Abraham says:
“God will provide for himself the lamb for an offering, my son”
Now, if you’re Isaac, what do you say back? Either he’s really confused or he knew exactly what he was talking about. The he was the sacrifice. Remember this. We’ll come back to it later.
They arrive at the place of the sacrifice and Abraham constructs the altar. He then ties up his son, his own son, lays him on the altar and pulls out his knife to slaughter him. Then God sends an angel telling Abraham not to harm his son and that, through Abraham’s faith, his future generations will be blessed because he kept nothing, not even his own son, from God. The angel then pointed out a ram that was caught in a bush. He then took the ram and sacrificed it in Isaac’s place. This next part is crucial and mind boggling. Abraham named the place Jehovah gyro which literally means ‘the LORD will provide’. Beautiful isn’t it? It’s such a barbaric, primitive, and strange story that we have preserved for us but we can take so many things from it. The one I want us to focus on is this:
The horrible places you’ve been can be the salvation for others.
What do I mean by this? Let’s jump forward several years to a man named Jesus. Jesus, who was called the son of God was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem. Quick geography lesson – the city of Jerusalem is built on top of Mt. Moriah. The same mountain that God told Abraham to take his son, Isaac, to to sacrifice him. In fact, that is what the temple and Dome of the Rock is today built on top of. If you ever see pictures of Jerusalem and see the golden dome, under that is, allegedly, the place where Abraham laid Isaac for the sacrifice.
A lot can be taken from this so let’s break it down. Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of the man whom God said all generations would be blessed by, carried his own death bed up a mountain to be slaughtered. Jesus, the son of God, the man who carried his death bed up a mountain to be slaughtered for the salvation of all.
Do we get it yet? It’s the same place! Mt. Moriah! Jehovah gyro! Yahweh will provide! The same place where Abraham said God will provide a sacrifice, God then provided a sacrifice. The sacrifice.
If you’re a consistent reader of my blogs, you know that I talk a lot about the dark places life can take us. It can be so hard to think that the bad places life has taken you can, in some way, be a blessing. This especially hard if you are in one of those dark times now. But, when we are past those dark times, they can be looked back on in a different light.
For example, I was back packing through Europe two years ago. On Halloween night, my friends and I got stuck in Paris. The train would not let us on for several different.. annoyances. By the end of the night, we ended up having to find a way to Amsterdam by taking an overnight bus. My friends, all girls by the way, were frantically crying, on the phone with their families, panicking, etc. There is no doubt that that night was definitely horrible. But, at the end of the day, I can look back on it in a different way. Almost comedic.
Now, I know that every situation is not that way. Some of them were horrible and always will be horrible, but do you think you can use your situation to help save someone else in that situation? The times we feel so alone are typically the times that are the darkest. What if people, maybe even just the ‘church’ assisted those who have been in our situations? How much light would be let into this dark world?
Paul pretty much nails it in Romans 12.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil…”
It’s nothing new to point fingers at the evil in the world. Everyone has done and is still doing it. What if, instead, we aimed to be the light. To expel darkness, not simply point a finger at it and those who caused it.
I’m sure Abraham had a difficult time when he walked by Mt. Moriah. What a tragic memory to have to relive when he saw it in the distance. But, it was able to be transformed into the saving grace for the world.