The passage of years told their story in the lines across his brow, “age spots” dappled generously across his body, and skin as fragile as parchment.
He had known the sorrows and joys of a living a full life.
The enthusiasm of his youth had mellowed into the resolute faithfulness of the experienced.
He knew what it meant to watch all his dreams crumble and then at the last to watch them miraculously be fulfilled.
He had experienced the humbling lessons of trying to “intercede” for God and then to see those alternate plans “smack him back in the face.”
The passage of time had taught him that the truthfulness of God’s character is dependable.
The old man had learned that “God doesn’t just speak to be heard but to be obeyed.” (quote taken from Discerning The Voice Of God)
Through both failures and victories, the old man had learned that obedience to God’s voice requires a resolute and total commitment.
Through “trail and error”, the old man had learned that God’s resources and blessings always follow His will.
In the seasoned years of his life, the old man finally felt ready to relax and to enjoy the benefits of years of toil and sacrifice.
He was ready to enjoy the blessings of spending time with a son that hadn’t come until all hope seemed hopeless.
This son had been promised by God a long time ago, and when the old man was still young, he and his wife had anticipated God’s promised blessing.
As the years had turned into decades, the “blossom” of their dreams and hopes had crumpled along with the vitality and fertility of their youth.
The man and his wife had even tried to devise a contingency plan for God, but had discovered the hard way that God’s blessings follow God’s will — not their own.
In God’s mercy and according to the faithfulness and truthfulness of God’s character, the man and his wife did at last see the full fruition of all their hopes and dreams!
A son was born to the two of them at last! Miracle of miracles, their son was born in the autumn of their lives!
Where there had been “decay” and “deadness”, God had brought vitality and life.
Now, the old man could enjoy his son turning into a young man, anticipating the “handing over of the reins” of leadership to his son.
Feeling the creak of arthritic knees and the pain of swollen joints, the old man sat for a few minutes, marveling over the extent of the “spread” of his camp. The tents of his servants spread out across the plain, along with the herds of sheep, cattle, and camels. Wells, his servants had dug, pumped refreshing water to sustain the life of his household.
The colorful array of exquisite tapestries decorated the outside of their dwellings, while the beautiful designs of intricately-crafted pottery, mosaics, vases, and jewel-like creations decorated the interiors.
The old man felt a deep satisfaction welling up inside him. It was time to rest and enjoy this “autumn” season of his life.
Into the quiet of his soul came the Voice that he had come to recognize with clarity over the years. It was the voice of God, compelling Him to once again obey with resolute commitment.
The old man had known what it meant to follow God with unyielding obedience. He knew what total commitment to God’s will looked like. He had left the stability of his home lands, the “security” of loved ones and resources, the “protection” of armies, the “provision” of fertile valleys, and the companionship of friends in order to follow God.
His commitment to God was radical in its resoluteness and thoroughness.
In spite of all the “sacrifices” the old man had previously made to follow God, this new command would test everything he believed concerning God. This latest command would be the ultimate test of the fortitude of his commitment to God.
“Was he all in for God and willing to go all out for God — even when it meant allowing the ‘blessings’ and ‘promises’ of God to ‘die’?”
In all honesty, the old man did have the fleeting thought that ran through his mind initially, questioning God’s “right” to ask so much of him. The thought was no sooner there than the old man discarded it. If nothing else, the old man had learned that God is a God of the impossible.
“If God required the ultimate sacrifice, then God would provide the ultimate provision.”
The old man pushed himself up. On legs, shaking not just from the weakness of age but also from the emotions of the moment, he limped his way to the animal corral. It was time to prepare his donkey and pack provisions for the grueling journey that he would undertake in the morning.
Relaying few details, the old man kissed his wife good bye and set off on the journey, taking several days’ worth of provisions, his donkey, a stack of wood for an offering, two servants to assist, and his most prized possession of all — his promised son.
