THE RAM IN THE THICKET
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing
“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. 22:9,10
You must read this entire chapter to get the whole story. But there is one point that is often missed.
Abraham didn’t know there would be a ram in the thicket.
Abraham was obedient to God in giving up what God had promised him…even when he had no thought that God would stop him. The son whom God had promised Abraham would be the fulfillment of the promise to make a great nation was to be sacrificed to the One who had made the promise.
There was no avoidance. No way out.
This son was not just a fulfillment of a promise in Abraham’s eyes. This son was Isaac, his own flesh and blood, his beloved son. He was his only son, and could not be replaced, as it had taken a miracle from God to produce him in the first place.
This was not God asking for just something. This was God asking for everything. Everything that Abraham held dear. Everything he lived for. This was God asking for Abraham to lift the knife and plunge it into his only son’s heart, taking by his own hand the life and joy God had brought him in his old age.
This was the sacrifice of all Abraham cared about. This was the ultimate sacrifice, the cross, the death to self. This was death to even the good things Abraham thought he would get out of his obedience to God. This was awful, ugly death, in a remote spot, with nobody to share his grief, or know his pain.
This was to be done without the blessing or approval of others, for what would Sarah have done if she knew what God had asked of Abraham? Would not a mother do everything in her power to protect her child from the knife, even to dying herself?
Would not Sarah had been like Peter before Christ’s crucifixion, trying to talk him out of the whole absurd thing, trying to grab a sword and fight, rather than submit to this unreasonable request by God? Would she not have tried to kill Abraham, her husband, rather than let him kill her only son, the only child she ever bore in her life?
This drama has a happy ending. God provides a ram caught in the thicket of bushes near the altar, and lets Abraham use the ram instead of Isaac as the
But what is the lesson here? Is it that God will always provide a ram in the thicket when He asks of us everything we hold dear?
No, otherwise there would not be thousands upon thousands of martyrs in the roll call of heaven. Jesus would not have demanded everything of his disciples, even unto death. The Lord would not have required that a man lose his own life to save it, nor would He have asked the rich young ruler to give all he had to the poor before he could follow Jesus. There would have been no talk of counting the cost, of carrying the cross daily, of hating even our own lives to live for Jesus.
There are many today, even leading ministries in
, even those in pulpits of prominence who speak before gatherings of thousands in big church buildings, who preach and teach this passage in Abraham’s life as if it were an object lesson about God providing the ram in the thicket when we obey Him. That all we’re required to do is symbolically be prepared to give up everything for Jesus. That He’ll not actually make us go through with this hideous request. America
So false, and so pretentious. So contrary to even the basic understanding God meant us to have here. So contrary to Jesus’ Words.
Brethren, if you would follow Christ, you must put everything—all your hopes, aspirations, dreams, goals, agendas, plans—on the altar of sacrifice to Him. You must raise the knife and plunge it downward, into the heart of all your own thoughts and desires, your own schemes for life.
You must actually give up, not just be willing to give up, your life for Christ.
There is no ram in the thicket for us.
God gave up His only Son for us, and we are required to give up everything for Him. The story of Abraham is a story of God testing one man and his willingness to give it all up. And Abraham hadn’t a clue that that ram was in the thicket, nor that God would allow Isaac to live. This was no object lesson. This, to Abraham, was the end of his hopes and his dreams, his plans and aspirations, his agendas and his own life. There is no doubt if God had not intervened that Abraham would have plunged that knife into Isaac’s chest, killing by his own hand the very thing that he thought would deliver him from his life of loneliness and obscurity. He was asked to give up the very thing that he thought would make his own life worthwhile.
There is no ram in the thicket.
God asks us to sell all we have, to lay it on the altar of sacrifice, to give it all up, for Jesus. To seek first and with all our beings the
, and His righteousness. To lay down our lives for Christ and His brothers and sisters, without thought of being relieved of the command by a substitute in the bushes. Kingdom of God
This is the lesson of total obedience, without thought of rescue.
God’s love is total. He demands our lives in return. And this is our love for Him. This was Abraham’s love for God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. This was Abraham’s ‘faith without works is dead’ test. This test was Abraham giving 100%, not just a tithe of 10%. This was Abraham’s
Golgotha, His martyrdom. This was Abraham’s dying to self. This was his crucifixion, not just Isaac’s.
Today, it is our test. We must also offer up all we value, all we hold dear, and take up the knife. God doesn’t guarantee a ram. But like Jesus said:
“Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” --Luke 17:33
We, like Abraham, without thought of the ram in the thicket, must offer up everything we are, everything we have—everything--no matter how dear to us. Christ must be the one who decides what gets saved and what doesn’t.
“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice….Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from the dead.” --Heb. 11:17-19
We know now that God does raise the dead.
Those who would follow Him must die to themselves and their own plans and goals and dreams.
Then, we can experience the resurrection power of Christ, giving us the strength and love to walk the narrow road with Him. The whole world may pass us by, but God will do what He wants to do in us. We may be fought against and shunned, even by those who claim to be Christians, but who will answer some day soon for their disobedience to the most basic of Christ’s commands.
Follow Abraham, who is an example of saving faith.
This is the true lesson of the ram in the thicket.