Genesis 22 contains one of the most poignant and powerful lessons in fatherhood in the entire Bible. God calls Abraham’s name and commands him, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Abraham, by this time, was well over a hundred years old. He had already sent away his only other child, Ishmael, because of the jealousy of his wife, Sarah. The previous time that God has spoken to Abraham, He had assured him that the covenantal promises that God gave to Abraham would come through Isaac. In Genesis 12, God promised Abraham,
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
It seemed like the fulfillment of all of Abraham’s hopes and dreams was dependent upon Isaac and now God was calling Abraham to give Isaac up.
So fathers, … who or what are your hopes and dreams dependent upon? Do you live for success in your workplace or business? Do you crave the approval of others? Is what you do more important to you than who you are? Are your hopes and dreams tied up somehow in your children doing well?
Eight years ago, when my son Brandon was diagnosed with depression and needed to spend 2 one week stays in the psychiatric ward of the Swift Current Hospital, I was confronted with some hard truths. I realized that my son was broken and I also realized that I had been living my life partly through him. Because he was broken I had to come face to face with the reality that I was broken too. God put me in a position where I had to give up something that I valued highly and was holding onto tightly, and when I gave it up, I was set free. And, in a way, Brandon was set free too because my unspoken expectations were imprisoning him as well as me.
So fathers, if there is anything or anyone—pride, work, possessions, reputation or children—that is more important to you than your heavenly Father, I encourage you go to your own Mount Moriah and give those things to God. The Bible tells us that “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6), so you don’t want to hang onto your pride. And your work, possessions, reputation and children are all better off in God’s hands than in yours anyway.
God saved Isaac by providing a replacement sacrifice. And God has saved you by providing the ultimate replacement sacrifice for the whole world. About 2,000 years after Abraham, God the Father allowed his Son, His only Son, whom he loved—Jesus—to go to the region of Moriah where he was sacrificed as a sin offering on a hill called Calvary. Jesus rose from the dead to set you free: free from guilt, free to love, free to serve, free to follow, and free to live.
It is in following God first and foremost that we become the kind of fathers that our children need us to be. Being a father is hard, but it is much harder when we try to do it without God’s help. You can let go of all the things you tend to value highly because you have a Father in heaven who loves you with an unconditional, infinite love and he will take care of you and your family. You do not need to hold the things you value tightly because your Father in heaven is holding tightly onto you.
In Christ’s love, Pastor James
(This devotion was originally written for the June 2013 newsletter of Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC.)