One of the greatest challenges any of us face is in determining what really matters most in our lives. It is easy to understand Jesus’ charge that we should “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” It is the practice of putting God first that is difficult.
Focus with me on one story out of the Old Testament that deals with this point. Abraham is one of the greatest characters in the Bible. God thought so much of his faith that he calls all those who follow him in faith his children. He was given as one of the greatest examples of faith in Hebrews 11.
God promised Abraham that he would be the
father of many nations when Abraham had no children of his own. After the years kept passing by and he and his wife had no children, Sarah, his wife came up with a plan to help God out in his promise. Sarah suggested that her husband have sex with her servant and when the child was born it would be theirs. It was to be a surrogate mother type arrangement. Abraham agreed and nine months later, Ishmael was born. At first all seemed good. But it wasn’t long before God told Abraham that this wasn’t the promised son and that he would have a child with his wife Sarah.
That promise wasn’t fulfilled until Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah 90. Nothing is beyond the power of God. When Isaac was born he was the apple of their eye. Sarah demanded that the slave woman and her son be sent away. He would not be heir along with her son. When Isaac was about fifteen years old God spoke to Abraham again and gave what seemed to be the strangest command ever. He told Abraham, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, the son you love and make him a burnt offering to me.” What a shock! Why would God want a man to offer his own child as an offering to him?
Abraham didn’t know why but early the next morning he arose and took Isaac and began the journey to Mt. Moriah where he was to be offered as a burnt offering. He didn’t know why God would ask him to do such a thing. But he knew God and knew that he was determined to live by what God said. He was always ready to obey God. Years before God had told him to leave his country and kin to go to a land that he would show him and he arose and took off, not knowing where he was going.
This time it isn’t family or home that he has to leave. It is his flesh and blood son. When they arrived at the bottom of the mountain they left the servants and Abraham told them to stay there and he and the boy would go up and worship God then they would return. In Hebrews 11 we are told that Abraham believed that the God who gave him his son was able also to raise him from the dead.
As they were headed up the mountain, Isaac asked him where the offering was that they would offer to God. They had the wood and the fire but no lamb. Abraham said, “God will provide.” When they reached the top they built an altar and Abraham tied his son down on the altar to offer him to God. I would think that he explained to Isaac what God had said and that Isaac willingly laid down on the altar to be offered to God. Abraham raised the knife and was about to kill his son as an offering. The angel of God spoke to Abraham and he said, “Here I am”. The angel said, “Don’t harm the boy?”
God then made the remarkable statement to Abraham, “now I know your loyalty to me since you did not withhold your only son from me. God always wants to know and wants us to know that his is the very first thing in our lives. Suddenly Abraham saw a ram with its horns tangled in the vines. They took it and offered it on the altar.
We often talk about giving money to the Lord. But money is easy. Have you given your children and grandchildren to God? Have you said to the Lord, “These children are yours. I will try to bring them up for you in your training and discipline but they belong to you, not me.”
When we shift ownership of anything from ourselves to another person we worry less about what happens to them. Shift ownership of your children from you to God. You are the manager that God has put in place to raise them for him. But they don’t belong to you, but to him. Peter told us to “Cast all our worries on the Lord because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) What could be a greater source of worry for us than our children? Give them to the Lord. Have some kind of official ceremony in which you present them to God and tell them often they are the Lord’s children. Grow close to your father. He will guide and bless.
Think of the partnership when Abraham and Isaac walked down the mountain. What must they have talked about? Isaac would grow up knowing he was God’s child and that he wasn’t what was most important to his dad. First place belonged to God every day. Do your children understand that God is first in your life? They ought to.