Reading Gen. 21 this morning, one point stood out. God has just told Abraham to listen to Sarah and do what she says: "Cast out this slave woman with her son" -- Abraham's son -- Ishmael. What caught my eye: "So Abraham rose early in the morning," and made the preparations for Ishmael to leave.
In Gen. 22 as well, when God told Abraham to sacrifice "your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love," Abraham again responded promptly: "So Abraham rose early in the morning," and made the preparations for him and Isaac to leave. The sacrifice of the son of his flesh, while difficult, was only a dry-run for the sacrifice of the child of God's promise.
I became a Christian as an adult. I gave up a lot of behaviors that were the offspring of my flesh, so to speak -- for example, I threw away a lot of music and some books that just weren't godly. There's a lot of movies that I can't watch anymore. Etc. I used to think that I had made a significant sacrifice for the Lord. I never imagined that getting rid of the bad stuff would be only the beginning of what God would ask me to sacrifice. It is much easier to give up things that are obviously bad -- once God has opened our eyes -- than things that are God's good gifts. But God sometimes wants us to let go of his blessings, and to respond with obedience even if it doesn't make sense to us.
Abraham shows us that prompt obedience in giving up sin will help us obey promptly when God asks us to give up good things we love. Also, our prompt obedience in giving up sin doesn't protect us from God asking us to give up good things we love. Sometimes I think that God promises that if I'm a good girl he'll give me nothing but blessings. Not so.
Of course, Isaac didn't die. God often restores to us his good gifts we give back to him -- but I, for one, needed the reminder that I sometimes need to let go of the blessings and not just the sin.