And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. (Genesis 22:5)
Mahatma Ghandi once cited that there are seven deadly sins: “politics without principles, pleasure without conscience, wealth without work, knowledge without character, business without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.”[i]
We often sing the song “I’m coming back to the heart of worship”[ii], but what lies at the heart of worship? In one word, the answer is sacrifice.
The first time worship is mentioned in the Bible is when Abraham told his employees to wait for him while he and Isaac “go yonder and worship”. He had been instructed by God to take Isaac up to Mount Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.[iii]
WHAT WAS ABRAHAM THINKING?
I’ve often wondered what could have possibly been going through Abraham’s mind as he trekked up the mountain of Moriah. Were his legs growing weaker throughout this dreaded climb? After all God did have to tell him way back when he was known as Abram not to fear.[iv]
Did he ask himself if he heard God clearly at first? I doubt it. Up to this point, he had been following God’s instructions for many years. He had not only become sensitive to the voice of God, but he also came to learn the various ways God would communicate with him. He spoke to Abraham through dreams[v], visions[vi], and even directly[vii].
Knowing without a shadow of a doubt that it was in fact God speaking, did he find himself going into mourning over the thought of giving up his dearly beloved son? I doubt that also because the writer declared in Hebrews 11:6 that he was fully persuaded that even if he slaughtered his son, God had the ability to raise him up from the dead. God made him a promise that his offspring would be innumerable[viii], and he clung to that promise.
But wasn’t he at least a little anxious even though he was fully persuaded? I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve fully obeyed God’s instructions while yet hearing the voices of doubt say “what will people say”, or “what if God doesn’t follow through”, or “this is just crazy!”. Yet, I would act in obedience regardless and reap the reward of that obedience in the process of time.
Had Abraham’s faith ever been challenged up to this point? Of course it had. This became evident through the birth of Ishmael and their subsequent family dysfunction.[ix]
But Abraham learned to rise above the sea of doubt and fly in the clear blue skies of total workable faith[x], and his worship was the foundation that his faith was built upon. His faith was worked out in his statement to his employees that they would “come again to” them. Notice that he did not separate Isaac from the equation when he spoke of their return. His worship fueled his faith and his faith fueled his obedience which is an even purer form of worship.
WORSHIP FOSTERS OBEDIENCE
Abraham’s worship was manifested in the form of obedience. It was revealed through his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice. It was displayed through his willingness submit fully even though obedience would cost him the one thing that was most dear to him. If God asked you to kill your kid, would you do it? Would you even entertain the thought?
Abraham had already established an intimate relationship with God which is why he could hear God’s voice so easily. Through this intimacy, he learned that he could trust God implicitly. He recognized that the same God who was instructing him to kill his only son had the power to raise him back up.[xi]
FAITH BASED WORSHIP
Considering the fact that God had never raised someone from the dead up to this point in recorded biblical history, one can deduce that Abraham walked in blind faith. This faith was developed through mutual transparency, i.e., Abraham being totally transparent to God[xii], and vice versa[xiii]. Through this mutual transparency, Abraham learned that the promise-making God[xiv], is also a promise-keeping God[xv].
Abraham worked his faith through his willingness to completely give up the one thing that was closest to his heart.[xvi] His faith elevated his worship which in turn elevated the level of sacrifice he was willing to make. If our worship is the vehicle that drives us closer to our Father, our faith is the fuel that accelerates our journey into His presence.
To truly make worship a lifestyle, it must be coupled with faith, for without faith it is impossible to please God.[xvii] The true worshipper never wants to displease the source of his or her worship.
Worship without sacrifice is not worship at all, because at the heart of worship is our sacrifice, or our willingness to give up our ideals to embrace the ideals of Jesus Christ, the source of our worship. As echoed in the song “I Surrender All”[xviii], true worship necessitates the willingness to give up absolutely everything to please Our Lord, Saviour, God, and King.
What have you given up for your Saviour lately? Lay your sacrifice at the altar of prayer as a sweet savor to your Sweet Saviour!
[ii] Michael W. Smith, “The Heart Of Worship”
[iii] Genesis 22:2
[iv] Genesis 15:1
[v] Genesis 15:12-13
[vi] Genesis 15:1
[vii] Genesis 12:1, Genesis 22:1
[viii] Genesis 13:16, 15:5
[ix] Genesis 16, 17, 21:9-17
[x] James 2:17
[xi] Hebrews 11:19
[xii] Genesis 15:2
[xiii] Genesis 18:17
[xiv] Genesis 15:5-14
[xv] Exodus 12:37, 51
[xvi] James 2:18
[xvii] Hebrews 11:6
[xviii] Judson W. Van DeVenter. I Surrender All. 1896. Vinyl recording. Gospel Songs Of Grace And Glory