Life is a journey, one that begins at conception with our struggle to understand the intrauterine environment. Then, it proceeds through birth as we try to adapt to a new environment completely different from what we were used to in the uterus. Unlike the intrauterine life, where we ‘effortlessly’ received all from our mother via the placenta, at birth, we need to make efforts, whether in suckling out the breastmilk or in excreting wastes.
The struggle continues as we grow into teenagers trying to understand the world around us and its demands. We struggle to fit into the world around us, by observing what others say and do. Consciously, as well as unconsciously, we are moulded to reflect our backgrounds.
Then we grow older and the desire to be different sets in. We want to be unique, to leave our footprints, to show something original, and to be ourselves. But the truth is that we don’t even know ourselves seeing we have lived the lives of those around us all the past years.
So, in search of our identity, we begin to ask questions like what is life all about? How did I get to this place called earth? And for what purpose? This quest to find one’s life purpose continues through a good part of our adult lives, and some never even find it until old age. Some people simply give up searching and just go with the flow.
Parenthesis: Many times, we tend to think that finding one’s life purpose is about a career or a job. No, that’s a goal, an ambition or a dream. It could be a means towards fulfilling your life purpose but your life purpose is beyond that. One could have a successful career but still struggle with understanding the essence of his/her life. Goals, dreams and ambitions change with changing age and experience. I’ll come back to this discourse in subsequent articles.
Life as a warehouse
Consider the world as a warehouse where everyone daily exchanges goods and services. It’s more of a trade by barter, where we trade items that we consider of less value for ones of higher value. We go to the warehouse of life and take some valuables in exchange for items we consider useless or unimportant for what we want to accomplish, either in the immediate or in the future. This exchange takes place irrespective of whether you are aware or not, consciously or unconsciously.
As we grow from birth through adulthood, we keep picking up things along the way – attitudes, character, lifestyle, and experiences – while trading some other things. Unfortunately, we tend to pick up the items that distance or derail us from our original destination (our life purpose) fear and drop courage and depression instead of dreams. We allow our environment to form us and our experiences to condition us so much that we unwittingly purchase items that are not only unnecessary but inimical to our destiny.
There’s a word that always echoes in my mind when I consider what it takes to fulfil one’s life purpose: SACRIFICE. Sacrifice simply means trading something of low value to you for something you consider of a high value. As you go to the warehouse of life, you can trade fear for courage, laziness for hard work, and sinfulness for godliness. etc.
ABIDE YE HERE WITH THE ASS
Abraham’s walk with God actually began with sacrifice. He believed in God so much that He was willing to sacrifice the comfort and peace of his father’s house, kindred and country for a land he believed flowed with milk and honey. It was a land he hadn’t seen but he was willing to trade his known space for the unknown, albeit real to him. He was yet childless but believed that he was going to become a father of a great nation. That’s faith – the substance of things hoped for, the evidence or proof of things yet unseen.
So, Abraham’s sacrifice didn’t begin with his willingness to offer Isaac. No, it began much earlier. In fact, the sacrifice of Isaac was actually the sacrifice of Isaac. That is, it was the time that Isaac resolved to give his own life to God, following in the footsteps of his father Abraham, who gave up his life at Ur of the Chaldees, and later Haran, for a promised life elsewhere.
In Genesis 22 we see the apex of Abraham’s sacrificial attitude. The premium he placed on his relationship with God was so much that he was willing to sacrifice Isaac, his relationship with Sarah, his servants’ help and his reputation around the country.
Note: the setting of those verses in Genesis 22: 1-3 suggests that Abraham didn’t inform Sarah concerning what transpired between him and God. There wasn’t any insight as to whether he deliberated on what God told him, but given the actions that followed, it’d seem that Abraham deliberately obeyed God without questions or discussions with his wife.
Before now Abraham had obeyed Sarah and paid for it – he took the Egyptian maid Hagar as a wife, and had Ishmael with her but had to expel them still at the instruction of his wife Sarah. One can imagine the anger and continual persuasion Abraham must have faced from Sarah to dismiss Hagar and her son Ishmael. The Bible recorded that Abraham was distressed by such a suggestion until God asked him to give in to Sarah.
