I have always been a big fan of Laurel and Hardy.
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, a comedy team from 1927 to 1955, are still credited for influencing much of today’s comedy. Being a former comic myself, I found much delight in these guys and began a small collection of Laurel and Hardy memorabilia.
One of my favorite pieces, was a small ceramic statue of Stan Laurel. I found it at a flea market and was in search for the companion piece of Oliver Hardy. Until then, Stan stood alone in a prominent place in my living room. (on a stand right next to the TV.)
My son was just about two at the time and one day, while walking around the living room, he saw Stan’s silly smile and felt he just had to reach up and shake his ceramic hand. In just seconds, this vintage (1971) piece of fine art became bits of broken chunks in my apartment carpet. My son was clear of any injury, but Stan was beyond repair. Sacrificed in the world of toddler curiosity.
One could understand my feelings when this happened. Naturally I was livid and locked my son in a room until he was twelve. Of course, I am kidding. It was only until he was eleven. (kidding again.)
Actually, I can honestly say, I wasn’t bothered at all about the statue. My only reaction was to make sure my son wasn’t harmed. after I saw that he was okay, I picked up, what was left of Stan and put him in the trash can.
It’s funny how some things can give one a different perspective in life. Two years before, I treasured my little collection of Laurel and Hardy things, but now I treasured my son so much more that I didn’t care what happened to my little trinkets of comedy.
I valued my son far more than a silly statue and his curiosity was worth the sacrifice of a mere possession.
What else is worthy of a sacrifice?
What if we all took the time to take an inventory of the people and things in our lives? Would we find that we have things we may think are of value, but fail in comparison to other things in our life?
I’m guessing that most of us would say that our family and friends are far more important than our possessions. We may even agree that many of the things we currently have, we don’t really need. I’m looking around my living room right now and wondering the significances of several items in my sight. Some things, I cannot even remember where or why I got them.
But there are things in my life that are very dear to me. My family is far more important to me than anything I own. They mean more to my life than any possession or thing. I may have some things I like in this world, but my family and friends are what I truly love. I would not want to lose any of them.
But what if I did?
If we were to just discuss cold facts and statistics, it’s very likely that most of us have lost someone we love dearly. And it’s likely we will lose more people we love and hold close in our hearts. We all will encounter lose and grieve the passing of someone we cherish. Most of us would do most anything to avoid that with all we have. But we know that in most cases, we cannot.
In the Bible there is a story about a man named Abraham.
Abraham is called by God to build a nation, through his offspring, that will be the foundation of our faith. Faith, obedience and trust in the one and only God.
God tells Abraham that the Hebrew nation will grow from Abraham’s beloved son Isaac. A son who was born miraculously during Abraham and wife Sarah’s old age. As the child grew, it was clear he would carry the word of God forward an expand the great nation of God followers.
And then God threatened to take it all away.
Sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” (Gen 22:1-2 NIV)
Burnt offerings were not a new thing. Many people, during this time, would make offerings to different deities believed in. Some would take the best pick of crops or cattle and offer it to a God. Cain and brother Able are recorded doing this in the book of Genesis.
One way of doing a sacrifice would be to cook the livestock or prepare the vegetation while in prayer. Then the meal would actually be consumed by the one making the sacrifice along with their family. Sometimes the offering would be killed and then laid on a rock or alter and left there.
The thought of many sacrifices like these for the person making it, was to sacrifice the very best of what they owned for God. Instead of using the best of the livestock or crop to produce more quality plants and herds, a person would be showing that they had faith in God to provide. They were showing that God was far more important than what they possessed. Without God, nothing they had was possible.
A burnt offering would not be consumed by anyone. A burnt offering is just as it sounds. In many cases, a goat, or ram, or foul would be killed with a knife and placed with dry sticks or hay on a rock or alter. Then it would be lit on fire and burnt until there was nothing but ashes. Again, this was to show faith in God over possessions.
I cannot help but feel sad for the animals being burned and I cannot help but wonder what Abraham was feeling when God called him to make a burnt offering, using his own son. How could he do something like this with someone he loves so much? How could the Hebrew nation grow if Abraham kills his son?
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
When they reached the place, God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. (Gen 22:3-10)
Abraham followed God’s command and took Isaac up the mountain to be sacrificed. He himself, tied Isaac up and placed him on the alter. And he himself, raised the knife over his son.
Did Abraham have so much faith in God that he was willing to kill his own son, even though he did not know why? What kind of faith was it that Abraham had? Faith in a cruel God?
Or was it faith in a loving God?
There are a few things in this story that cause me to wonder if Abraham had faith that God would not make him go through with the sacrifice.
For one, he tells his servants that both he and his son, would be returning. (He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”)
And then he tells Isaac that God will give them an offering. (Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”)
Maybe it’s a stretch here, but could there have been a feeling in Abraham’s gut that this sacrifice was not going to happen? Could’ve he felt that God would not allow him to do such a thing to his son?
In the end, God does prevent Isaac from being killed.
But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So, Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” (Gen 22:11-14 NIV)
In the end, God did provide the offering like Abraham told his son, and both of them did come back after their worship.
But then again, Abraham did bind his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. And he did reach out his hand to take the knife to slay his son.
So, what was Abraham thinking? Where was his faith?
Perhaps we could say that Abraham’s faith was in God. That Abraham trusted God in either outcome.
Is it possible to comprehend that Abraham trusted in the love of God so much, that he was willing to follow him even when he did not know or understand the outcome?
It’s all very hard to speculate. Although God does commend Abraham for having enough faith to trust God with any and all things in his life.
Do we have that kind of faith?
Do we have the kind of faith, that we could let go of all we hold dear in our lives and give them away to God? Do we truly feel that God is the provider of all things in our lives?
Is it possible to think that Abraham believed that God would provide, even through mystery and doubt? Was Abraham willing to sacrifice what he loved most, because he felt God would care for Isaac both in this life and after?
Are we willing to offer what we love most, in faith that God will love both in this life and in eternity?
Are we willing to sacrifice things in this life and trust God to provide?
Are we willing to offer more of ourselves to God?
Are we willing to give God all we have?
At one time, I thought a possession of a Stan Laurel statue was something very important.
And then love for my son, caused my priorities to evolve.
Can our faith in God cause more priorities to evolve?
Can I trust God with the life of my son?
Do I have the faith to know that God will take care of all I have?
How much are we sacrificing if God provides it in the first place?
Perhaps our thoughts should not be on what we are willing to share with God,
But rather, what are we doing to share God with others?
I pray for us all to have the faith of Abraham.
Faith in knowing that God loves us even when we do not fully understand God’s plan.
I also pray that we, like Abraham, do all that we can to share this faith with our neighbors.