“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom. 8:35)
From The Christian Church in the Last Days
At the advanced Christian end of the spectrum of purpose and meaning in life, God will ask us to place our own personal Isaac on the altar of sacrifice. Isaac is not just Abraham’s son. Isaac is the son of promise. Wrapped up in Isaac are all of Abraham’s commendable hopes, dreams, love, and care. Isaac does not represent some bad character trait or secret sin that Abraham must surrender to God. If the purpose and meaning of life were just about smooth sailing through calm seas, then Abraham and Sarah could have started a large family upon correctly obeying God to leave Haran and journey to Canaan. But Abraham and Sarah wait for Isaac, and Abraham is maneuvered by God through long-range circumstances to this pivotal moment on Mount Moriah, for a monumental reason.
The lesson for the “father of faith” (and all of us) is that he must completely and totally rely upon God and give up any remaining residue of self-reliance. This is one part of the Bible that cannot be manufactured by man through conventional thinking. This was the God-manufactured reality in Abraham’s life that qualified him to be called the “father of faith,” initiating a new, higher way of life with God. As Abraham lifts his knife up to thrust it down into his beloved son Isaac, Hebrews 11:19 reads that Abraham accounted “…that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which also he received him in a figure.”
No ordinary person conquers death. Through the incarnation, cross, and resurrection, Jesus conquered death…our last great enemy. We are raised to new life in Christ because Jesus was raised from the tomb by God the Father. This is the central message of the Bible. God can and will do for us in a better and much higher way what we cannot possibly even imagine for ourselves. The most painfully difficult, yet liberating, faith-producing events in our lives are when God maneuvers our circumstances to the point where we willingly make the decision to let go of our own plans, schemes, self-efforts, and even our personal hopes and dreams in a particular area. As God shouts to Abraham “Stop!” as he is about to plunge his knife down into Isaac, Abraham has totally let go of all self-generated assistance regarding helping God out toward the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.
God would not and never has unjustly asked anyone to take the life of someone else. The sacrifice on Mount Moriah was a foreglimpse, a “type” of the real sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary Hill two thousand years later that would go forward to full consummation in the death of God’s own beloved Son. The foundational example of a biblical journey of faith, starting with Abraham, begins with Abraham placing his Isaac on the altar of sacrifice…and God taking this unconditional faith and trust and literally turning it around into life from the dead.
Like all Christians, I have experienced trials, tragedies, and heartbreaks in my life. Although excruciatingly painful at the time, I would not trade these experiences for anything. When shaped, orchestrated, and moderated by God, they make me into a better person. Could one of the things that conventional, worldly thinking chokes on and stumbles over so badly…the presence of suffering and periods of hardship in this life…be an important ingredient that produces the continue-on-at-all-costs, come-what-may, get-up-and-carry-on resiliency of character that can overcome any life-challenge that comes our way? I cannot discover the inspirations to write this book unless I allow God to lead me through a personal guided tour of life’s valleys and mountaintops to demonstrate to me His faithfulness and His management skills. The partially hypocritical “do-as-I-say” moves closer to the absolute ideal of “do-as-I-do” when divinely-guided purpose is actualized within a God-composed journey of faith.
Purpose and meaning are inextricably connected with this concept of Jesus walking alongside us through the most challenging of life’s circumstances. The purpose in the cross is all over this encouraging reality of a journey of faith following Jesus Christ through the hills and valleys of life, ironically fulfilling in the most commendable God-scripted way the tempting seduction of Lucifer in the Garden: “ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).