Now, imagine the anger that Abraham would face when Sarah discovers that Isaac has been sacrificed to the same God that gave him. That would sound ridiculous at first and enraging later to Sarah. It doesn’t make sense, does it? After decades of waiting on God’s promise to be told that the same God demanded the life of the only child He gave? No, that’s too much.
So, before Abraham even sacrificed Isaac, he had already ‘sacrificed’ his relationship with Sarah. He was willing to endanger his relationship with Sarah, invoke the wrath of his servants, earn a name as a murderer in the eyes of all those around the country and die with the legacy of a child assassin. I wouldn’t know the thoughts that must have gone through his mind.
I want you to focus on Genesis 22 verse 5 “And Abraham said unto his young men, abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.”
So, Abraham received a clear instruction from God and was determined to obey. But such sacrifice was strange – the God of heaven asking for human blood. There was no precedence to look at. In fact, we see Isaac asking the father (Abraham) for the lamb for the burnt offering because he couldn’t imagine either of them becoming the meat on the altar.
After three days, Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place. The place could have been any of the mountains in the land of Moriah (meaning all the mountains of Jerusalem – Calvary, Zion, Olives, Moriah and others. Calvary is the highest peak and it was perhaps on this mount that Isaac was offered as a type of Christ). As he saw the place, he asked his servants to stay with the donkey while he and Isaac went up to worship.
He asked the servants to stay behind because Had they gone with them, they’d interfere with the sacrifice, no doubts. Abraham didn’t want any distractions from fulfilling a divine purpose. Although he believed that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead, he was willing to say, like Christ, “not as I will but as You will.” (Hebrews 11:17-19; Matthew 26:39)
TARRY YE HERE, AND WATCH WITH ME.
That reminds me of what Jesus did in Matthew 26:36-46. The time for his betrayal by Judas and crucifixion at the hand of the Jews was near; it was the time of sacrifice for the redemption of mankind. And Jesus was in so much agony and needed to talk to His Father. So, He asked his other disciples to stay behind and took only Peter, James and John. These three disciples had witnessed the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8) and now witnessed his agony in the garden. However, on getting close to His praying spot, He asked them to wait there praying while he went a little further.
Seeing that we can compare the sacrifice of the lamb (in place of Isaac) to the sacrifice of Jesus, we can say that Abraham leaving Sarah at home and asking the servants to abide at the feet of the mountains can be compared to Jesus asking his disciples to wait at various points.
ARISE, GO UP TO BETHEL.
When God asked Jacob to return to Bethel in Genesis 35, Jacob told his household to put away every idol and image of foreign gods, ceremonially purify themselves and change into fresh clothes. Because you can’t go to sacrifice unto God unclean, carrying other idols or their images physically or in your mind. You can only take what is necessary and acceptable unto God.
BY THE THREE HUNDRED MEN THAT LAPPED WILL I SAVE YOU.
The deliverance of Israel from the Midianites is emblematic of the fact that you need only what is necessary (Judges 6:11- 7:25). The Midianites had oppressed Israel for seven years causing cries of sorrow to erupt from the tents of Israel unto heaven. One of the days, an Angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon while he was threshing wheat in a winepress – to show how distressful the situation was. The Angel promised deliverance and God confirmed the same with signs.
But when it came to the actual fight, God asked Gideon to send thousands home, not because they were many (the Midianites, Amalekites and children of the east outnumbered Israel) but because God wanted only the number of people that were necessary for the fight. And by necessary, I mean those who had specific qualities and character.
The soldiers were so in fear and trembling that the well where they gathered is called the well of Harod, which literally means the well of trembling. God couldn’t use the timorous and faint-hearted to accomplish such mighty deliverance, besides the fact that some would have claimed the glory due to God. So, God demanded that Gideon send back the fearful and trembling; twenty-two thousand filed out and left early for their homes.
Next, it was time to purge the army further of people that loved luxury and adequate refreshment. It was time to select those who were not only bold and courageous but were battle-ready. Being tired of oppression isn’t enough, being a male isn’t enough, coming out because of the trumpet sound isn’t enough, believing the signs that God showed Gideon isn’t enough; there must be burning in the heart and eagerness to sacrifice oneself for the deliverance so much anticipated. So, in the end, we had only 300 qualified people – the necessary, essential people.
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May God bless and preserve you in Jesus’ name. Amen.