Before Your Child Belonged to You, They Belonged to God
“Father, where will we get our sacrifice from?” “God will provide”.
Abraham’s words were certain and strong, Isaac had no reason to doubt him. But the tension running through Abraham’s ageing body told a different story. His care-free smile had vanished earlier that morning and all traces of joy had sunk into the creases of his face. The father’s shoulders looked thinner to the boy, crushed even, by an unspoken weight that had penetrated the atmosphere. They had uttered barely a word to each other since leaving the servants at the foot of the hill. Isaac searched his mind, desperately trying to grab hold of a conversation thread that may lighten his father’s mood. He had never seen his father so dispirited before, especially not when honouring God. Abraham had always delighted in showing Isaac the ways of Yahweh, taking great time to enthuse on how God had established their family and brought to them so much joy and laughter. But not today. That was all gone today.
As the father and son placed the final piece of wood on the altar, Abraham inhaled a deep, painful breath before muttering to his boy,
“You need to climb on.”
Woah, hang on a minute!
I am a parent and this is not the kind of Bible passage I want to be reflecting on right now! Why did God need to take this poor Father and Son right to the very edge? And how do I reason with myself that Abraham was actually prepared to go through with it? Of course, he didn’t. As the blade was raised in the air and Abraham was poised to sacrifice his precious son, he looked up and saw a ram caught in the thickets of a bush. God had provided a sacrifice and at that moment God’s name, Jehovah Jireh, meaning God will provide, is revealed. But really, all that drama, was it really necessary? If I were Isaac I think I would be locking up all the blades in the house before I went to sleep at night! How could this father, who loved his son so deeply, go to the point where he was poised to run a blade through his child's chest? And why did God, the same God I entrust my children to, ask him to consider it?
Before Isaac belonged to Abraham, he first belonged to God. Isaac was God’s promise to Abraham, he was a gift in his parents old age - but more than that, like every child on earth, before belonging to his parents, he belonged to God. Now before you panic that I am justifying child sacrifice, I am not. I’m really not. It was never God’s intention to see Isaac sacrificed, he did however want Abraham, the father of God’s chosen people, to understand that Isaac was His promise, and where God promises He provides. As parents, this is good news! You can now breathe a huge sigh of relief and assure yourself - God has got this!
In an age where comparison is done on a global scale and parents can access so many different voices concerning parenting, it is so easy to feel like we are going to mess this up. Fear can cripple well-meaning hearts until parents are left feeling inadequate and scared to make decisions. But here is what I really love about God’s grace, it is limitless, endless, unwarranted and completely free. For every mistake we have made, every time we lose connection with our children, if we have overpowered our kids or been to passive, His grace is sufficient to lead, heal and restore. He promises in Isaiah to;
“tend his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11
Why does he lead those with young? Because they are His! Your child is God’s gift to you, but they belonged to him first. He will no more abandon your child than he will abandon you. God’s guidance is not something we need to put a request in for, or earn a certain level of church points to unlock special parenting wisdom - his provision is sealed in promise. It is part of the deal of belonging to Christ. When we tune-in to the Holy Spirit he will provide gentle heavenly wisdom that will lead us in raising and nurturing our children of promise. If God has invested his son to bring promise to the lives of our sons and daughters, as parents we can trust that when we have come to the end of our selves, we are only at the beginning of God’s great provision.
By Marina Magdalena