The arduous journey would take three days of bone-wearying, mind-numbing, and emotionally-draining fatigue.
During those three days, the old man continued to trudge along in his task to fulfill God’s command.
This time, he had no contingency plans. There was no sacrificial animal that he had brought “just in case”…
Upon reaching the foothills of the mountain that was to be their destination, the old man instructed the two servants to wait for their return.
Then with one hand leading the donkey, loaded with firewood on his back, and the other hand clasping his son’s hand in his own, the old man set out.
With the carefree nature of youth, the son soon was scampering along the path, excitedly pointing out the insects, oddly-shaped rocks, and colorful flowers long their path.
The steep path ascended up the hard face of the mountain, ending at the top. At the top of the mount, the man and his boy stood. It was just them and God.
With unwavering dedication to following God’s commands, the old man began to untie the firewood and began to carefully stack the wood upon an outcropping of rocks. He placed each log carefully so that it would quickly and efficiently burn the sacrifice.
Each action he performed was resolute. He was committed to seeing God’s commands through to the end.
Then with unwavering devotion and trust, the old man hardly flinched as he turned to his son and began to tie his sons’ arms and legs together, preparing his son to be the sacrifice.
The son had heard the story of his miraculous birth over and over throughout his young years. He had heard repeatedly how God had promised that He would raise up a powerful nation through the boys’ descendants. The boy did not fully understand what was going to happen, but he too believed that God could and should be trusted.
With bated breath, the boy watched as his father raised a long knife over his body.
Into the silence of time suspended in an agony of hopes, the compelling voice of God spoke.
With trembling hand, the old man lowered the sharp blade. While salty tears trailed down weathered cheeks and gnarled hands grabbed the hand of his beloved son, the old man listened as God commended him for his obedience and then revealed His provision.
A ray of sunlight caught the glint of the metal and threw a dazzling beam of light out across the mount where they stood. As their gazes were drawn to the blinding reflection of sun, the boy and the man saw where the beam of light seemed to point.
There, standing in a tangled mass of weeds and thistles was a ram. The strong and beautiful animal would become the sacrifice instead.
God had provided!
The old man swept his son up into his arms and quickly cut the restraining ropes, binding the boys’ arms.
Later as the old man and his son watched the last embers of flame burn out, they heard God’s compelling voice once again speak. This time, God’s voice spoke words of praise and blessing, reaffirming the promises that had been made decades ago that God would bless the progeny of this faithful old man and his son.
As the old man and his son descended the mountain, their eyes were drawn not just to the beautiful vista below but also back to the altar.
Something powerful had happened that day in their lives! It wasn’t just mere excitement over seeing a ram and the huge relief of knowing that God wasn’t going to require the sacrifice of the boy. It was something greater… It seemed a truth, a message greater than the moment, greater than themselves had been relayed.
And the old man returned home to his wife, while the youthful son, exuberantly ran off to explore a new adventure.
Though presently distracted by youthful interests, the boy would later recall that powerful moment and would ponder the deeper message of God’s faithfulness and truthfulness to His promises.
Over a thousand years later, a Father would once again be required to make the ultimate sacrifice.
This Son was the Father’s only and beloved Son. This Son would willingly lay down His life as a sacrifice, but this time, there would be no substitution.
The full crushing weight of becoming the sacrifice for all sins, for all of mankind, for all of time would be laid upon this Son.
God Himself was the Father, and it was His precious Son who died, carrying the weight of a sin-burdened, sin-guilty, sin-weary world upon Himself. With the bowing of His head in surrender to death, He “crucified” the record of sin against us.
His death became the means for the death of our own sin: its guilt, penalty, and crushing hold.
Three days later when this same Son arose from the dead in miraculous risen life, He offered the means by which we too can experience a new life of complete and radical transformation!
The life He offers to us through His own life is that of abundant grace — the grace that brought the Gospel of salvation to us and the grace that keeps us sheltered within the embrace of lavish love.