The Genesis passage found in Chapter 22 is a hard passage to read. It is the passage in which Abraham is told by God to take his son, his only son, to an area God would direct him. Isaac was to be the sacrifice Abraham would offer to God.
How many of us would say, “Are you crazy? My son? My beloved son? You want me to do what?”
But not Abraham; he obediently sets off to Moriah with Isaac, two servants, wood for burning, a knife and fire. After 3 days, they came near the place for the sacrifice. Abraham and Isaac then journeyed on, leaving behind the two servants.
Coming to the spot, Abraham built the altar and put the wood on it. He then tied Isaac up and placed him atop the wood. With knife in hand, he started to sacrifice his child.
But a messenger stops Abraham by saying he now knows he revered God more than his son. He then pointed to a ram caught in the thicket. That one would be the sacrifice.
What is going on here? I think there are a couple of things.
God knew Abraham had faith. Abraham, AKA Abram, had willingly left his home and traveled to a new home because he had faith in God leading him. Here we have the most intimate of testing of that faith: to take and sacrifice his only child, his son whom he dearly loved.
But there is something else going on here as well: Abraham’s faith, trust and hope in the God he served. We see it when he explains to the servants what is going on: “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will walk up there, worship, and then come back to you.”
With this statement he is asserting his trust in God that both will return. When Isaac asks where is the lamb that is to be sacrificed, Abraham tells him that God would see to it. And God does just that. But at the time Isaac asks that question, Abraham has no sure, rock solid knowledge.
What he has is the faith of the one who gave him this son; the one who promised that his descendants would be greater than the number of stars in the sky; that one, God, would make a way.
For me, the take-away from this passage is simple: faith in God. Throughout life there are events in our lives that may test our faith. Events that can shake the very foundations of our faith.
While I do not believe these are God-inspired events, I do believe they can serve to either draw us closer to God or to walk away from God. Events such as the death of a child comes to mind. For some couples they draw closer to God and to each other and their marriage lasts.
For others, they drift apart and eventually dissolve their union.
This passage reinforces the idea that while in the midst of our struggle, it is difficult to see the final outcome. Because our vision is limited, trust in God is even more crucial during those times. I think it important to note that we all like “happy ever after” endings.
Unfortunately, that does not always happen. Love ones die; economic hardships hit hard working folks; parents raised their children in a grounded family structure only to have them become drug dependent; the list goes on.
What remains is a God who promises to always walk with us until the storms of life pass. On the other side, we can find peace, maybe tinted with a bit of sorrow for our loss, but peace nonetheless. We also find a sure and steady rock to lean on and gain strength.
Maybe that is what Abraham had as he walked up the mountain to offer his son to God.