22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
9 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. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.
20 Some time later Abraham was told, “Milkah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz the firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram), 22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel.” 23 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. Milkah bore these eight sons to Abraham’s brother Nahor. 24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maakah.
(Genesis 22:1-24 NIV)
As we look into today’s story, it’s probably a very familiar one to many – God calling Abraham to sacrifice his one and only son at an undisclosed location.
Here we see Abraham following the Lord as at the beginning of his journey, by faith, to a place where the Lord would show him. Abraham could not tell Sarah where he was going or when he would return, as he did not know.
When Abraham left his family to follow the Lord, the text indicated that he did not leave immediately when God called him. This time, however, the text records that Abraham rose early in the morning to obey the Lord. Abraham was learning a deeper faith through faster obedience as well as harder obedience.
As I read this text, one word keeps coming to mind – relinquishment.
Abraham did not question the promise that the Lord would make a great nation from his son Isaac. Abraham also did not question the Lord’s command to go sacrifice his only son as a burnt offering. These seemingly contradictory commands and promises were all from the same God, and Abraham knew that he could trust the Lord’s heart.
Am I willing to give up the people and things that are precious to me like Abraham did? Am I willing to step out in faith and trust my Heavenly Father’s heart, even when He asks me to do things that do not make any sense, or even seem contradictory to what He has said to me at other times?
The writer of Hebrews gives us some insight into Abraham’s deep faith and his willingness to follow the Lord, even in this hard thing:
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
(Hebrews 11:17-19 NIV, underlines mine)
Abraham fully trusted in the Lord, even when it was the hardest calling he had ever received. Abraham knew that God would do the impossible to fulfill His promise.
This story is a foretelling of what our Heavenly Father did for us by sacrificing His one and only Son Jesus, whom He loved, to pay the terrible price of our sins.
Moses ends this story with a side note about news of his brother’s family having children and families of their own. This note will become important in Chapter 24.
May your faith in the Lord be strengthened as you read and re-read this story.
May you trust more deeply in the Father’s heart when He calls you to harder things, things that don’t make sense or call you to give up people and things you hold dear.