“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.'” (Genesis 12:1)
In order for Abraham to begin a faith relationship with God he had to make real sacrifices. Abraham had to give up the only home he had ever known. He had to give up his daily relationships with his extended family. God called Abraham to let go of his life. Abraham yielded control over to God. Abraham did not know where he was going, nor did he know how long it would take.
“Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he (Abram) built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:6-7)
Altars are places where sacrifices are made. They are places where the one approaching the altar simultaneously recalls to mind both what he has given up and how faithful his God has truly been. The life of faith is one of giving up, but it is also one of receiving new and better things.
In his book, The Jesus Way, Eugene Peterson writes, “Sacrifice is a readiness to interrupt whatever we are doing and build an altar, bind whatever we happen to be carrying with us at the moment, place it on the altar, and see what God wills to do with it.” As Abraham gave up, he was also being filled over time with God’s new gifts, “receiving the promises, receiving the covenants, receiving the three strangers, receiving Isaac, receiving circumcision, receiving the ram in the thicket.”
The journey of a faith relationship is not a path of perfect obedience though. From time to time, we wander from the road God has called us to walk. Abraham was no different. He feared for his life because of the beauty of his wife, Sarah. So he deceived people about her on more than one occasion instead of trusting in the Lord. Then there was his faithlessness in the affair of Hagar and Ishmael, but Abraham journeyed on. He grew in his faith. And then the greatest moment and test of faith came.
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He (the Lord) said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.'” (Genesis 22:1-2)
When Abraham was called by God to leave his land and his family he sacrificed his past. When Abraham was called to trust God by journeying from one place to another, (Ur, Haran, Shechem, Bethel, Egypt, Gerar, Beersheba) Abraham was called to sacrifice his present. Now Abraham was being asked to surrender and sacrifice his future—Isaac. Only in releasing Isaac would his journey of faith trusting the Lord would be complete (James 2:21). The kind of faith the Lord desires is complete. He calls us to give up control—past, present, and future.