Young Mountain Men

I saw something in the Bible that I hadn’t seen before.

This is not abnormal, in that I’m always discovering things in the Bible that are new and revelational. But, in this case I thought I had “mined” most everything out of this particular passage: Genesis 22.

Genesis 22 is about Abraham’s call to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah (fairly familiar story, right?).  Obviously the primary characters are Abraham and Isaac. You could also throw in an angel of the Lord and an innocent ram caught in a thicket.

The angel of the Lord, speaking on God’s behalf, gave last second instructions to Abraham to NOT slaughter his son Isaac (whew). Evidently, God was looking for obedience more than sacrifice.

Abraham passed the test. End of story, right? Nope. I found something that I hadn’t seen before. There are two other characters in this story that leapt off the page in my most recent reading of Genesis 22.

Two Young Men.

When Abraham woke up early in the morning, verse 3 tells us that he not only saddled his donkey, but he “took two of his young men with him.” No big deal, huh? Abraham probably needed some extra help for his journey. OK…so I read on.

Coming to verse 5 I discovered a second reference the young men: “Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey.'”  That caused me to underline the passage in my Bible AND go back in order to underline verse 3. I’ve been reading the Word of God long enough to pick up on patterns such as these. As a matter of fact, under my breath I whispered “I’ll bet these young men show up again in this passage.” And with that, I read on…

In verse 19, my suspicions were confirmed: “So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba.”  

OK. So there it is: three references to two young men in a story that is predominately about Abraham and Isaac.

Who are these young men? I don’t know, but their inclusion in this story has reminded me of some really important things in leadership and ministry.

1. Take others with you to the mountain. Abraham obviously took Isaac with him, but he extended his circle to two young men. I love this model. It may not always be practical or possible to take people with you, but when you can, do it. As a pastoral leader, I try to make room for as many young leaders as I can. Going to Costco? Grab someone. Heading to a conference or hospital visit? Bring a young leader with you.

Recently, I invited two of our leaders to go on a road trip with me to a memorial service for Jerry Cook, who is an author and Foursquare legend. With notebooks in hand, we captured our thoughts and impressions during the service then debriefed over a meal and the trip home.

Are you climbing a mountain (metaphorically speaking)? Then, bring others with you.

2. Young leaders are developed daily…not in a day. There came a point in the journey to Mount Moriah that Abraham determined the young men should “stay here with the donkey.”  Man, that must have been frustrating for them. Who wants to babysit a donkey when they could climb a mountain? I’ve known many emerging leaders that have felt similar frustrations; desiring to experience more and lead further.

Friends, leaders are not made in a day. It takes time. Be thankful for and faithful with the opportunities you’ve been given. I often say this to young leaders: “Don’t demand a ministry. Develop one.” And that may involve the care of donkeys, while more seasoned leaders go to the top of the mountain. You’ll most likely get there some day, and when you do you’ll realize just how stinking hard it is, and the intense sacrifice that is involved.

So, be patient.

3. Develop long-term mentor/student relationships. In verse 19, when Abraham returned to the young men (with an alive Isaac in tow), they all together “arose and went together to Beersheba.” One can’t read too much into this, but I appreciate the imagery of them all moving and living together in one place.  For me, it illustrates symbiotic relationships that can be formed and nurtured between mentors and students over a long period of time.

There are great benefits found in learning communities of mentors (Abraham) and students (young men). In my personal and ministerial life, I have grown to highly value the godly, older men that have access to my life. Similarly, I’ve chosen to be that kind of a person to a number of younger leaders.

So much is gained. So much is learned. So much is deposited…and withdrawn.

Are you a leader? Do you have “young guns” around you and going places with you?

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