One of the greatest joys of my life is the privilege that I have been given to systematically expound the Scriptures year in and year out. The Bible is an amazing book whose treasures, once laboriously mined, are always worth the effort. So it has been for me over the past two years in our verse-by-verse study of Genesis. I have been edifyingly enriched by each chapter, especially in our recent study of Genesis 22.
Many things have struck me in our study of Abraham offering up Isaac, but none more so than the little phrase found in v. 3: “And [Abraham] split the wood for the burnt offering.” That is, Abraham personally chopped the wood on which he planned to cremate his own son. Wow—what commitment to God!
As I have referenced on two occasions, what strikes me is the fact that Abraham went to Mount Moriah totally prepared to fully carry out what God had commanded him. He did not know whether there would be firewood available to him upon the mountain to which God would direct him and so he made sure that, when he arrived to this place of ultimate obedience, he would have no excuse to escape full compliance to God’s Word. In other words, rather than looking for (perhaps hoping for?) a reason not to obey, he made sure that he had every reason to obey. Excuses were not an option; complete obedience was his mindset. Oh that this would be our perspective!
All too often we are tempted toward superficial obedience. We go through the motions while inwardly looking for an escape from full compliance. Thus we find ourselves playing fiscal games when it comes to our stewardship, in which we seek some excuse for not tithing on what God has prospered us. Or perhaps we join the church, understanding our ministry and attendance responsibilities, and yet find ourselves excusing ourselves frequently from church services and justifying our lack of involvement with the Body. You can fill in your own blanks, but we all need to acknowledge our tendency to disobedience.
How then can we overcome these temptations to evade our responsibilities? Let me suggest that we must, like Abraham, make preparation to succeed. Just as he “split the wood” before beginning his journey of obedience, so must we. We must plan to succeed rather than prepare for excuse.
For example, with regard to our stewardship, let us “split the wood” before payday by ensuring that we give our tithe and offering as our first financial responsibility. Let us schedule ministry involvement in our diaries. With regard to church attendance, “split the wood” before your family and friends and let them know your God-centred parameters and thus your prior commitments. What about your devotional life? Do you struggle with consistency here? Then “split the wood” the night before and go to bed early enough that you can rise early to spend time alone with God. “Split the wood” by setting your alarm clock—one without that diabolical snooze button!—and get up when you wake up. “Split the wood” by having a Bible-reading plan.
Whatever it takes, let us “split the wood” so that we never have an excuse to fail in our worship (v. 5), but rather that we are always prepared to give the Lord our best—for, indeed, He is worthy.