The Bible has a lot to say about all three. But I just wanted to mention where the three all come together for the first time…
You’ll probably be at the very least vaguely familiar with the story. God has promised Abraham a son and numerous descendants. Abraham has waited for ages (like, way longer than seems humanly possible) for a son. He even bypassed God’s promise by having a son with his wife’s servant. But God reminded Abraham of His promise, and Abraham set about waiting all over again. And then Isaac was born. At last.
About time too, might have been Abraham’s general feeling (alongside the required gratitude).
And then God drops this bombshell.
Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will show you.’
Marvellous. Talk about a spanner in the works. What a profoundly stupid suggestion.
But remarkably, this is how the story continues:
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac.
Not ‘after a long-hard period of fasting and prayer’. Or ‘after careful consideration’. No, ‘early the next morning’.
What has Abraham been waiting for for a long, long time? A son. And how does God describe that son? ‘…your only son, whom you love…’ Isaac means ‘he laughs’. Abraham’s not laughing now. God’s promised Abraham a son. God’s given Abraham a son. And now God’s asking Abraham to sacrifice him. To give him back. And that’s exactly what Abraham is willing to do. He collects the wood, his son and a couple of servants, and sets out. We then read:
He said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.’
What does this tell us about worship? Well, I’m guessing Abraham’s not expecting the equivalent of Big Church Day Out. Worship here seems to be him giving up what he loves very much, for the God he loves even more.
I remember, many years ago, a chap coming to church and talking about his conversion (he was from the Indian Subcontinent). When he chose to follow Christ, he lost many friends and family as a result. He made a great sacrifice in order to follow Jesus. As it happens, his visit to our church came shortly after the birth of our first child. Those first few days were a hideous experience. We’d only just got our son, and we’d very nearly lost him. The chap doing the talk at our church was closing his talk and asked, ‘would you be willing to give up your family to follow Christ?’ I was on the piano for the song immediately after the talk. I was playing away, with tears in my eyes and a big, fat, resolute, resounding ‘NO’ echoing around my head.
Worship is not always easy. It won’t always feel uplifting. But it is always right. It sometimes hurts a great deal, and requires us to be willing to sacrifice the things we love most, even when those things have been given to us by God Himself.
I wonder what worship is calling me to do today… I wonder what it’s calling you to do.