God Commands Abraham to Offer Isaac
22 Some time later God tested Abraham; he called to him, “Abraham!” And Abraham answered, “Yes, here I am!”
2 “Take your son,” God said, “your only son, Isaac, whom you love so much, and go to the land of Moriah. There on a mountain that I will show you, offer him as a sacrifice to me.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham cut some wood for the sacrifice, loaded his donkey, and took Isaac and two servants with him. They started out for the place that God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham saw the place in the distance. 5 Then he said to the servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there and worship, and then we will come back to you.”
6 Abraham made Isaac carry the wood for the sacrifice, and he himself carried a knife and live coals for starting the fire. As they walked along together, 7 Isaac spoke up, “Father!”
He answered, “Yes, my son?”
Isaac asked, “I see that you have the coals and the wood, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide one.” And the two of them walked on together.
9 When they came to the place which God had told him about, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. He tied up his son and placed him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he picked up the knife to kill him. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!”
He answered, “Yes, here I am.”
12 “Don’t hurt the boy or do anything to him,” he said. “Now I know that you honor and obey God, because you have not kept back your only son from him.”
13 Abraham looked around and saw a ram caught in a bush by its horns. He went and got it and offered it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 Abraham named that place “The Lord Provides.” And even today people say, “On the Lord‘s mountain he provides.”
Reading this passage at face value, it is very difficult, really problematical. God asking someone to sacrifice their much longed for and God-given gift. Has God changed his mind? Is he so cruel as to do that? To ask for a child back? This is not the kind of God I think I know and believe in.
What kind of father would do that to his son? To go as far as to actually tie him up and lay him on the altar? Was he deranged, lost all perspective, so caught up in religious mania?
What is this story doing in the bible? Can it actually have anything to teach us?
We read the unfolding tale knowing what the ending is. Ultimately Abraham goes on to take Isaac home with him, who goes on to be father of Jacob, and grandfather of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. I guess we don’t know how his life would have gone without this experience?
We can read it through a New Testament lens of God’s sacrifice of his own Son. But that is not how it would have been for Abraham, or Isaac, as they live this experience, or for those first reading it. They set out on this journey of faith. Abraham clearly believed that God was going to do something different, because he told the men “We will be back”, but I don’t suppose he actually knew until it happened.
Just to be clear, I don’t for one minute think that God gives us things and ‘asks for them back’ or just takes them back. Yes things happen and things and people that we treasured are taken from our lives – but never, ever by God. See how complex this passage is…
So, I wanted to try and put myself in Abraham’s shoes as he walks this walk to Mount Moriah, his beloved Isaac by his side. What did he think God was doing and saying – and what might it have to say to us?
I thought I had it all,
everything I’d ever wanted,
even what you promised me,
waited so long for,
You are asking me to give it up,
offer it back to you.
My most precious thing.
not just mine
but the whole family,
What am I to do?
It is your gift to me,
I love him.
And there he is,
trotting along beside me –
my amazing son,
longed for love of my life,
quite literally putting his life in my hands.
How can I let him go,
and the future you promised for me
and the generations to come?
Did you not mean your promise?
Was it just this –
so far and no further?
Is there a greater plan?
Do you have something else in mind?
Something I don’t understand?
So here I am Lord,
here we are,
walking as you asked,
coming to where you called us.
that this time
I’ve got it very wrong,
that this is not what you are asking.
But I am here
And I trust that you will provide
as you always have
and you always will.
What is my most precious thing Lord?
What do I cling to
hold tightly to me,
prize above all things?
What have you given me
that fulfils my purpose
What am I so thankful to you for?
I have to ask
if there is anything you are asking me to give you?
Not for you to destroy it,
take everything away,
but so I can receive it back
maybe in a changed way,
a new way,
a stronger way,
Help me to make sense
of the gifts you have given me
and what you want me to do with them.
what you provide