Friday, February 14, 2014

Giving as Worship--by Linden Malki

 What is God asking you to give up? There are all kinds of reasons why we may need to "weed" our lives. Looking at the story of Abraham and Isaac, and reading between the lines, let's look at some things that might have been going on. 

 Abraham was blessed with two sons of his very old age, but his household was disrupted by the conflict between the mothers.  (Occasionally I hear someone say, as an excuse to have too many women in their lives, that "a bunch of Old Testament characters were polygamists". Yes they were, and it normally caused trouble!)  As far as we know, Abraham loved both of the boys. However, Sarah called the shots and Abraham deferred to her—first, in using Hagar to run ahead of God, and then kicking Hagar and Ishmael out—twice. We’ll never know if Abraham could have exerted influence and power to keep peace between them all, but the end of that part of the story he almost completely lost his older son, and very possibly overcompensated with extra attention to Isaac. Islamic tradition places Ishmael and Hagar then settling in Arabia, at the site where the city of Mecca later grew up around a well that had been miraculously tapped for them by an angel. A tribe of Bedouin ran across this new oasis, settled there, and “adopted” Ishmael and Hagar. If Ishmael had instead become an ally of his brother, what might have been the historical outcome?

This is speculation on my part: Genesis does not give any backstory to the command to sacrifice Isaac. Under the circumstances, it is possible that Abraham had unthinkingly put Isaac ahead of everything else in his heart and mind—and God felt it necessary to give him a priority check. 

Loving our children is a good thing. Loving anything not wisely but too well is not healthy. Christian writer Dorothy Sayers has a character say that the real tragedy is not the choice between evil and good, but the choice between good and good. This can even become a choice between God and “good”!  What do we do when too much of a good thing throws our spiritual life out of whack?

Worship originally had at its core the bringing of offerings and sacrifices. The Apostle Paul pointed out that the key to our worship is sacrifice: “ Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

 Do we come to worship willing to give up whatever God needs us to be willing to give up?

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