Thursday, February 26, 2015

Altar of Dreams

The old man made his way slowly to the door of his tent.  He squinted in the moonlight and gently pulled back the flap covering the entrance to his animal skin dwelling.  Quietly he picked his way to the top of a knoll over looking the campsite.  “Do you see the stars?” God’s voice gently spoke.  “Can you number them?”  The old man slowly gazed towards the heavens, steadying himself with his staff.  “That is how many descendants I will give to you, Abraham.”

Abraham stirred and blinked his eyes open.  Yes, he remembered God’s promise like it was spoken just yesterday.  God had promised him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky.  Abraham had always dreamed of having a son, an heir who would carry on the family name and be a conduit of God’s blessing to the world.  And yet.  He looked over at his sleeping son next to him.  And yet here they were: father and son, sleeping peacefully beneath the shadow of Mt. Moriah.  The command had been given and Abraham must now sacrifice his dream, his only son, upon the altar.  “But why?”  Abraham asked the question again for what seemed like the thousandth time since he had received the command.  Isaac was the son of promise.  It wasn’t simply an idle dream of his to have a son.  God had specifically promised him to Abraham; it was a God-given dream.  And yet the Lord was asking him to sacrifice his dream on the altar, the dream he had waited for a hundred years to receive.

It was all a blur.  The climb, the question, the preparation, the knife.  Abraham’s mind was in turmoil and his emotions were seething.  Yet he trusted God.  He trusted God that no matter what the outcome, whether he lost his dream or whether God preserved his son somehow, there was a reason and purpose for the sacrifice.  Slowly he raised his arm and the knife flashed menacingly in the sun.  And then came the voice, clear and commanding above the raging tumult in Abraham’s head.  “Abraham, Abraham!  Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”  Trembling, Abraham let the knife slip to the ground.  He looked up and saw a ram caught in a nearby thicket and quickly offered it up in the stead of his son.  Abraham’s tears mixed with those of his son as they embraced and wept together on top of the mountain.  God had not only created and promised the dream to Abraham, but He had now saved it as well.  Abraham still had a son and the promise of a nation was now closer to being fulfilled.

We all have dreams.  We all have hopes for the future; an idea of how our lives will play out.  Sometimes God has promised those dreams to us, other times they are simply our selfish wants.  Whether God-given or man-made, every single one must be laid on the altar of sacrifice.  Why?  Unless your dreams are given fully to God, you will inhibit His blessing you.  You grasp the dream too tightly, it becomes your idol, and in the end, it separates you from the God who blessed you with it.

Is God calling you to sacrifice a dream on the altar?  Yes, you may have to give it up.  Yes, you may lose it.  But God has something far better in mind for your life.  Or, if you know God has given you the dream, you have the promise found in Psalm 84:11 that He will withhold no good thing from you.  Thankfully, Abraham and Isaac’s story does not end there.  God went on to promise again that He would multiply Abraham’s decedents to be as numerous as the stars of the sky and as the sands on the seashore.  “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice,” God told him.  God took the promise He had given Abraham and through his willingness to lay it on the altar of dreams, God was able to use it as a conduit for blessing the entire world.  Several generations later, Jesus, the desire of ages and the ultimate dream of hope, was sacrificed to save the world.  Yet through that sacrifice, we all can clutch the dream of a future where there will be no more pain, no more sadness, no more separation or dying.

Is there a dream that is coming between you and God?  Perhaps it’s a relationship you cling too tightly to.  Perhaps it’s a job, a college degree, a persona you don’t want to lose.  Whatever it is, God is calling you to sacrifice it on the altar of dreams so that He can make you a conduit of blessing to those around you in ways that you may never fully comprehend.

This article was written for a magazine called iConnect.  It is a publication which is focused on connecting young people with each other and most importantly, with God.

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