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"ABRAHAM ROSE EARLY IN THE MORNING"
by Philip Owen

          Many of us remember waking up early on Christmas morning when we were young, excited about opening presents. Or perhaps we remember getting up early to head out on a much-anticipated vacation. As we got older, we found ourselves getting up early in order to get to work on time. And some of us even may have gotten up early to have a quiet time of fellowship with the Lord in His Word and in prayer.

            Well, the Bible tells us that “Abraham rose early in the morning,” too (Gen. 22:3). Only his rising was not to enjoy some pleasant event nor to provide for his family; it was in response to a command from the Lord. And not a pleasant command. Not an easy command. Not even a reasonable command. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine a more horrifying command than the one Abraham received: “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you,” God had commanded (v. 2).

            The language of God’s command underlined the immensity of God’s demand. “Take now your son . . . your only son . . . whom you love . . . Isaac.” It also made clear that God was fully aware of the immeasurable price He had ordered Abraham to pay. Intensifying the circumstance was the fact that Isaac was the child given to the couple by God following many long years of childless waiting and conceived after neither Abraham nor Sarah was capable of producing a child. And if that weren’t enough, it was through Isaac that God had promised a progeny as numberless as the stars of heaven (see Gen. 15:5).

            As strong as our love for our children may be, it is unlikely that it matches the love that Abraham felt for Isaac, the son promised and given by God and the son for whom he had waited for more than a century. What hopes and desires of Abraham were tied up in the life of that boy we cannot fully appreciate. But God had commanded Abraham to kill his son. Revelation offers no hint that Abraham questioned God about this unthinkable command. The very next thing we read following God’s command are the words in the title to these paragraphs: “Abraham rose early in the morning.” To grieve? To question God? To doubt his understanding of God’s words? To argue for a stay of execution? No, Abraham “arose and went to the place of which God had told him” (v. 3). Did he do so thinking that God would change His mind, or that it had all been a mistake, or that he had misunderstood God’s words? Once again, no. The writer of Hebrews reveals Abraham’s mindset (or should I say, faith): “He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead” (11:19). In other words, Abraham obeyed God in the full expectation that at the end of their journey together, he would raise a knife and kill his own son.

            Knowing the end of the account, we may find ourselves diminishing the measure of faith and obedience Abraham exercised. That would be a grave mistake because we must remember that Abraham did not know that God would intervene at the last moment and provide a substitute. Nevertheless, he obeyed God promptly, completely, without reservation.

            What about us? When God requires even a small thing of us, how often do we negotiate, procrastinate, even negate God’s commands? How often do we justify our unbelief and excuse our disobedience? How often do we get around to what God requires of us only after we’ve taken care of our priorities or when we find a more convenient time to obey? God asked Abraham not just to give up the most important thing in his life, but actually to slay him with his own hands. And Abraham “rose early in the morning” to do just that. As James said of Elijah, Abraham “was a man with a nature like ours” (5:17). He was neither superhuman on the one end of the spectrum nor a feelingless monster on the other end. He was simply a man who had faith in the God who had redeemed him and faithfully blessed him all his life. We have the same God who has redeemed and blessed us. Will we rise early in the morning to obey Him?

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